On first day in Nats camp, Murphy feels right at home

On first day in Nats camp, Murphy feels right at home
VIERA, Fla. - For many ballplayers, the drive to spring training is a long and arduous one, with plenty of opportunities for reflection and goal-setting. For Daniel Murphy, the drive has never been much to think about. Just hop on Interstate 95 from his home in Jacksonville, Fla., head south and exit three hours later in Port St. Lucie, longtime spring home of the Mets. Now? "Just stop an hour short," Murphy said with a laugh Sunday afternoon, his car needing go no farther than Viera, where...
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Observations and quotes from Sunday's workout

Observations and quotes from Sunday's workout
VIERA, Fla. - Official workout No. 2 of the spring is in the books, and there was plenty going on at the complex down the street from Space Coast Stadium. Here are some observations and quotes from various parties: * Lucas Giolito threw his first-ever mound session in front of the full major league coaching staff and team execs, many of whom specifically made their way over to the far left end of the bullpen to check out the club's top pitching prospect in person. They didn't leave...
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With shortstop open at last, Espinosa wants to seize job

With shortstop open at last, Espinosa wants to seize job
VIERA, Fla. - There was a time, about five years ago, when a good number of people who followed the Nationals on a daily basis believed their starting shortstop should not be Ian Desmond, but rather Danny Espinosa. Espinosa, many thought, was a far superior defensive shortstop than Desmond. And at that time, he was thought of as a better offensive threat, a switch-hitter who could both drive the ball over the fence while also showing impressive patience at the plate. That, of course, isn't how...
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Big names slated to throw off mound during Sunday's workout

Big names slated to throw off mound during Sunday's workout
VIERA, Fla. - Saturday's workout, the first official one of the Dusty Baker era in D.C., didn't look all that different from previous workouts run by former Nationals managers in Viera. Pitchers threw for 10 minutes off the bullpen mounds, while others took fielding practice. Fundamentals were stressed. Everybody was in a good mood, combining serious preparation with plenty of lighthearted moments. "It was a very good first day," Baker said afterward. As a newcomer to the organization,...
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Late-signing Belisle, Badenhop expect real chance to make bullpen

Late-signing Belisle, Badenhop expect real chance to make bullpen
VIERA, Fla. - Though the Nationals bullpen underwent a near-complete makeover this winter, there really aren't many spots up for grabs this spring. Jonathan Papelbon, Shawn Kelley, Oliver Perez and Yusmiero Petit all have guaranteed contracts and track records to suggest each is a lock to make the club. And Felipe Rivero and recently acquired Trevor Gott both are coming off promising rookie seasons that leave each young reliever in a strong position to head north. Which leaves, in all...
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Top prospect Giolito's 2016 goal: "Definitely reaching the big leagues"

Top prospect Giolito's 2016 goal: "Definitely reaching the big leagues"
VIERA, Fla. - There are 21-year-olds who look totally out of place in their first big league camp. And then there's Lucas Giolito, who stands out in the Nationals' spring clubhouse like a sore thumb, not because he looks young and timid, but because he looks and acts the part of an established major leaguer. At 6-foot-6, 255 lbs., Giolito towers over most of the other pitchers in this camp. And with a soft-spoken, yet confident demeanor, he already displays the poise of a ballplayer far more...
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Nats' first workout of the spring underway in Viera

Nats' first workout of the spring underway in Viera
VIERA, Fla. - The Nationals clubhouse at Space Coast Stadium was buzzing this morning, packed with pitchers and catchers in advance of their first official workout of the spring. Jonathan Papelbon took control of the stereo and blasted country music throughout the room, which came alive with players, coaches and others laughing and introducing themselves to newcomers. There are plenty of position players here already, as well, including Bryce Harper, who strolled in this morning. (No, he...
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Baker will view shortstop competition "with eyes wide open"

Baker will view shortstop competition "with eyes wide open"
VIERA, Fla. - There aren't many significant jobs up for grabs this spring, but there is one high-profile position that figures to be decided via an open competition over the next six weeks: shortstop. That's not a position that has featured much, if any, uncertainty in some time, not with Ian Desmond entrenching himself as the Nationals' everyday shortstop over the last five seasons. But with Desmond now gone, new manager Dusty Baker has an array of choices that includes longtime second...
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Dusty Baker tracks down Joe Gibbs for advice after hiatus

