LOS ANGELES -- Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper arrived in Los Angeles around 1:30 a.m. PT on Saturday. He got about four hours sleep, excited that he was making his Major League debut against the Dodgers.
Harper is on Washington's 25-man roster because third baseman Ryan Zimmerman was placed on the 15-day disabled list due to inflammation in his right shoulder. Harper will be the everyday left fielder, and he batted seventh in the lineup Saturday.
Harper learned of the promotion on Friday afternoon. Shocked that he didn't see his name in the starting lineup for Triple-A Syracuse, Harper was summoned into manager Tony Beasley's office. Harper was then informed he was going to the big leagues.
"Actually, we had a snowout. It was a little different than this [Los Angeles] weather," Harper said before his debut. "It was 26 degrees outside. [Beasley] called me into the office, and I didn't think anything of it. He said, 'You are going up to L.A. to play. You are going to join the team up there.' It was an unbelievable experience for him to say that to me."
At the time of the promotion, Harper was hitting .250 with a home run and three RBIs, but he was hitting the ball much better this week. In his past 10 games, Harper hit .290 with a .420 on-base percentage.
"I'm trying to play the same game that I've been playing," Harper said. "I tried to get as many at-bats as I could down in Syracuse. Hopefully, Zim can get back and playing every day soon.
"I thought I would have a different reaction to everything. I'm trying to take everything in right now. I think once they announce my name and I see all the fans and things like that, it will really hit me. I'm trying to take it one day at a time. Keep it going."
Everywhere he has played in professional baseball, Harper is known to get off to a slow start. Asked how can he avoid a slow start in the big leagues, Harper said, "I've been feeling good down [in the Minors]. It's a huge step to come up here and play. I'm trying to take it one day at a time, take it pitch by pitch. Just trying to take my time, have fun, smile everyday and have a good time."
The last time manager Davey Johnson had a rookie phenom hit the big leagues was when right-hander Dwight Gooden made his Major League debut in 1984 with the Mets. The difference, according to Johnson, was there wasn't a lot of media surrounding Gooden, who was also 19 at the time.
"I've never seen this many cameras in New York," Johnson said. "I brought in Dwight, and he was pretty special, too."
Asked to compare Harper to Gooden, Johnson said Harper was more outgoing.
"I never try to change a player's personality. I want them to be themselves. Bryce says he doesn't like it, but I think he likes all the attention," the skipper said.