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Positionally, Werth is the center of attention

When the Nationals arrive at Space Coast Stadium in a few weeks, it will be without the usual uncertainty that has accompanied the team to Viera, Fla., in past spring trainings. Up and down the roster, there are more sure things than question marks. Rotation? So many legitimate starting pitchers that either Ross Detwiler or John Lannan will likely end up in long relief. Bullpen?

The Nationals and Selig’s push to expand the playoff field

The tenure of Major League Baseball commissioner Allan H. “Bud” Selig has made one thing crystal clear: What Bud wants, Bud usually gets. Selig wants to implement his plan to expand the playoffs by one team in each league for the 2012 season. Never mind that the players’ union isn’t on board with the arrangement, citing the fact that the schedule is already set and

What’s left on Mike Rizzo’s offseason to-do list?

It’s less than a month until pitchers and catchers report to Nationals spring training at Space Coast Stadium in Viera, Fla., but don’t expect general manager Mike Rizzo to be any less diligent about adding to his roster or looking for creative ways to improve his ballclub between now and Feb. 19. “We’re trying to improve ourselves in the rotation and in the bullpen and

Nationals to host Georgetown in exhibition game

If you’re heading down to sunny Florida to watch the Nationals during spring training, I’m jealous. I’m not going anywhere. But while I’m enjoying the winter winds of the mid-Atlantic, fans who do make the trek to Viera, Fla., will get the chance to see the Nationals take on Georgetown University’s baseball team in an exhibition game Friday, March 2. The Nationals will serve as

Nationals host auditions for 2012 Nat Pack

Did you apply to be a part of the Nat Pack? Are you a die-hard Nationals fan, the kind who bleeds red, err ... red, white and blue, and doesn’t mind dancing in front of a huge crowd? If so, and you submitted an application to join the Nationals’ fun-loving, baseball-rooting crew, the Nationals are inviting candidates to the first day of 2012 Nat Pack

Nationals add Lidge to bullpen mix on one-year deal

Yesterday, Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said he had a few more roster “tweaks” in mind before players started reporting to spring training in Viera, Fla. Well, the tweaking is under way. The Nationals have signed former Phillies closer Brad Lidge, adding the right-hander to an already-crowded bullpen picture. Lidge gets a one-year deal for $1 million. The 35-year-old Lidge was 0-2 with a 1.40

Give him the ball, but Gonzalez would rather listen than mentor

When the Nationals traded four top prospects to the A’s in exchange for Gio Gonzalez last month, general manager Mike Rizzo talked about the effect the 26-year-old left-hander would have on the Washington rotation. Despite his relative youth, four major league seasons - and three spent primarily as a starting pitcher for the team that gifted “Moneyball” to the game - are more than right-handers

Some leftovers from Mike Rizzo

A few leftovers from Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo after today’s press conference to introduce left-hander Gio Gonzalez: * Whether Bryce Harper does enough to break spring camp with the major league club will be one of the biggest stories in the Grapefruit League starting next month. Manager Davey Johnson has gone on record as saying he thinks the 19-year-old outfielder can handle big league

New Nat Gio Gonzalez eager to get to work

First impressions from Gio Gonzalez’s introductory press conference: This guy is going to be a lot of fun to be around. Gonzalez is well-spoken, excitable and has his own knack for thoughtful commentary - all of which will play well in the Nationals’ clubhouse. On Wednesday afternoon, the Nationals finally got around to introducing Gonzalez, who was acquired last month in a six-player swap that

Rizzo: Nationals were “very close” to signing Prince Fielder before bowing out

If Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo was upset at not landing free agent first baseman Prince Fielder, he masked the disappointment well. Speaking after the Nationals introduced left-hander Gio Gonzalez to the media Wednesday afternoon, Rizzo said the Nationals had done their best to come to terms with Fielder, who agreed to a nine-year, $214 million deal. Rizzo even hinted that the Nationals were “very

What if ... Smiley Gonzalez hadn’t turned out to be Carlos Alvarez?