Dusty Baker tracks down Joe Gibbs for advice after hiatus
VIERA, Fla. - Dusty Baker knows his return to a big league dugout after a two-year hiatus is rare, not only to baseball but to professional sports in general. So when it came time to seek advice from somebody who might be able to offer some insight into the situation, Baker turned to a man who returned to his sport after a far longer break. And that man just happened to be a Washington sports icon: Joe Gibbs. Baker called the Hall of Fame coach earlier this week and wound up having a lengthy...
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Papelbon apologizes to Harper, fans: "I was in the wrong"

Papelbon apologizes to Harper, fans: "I was in the wrong"
VIERA, Fla. - Jonathan Papelbon knew his first appearance in the Nationals' spring training clubhouse, plus his first appearance with reporters, since his final-week suspension last September was going to be his first - and best - opportunity to make amends for the event that led to his premature trip home to Mississippi. So over the course of 10 minutes in the locker room with teammates Friday afternoon and then 12 minutes seated behind a table in the makeshift news conference room at Space...
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What do you most want to hear from Dusty Baker?

What do you most want to hear from Dusty Baker?
VIERA, Fla. - It's another glorious spring morning here on the Space Coast - I'll try to stop making a big deal about that soon, promise - where Nationals pitchers and catchers today are undergoing their annual physicals, the final step before official workouts begin Saturday. Reporting day came and went, and as often is the case, it was quite uneventful. A few guys worked out on their own with members of the coaching staff. A few more strolled through the clubhouse at one point or another. A...
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Wilson Ramos trying to avoid pitfalls of contract year pressure

Wilson Ramos trying to avoid pitfalls of contract year pressure
VIERA, Fla. - Wilson Ramos saw Ian Desmond, Jordan Zimmermann, Denard Span and Doug Fister all struggle at times in 2015, perhaps burdened by the pressure they faced to perform in contract years. Now Ramos finds himself in that exact same situation, hoping he can avoid the subject (and the struggles) while fully aware of what lies ahead. "It's hard to not think about that, but I'm trying not to think," the Nationals catcher said Thursday on the first official day of spring training. "I'm...
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Source: Nats sign reliever Burke Badenhop to minor league deal

Source: Nats sign reliever Burke Badenhop to minor league deal
VIERA, Fla. - The Nationals have added another veteran to their mix of relievers battling for a spot on the opening day roster, signing right-hander Burke Badenhop to a minor league contract with an invitation to big league camp this spring, a source familiar with the deal confirmed. Badenhop has been a consistent performer during an eight-year career with five different clubs, posting a 3.74 ERA in 418 appearances with the Marlins, Rays, Brewers, Red Sox and Reds. He has made at least 50...
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After rough 2015, Tanner Roark expects to return to rotation

After rough 2015, Tanner Roark expects to return to rotation
VIERA, Fla. - Tanner Roark, of all people, knows how things can change in the blink of an eye. He learned last year never to assume anything when it comes to baseball. But make no mistake, the Nationals right-hander fully expects his role to be defined this season. And he expects that role to place (and keep) him in the Nats rotation. "I expect to start," Roark said Thursday on the day pitchers and catchers officially reported for spring training. "I'm coming in here to prepare as a...
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Live from Viera ... it's reporting day

Live from Viera ... it's reporting day
VIERA, Fla. - A very pleasant good morning to you from Florida's Space Coast, where the sun is shining, the temperature will approach 70 degrees this afternoon and the four best words in baseball will at last be uttered after a long winter: Pitchers and catchers report. Yes, it's the first official day of spring training and it all gets underway shortly at Space Coast Stadium. It's at this point when I'm compelled to offer this disclaimer: Reporting date is kind of a misnomer. Pitchers and...
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Nats sign veteran reliever Matt Belisle to minor league deal

Nats sign veteran reliever Matt Belisle to minor league deal
VIERA, Fla. - The Nationals added another veteran reliever to their spring training mix on the eve of reporting day, signing right-hander Matt Belisle on Wednesday to a minor league contract with an invitation to big league camp. Belisle, 35, has spent parts of 12 seasons in the majors, going 49-55 with a 4.34 ERA in 558 career appearances, all but 44 of them coming out of the bullpen. A workhorse for the Rockies in recent years, he pitched in 368 games from 2010-14, second only to former...
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A re-introduction to the Nats ... and me

A re-introduction to the Nats ... and me
When last we saw them assembled on a baseball field, the Nationals were managed by Matt Williams. Ian Desmond was their shortstop. Jordan Zimmermann was their most-consistent pitcher over a period of five years. Drew Storen was a key part of their bullpen. When next we see them assembled on a baseball field, none of that will be true. Williams was fired less than 24 hours after the season finale, ultimately replaced by Dusty Baker (after a brief fling with Bud Black went awry). Desmond and...
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