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A sense of normalcy in Nationals’ first spring game with fans

Normalcy - or, at least, some semblance of normalcy - returned to Florida today. On an 82-degree Sunday afternoon in Jupiter that included abundant sunshine at times and popup showers at others, the Nationals and Cardinals played a baseball game. At 1:05 p.m., Victor Robles dug in at the plate and took a 94-mph fastball from Jack Flaherty for strike one. Trea Turner singled and

Robles gets first chance to lead off, starters being eased in

The last thing anyone should do is read much into spring training lineups, certainly the lineup on Feb. 28. And yet it’s impossible to look at the Nationals lineup for today’s Grapefruit League opener and not begin to infer some things. Specifically, the guys who are leading off and batting third. That would be Victor Robles and Trea Turner. Just as he suggested last week,

Lineups: Nats vs. Cardinals in Jupiter

And away we go ... Yes, there’s a ballgame today in Florida. The Nationals are playing the Cardinals in Jupiter, the first of 24 games on the Grapefruit League schedule. And there are a whole lot of starters playing for both clubs. Davey Martinez’s lineup includes Victor Robles leading off and Trea Turner batting third (yep, they really are going to test this out this

Nats ready for nine (possibly shortened) innings and fans

It’s been 154 days since the Nationals last played a baseball game. Exactly 22 weeks since they wrapped up the bizarre 2020 season with a 15-5 thumping of the Mets. As was the case for the entire 60-game campaign, there were zero fans in attendance. So imagine the feeling everyone in uniform has as they wake up this morning, look at the calendar and realize

After derailed 2020, Castro ready to show Nats who he is

Starlin Castro is one of the most accomplished hitters in baseball, a four-time All-Star who has received votes for Rookie of the Year and MVP. He’s led the National League in hits. He was on every top prospects list when he first sped through the Cubs’ farm system more than a decade ago. He’s 19th among all active players with 1,633 hits, and everyone ahead

Slimmer Robles ready to reassert himself on defense, at bat

Victor Robles heard the whispers last season. That the 15 pounds he put on during the coronavirus pandemic backfired, making his first-step reaction times in the outfield slower and hampering his swing. In short, he bulked up a little too much and paid the price for it. So instead of relaxing this winter, Robles packed up his gear and headed to his native Dominican Republic,

Martinez on Fedde starting opener, Hand closing and Parra’s knee

With his top two starting pitchers spending the beginning of spring training ramping up after injuries, Nationals manager Davey Martinez has chosen right-hander Erick Fedde to start Sunday’s Grapefruit League opener against the Cardinals in Jupiter, Fla. “We want to get him out there,” Martinez said of Fedde this afternoon during his Zoom conference call with reporters. “He looks good. Built him up a little

Bell ready to be the guy who hits behind Soto

The most important hit in Nationals history - well, until he produced an even more important hit three weeks later - came moments after the opponents intentionally walked Juan Soto. Yep, it’s easy to forget now what preceded Howie Kendrick’s 10th-inning grand slam at Dodger Stadium in Game 5 of the 2019 National League Division Series, but it was indeed an intentional walk of Soto.

After year away, Zimmerman relishing return to Nats

Though a few things have changed since he last walked into the Nationals clubhouse - like the mandatory COVID-19 testing and temperature checks, the spaced-out lockers and the fact everyone must wear a mask indoors - Ryan Zimmerman feels far more a sense of familiarity right now at his home away from home. “It’s good to be back out here and kind of going through

Kieboom tries to block out the noise and trust himself

Carter Kieboom has heard all your theories. That he wasn’t aggressive enough at the plate. That he was hampered by an injury. That he couldn’t handle the pressure of replacing Anthony Rendon at third base. And he heard all the chatter this winter about his future with the Nationals. That the club was going to trade for a new third baseman, either Kris Bryant or

Notes on Scherzer, Jeffress, live BP and exhibition games

For the first time this spring, all 72 players in the Nationals’ big league camp were on the field and participating today. On the second day of full-squad workouts, the only two pitchers who had yet to participate (Javy Guerra and Jeremy Jeffress) were cleared to join their teammates. Guerra, who had been in Arizona with his wife as she gave birth in recent days,

How will the Turner-Soto Era of Nationals baseball be defined?

The Nationals, like every franchise, have been through multiple eras over the years. Break down their 17 seasons in the District into smaller chunks, and you can rattle off each of those eras with only a handful of names. The Frank Robinson Era. The Ryan Zimmerman Era. The Adam Dunn Era. The Stephen Strasburg-Jordan Zimmermann Era. The Bryce Harper-Jayson Werth Era. The Max Scherzer-Strasburg-Anthony Rendon

Turner, Soto grapple with question of long-term extensions

The questions were inevitable. When a star homegrown player approaching free agency reports for spring training, he’s going to be asked about contract discussions. And when it happens only days after one of baseball’s brightest young stars signs a gargantuan extension with his club, it’s a foregone conclusion. So neither Trea Turner nor Juan Soto could’ve been surprised today when the subject came up in

Scherzer throws off mound, full squad takes field for first time

Max Scherzer was back on a mound this morning in West Palm Beach, Fla., throwing pitches (albeit not many and not at full velocity) for the first time since a sprained left ankle sidetracked him two weeks ago. Scherzer was cleared to resume throwing off the bullpen mound. He wound up throwing 10 pitches, “very light,” according to manager Davey Martinez. “We just wanted to

