MLB: It’s Harper time. Vegas teen legend joins Nationals

Apr 28, 2012 9:05 AM

At 19, Las Vegas legend Bryce Harper is heading to the major leagues and will start for Washington in left field Saturday against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Harper, who was a YouTube sensation and Sports Illustrated cover boy before he ever signed a pro contract, was called up from the minors after Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman was placed on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to April 21 with an inflammation in his right shoulder.

Harper was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 amateur draft and was played at Triple-A Syracuse at the time of the call-up.

"‘I’m going to put him in left field and let him play,’’ manager Davey Johnson said Friday in Los Angeles, where he will bat Harper seventh for the final two games of a series at Dodger Stadium. ‘’Harp had a great spring training, he’s a phenomenal talent, and he’s been swinging the bat down there. But we have a need here for a left-handed bat, and he’s the guy that fits the role. As far as I’m concerned, he’s earned the right to get the opportunity.’’

Harper was the first overall pick in the 2010 amateur draft, and Zimmerman was the fourth selection in 2005. Once they get to appear in the same lineup, things should be even more interesting for the Nationals, who took an NL-best 14-5 record into Friday night’s game.

The Nationals also placed reliever Brad Lidge on the 15-day disabled list with an abdominal wall strain, the second of the team’s three potential closers to go on the shelf.

Harper skipped his final year of high school, earned his GED, then played one season of junior college baseball at the College of Southern Nevada to become eligible for the draft and get a head-start on his professional career. He signed a five-year, $9.9 million contract, including $6.5 million in signing bonuses, with the Nationals in August 2010.

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.