At 5:45 p.m. today - nearly 10 days after they signed him, almost three months after they drafted him and more than a year after his future with the team because a near-certainty - the Nationals will finally introduce Bryce Harper to the public in Washington.
It won't be as festive an affair - if festive is the word you want to use - as Stephen Strasburg's introductory press conference last year, which was staged on the field at Nationals Park in front of fans and underneath the haze left over from a volley of fireworks. Harper's meet-and-greet session will be indoors, in the Nationals Park press conference room, still available live on MASN (and streaming on MASNSports.com) but stripped of the carnival nature that accompanied Strasburg's debut.
On a day when Strasburg is scheduled to undergo an MRI arthrogram, though, the Nationals could be in need of some good news.
The results of the examination on the pitcher's right forearm might not be available today, but the Nationals will put him in front of doctors for at least the fourth time in a month, and the test could signal the end of the prized rookie's season. He's already become the face of the franchise, the player on whom fans put their hopes. And especially today, Strasburg could use a sidekick.
Strasburg and Harper, twin No. 1 picks with record bonuses and preternatural talents matched only by the hype they've been bathed in, will forever be linked in Nationals history, even if they couldn't be less alike. Strasburg was a late bloomer, a college pitcher raised in San Diego's buttoned-down military environment. He was mentored by Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn in college, and still looks at the attention around him like something a dog left on his shoe. He doesn't see the reason for it, at least not yet, and isn't sure why it can't be disposed somewhere else.
Harper, on the other hand, shot through the system so fast that he established a precedent: he got his GED and played a year of junior college ball so he could be eligible for the draft at 17. With his Sports Illustrated cover, ESPN appearances and legions of kids imitating his smeared eye-black look, Harper arrives with the kind of sizzle that only someone who grew up in Las Vegas could conjure up (Kind of odd, when you think about it, that Strasburg's introduction was so much more Vegas than Harper's will be).
They're the players the Nationals chose as the first team with back-to-back No. 1 picks, and they're going to be seen as twin saviors, a pair of superheroes in red, white and blue costumes. So when Strasburg's best power - his 100-mph fastball - is out of commission, maybe Harper can use his gifts to make Nationals fans forget about Strasburg, at least for a few minutes.
Eventually, it would seem, the two will join forces, though that day is still years away. For now, the best help one can offer another is in a PR sense.