By Chris Lingebach

WASHINGTON — Nationals left-handed prospect Bryan Harper was promoted to Syracuse, Washington’s Class-AAA affiliate, last week. That promotion, General Manager Mike Rizzo assures, had nothing to do with the name on the back of his jersey.

“Yeah, it would be a nice story to play with his brother,” Rizzo told The Sports Junkies on 106.7 The FAn. “But he, like everyone else in our minor league system, has to earn it. There has to be a need for him and he has to be able to help the team win, because that’s what it’s all about.”

If it wasn’t already clear, the 26-year-old’s younger brother is the reining National League MVP, Nats slugger Bryce Harper. Bryan was a two-time draft selection by Washington, once in 2008 — two years before Bryce was drafted No. 1 overall — and once more in 2011.

Bryan Harper has, as Rizzo says, earned his call-up by virtue of his 1.50 ERA in 20 appearances — 16 of which were scoreless — at Class-AA Harrisburg, where opponents were hitting .146 in 79 at-bats against him. Through five outings thus far in Syracuse, Harper has been perfect, pitching 4.1 scoreless innings. He has positioned himself well for consideration as a September call-up to the Nationals.

A Nats fan delivered the question to Rizzo during his weekly radio address, by way of the Burke & Herbert Bank Fan Question of the Week.

Bryan Harper, Bryce’s older brother, was recently promoted to Triple-A. What kind of stuff does Bryan have and could we see him in the Majors with Bryce sometime soon? – Kurt in College Park

“We’ve always liked him,” Rizzo said. “We drafted him because we think that, you know, he’s a 6-5 left-handed pitcher, was a starter in college. We made him a reliever in his second year of pro ball.

“He’s 6-5, he comes at a unique angle. He’s 90, 92 fastball. He’s got a good, big, swooping slider and a tighter curveball and a changeup. He’s gone step by step through the minor leagues and has success at every level.”

Harper’s college career began at Cal State Northridge in 2009, then he transferred to College of Southern Nevada Junior College to play one season with his brother, Bryce. From there he transferred to South Carolina, where he went 1-0 with a 5.40 ERA and 18 strikeouts in 18.1 innings. He has risen steadily through the minor leagues since signing with Washington in 2011.

“The name on the back of his jersey, Harper, has no effect on where he goes and what he does,” Rizzo said. “He’s really earned every step of his ascent through our minor league system. Yeah, he’s a prospect. He’s a guy that we think can help us down the road and, as needed, there’s definitely a possibility he could be here in Washington some day.”

Follow @ChrisLingebach and @1067TheFan on Twitter.

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