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Observations and quotes from Monday at Nats camp

VIERA, Fla - Some more observations and quotes from today’s second (and final) intrasquad game ... * Stephen Strasburg cruised through his first game-like appearance of the spring, retiring the side in the first inning on 16 pitches. He induced a pair of ground balls to the right side of the infield and then struck out Tyler Moore on a curveball. Strasburg’s goal in this

Arroyo impresses in first appearance versus hitters since surgery

VIERA, Fla - It was one inning of relief, three batters faced, in an intrasquad game played before noon in front of several dozen fans on the final day of February. Not typically the kind of setting evaluators put much stock in when watching ballplayers. For Bronson Arroyo, this did carry significance. He hadn’t faced any live hitters in anything resembling an actual baseball game

Pitching dominates during Nats’ final intrasquad game

VIERA, Fla. - Intrasquad games in late February aren’t designed so much for hitters as they are for pitchers, who use this opportunity to bridge the gap between live batting practice sessions and their first Grapefruit League outings later this week. So don’t read too much into the dominant pitching that was on display today in the Nationals’ second (and final) intrasquad matchup of the

Starting lineups for Monday’s intrasquad game

VIERA, Fla. - If yesterday’s intrasquad game wasn’t enough to whet your appetite for exhibition baseball, you’re in luck: The Nationals are holding another intrasquad showdown today! It’ll be the same format as yesterday’s game. First pitch at 11 a.m., with free admission to the public. Pitchers are scheduled to go one inning apiece, and the game will be a maximum of eight innings. Stephen

Baker meets with Torre, Leyland about replay, rule changes

VIERA, Fla. - Dusty Baker was out of baseball only two years, but a lot happened in those two years, most notably the expansion of instant replay in the sport. So Baker’s biggest challenge now that he’s managing the Nationals after a couple of years away from the game might have nothing to do with lineups or pitching changes, but replay challenge strategy. Baker got

Observations and quotes from Sunday’s intrasquad game

VIERA, Fla. - The Nationals held their first intrasquad game of the spring (actually, their first intrasquad game in years) today. And the final score was ... uh, well ... I don’t know. I do know the Nationals won, beating the Nationals. Unless they tied. Which is possible. (Loyal reader Mark Strattner, who was in attendance, reports the final score was 4-1, with Joe Ross’

Nationals react to Desmond’s signing, position switch

VIERA, Fla. - Ian Desmond finally has a new home. And a new position. Desmond has agreed to terms on a one-year contract with the Rangers worth $8 million, according to FOXSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal. Surprising as the low dollar figure and late timing of his signing is, even more surprising is the fact Texas plans to play the lifelong shortstop in left field. Such was

Nats hit the field Sunday morning for intrasquad game

VIERA, Fla. - The Nationals haven’t traditionally held intrasquad games at spring training, but Dusty Baker has. And what Dusty wants, Dusty gets. So it is that the Nats will split up into two teams this morning and play a pseudo-exhibition game against each other. Just don’t count on this resembling anything like an official game. For one thing, the plan is to play at

Players soak in Davey Lopes’ knowledge on the bases

VIERA, Fla. - Davey Lopes has been doing this - either as a player, a coach or a manager - for more than four decades now. Baserunning is his livelihood, and few have ever done - or taught - it better. So when the 70-year-old first base coach (reunited with the Nationals a decade after he held that same position on Frank Robinson’s staff) stood

Observations and quotes from Saturday’s workout (with videos)

VIERA, Fla. - Some observations, notes and quotes about today’s full-squad workout, the final one before intrasquad games start up Sunday ... * The session opened with a lengthy baserunning clinic run by Davey Lopes. I’ll have a full post on this later, but just know the session lasted about 45 minutes and literally covered every base. Lopes started with everyone at the plate, then

It’s Scherzer vs. Ross in Sunday’s intrasquad game

VIERA, Fla. - It’s a lazy Saturday morning here at Nationals camp, the doldrums of spring training starting to set in. Everyone is heading over to the back fields now for another full-squad workout, featuring the usual live BP sessions, defensive drills, etc. The biggest news of the morning so far: Danny Espinosa shaved his beard. Given how big it had grown, it might well

Saturday morning Q&A from Nats camp

VIERA, Fla. - Spring training has now officially been underway for more than a week, and though more than five weeks still remain until opening day, enough has taken place here in Viera to start getting a sense of how the 2016 Nationals look. Dusty Baker (along with his coaching staff) has begun to put his stamp on this franchise. Bryce Harper has forgiven Jonathan