When baseball wags talk about a “player to be named later” - and really, shouldn’t it be “player to be named,” since you’re already talking about something that will happen in the future? - they mean an asset in a trade that’s yet to be determined. In Washington, that nomenclature has a totally different meaning, since the Nationals have had to deal with the subterfuge

After Fielder’s choice, what’s next for Nationals?

There’s not much more to say about Prince Fielder’s decision to agree to a nine-year, $214 million contract with the Tigers this afternoon, ending the most drawn-out free agent pursuit of the offseason. Several of the clubs interested in the slugging first baseman could have offered him the chance to win. Several of those teams could have offered him the opportunity to reprise Reggie Jackson’s

Reports: Fielder spurns Nationals, signs nine-year deal with Tigers

According to multiple reports, Prince Fielder isn’t coming to Washington. The Tigers have agreed to sign the slugging first baseman to a nine-year deal worth $214 million. Five days after Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski said of Fielder, “He doesn’t fit for us. He’s looking for a long-term deal and that just doesn’t fit,” theTigers swooped in at the end of the negotiations, emerging as the

Seven Nationals spring training games to air on MASN (updated with radio schedule)

It may be in the 50s today, but here’s something guaranteed to create some additional warm feelings in NatsTown: the Nationals’ 2012 spring training broadcast schedule on MASN. Seven Nationals Grapefruit League games will be televised on MASN’s dedicated high-definition channel, MASN HD, beginning with a Sunday, March 4 game from Space Coast Stadium in Viera, Fla., against the Houston Astros. All afternoon games will

Rounding up news on Fielder, Zimmerman (updated)

Better prepare for the long haul - it’s going to be a while before Prince Fielder comes to a decision on where he’s going to play in 2012 and beyond. To get your morning started, here are some random thoughts related to the Nationals, their pursuit of Fielder and other news in and around NatsTown: * Fielder and agent Scott Boras are holding firm on

Rumor mill churning on Fielder, Upton

First things first: That report last night indicating that the Nationals had come to an agreement with Prince Fielder on an eight-year deal with an opt-out clause after the third season was erroneous. My sources tell me that no deal is imminent, though the Nationals continue to be interested in the slugging first baseman, but only on their terms. Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com tweeted this

The sound of silence (updated)

It’s difficult to interpret Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo’s prolonged silence on the subject of Prince Fielder. Either the club continues to negotiate with the free agent slugger in hopes that he’ll man first base in 2012, or talks have again reached an impasse. There’s really not much middle ground. One thing we do know: This is standard operating procedure from Rizzo, who clearly prefers

Five questions about Michael Morse’s multi-year deal

While you’re digesting whatever was for dinner tonight - for me, it was PF Chang’s kung-pao chicken, stir-fried in sirachi sauce - it’s also a good time to deliberate the two-year, $10.5 million extension between the Nationals and outfielder/first baseman Michael Morse that was announced late this afternoon. The contract essentially buys out the slugger’s final two arbitration years after a breakout 2011 season, but

Nationals ink multi-year extension with slugger Morse

Fresh off of a breakout season in Washington, Nationals slugger Michael Morse plans to stick around in our nation’s capital for a while longer. Morse and the Nationals agreed to a multi-year contract extension Friday, according to the team, meaning fans can take some solace in knowing the powerful - yet bubbly - first baseman will remain in D.C. beyond the 2012 season. The terms

Projecting the Nationals’ bullpen

There’s little doubt that the bullpen was one of the Nationals’ strong points in 2011. The numbers are impressive - a 31-23 record, 98 holds, 49 saves in 76 opportunities, 44 home runs allowed in 520 2/3 innings, 72 percent of first batters faced by relievers retired, a 3.20 ERA - and yielded an All-Star nod for Tyler Clippard. So going into 2012, is it

MASN adds new “Nationals Classics” to broadcast rotation

We all love reliving those classic baseball memories. Whether it’s a no-hitter, a walk-off grand slam, or a World Series clincher, revisiting those moments - the ones that display your team at its pinnacle of excellence - is truly something to enjoy. Fortunately for Nationals fans, MASN is putting together a collection of some of the Nationals’ greatest games, which will be presented in their

