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Harper basks in shade of brother's shadow

April 10, 2013|By BOB PARASILITI | bobp@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN — Bryan Harper has a good idea what Robin, Dr. Watson and Pokey have to deal with every day.

It seems like the Hagerstown Suns relief pitcher can’t go anywhere without someone asking about someone else in his life.

Robin has Batman, Watson plays second fiddle to Sherlock Holmes and Pokey, he deals with Gumby. For Harper, the first thing he usually hears after someone says “Hi” is “How’s your brother Bryce?”

That’s Bryce as in Bryce Harper, 20-year-old phenom, reigning National League Rookie of the Year and starting left fielder of the Washington Nationals.

“I’m not tired of it,” Bryan Harper said during the Suns’ annual media day last week. “I’ve always been attached with him ... unfortunately.”

It’s not a case of sibling rivalry in the Harper household.

Bryan is three years older than Bryce.

Bryce was the first overall draft pick and top selection of the Nationals in the 2010 Minor League draft. Bryan was the Nats’ 30th-round selection in 2011.

Bryce left school early and earned his GED to get an early start while playing junior college ball in Nevada. Bryan graduated and attended South Carolina.

While there is a difference in the positions the Harpers play while the similarity is their Single-A starting place — Hagerstown’s Municipal Stadium.

“He’s always been a hitter and I’ve been a pitcher,” Bryan Harper said.

Another difference is Bryan won’t be setting off the media radar gun in the fashion that Bryce did.

When Bryce was in Hagerstown, everyone wanted an interview with or an autograph from him. In Bryan’s case, he’ll get media requests, but probably to talk about Bryce.

That’s Bryan Harper’s life and he accepts it. He’s more concerned about doing a good job out of the Suns’ bullpen as the team’s only left-handed reliever.

“Spring training went well,” Harper said. “There were no real problems and just worked on stuff to get in shape. I have no idea what my role will be in the bullpen. We have a good staff and good depth everywhere.”

Bryan Harper credits his time at South Carolina, allowing him to work on his fastball, slider and changeup to get him ready to give professional baseball a go.

“I just have to go out there and throw,” Harper said. “When you pitch, it’s always the same no matter who’s in the box. I’m the only lefty in the pen. I can only control what I can control out there.

“The whole thing is to pitch to contact. Get out there and throw and make them put the ball in play to shorten the game. You always have to do what you do — throw strikes and get outs.”

Another difference between the Brothers Harper is their appearance. Bryce is 6-foot-2, wears a beard and various hairstyles, including one that resembles a shark.

Bryan is 6-foot-5 and uses a Rollie Fingers-esque mustache as his trademark.

“I have been working on it for five months,” Bryan said, as all admired the lip hair that curled on each end. “I just wanted some facial hair for spring training.”

Despite it all, Bryan Harper can’t get away from Bryce, nor does he want to. He follows his kid brother’s career when he can.

A case in point was April 1 when Bryce hit a pair of home runs to lead the Nationals to a 2-0 victory over Miami in the season opener.

“I was driving up here from Florida and was listening to it on the radio. When he hit the first homer, I ...” he said, giving a swerving motion on an imaginary steering wheel.

“Then when he came up and hit the second one, I almost went off the road.”

But when it comes down to it, Bryan Harper would like to be in the same situation with Bryce that B.J. and Justin Upton enjoy with the Atlanta Braves ... to play together on the same team.

“I’ve always have had the opportunity to play with him,” Bryan said. “I want the chance to play with him again.”

Then maybe everyone will be asking Bryce Harper about his brother Bryan.

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