Nats' opening day payroll down for first time since 2007

Nats' opening day payroll down for first time since 2007
ATLANTA - For the first time in nine years, and for only the second time in club history, the Nationals' opening day payroll is down from the previous season. The Nationals' current roster (the 25 active players, plus those on the major league disabled list) is earning a combined $141,652,646 this season, ranking 11th in baseball, according to figures calculated by USA Today in its annual salary survey). That's down nearly $25 million from last year's opening day payroll, which ranked sixth...
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New takeout slide rule benefits Nats in opening day win

New takeout slide rule benefits Nats in opening day win
ATLANTA - To anyone who has watched baseball for the last, oh, century or so, it looked like just about every double play that has been attempted. In the bottom of the seventh inning Monday afternoon at Turner Field, Hector Olivera grounded to third. Anthony Rendon threw to second baseman Daniel Murphy to force out Nick Markakis, who slid into and then through the bag. Murphy's turn and throw to first was way too late to get Olivera. So just a typical 5-4 fielder's choice, right? Not...
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Scherzer dominates, but once again plagued by home runs

Scherzer dominates, but once again plagued by home runs
ATLANTA - Seven innings of three-hit ball shouldn't be a footnote, but given everything else that happened during the Nationals' wild opening day victory over the Braves, Max Scherzer's impressive start did kind of get lost in the shuffle. Let's give the man his due, though, because he pitched awfully well. Scherzer looked very much like the guy who dominated most of last season, keeping the opposition from stringing together hits and walks, using his deep repertoire of pitches to strike...
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Nats finally appreciate Murphy's performance for themselves

Nats finally appreciate Murphy's performance for themselves
ATLANTA - The Nationals had seen Daniel Murphy do this sort of thing to them plenty of times over the years. So when it happened Monday afternoon, when Murphy went 2-for-3 with a homer, two walks and the RBI double that ultimately gave them a 4-3, 10-inning victory on opening day, they relished the fact he's now doing this for their benefit, not detriment. "Psh, quite a debut," shortstop Danny Espinosa said. "What else is there to say? I mean, he's a special hitter, a very smart...
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Nats welcome Baker back to dugout with dramatic victory

Nats welcome Baker back to dugout with dramatic victory
ATLANTA - Dusty Baker has lined up along the baseline for opening day intros in a major league ballpark 42 times in his life, 20 times as manager. This is as routine as it gets for the career baseball man. But when Baker trotted out from the third base dugout at Turner Field this afternoon for the first time as Nationals manager, he did so after two years away from the sport. There was an element of newness for the 66-year-old. Not to mention several moments where Baker's blood pressure...
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Revere hopes ribcage injury sidelines him only couple of days

Revere hopes ribcage injury sidelines him only couple of days
ATLANTA - Given all the injuries they sustained last season, the sight of Ben Revere departing in the fourth inning on opening day after feeling a tug on his right side had to leave the Nationals and their fans holding their collective breath, fearing the worst. The initial indication, though, is that Revere did not seriously injure himself, suffering what manager Dusty Baker and the leadoff man described as a mild strain of one of his right ribcage muscles that may only sideline him a couple...
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Harper homers on opening day once again (Nats win in 10)

Harper homers on opening day once again (Nats win in 10)
ATLANTA - Bryce Harper loves opening day. And Bryce Harper loves to face Julio Teheran. And Bryce Harper really loves to make booing Braves fans eat their words. All of which culminated in a perfect storm this afternoon when Harper stepped to the plate for his first at-bat of the season to a raucous welcome from the Turner Field crowd and then promptly launched Teheran's 2-2 slider into the right field bleachers for his first homer of 2016. It was quintessential Harper, savoring the spotlight...
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Gonzalez won't make first start until next week

Gonzalez won't make first start until next week
ATLANTA - The Nationals knew they wouldn't need a fifth starter until the season's second week. Few figured, though, that the guy who would end up getting bumped to that delayed start would be Gio Gonzalez. Or that the guy taking the mound for Thursday's home opener would be Tanner Roark. Gonzalez, not Joe Ross or Roark, will open the season in the bullpen and not make his first start of 2016 until next Monday against the Braves in Washington. That decision was announced by manager Dusty...
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Game 1 lineups: Nats at Braves

Game 1 lineups: Nats at Braves
ATLANTA - And so it begins. And it could not begin under more perfect conditions. It is an absolutely spectacular day for baseball here at Turner Field, not a cloud in the sky, a nice northerly breeze blowing, temperatures in the low 70s. The Nationals and Braves officially get underway at 4:10 p.m., with Max Scherzer taking the mound for the first time since his no-hitter at Citi Field. Scherzer will be facing an Atlanta lineup featuring noted Nats killer Freddie Freeman and ... well, these...
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2016 Nats media season predictions

2016 Nats media season predictions
ATLANTA - The day has arrived. At long last, it is officially baseball season. The Nationals and Braves will be taking the field later this afternoon for Game 1 of 162 (or possibly more). Which means it's time to make some official 2016 predictions. Many of you may remember this from previous years on previous websites, but for the uninitiated: My colleagues who cover the Nationals on a daily basis are kind enough to submit their predictions for a whole bunch of team-related questions. We...
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Burnett and Johnson released, Ryan reassigned to minors

