Nationals catcher Bryce Harper watches a game against the Tigers during… (Paul Sancya / Associated…)
Teenage phenom Bryce Harper will make his major league debut at Dodger Stadium on Saturday, and Dodgers utilityman Jerry Hairston Jr. has some advice for fans attending the game: Get there in time to watch the Washington Nationals take batting practice.
"He puts on a very good show," said Hairston, who was in the Nationals' spring training camp with Harper last year.
Harper, a 19-year-old outfielder, has been called up by the Nationals from triple-A Syracuse to replace third baseman Ryan Zimmerman on the roster. Zimmerman will be placed on the 15-day disabled list with shoulder inflammation.
The power-hitting Harper was a Sports Illustrated cover boy as a 16-year-old prep star in Las Vegas. The headline: "Baseball's Chosen One." After his sophomore year of high school, Harper passed the GED and enrolled at the College of Southern Nevada, where he won the Golden Spikes Award as the top amateur baseball player in the country. He was the first player selected in the 2010 draft and signed with the Nationals for $9.9 million.
Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly saw an 18-year-old Harper play in the Arizona Fall League before the 2011 season. Mattingly managed in the six-team league, which is a finishing school for baseball's top prospects.
"I like him," Mattingly said. "The kid played hard. Full-out running, full-out everything."
The Nationals initially planned to take a measured approach in developing Harper. Injuries to Zimmerman and cleanup hitter Michael Morse, changed that.
The Nationals, who entered Friday with the best record in the National League, suddenly had a need for a left-handed-hitting corner outfielder.
"This isn't the coming-out party for Bryce that we had in mind," Nationals General Manager Mike Rizzo said.
Harper hit .250 with a home run and 3 runs batted in in 20 games in triple A.
Rizzo insisted the Nationals remain committed to their plan on how to develop Harper, meaning Harper might not be in the majors to stay.
"He obviously could make me abandon it, and I hope he does," Rizzo said.
Nationals Manager Davey Johnson said Harper will probably bat seventh. Pitching for the Nationals will be the last player to break into the majors with as much hype, fireballer Stephen Strasburg.
In anticipation of Harper's debut, the MLB Network announced it would televise the game nationally.
At 19 years and195 days old, Harper will be the youngest player to make his major league debut since Seattle Mariners ace Felix Hernandez in 1995. Hernandez was 19 years and 118 days old.
Desperate for bullpen reinforcements, the Dodgers recalled Nathan Eovaldi from double-A Chattanooga. Left-hander Mike Antonini, who earned his first career major league call-up on Tuesday, was sent back to triple-A Albuquerque without having thrown a pitch.
The Dodgers still view Eovaldi as a starter, said Mattingly, who added that Eovaldi's promotion will probably be brief.
Todd Coffey is eligible to be activated from the disabled list on Sunday. Ronald Belisario can return from a 25-game drug suspension on May 4.
The Dodgers are again inviting fans to get autographs in a designated area next to their dugout before games. The area was closed at the start of the current homestand because of safety concerns. The Dodgers and Major League Baseball addressed those concerns by adding a second protective screen in front of the area.... The first 50,000 fans at Dodger Stadium on Saturday will receive a bobblehead doll featuring Maury Wills and Don Drysdale.... Popular Mexican comedian Eugenio Derbez will make an appearance at the Viva Los Dodgers event on Sunday. The festival starts at 11 a.m.