News and notes to wrap up the work week in Viera

VIERA, Fla. - Some odds and ends to wrap up the work week at Nationals spring training ... * We had a rare, star-studded matchup in live batting practice this morning, with Max Scherzer on the mound to face a group of hitters that included Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman. That sort of thing doesn’t happen very often. (I recall a last-minute session last spring

Injury-plagued season behind him, Rendon starts anew

VIERA, Fla. - It was a seemingly innocuous play, a simple dive to field a hard bouncer to his left. Anthony Rendon made the play, snagging Alberto Callaspo’s chopper and firing a one-hopper to first to nail the Braves infielder. The sparse crowd at Space Coast Stadium applauded. Who could have known at the time that last March 9 play would have such lasting consequences

Werth returns to camp, believes he can return to past form

VIERA, Fla. - Jayson Werth was back at Space Coast Stadium this morning, still under the weather but feeling better than he did Thursday, when the Nationals sent him home so his illness wouldn’t spread through the clubhouse. A day or two off at this early stage of the spring won’t do anything to set Werth back in his preparation for the season. But as

Baker’s message: “Think like a family”

VIERA, Fla. - Dusty Baker had plenty of time to think about what he wanted to say to his new Nationals roster in his first full-squad meeting Thursday morning. He prepared an outline in his mind, but he has always preferred not to write out an actual speech in advance. He’d rather speak from the heart once the time arrives. So what was Baker’s message

Observations and quotes from Thursday’s workout

VIERA, Fla. - Conditions weren’t exactly ideal when the Nationals trotted onto the back fields outside Space Coast Stadium for their first full squad workout of the spring. Temperatures in the 50s? A 30-mph wind howling from the northwest? Not quite what Dusty Baker expected. “It was kind of chilly, considering we’re in Florida,” the new manager said. “But they didn’t say anything. They just

Sent home sick, Jayson Werth misses first workout

VIERA, Fla. - The Nationals’ first full-squad workout of the spring came and went without one of the club’s most recognizable players in attendance. Jayson Werth was absent from this morning’s workout on the fields outside Space Coast Stadium due to an illness that left the veteran outfielder in bed. “We sent him home,” manager Dusty Baker said. “He was sick. So we quarantined him.

Blake Treinen stunned to be part of “Jeopardy!” clue

VIERA, Fla. - Blake Treinen was hanging out Wednesday evening, minding his own business, when his phone rang. He glanced down, saw it was his mother calling and answered, assuming she was just checking in on things. The call proved to be not nearly as banal as that. “You’re never going to guess what happened!” she yelled into the phone. “You were a clue on

Health is Ryan Zimmerman’s real issue in 2016

VIERA, Fla. - So far in this first week of spring training, nearly all discussion of Ryan Zimmerman has been focused on his attempt to clear his name in the wake of Al Jazeera America’s controversial documentary naming him as a receiver of performance enhancing drugs. Zimmerman spent roughly 20 minutes Tuesday answering question after question about that documentary and the subsequent defamation lawsuit he

Teammates get hacks in against Scherzer in live BP session

VIERA, Fla. - The prospect of the first live batting practice session of the spring brought a little extra sense of excitement to Nationals camp this morning. That excitement, though, was dampened by the prospect of a major line of storms sweeping across Florida and supposedly set to barrel through the Space Coast smack dab during the middle of the workout. Turns out, all they

Nick Johnson rejoins Nationals as spring training instructor

VIERA, Fla. - It’s been seven years since Nick Johnson last donned a Nationals uniform, but there was something comforting about the site of the former first baseman standing at the batting cage this morning, a curly W on his cap, watching current members of the team take swings off live pitchers. What, exactly, is Johnson doing here? “Whatever they need me to do,” he

Robinson not taking anything for granted after breakthrough 2015

VIERA, Fla. - When he arrived back home in Fayetteville, Ark., in October, Clint Robinson could well have been viewed a wholly different man than he was when he left eight months prior. After nearly a decade in professional baseball and 921 minor league games, he had finally broken through as a big leaguer for a full season, a successful one at that. Anybody who

What’s the story behind Dusty Baker’s toothpick?

