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Harper to see action in Nats' Grapefruit opener

Harper to see action in Nats' Grapefruit opener

Harper to see action in Nats' Grapefruit opener
VIERA, Fla. -- After two weeks of full-squad workouts, the Nationals play their first Grapefruit League game on Monday at 1:10 p.m. ET on MLB.TV against the Mets at Digital Domain Park in Port Lucie, Fla.

Here is the Nats' starting lineup:
Nyjer Morgan -- CF
Ian Desmond -- SS
Roger Bernadina -- LF
Michael Morse -- RF
Matt Stairs -- DH
Wilson Ramos -- C
Kevin Barker -- 1B
Danny Espinosa -- 2B
Jerry Hairston Jr. -- 3B

But the lineup isn't the only thing that is worth watching. Outfielder Bryce Harper, the first overall pick in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft, will travel with the team and come off the bench, according to manager Jim Riggleman. When he enters the game, Harper will play either left or right field.

It will be Harper's first professional game since he played in the Arizona Fall League, where he hit .343 with a home run and seven RBIs in nine games for the Scottsdale Scorpions.

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Harper made it clear recently that he is trying to make the Opening Day roster. However, he will most likely start the season with Class A Hagerstown.

Catcher Jesus Flores, who started his professional career in the Mets' organization, will also come off the bench and play his first game since September 2009. Flores missed more than a year because of shoulder problems.

Flores finds himself battling catchers Wilson Ramos and Ivan Rodriguez for a spot on the 25-man roster. The Nats have not ruled out using Flores as a trade chip.

"Right now, I'm not thinking about [being traded]," Flores said recently. "I'm just thinking about staying healthy and showing the team that I'm ready to be here. I know Pudge and Ramos are good players. But I'm not afraid of anything. Baseball is baseball. That's how it is. I need to go out there every day, play hard, give your best and let everything happen."

Right-hander Chad Gaudin, who will start for Washington, is battling six other pitchers for the fifth spot in the rotation.

Gaudin split time with the Yankees and Athletics last season, going 1-4 with a 5.65 ERA. His best season in the big leagues was in 2008, when he went 9-5 with a 4.40 ERA for the Cubs and Athletics.

Gaudin was pleased that Washington gave him the chance to open the exhibition season. He is scheduled to pitch two innings.

"I feel privileged to have Jim start me in the first game," Gaudin said. "Obviously, they have confidence that I can handle the start. To me, it's a compliment. I'm going to go out there every day and compete for a job -- do what I need to do to prepare myself. I've been in this situation like this before a couple of times. It didn't pan out and I learned from it. I know what I need to do to get where I need to be."

Gaudin has spent most of his career as a swingman, but he made it known that he doesn't want to become a reliever.

"I can [be a reliever], but I don't particularly like it. I want to start, and that's what I'm trying to do," Gaudin said.

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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