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Nationals, top pick Bryce Harper hit deadline day
WASHINGTON (AP) - The Washington Nationals and No. 1 overall draft pick Bryce Harper were heading toward a deadline to get a deal done Monday.
Major League Baseball clubs had until midnight EDT as Monday turned to Tuesday to reach agreements with players picked in June’s amateur draft. If there’s no contract by then, teams lose the rights to those players, who go back into next year’s draft.
As of 6 p.m., the Nationals hadn’t made any announcement.
“There’s a deadline for a reason, and most of the higher picks take it to the deadline,” Washington general manager Mike Rizzo said over the weekend. “Until they change the deadline, we’re always going to work up to those deadlines, and I think this year is no different.”
The Nationals know this scenario well: They came to terms with last year’s No. 1 choice _ pitcher Stephen Strasburg _ with about a minute or so left on the clock in August 2009, giving him a record-breaking $15.1 million, four-year contract.
“The whole process is silly. It needs to be changed,” Nationals president Stan Kasten said.
The 6-foot-3, 205-pound Harper is a 17-year-old power-hitting junior college catcher the Nationals want to convert to an outfielder. He’s the first JUCO player taken with the top overall pick.
Harper hit .443 with 31 homers and 98 RBIs in his first season at the College of Southern Nevada, which plays in a league that uses wood bats. He skipped his final two years of high school and got his GED, making him eligible for the 2010 amateur draft.
He already has been on the cover of Sports Illustrated, at 16. He was the first non-senior to earn Baseball America’s High School Player of the Year award. And he was only the second junior college player, joining Alex Fernandez in 1990, to win the Golden Spikes Award, given to the country’s top amateur baseball player.
Strasburg began this season in the minors, then made his big league debut June 8 against the Pittsburgh Pirates, striking out 14. He is 5-3 with a 2.97 ERA in 11 starts for Washington.
“If (Harper) wants to play here, he’s going to play here,” Strasburg said. “He doesn’t need advice from anybody to convince him otherwise. If he doesn’t want to play here, then we don’t want him here.”
By Donald Lambro
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