- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 1, 2011

VIERA, Fla. | A day after laughing off a pair of strikeouts in his spring training debut, Bryce Harper had something else to smile about — his first hit.

The No. 1 overall pick in last year’s amateur draft went 1 for 2 Tuesday, lining an opposite-field single to left in the fifth inning off Pedro Beato as the Washington Nationals defeated the New York Mets 5-3.

“It was a good pitch to drive,” Harper said. “It was up. A fastball thrown away is always a good pitch to hit — for me, it is. I felt really good out there today.”

Harper, expected to start the season at Class A Hagerstown, has been the Nationals’ biggest draw this spring training. He struck out twice in his debut Monday against the Mets in Port St. Lucie, but didn’t let that bother him.

“I went home and I started laughing about it,” he said.

The 18-year-old also got a chance to look at some video comparing his swing now to when he played in the Arizona Fall League. One of the adjustments he made was to keep his hands closer to his body and look to drive the ball to the opposite field.

“It’s very impressive to be able to line the ball like that,” Nationals manager Jim Riggleman said. “That was just a great stroke right there.”

Harper entered in the fifth inning as a pinch hitter and skinned his left knee while making a hard slide trying unsuccessfully to break up a double-play ball hit by Zimmerman. His second at-bat came in the seventh inning, when he reached on a fielder’s choice as Corey Brown was out at home on a weak chopper to the mound.

Harper got to play four innings in right field and said that helped him get into the flow of the game. He entered the game as a pinch runner and was the Nationals designated hitter for his two at-bats on Monday.

“I think that’s huge,” Harper said of playing right field. “I can’t stand DH-ing. I like being on the field all the time.”

Jayson Werth made his spring training debut for the Nationals. The right fielder, who signed a seven-year, $126 million contract in the offseason, went 0 for 1 with a first-inning walk and a fourth-inning strikeout.

Jonathon Niese, the Mets’ No. 3 starter, allowed two hits in three scoreless innings while striking out two and walking two.

“Overall, pretty well,” he said. “Obviously, there are some things I need to work on. Those two walks — I can’t issue two-out walks. I think I need to do better working ahead in the count.”

The left-hander admitted It probably will take a couple of starts to get a better feel for his curveball. However, he is not seeking to add more pitches to a repertoire that also includes a fastball and cutter.

“I think I’ve got plenty,” Niese said. “I think if I start incorporating a new pitch, it’s going to make my other pitches not so good. I think I just want to master the ones I have.”

Story Continues →