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Nationals end suspense, assign Harper
First overall pick will begin the 2011 season with Class A Suns
03/12/2011 11:55 PM ET
Bryce Harper had a .556 slugging percentage in the Grapefruit League.
Bryce Harper had a .556 slugging percentage in the Grapefruit League. (Mark LoMoglio/MiLB.com)
Despite Bryce Harper's protestations, he'll begin the 2011 season in the Minors.

Harper, the first pick in the 2010 Draft, was informed after Saturday's game that he had been assigned to Washington's Minor League camp, and will open the season with Class A Hagerstown. The 18-year-old outfielder is expected to get more playing time than he would have received had he remained in the Grapefruit League.

"We think Bryce needs to go to the Minor Leagues, get four or five at-bats per game and prepare himself for the season -- that's the reason we got him out," Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo told MLB.com. "He was getting one or two at-bats per game, playing in spurts. He needs to be prepared for the season, get plenty of at-bats and get reps in the outfield."

Harper, MLB.com's No. 3 prospect, had previously expressed a desire to begin the season on the Major League roster for Washington. He played like he belonged there in Spring Training, batting .389 with five RBIs in 13 games.

"I want to make that decision harder," Harper told MLB.com in February. "I'm trying to stay up here as long as I can. [Outfielder Jayson] Werth and several of the guys came up to me and asked, 'Are you going to make the team or what?' I'm trying to make this club. If it doesn't happen, it's going to be a great experience being up here with all the veteran guys."

Part of the reason the Nationals moved Harper to their Minor League camp was to work on certain aspects of his game, citing a need for Harper to work on his base running and defense. Harper expressed disappointment at their decision.

"I have to go down there and get a couple of more at-bats per day," Harper told MLB.com. "That will be good for me. It was a great experience here. I couldn't ask for anything better. I loved every minute of it. Hopefully, I'll be back soon.

"Nobody likes to leave the big league club. This is the life that you want to live every day. It's just the process. I'll just go down to the Minor League club. I'm going to bust my butt. I'm going to play hard, like I always do."

Robert Emrich is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.
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