Nationals to bring up top prospect Bryce Harper

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Rizzo has stated repeatedly that he thinks all young players should spend time at each level of the minors before moving to the big leagues. So while Johnson wanted Rizzo to consider letting Harper skip Triple-A, the team sent him to Syracuse after he hit .286 in spring training this year.

But with their top two hitters _ Zimmerman and left fielder Michael Morse, who’s been out all season with a problematic back muscle _ sidelined by injuries, the team decided to bring up Harper now. He was hitting .250 with a homer and three RBIs in 72 at-bats at Syracuse.

“We still have a very good and committed developmental plan for Bryce in place. I still believe very passionately in the plan, and am committed to it. But it was expedited by the circumstances,” Rizzo said. “We felt that we needed to bring in an impactful, left-handed bat that could play the corner outfield.”

Rizzo headed to Rochester, N.Y., this week to watch Harper play in three games for Syracuse _ and liked what he saw, including how Harper fared in the field.

Harper played primarily catcher in college, but the Nationals immediately shifted him to right field when they drafted him. They also wanted him to play some center field at Syracuse, because that’s a spot where Washington needs help.

“He’s swinging the bat extremely well right now, and looked comfortable in left field,” Rizzo said. “We didn’t bring Bryce up there to sit on the bench. He’s going to get everyday reps and get ample at-bats.”

The GM wouldn’t say whether Harper necessarily will stay in the majors, even after Zimmerman returns, or is definitely going to go back to the minors.

“This is a very confident person, and we expect him to do well in the major leagues,” Rizzo said. “He’s the type of guy who will handle anything that is thrown at him and will be the better for it.”

The Nationals are off to a fast start primarily because of their outstanding starting pitching. But the offense has been inconsistent.

Morse, the team’s cleanup hitter, isn’t expected back for weeks. Zimmerman, the No. 3 hitter, could return as soon as May 6.

“We don’t think it’s a debilitating injury,” Rizzo said, “but it takes time to heal.”

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