Nats trying not to harp on Harper

VIERA, Fla. - Bryce Harper is the story of Nationals camp to 99 percent of the interested public.

But the 19-year-old phenom isn’t the story of camp in Davey Johnson’s world.

Asked a Harper-related question by a national reporter yesterday - far from the first he’s had to answer on that topic this spring - Johnson made it clear that he’s getting a little tired of all the Harper hype.

“Is he on my mind every day? No,” Johnson said. “I’ve known of him and seen him swing the bat for about four years. I have not seen up close (Brett) Carroll, (Chad) Tracy, (Mark) Teahen (and Xavier) Paul, and those are going to be the guys I’m going to be looking at with an open mind, as I will be looking at Harper with an open mind. Can I make it any clearer than that? He’s just one of the boys as far as I’m concerned.

“Write what you want, but as far as I’m concerned, coming in here, they’re all kind of all on equal footing. It’s a level playing field.”

Not surprisingly, the Harper questions ended there.

But Johnson wasn’t done just yet. A couple minutes later, while discussing the list of players who are in competition for one of the Nats’ final roster spots, Johnson took a mini shot at those of us who had played up Harper trying to bunt for a base hit Friday in an exhibition game against Georgetown.

“Brett Carroll has opened my eyes. (Rick) Ankiel has looked really good this spring, making some adjustments. He’s real relaxed at the plate,” Johnson said. “To me, those (are) things I’m looking at, and they’re more interesting to me than Harper bunting against a college team.”

Still, Harper is the only position player who will have a cluster of media members around his locker following almost every spring game in which he plays, and he’s the only player who Johnson will continue to be asked about by every national reporter making his or her way to Nats camp for the first time.

I’ve got a Jesus Flores story coming a little bit later on. For some reason, I feel that one will fail to capture fans’ attention nearly as much as a story - any story - about Harper.

Much as spring training 2010 was all about Steven Strasburg, this year’s Nats camp will be about Harper, regardless of whether the right fielder tears it up and makes the opening day roster or ends up falling short of that goal.

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