Mondry-Cohen represents Nationals in MLB Network’s “Baseball IQ”

When a memo calling for representatives to test their baseball knowledge on a new game show was sent out to every major league team, it didn’t take long for the Nationals to choose their guy. They needed someone with drive, someone who would compete, and of course, some knowledge on the game of baseball couldn’t hurt. Enter Samuel Mondry-Cohen. Mondry-Cohen, the Nationals’ baseball operations analyst,

Darvish deal done, Fielder returns to front burner

Yu Darvish is a Texas Ranger, agreeing to a six-year deal worth $60 million about 25 minutes ahead of the 5 p.m. Eastern time deadline for the sides to agree on a contract. The Rangers will pay a hefty price - a $51.7 million posting fee to the Nippon Ham Fighters, in addition to the terms of the contract - to secure the Japanese right-hander,

Nats get some prime time treatment on ESPN in 2012

Don’t look now, but the Nationals’ national profile - at least in the eyes of those people responsible for putting together nationally televised baseball schedules- is on the rise. ESPN released its preliminary 2012 “Sunday Night Baseball” schedule this morning and the slate includes two games involving the Nationals. The Phillies’ visit to Nationals Park on Sunday, May 6 will air in prime time, as

What if ... the Nationals hadn’t signed Jayson Werth?

The beauty of “What If?” Wednesdays is that we can either go deep into the past or delve into the not-so-distant, er, distance. Regardless of when the space/time continuum is disturbed - just recently or long-term - there are always potential ramifications to be pored over and pondered, discussed and dissected. Today, we set the way-back machine for just over a year ago, Dec. 5,

Nationals swap salary figures with Morse, Lannan (plus Gonzalez contract details)

The Nationals and their remaining two arbitration-eligible players - left-hander John Lannan and outfielder/first baseman Michael Morse - have exchanged salary figures in preparation for arbitration hearings which will be scheduled during February in St. Petersburg, Fla. This is the next step in the arbitration process and doesn’t preclude the parties from reaching an amicable settlement right up until the third-party arbitrator rules for one

Clippard, Nats agree on one-year deal, avoiding arbitration (updated)

The Nationals have just announced that they’ve agreed to a one-year deal with right-handed reliever Tyler Clippard, leaving only two unsigned, arbitration-eligible players: outfielder/first baseman Michael Morse and left-hander John Lannan. Clippard appeared to be a candidate for a long-term extension after earning his first All-Star Game nod and going 3-0 with a 1.83 ERA and a franchise-record 38 holds in 72 games last season.

Zimmermann, Gorzelanny bypass arbitration, agree to terms

The Nationals scratched two more names off their list of arbitration-eligible players this morning, agreeing to terms with left-hander Tom Gorzelanny and right-hander Jordan Zimmermann on 2012 contracts. The deals were announced on the Twitter feed of the team’s public relations department. Gorzelanny received $2.7 million, while Zimmermann got $2.3 million. The 29-year-old Gorzelanny, acquired in January from the Cubs for three minor leaguers, was

Flores avoids arbitration, inks one-year deal with Nats

The Nationals have avoided arbitration with catcher Jesus Flores, signing him to a one-year contract. The news was issued in this tweet from the team’s public relations department. Flores will receive $815,000, a modest raise from his 2011 salary of $750,000. He can earn another $50,000 in bonuses tied to games played. The 27-year-old Flores hit .209 with one homer and two RBIs in 30

Nationals’ present as important as their future

The next 24 hours will be busy ones for the six Nationals who are eligible for arbitration: right-handers Tyler Clippard and Jordan Zimmermann; left-handers Tom Gorzelanny and John Lannan; outfielder/first baseman Michael Morse; and catcher Jesus Flores. They need to exchange arbitration figures with the team by noon Eastern time Tuesday, though their representatives will also be working on deals to avoid the arbitration process.

