Since his players reported to camp nearly two weeks ago, Davey Johnson has preached the idea of taking things slowly and not trying to do too much early during what will be an extended spring training for the Nationals. And before his players took the field this afternoon for their Grapefruit League opener against the Mets, the 70-year-old skipper reminded everyone of that motto.

Some appeared to get the memo during a 5-3 loss at Tradition Field. For some others ... well, that's just not in their DNA.

"I need help with that a little bit," Bryce Harper said. "I understand we have 35 games this spring. But when I do play, I'm gonna play hard and try to be ready. I don't have a low button or a middle button. It's always: Go, go, go when I'm out on the field. So I'm gonna play like that, same as last year."

Harper certainly didn't ease off the gas pedal during his 4 1/2 innings of play. He stepped to the plate in the top of the first inning and took a mighty whack at Shaun Marcum's first fastball, roping a foul ball into the right-field corner that nearly took out the entire Nationals bullpen. He tagged another Marcum pitch into fair territory shortly thereafter, notching his first base hit of the spring, then later crushed a hard grounder to short off flame-throwing prospect Zack Wheeler.

Oh, and of course there was Harper's circus catch on a third-inning line drive by Kirk Nieuwenhuis, in which the ball struck his glove, then his right arm before landing back in his glove again.