Harper likely to start Saturday

Harper likely to start Saturday
February 27, 2012, 7:57 pm
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VIERA, Fla. -- It doesn't look like the Nationals will have to wait too long to see their two most recent top draft picks in the starting lineup.

Manager Davey Johnson suggested today that 2011 first-round pick Anthony Rendon will start at third base Friday in the club's exhibition opener against Georgetown University and 2010 No. 1 overall pick Bryce Harper will start in right field Saturday in the Grapefruit League opener at the Astros.

Johnson has been saying all week he's particularly interested in seeing what kind of production he can get from his left-handed bats, hoping to balance out a lineup heavy with right-handed sluggers (Ryan Zimmerman, Michael Morse, Jayson Werth). With right-hander (and ex-National) Livan Hernandez slated to be on the mound for Houston Saturday in Kissimmee, Johnson will try to stack his lineup with as many left-handed hitters as possible, opening the door for Harper.

Johnson is planning to give Harper plenty of playing time this spring, certainly more than the outfielder got last spring in his first professional camp. Then 18, Harper appeared in 12 games, all of them off the bench, going 7-for-18 with three doubles and five RBI.

Now 19 and competing for a spot on the Opening Day roster, Harper is expected to make regular starts this spring, probably alternating in right field with Werth.

Rendon, the sixth overall pick in last summer's draft, won't see nearly as much playing time in his first pro camp, but he will get a chance to start Friday's charity game against Georgetown. The 21-year-old infielder has been getting some work at shortstop and second base in the last week, but he'll play his natural third base position for this game.

Johnson spent time watching Rendon take batting practice today and came away impressed.

"I never had seen him swing," the manager said. "I like his actions a lot, his approach."

Standing nearby, special assistant Bob Boone said Rendon's swing reminded him of Johnson's swing.

"I thought it was much more of a compliment to me than it was to him," Johnson said. "He's special."

Rendon won't be the only 2011 draft pick in the lineup Friday; left-hander Matt Purke (selected in the third round) will start against Georgetown.