VIERA, Fla. - Close your eyes and conjure up an image of Dusty Baker, watching his team from the top step of the dugout - cap on, sunglasses perched on his nose, hand to his chin as he ponders his next move. Now what does Baker have in his mouth? A toothpick, right? It has become synonymous with the Nationals’ new manager. For decades, he’s

Baker realizes tough pitching decisions loom this spring

VIERA, Fla. - With only four days of official pitchers and catchers workouts in the books, Dusty Baker is still trying to get a full sense of what exactly he has to work with at Nationals camp. Some players’ names still elude him, and his scouting reports are far from complete, but the new manager does have a strong overall impression on the state of

Ryan Zimmerman denies PED use, explains defamation suit

VIERA, Fla. - Ryan Zimmerman today vehemently denied ever using performance enhancing drugs or knowing the trainer who accused him of using them, and offered a detailed explanation why he was willing to file a defamation suit against the television network that aired the allegation that jolted the Nationals first baseman’s offseason. In his first public comments since Al Jazeera America aired a documentary in

All position players in Nats camp on time

VIERA, Fla. - It’s finally the official reporting date for all Nationals position players, though that deadline didn’t mean much to most this spring. Every single player had already arrived by Monday, with only Wilmer Difo remaining among the unseen. Well, rest easy folks, because Difo is now here. He reported on time, giving the Nats a completely full clubhouse. We sometimes make too big

Oliver Perez wants to reward Nats for initiating career revival

VIERA, Fla. - Oliver Perez’s career was on the brink of collapse. He had sported a 5.09 ERA over his past six seasons with the Pirates and Mets, and now he was left to accept a minor league contract offer from the Nationals. Perez took the offer, mostly because of his past relationship with Nationals minor league pitching coordinator Spin Williams, who had been his

Nats concede Mets are “team to beat” right now in NL East

VIERA, Fla. - The Nationals know very much what it’s like to be labeled as National League East favorites and know very much how little that actually means in the end. So as they gather in late February for the start of the long grind, they’re perfectly fine ceding that designation to the division’s reigning champs: the Mets. “The team to beat are the Mets,”

Bryce Harper talks leadership and his status with the Nats

VIERA, Fla. - When he sat in the first base dugout at Space Coast Stadium one year ago for a 12-minute, first-day-of-spring session with reporters, Bryce Harper was a whirlwind of emotion, confidence and quips that was defined by a line that haunted him for months: “Where’s my ring?” When he sat in the same dugout Monday morning for a 17-minute, first-day-of-spring session with reporters,

Dusty Baker offers glimpse into lineup construction

VIERA, Fla. - Dusty Baker readily admits he’s been scribbling out potential lineups since he was named Nationals manager in November, but he genuinely doesn’t know yet what that lineup will actually look like once opening day arrives. “Not until I see them,” he said. “I got an idea. But I can’t tell you, because you’re going to make up my lineup.” Well, yeah, we

How Dusty Baker plans to keep his regulars fresh

VIERA, Fla. - One of the trickiest tasks for any manager is the fine balancing act of playing his everyday regulars as much as possible while still keeping his bench players fresh. Dusty Baker knows how much that plays a role into a team’s success over a full season. And he feels like his five decades in baseball give him the kind of perspective that

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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,

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

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.

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

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

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,

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

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

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

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

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

Hello and goodbye

It seems like just yesterday that Stephen Strasburg made one of the most anticipated professional sports debuts in history. But in a couple of days, the 27-year-old may be approaching his final spring training with the Nationals. Strasburg avoided arbitration with the Nats last month, agreeing to play the final year of his contract in Washington for a reported $10.4 million. At the Winter Meetings

A few spring training storylines to watch

The countdown is on, with Nationals pitchers and catchers reporting to Space Coast Stadium in Viera, Fla., on Thursday. So here are a few storylines to watch throughout spring training: * Can Tanner Roark re-establish himself as a permanent member of the Nationals starting rotation? Many pitchers would have thrown a fit or even demanded a trade after being bumped from the rotation to the

Bryce Harper has big goals for Jonathan Papelbon in 2016

On Sept. 27, Jonathan Papelbon barked at Bryce Harper from the dugout railing, instigating a fight which left the veteran closer’s hands clasped around the young slugger’s throat before players and coaches ripped the two apart. A day later - after serving a baffling one-game suspension - Harper brushed off the scrum with Papelbon, saying he hoped they could win a World Series together in

If Bryce Harper keeps pace, his price will go up

Speculation regarding Bryce Harper’s long-term future in Washington isn’t anything new. Heck, it began as soon as the Nationals made a 17-year-old Harper the most-hyped No. 1 overall pick in 2009 since, well, Stephen Strasburg the year before. But as Harper entered the conversation in 2015 as arguably the game’s best all-around player, questions started to swell about how long he’ll remain in a curly-W

Which newcomer will have the biggest impact for the Nats in 2016?

