Nationals rookie Bryce Harper prepares to hit during a spring training… (Paul Sancya / Associated…)
Dodgers utilityman Jerry Hairston Jr. was in the Washington Nationals’ spring training camp with Bryce Harper last year. Hairston spent a few more days with Harper during the season while on a minor-league rehabilitation assignment with the Nationals’ double-A affiliate.
Harper, 19, will make his major league debut on Saturday night at Dodger Stadium.
But as amazed as Hairston is at how advanced Harper is at 19, that isn’t what he thinks about when he looks at him.
“I look at it different,” Hairston said. “I look at what he could be at 25, 26, 27.”
And what can he be?
“I see a lot of Jay Bruce, Larry Walker,” Hairston said. “People forget how great Larry Walker was. Larry Walker was one of the premier right fielders in the game.”
Walker was the National League’s most valuable player in 1997, when he batted .366 with 49 home runs and 130 runs batted in for the Colorado Rockies. Over a 17-year career that ended after the 2005 season, Walker won three batting titles, three Silver Slugger awards and seven Gold Gloves. He was a five-time All-Star.
Like Harper, Walker hit left-handed.
“For me to say somebody’s kind of like a Larry Walker, that’s high praise,” Hairston said. “He definitely has that type of talent. … His bat speed, his power. He’s playing some right field, some center. He can run. Larry could run."
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Jerry Hairston Jr. compares Bryce Harper to Jay Bruce, Larry Walker