At 19, Harper figures he's ready for prime time

PAUL NEWBERRY AP National Writer Published:

VIERA, Fla. (AP) -- When Bryce Harper got to the clubhouse for Washington's first full-squad workout of spring training, his teammates had delivered a not-so-subtle message. The nameplate on his locker said, "Joe Namath, No. 12."

Harper wasn't bothered a bit by those who thought he went a little far by saying he wants to become a cultural icon like Broadway Joe. He's ready to get started, reporting for the Nationals camp with every intention of heading north as a starting outfielder at the ripe ol' age of 19.

The Nationals intend to give him a shot, though general manager Mike Rizzo is cautious about rushing Harper to the big leagues too soon. Manager Davey Johnson is a bit more optimistic, remembering another 19-year-old who made the majors on his watch -- Dwight Gooden.