Nationals sign Gonzalez to extension through 2016 (updated)

One down, six to go. The Nationals on Sunday signed left-hander Gio Gonzalez on a long-term contract extension. The five-year, $42 million deal includes team options for 2017 and 2018. It’s the largest guaranteed deal ever for a pitcher eligible for arbitration for the first time and comes three weeks after Gonzalez joined Washington in a six-player swap from the A’s. If the Nationals exercise

Nationals, Fielder still talking about deal

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: The Nationals are again making a strong pitch to sign free agent first baseman Prince Fielder. The on-again, off-again talks with Fielder and agent Scott Boras are apparently on again, according to a baseball source. Actually, there’s some difference of opinion on whether the two sides ever stopped talking or whether the supposed impasse from earlier this

Seven Nationals file for salary arbitration

All seven of the Nationals who are eligible have exercised their right to file for salary arbitration. According to the Major League Baseball Players Association, Friday was the deadline, and the sides must exchange figures by Tuesday. Right-handers Jordan Zimmermann and Tyler Clippard, catcher Jesus Flores, first baseman/outfielder Michael Morse, and left-handers John Lannan, Tom Gorzelanny and Gio Gonzalez beat the deadline. The period for

Nationals missing from Cespedes’ short list of interested suitors

Courting a coveted free agent used to be so easy. You invited him to your city, wined and dined him with the ownership at a swanky restaurant, had him tour your stadium and waited for the ooohs and aaahs as you put his photo on your larger-than-life scoreboard with your logo superimposed on his ball cap. Sometimes, you had the contract ready for his signature,

Nationals announce mini ticket plans for 2012 season

We’re getting closer and closer to the start of spring training, which means, Nationals fans, your window to purchase tickets for the 2012 season is closing. Of course, the best option is to get to all 81 home games, but for those of you who, you know, actually have a job to go to, the Nationals have announced a collection of mini plans for the

The Fielder-Nationals impasse - and what it might really mean (updated)

The Nationals and Scott Boras, the agent for Prince Fielder, have reached an impasse in negotiations for a long-term contract that would bring the slugging first baseman to D.C. A baseball source has confirmed that the Nationals are balking at the length of the deal, not wanting to commit seven or more years to the 27-year-old Fielder, who has been rumored to want 10 years

What if ... Tim Raines had played longer in Montreal, boosting Hall credentials?

The annual announcement of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America balloting for the Baseball Hall of Fame always brings polar opposites in emotions: elected candidates thrilled yet humbled to be recognized among the game’s immortals and the lamentations of those bypassed or ignored who don’t understand why. In that way, voting results are much like the game - there are clear winners and losers. But

Guest blog: Hope accompanies centennial of Washington’s golden baseball age

One hundred years ago, in January 1912, the Washington Nationals were owned by the principal publisher of the Washington Star, Tom Noyes. Noyes has assumed ownership of Washington’s new American League team in 1904, but had despaired of ever seeing a winner in D.C. after a decade of cellar-dwelling teams. Then, in November 1911, serendipity linked Noyes with a giant of the game, Clark Griffith.

Which arbitration-eligible National is most deserving of an extension?

The offseason is chugging along and we’ll soon be talking about guys arriving at Space Coast Stadium in Viera, Fla. The next step for the Nationals is to come to contract terms with their six arbitration-eligible players: right-handers Tyler Clippard and Jordan Zimmermann, left-handers Tom Gorzelanny and John Lannan, outfielder/first baseman Michael Morse and catcher Jesus Flores. Clippard and Zimmermann are first-timers in the arbitration

Barry Larkin gets call to Cooperstown (updated)

It will be a while before a Nationals player gets the call to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. But this afternoon, a former major leaguer who spent three years in the Nationals’ front office will likely be welcomed into the hallowed hall of baseball’s immortals. Barry Larkin, a 12-time All-Star shortstop and the 1995 Most Valuable Player during a 19-year big

What lies ahead for Stephen Strasburg

We interrupt our regular, seemingly daily, examination of the possibility that free agent first baseman Prince Fielder will eventually hammer out a long-term deal with the Nationals to bring you other news and opinions related to all things curly and W ... One of the most enjoyable parts of working at MASNsports.com is the interaction with our readers and regular viewers of our broadcasts. Whether

