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STEVE DeSHAZO: Beasley takes pride in Harper’s call-up

FEW PEOPLE watched

Bryce Harper’s major-

league début with more interest than did Tony Beasley. That’s because in the past nine months, no one else has seen more of the Washington Nationals’ prized rookie.

Beasley, a Bowling Green native, managed Harper for his final 37 games of 2011 at Double-A Harrisburg and his first 20 games of 2012 at Triple-A Syracuse. Last Friday, Harper was summoned to the big leagues at age 19—and made quite an impression in his first two road games.

Tonight, D.C. fans will get their first look at Harper when the Nationals return home to face Arizona. They’ll see what Beasley has observed for nearly a year.

“He handled himself very well,” Beasley said Monday from Syracuse after watching tapes of Harper’s first two games. “I was surprised at how calm he looked. I’m sure he had a lot going on inside of him, but he was able to block it out.”

Harper went 1 for 3 in each of Washington’s two losses to the L.A. Dodgers, including a double to the center field wall on Saturday. His most impressive impact, though, came in the field.

On Saturday, his laser throw from left field should have cut down Jerry Hairston Jr. at the plate, but Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos dropped it—a costly play in a 4–3, 10-inning loss.

“That didn’t necessarily surprise me,” Beasley said. “Sometimes, you think he’s got no chance, and he throws a seed. I’ve yelled for him to throw to second and keep the double play in order, and he’ll nail a guy at the plate.”

Then on Sunday, Harper—a converted catcher—moved to center field and caught a drive by Juan Uribe while crashing into the wall.

It’s that kind of talent that made Harper’s ascension to the big leagues a matter of when, not if. The No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 draft was batting just .250 with only one home run and three RBIs at Syracuse, but Beasley said Harper had shown better patience and hit the ball harder in recent weeks.

Harper’s rise was also hastened by injuries to Michael Morse (out since spring training with a back injury) and Ryan Zimmerman (who went on the disabled list Friday with shoulder inflammation).

“It was a surprise to all of us,” Beasley said. “I don’t think it was by design, but through injuries. [General manager] Mike Rizzo came to see us play Rochester last Wednesday and saw what he needed to see.”

Rizzo also liked watching first baseman Tyler Moore, who had hit 31 homers in each of the past two seasons (2010 at Potomac and 2011 for Beasley in Harrisburg) and seven in 22 games at Syracuse. Moore was summoned to L.A. on Sunday, went 1 for 3 and played credibly in left field despite limited previous experience at the position.

Barring an unexpected slump, Harper is probably in the major leagues for good. Moore’s status may depend on his production and the health of Morse, Zimmerman and Jayson Werth, who missed Sunday’s game with migraines.

If that’s good news for his prize pupils, it’s not necessarily good for Beasley. He’s never had a losing record in six previous seasons as a minor-league manager, but his Chiefs are off to a 9–15 start—and just lost their two best hitters. “I’m not used to it,” he said of losing.

Beasley’s hand was already weakened last winter, when the Nationals traded four prized prospects to Oakland for left-handed pitcher Gio Gonzalez: pitchers Tom Milone (3–1, 2.00 for the Athletics), Brad Peacock and A.J. Cole, plus catcher Derek Norris. It’s possible that all except Cole might be in Syracuse if that deal hadn’t been made.

Still, Beasley, who briefly reached Triple-A in his playing days, is nothing if not a company man. He realizes what’s good for the organization may not benefit him.

And preparing players for bigger things brings him even more pride than victories on the field.

“You want guys to go up and experience success,” he said. “Hopefully, they’ll play well and be there all season. That would be very gratifying.”

Steve DeShazo: 540/374-5443

sdeshazo@freelancestar.com

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