Burnett and Johnson released, Ryan reassigned to minors
The Nationals officially announced their opening day roster, which was reduced to the requisite 25 players after the club released veterans Sean Burnett and Reed Johnson and reassigned Brendan Ryan to the minor leagues. The 25-man roster essentially was finalized Friday night when the club announced Chris Heisey had secured the final spot on the bench and Blake Treinen would round up the bullpen. But the fates of Burnett, Johnson and Ryan remained somewhat up in the air, with each veteran on...
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2016 MLB predictions

2016 MLB predictions
The time has arrived at last: It's opening day for Major League Baseball! OK, so the Nationals (like most clubs) don't open until Monday, when they face the Braves in Atlanta. But for the first time, there are three MLB games on the Sunday slate (Cardinals-Pirates, Blue Jays-Rays, Mets-Royals) so the season does officially get underway today. Which means it's time to make some predictions. What follows are purely my own thoughts. For those who have been reading me over the years and are...
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Sunday morning Q&A

Sunday morning Q&A
With yesterday's early exhibition game at Nationals Park, we shook up the Q&A schedule, pushing it back to today. This might become a recurring thing during the season, changing up the day it runs based on the team's schedule that particular week. This is a good morning to do this, though, because the opening day roster is now set, the exhibition slate is complete and the countdown to Monday's 4:10 p.m. opener in Atlanta is underway. Submit your Nationals questions in the comments...
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Nats' impressive spring wraps up in encouraging fashion

Nats' impressive spring wraps up in encouraging fashion
Given how well they played all spring, it just wouldn't have felt right for the Nationals to lose their exhibition finale. Never fear, because thanks to a slowly-but-surely rally over the final three innings, they indeed came back to tie the Twins 8-8 and at least not send themselves down to Atlanta for opening day reeling from a loss. "I'm proud of these guys, how they performed," said manager Dusty Baker, whose club finished the exhibition slate 19-4-4 (the top winning percentage in...
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Zimmerman, Taylor homer again in Nats' spring finale (game ends in 8-8 tie)

Zimmerman, Taylor homer again in Nats' spring finale (game ends in 8-8 tie)
The Nationals purposely brought Ryan Zimmerman along slowly this spring, not wanting the veteran first baseman to experience too much early wear and tear on a foot that was injured most of the 2015 season. As opening day approaches, Zimmerman not only appears healthy. He's also red-hot at the plate. The Nationals' cleanup hitter launched another home run today in the final exhibition game of the spring, a two-run shot to left off Twins right-hander Ricky Nolasco that gave his team a 2-1 lead...
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Dusty Baker explains Nats' final cuts of spring

Dusty Baker explains Nats' final cuts of spring
Dusty Baker has been making roster cuts for two decades, and he admits they're never easy, especially those that come on the cusp of opening day. The cuts the Nationals' new manager had to make Friday night might have been his toughest ever. "My heart goes out to these guys," Baker said. "I didn't really sleep that well last night, at all, because it affects him. I've been there. I know their families are affected. But it's a big boy game, and that's part of the game." The club's...
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Strasburg, not Gonzalez, will start season's second game

Strasburg, not Gonzalez, will start season's second game
The Nationals have switched up their rotation plans for the season's first series, choosing now to start Stephen Strasburg on Wednesday in Atlanta following Max Scherzer in Monday's opener. Manager Dusty Baker had said two weeks ago that Gio Gonzalez would start the second game in Atlanta, with Strasburg in Thursday's home opener against the Marlins. But the coaching staff decided to change things around after several rainouts during the final week of spring training. "It was a product of...
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Nats face Twins again in exhibition finale

Nats face Twins again in exhibition finale
Hello from Nationals Park, where it's currently raining (shocking, I know), but the forecast calls for clearing skies in time for today's 12:05 p.m. exhibition finale between the Nationals and Twins. It will be a bit chilly, though, good practice for what the first few weeks of the regular season could be like. After last night's 4-3 victory here, Dusty Baker is going with nearly the same lineup. The only change: Michael A. Taylor gets the start in center field instead of Ben Revere....
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Five reasons to be pessimistic about the 2016 Nationals

Five reasons to be pessimistic about the 2016 Nationals
Yesterday, we offered up five reasons to be optimistic about the 2016 Nationals. Today, we take the devil's advocate approach and offer up five reasons to be pessimistic about this season. Truth be told, it was a lot tougher to come up with five negatives than it was to come up with five positives. That, in itself, should offer up reason for everyone to be optimistic about the Nationals. But this is far from a perfect team, and there are legitimate areas of concern entering the season. Or at...
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Five reasons to be optimistic about the 2016 Nationals

Five reasons to be optimistic about the 2016 Nationals
There is no rational way to review the Nationals' just-completed spring and not emerge optimistic. Pretty much everything of consequence the Nationals needed to see or do over the last six weeks came to fruition. There were hardly any setbacks along the way. Players are healthy. The new manager has instilled a much-needed laid-back and confident vibe around the clubhouse. And then there's the actual on-field performance. The Nationals won the mythical Grapefruit League pennant, going a...
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