Cubs’ trade for first base prospect means market for Fielder is thinning

By acquiring promising prospect Anthony Rizzo in a four-player deal with the San Diego Padres on Friday, the Chicago Cubs not only got their first baseman of the future, they also probably took themselves out of the Prince Fielder derby. That’s good news for the Nationals, who are working to sign the free agent slugger. Who else remains in on Fielder? Quite frankly, the list

If Fielder doesn’t pan out, healthy LaRoche a solid option

For the sake of discussion, let’s assume that Prince Fielder doesn’t end up in D.C. in 2012. No majestic home runs reaching the second deck in right field. No snide comments about his weight the first time he goes into a slump. No spring training negotiations between Fielder and Jayson Werth - for cash, vintage automobiles, jewelry, etc. - over who gets to don jersey

Nats farmhand Zinicola hit with 50-game suspension

Nationals minor league pitcher Zech Zinicola has received a 50-game suspension from Major League Baseball for a second violation of the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program, according to a press release. The 26-year-old Zinicola’s ban stemmed from a “drug of abuse,” according to the release, meaning it wasn’t for using performance-enhancing drugs. He was on the Triple-A Syracuse roster. The right-hander, a sixth-round

How much is too much for Prince Fielder?

I’m starting to feel like I know Prince Fielder better than I should. Isn’t it bad enough that I owned his slugging father Cecil on my American League Rotisserie team for many years, gambling a pick on the elder when he came back from Japan after rediscovering his home run stroke (and, apparently, a lot more rice than sushi)? But I’ve resigned myself to the

Report: Nationals ink pitcher Dan Cortes

According to this tweet from Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus, the Nationals have signed right-hander Dan Cortes, who has pitched in the majors during parts of two seasons with the Mariners. The 24-year-old Cortes was originally a seventh-round pick by the White Sox in 2005, and was then traded to the Royals in July 2006 in a deal for reliever Mike MacDougal and dealt to

Dobbs returns to Marlins, Nats still looking for bench help

Scratch Greg Dobbs off the Nationals’ list of potential bench additions for 2012. The left-handed-hitting corner infielder/outfielder signed a two-year, $3 million deal Tuesday to remain with the Miami Marlins. The 33-year-old Dobbs is a career .259 hitter with nine homers and 60 RBIs as a pinch hitter. Manager Davey Johnson wanted a guy or two on the bench who could run into a fastball

What if ... the Expos (and Twins) had been contracted before 2002?

It may be a new year, and we may still be knee-deep in Prince Fielder rumors, but it’s also “What If?” Wednesday, and we’ll take this opportunity to tinker with baseball’s space-time continuum to see what might have happened in Nationals history had something, somewhere occurred just a bit differently. This week, we set the way-back machine - that’s a gratuitous “Peabody’s Improbable History” reference,

Nationals’ interest in Fielder is real, but could affect other players, too

Turns out there was some meat to those rumors after all. The Nationals are, indeed, in the running to sign free agent slugger Prince Fielder, and met with Fielder’s agent, Scott Boras, recently in Washington, D.C., according to a baseball source. The news was first reported by MLB.com. Confirmation that the Nationals are talking to Fielder should come as no surprise, considering general manager Mike

Fielder chatter is becoming more difficult to ignore (updated with Nats in running)

The Nationals are expected this week to hold a press conference to introduce their newest acquisition, left-hander Gio Gonzalez. At the rate the Prince Fielder rumors are swirling around D.C., however, this might be the more likely line of questioning, and little has to do with the southpaw late of the Oakland A’s: General manager Mike Rizzo, handing Gonzalez his new Nats jersey and cap:

Is Steve Lombardozzi ready for the majors?

In all the discussions about how the Nationals are trying to improve their bench for 2012, Steve Lombardozzi’s name comes up - but only at the end of the conversation. Most agree that the 23-year-old infielder has a promising career ahead of him; the question remains whether he’s ready to contribute at the major league level or whether he needs some more at-bats at Triple-A

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