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Nats phenom Harper to start season in minors

VIERA — Nationals manager Davey Johnson believes 19-year-old Bryce Harper has all the tools to be a big-time player in the major leagues.

Just not yet.

Harper was one of four cuts the team announced following Sunday's 11-7 loss to the Tigers. He will start the year at Triple-A Syracuse and get a lot of work in centerfield, which will ideally be his position if and when he is called up this year.

Harper acknowledged he was disappointed "but I'm just going to take it, and go down there and work hard and try to get up here as quick as I can. … Of course you want to come in here and make the team every year. Hopefully, that's the last time I'll get sent down. But it's what happened. I wasn't expecting it, but it's okay."

Johnson told reporters last season he expects Harper to have quality at-bats at the major-league level at the age of 19, and he said Sunday he still feels like that will happen.

"The timing to me just wasn't quite right," Johnson said. "It's close. Real close. I'd like to have his bat in this lineup, I've made no secret of that. As far as I'm concerned, he doesn't really need to work on a whole lot."

Harper went 1-for-5, striking out four times against the Tigers. The No. 1 pick in the 2010 draft drilled a double to centerfield in the ninth inning and finished 8-for-28 (.286) with two walks and 11 strikeouts this spring.

By sending Harper out now, the Nationals can get a longer look at veteran outfielders Rick Ankiel, Roger Bernadina, Brett Carroll and Jason Michaels.

ACE HEALING: Cardinals right-hander Chris Carpenter threw batting practice for the first time since a neck injury.

The 2005 NL Cy Young Award winner threw 40 pitches, two days after throwing off a mound for the first time in two weeks. He has been limited since March 3 because of a bulging disc.

"I was excited to get back out there and throw a little bit," Carpenter said. "Now we move on to the next step. I think if I wake up good enough (today) we can go out and do that again maybe sometime soon."

ANGELS: First baseman Kendrys Morales, who hasn't played since May 2010 because of a broken ankle, is scheduled to make his spring debut Tuesday.

A'S: Right-handed reliever Joey Devine is expected to open the season on the 15-day disabled list because of lingering soreness in his right biceps muscle.

CUBS: Manager Dale Sveum told the Chicago Tribune that right-hander Jeff Samardzija, primarily a reliever in his four seasons, is a "near lock" for a spot in the starting rotation.

NATIONALS: Outfielder Xavier Nady agreed to a minor-league contract.

ORIOLES: Japanese left-hander Tsuyoshi Wada, who had been sidelined by a sore elbow, allowed a hit and a run in two innings against the Braves in his spring debut.

PADRES: Leftfielder Carlos Quentin is scheduled to have arthroscopic surgery today to repair inflammation in his right knee and is expected to be sidelined for four to six weeks.

ROYALS: Closer Joakim Soria left the game against the Indians with soreness to his right (pitching) elbow after retiring one of the five batters he faced.

Nats phenom Harper to start season in minors 03/18/12 [Last modified: Sunday, March 18, 2012 8:54pm]
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