Although he never owned the headlines with a splashy move this offseason, Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo significantly altered the complexion of his team’s roster. With the new additions, the Nationals should be a more consistent hitting team that fills bases along with a crew of veteran relievers who hopefully can secure leads. So which Nationals newcomer will have the biggest impact in 2016? Daniel

A lot riding for the Nationals on Stephen Strasburg in 2016

There is a lot riding on this season for Stephen Strasburg as he enters the final year of his contract with the Nationals. Few players in recent memory have arrived in baseball with as much hype as Strasburg did after Washington made him the first overall pick in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft. Of course, we all remember his stunning 14-strikeout debut against the Pirates

Dusty Baker on MLB Network documentary: “Why not now and why not me?”

New Nationals manager Dusty Baker was the subject of MLB Network’s one-hour documentary, “Dusty: A Baseball Journey,” which aired Tuesday evening. The show details Baker’s early life growing up in Riverside, Calif., and then eventually moving to Sacramento, Calif., where he experienced racial divide in the mid-1960s. Baker, a gifted athlete from an early age, and his friends eventually found an outlet in music. After

Max Scherzer always looking for improvement

Right-hander Max Scherzer arrived in Washington last January after pitching the previous five seasons in Detroit, which included winning the American League Cy Young award in 2013. In his first season pitching in the National League since 2009 with the Diamondbacks, Scherzer dominated hitters, tossing two no-hitters and challenging to win another Cy Young. “Last year, I thought I had the upper hand a little

Mike Rizzo going all-in on Jonathan Papelbon

On Sept. 29, a day after Jonathan Papelbon and Bryce Harper tangled publicly in dugout, the eventual National League MVP attempted to sweep the mess underneath the rug. “If Pap’s gonna help us win a World Series next year, that’s what I need,” Harper said in front of his locker after serving a team-imposed one-game suspension for his role in the fracas. During the same

Not the favorites this time, but expectations remain high for the Nationals

Baseball is close. The biggest sports day of the year is upon us, as we’ll all gather around for tonight’s Super Bowl. But once the Lombardi Trophy is awarded to the Broncos or Panthers, we can truly the flip the calendar, allowing our attention to shift to the national pastime as spring training nears. There will be more than $100 million wagered legally in Las

Joe Ross, Tanner Roark set to fill up Nationals starting rotation in 2016

Despite knowing the Nationals were losing right-handers Jordan Zimmermann and Doug Fister from their rotation, there was still plenty attractive about coming to D.C. for new pitching coach Mike Maddux. “What an inventory of arms over here, man,” said an excited Maddux when asked about the opportunity. “I look at a rotation that features Max Scherzer up top ... Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Joe Ross,

Playing the field with the non-roster invitees

Dan Uggla and Clint Robinson were among a host of veterans brought to Nationals spring training on minor league deals last year with seemingly no shot to crack a packed roster fresh off a division crown. Longtime major league outfielder Reed Johnson joined them in final days of camp. After years as one of the game’s best power-hitting second basemen, Uggla’s offense had dropped off

Barrett begins throwing; more prospect watch on Giolito and Turner

On Monday, left-hander Gio Gonzalez showed a video on Instagram of his first flat ground throwing session of the new year. It was just some standard warm-up for Gonzalez as he prepares once again for a major role in the Nationals starting rotation in 2016. But yesterday, maybe a more significant video from a Nationals pitcher was posted. Last Sept. 3, reliever Aaron Barrett underwent

Is a Triple Crown next for Bryce Harper?

By now we’ve thoroughly defined how historic Bryce Harper’s record-breaking 2015 season was. But while expected after becoming one of the most hyped prospects the game has ever seen, Harper’s year could also be described as a breakthrough. After bursting onto the scene with 22 homers in his rookie season, Harper couldn’t exceeded that total as nagging injuries bothered him the following two years. In

Nationals need consistency from Gio Gonzalez in 2016 (Nats agree with Ryan)

Count Gio Gonzalez among those itching for the return of baseball when pitchers and catchers report in 16 days. The Nationals left-hander posted a video on his Instagram account yesterday showing off his first flat ground throwing session in 2016. Last spring, Gonzalez showed up at Space Coast Stadium appearing noticeably heavier and joking about enjoying plenty of good Cuban food during the offseason. Followers

As spring training nears, still a few roster questions for Nats

A flip of the page in the calendar, and you can almost hear the crack of the bat, the pop of the glove and the smell the hot dogs. February is here and in just 17 days the clubhouse lockers at Space Coast Stadium in Viera, Fla., will be filled with brand new snow-white Nationals jerseys. So how close is general manager Mike Rizzo from

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