- Associated Press - Thursday, February 24, 2011

VIERA, FLA. (AP) - Top draft pick Bryce Harper is to make his spring training debut Monday when the Washington Nationals visit the New York Mets in Port St. Lucie for their spring training opener.

Nationals manager Jim Riggleman said he expects the 18-year-old Harper will get at least one at-bat in the game.

“I’m hoping that he kind of blends in,” Riggleman said. “I’m not looking for him to excel against major league pitching.”

Harper is learning a new position, moving from catcher to the outfield. Nationals outfielder Jerry Hairston said it will take time to make the adjustment.

“He’s got a good head on his shoulders,” Hairston said. “We’ve talked a little bit. He’s a humble guy. He realizes what’s going on. I’m sure everybody’s excited about watching him play. He’s a great talent. It’s a spring training game. I know he’s going to be a little excited.”

Jayson Werth, who signed to a $126 million, seven-year contract with Washington in the offseason, will not make the trip. Neither will All-Star third baseman Ryan Zimmerman and first baseman Adam LaRoche. Their debuts likely will come Tuesday or Wednesday when Washington hosts the Mets and the Florida Marlins.

Chad Gaudin will pitch the first game for Washington on Monday. Livan Hernandez throws Tuesday and John Lannan goes Wednesday.

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