With deep bullpen, Nats think they’re set to close games

If you wanted to try to distill the story of the Nationals bullpen over the last several seasons into one simplified narrative, it would be this: Davey Martinez didn’t trust enough guys to pitch in high-leverage situations, forcing the manager to overuse his one or two best relievers, which sometimes led to ineffectiveness or injury. It’s a pattern that has often repeated itself around here,

Scherzer throwing on flat ground, Lester happy to blend in

The Nationals aren’t about to let Max Scherzer rush his way back from a sprained ankle, but as their ace continues to shows signs of progress, they will let him progressively ramp himself back up to the point where he’s caught up to everyone else in camp. Scherzer took an important step in that process over the last two days when he was able to

Nationals adding another accomplished reliever in Jeffress

A Nationals bullpen that already looked deep on paper could be getting a boost from another experienced arm: right-hander Jeremy Jeffress, who has agreed to a minor league deal with an invitation to big league camp, manager Davey Martinez confirmed this afternoon. “He’s got to come in, take his intake test, take a physical and then we’ll know more after that,” Martinez said from West

Martinez searching for way to move Turner out of leadoff spot

Trea Turner already had established himself as one of the best leadoff hitters in baseball. Then over the course of 60 dominant games in 2020, the Nationals shortstop established himself as one of the best offensive players in baseball, period. Don’t believe it? Look at the numbers. Last season Turner ranked fifth in the majors in batting average (.335), fifth in runs scored (46), first

After injury wiped out 2020, Strasburg healthy and determined

The numbness started in his right thumb, in early July just after the Nationals gathered in D.C. to begin an abbreviated summer training camp. As he continued to build himself up for the shortened 2020 regular season, the numbness began to spread to his hand. When it came time to make his scheduled season debut July 25 against the Yankees, Stephen Strasburg realized he couldn’t

Increased time behind plate won’t be new for Gomes

As he evaluated his club’s catching corps during the offseason, and then examined the likeliest outside candidates to be added, Davey Martinez quickly came to one conclusion: Yan Gomes was going to be the Nationals’ No. 1 catcher in 2021. And that wasn’t a bad thing in the manager’s mind. “I talked to him a lot this winter and told him that he would get

Ross easing back, Guerra still home, spring tickets go on sale

Davey Martinez has made no secret about his desire to use Joe Ross as his No. 5 starter. While acknowledging the open competition that also includes Erick Fedde, Austin Voth and perhaps even Rogelio Armenteros taking place this spring, the Nationals manager has openly stated he wants Ross to prove he’s earned the job. But in their evaluation, Martinez and new pitching coach Jim Hickey

Players, staff grateful for return to full-length spring training

Spring training is too long. Find a ballplayer who disagrees with that assessment. You won’t. Six weeks in Florida and Arizona is a long time, and it gets awfully repetitive awfully quick. You can only run pickoff drills and practice fielding bunts so many times before your brain goes numb. But as everyone gathers in the warm sunshine this week, you might find more than

Nationals set minor league coaching staffs

Now that Major League Baseball has announced minor league affiliations and schedules for the 2021 season, the Nationals took care of one remaining piece of unfinished business Friday afternoon, announcing their minor league coaching staffs for the upcoming campaign. Matt LeCroy will move up a level to manage Triple-A Rochester after spending the 2016-19 seasons as the skipper at Double-A Harrisburg. In his 13th season

Scherzer confident ankle will be fine, not ready to talk contract

Spring training injuries are nothing new for Max Scherzer. Remember the fractured knuckle that forced him to temporarily throw his fastball with a three-finger grip in 2017? Or the sore right side that cropped up last spring as a result of mechanical changes he made? So Scherzer’s newest spring ailment - a sprained left ankle suffered two weeks ago - is merely the latest on

Nats seek normalcy, fun amid camp protocols, restrictions

Sure, there were obvious signs of the difference between this camp and all previous ones. Staffers wore masks. Players tried to keep their distance from each other whenever possible. And, of course, there were no fans or reporters in attendance. All the same, there was an undeniable sense of normalcy Thursday morning when the Nationals opened spring training with their first official pitchers and catchers

Nats never pursued other third basemen, confident in Kieboom

One by one, Mike Rizzo crossed off five must-have items on his offseason wish list this winter. Power bat: Josh Bell. Corner outfielder: Kyle Schwarber. No. 4 starter: Jon Lester. Left-handed reliever: Brad Hand. No. 2 catcher: Alex Avila. Those were the five roster holes the Nationals absolutely needed to fill. And though some may have felt there was a sixth hole that needed to

Minor league schedules announced by Major League Baseball

Major League Baseball this morning announced the schedules for the 2021 Minor League Baseball season, the final step in a year’s worth of tinkering that saw MLB assume operations for all of its clubs’ farm teams. The Rochester Red Wings, the Nationals’ new Triple-A affiliate, will begin play on Tuesday, April 6 at Buffalo, the first of six straight road games against the Bisons. Rochester

Strasburg back to normal, but Scherzer has sprained ankle

The Nationals ace everyone’s been waiting to hear about is fully healthy and throwing in the early days of spring training. The one nobody had been asking about, however, is currently being held back after suffering a minor injury before camp officially began. While Stephen Strasburg has fully recovered from last summer’s right wrist surgery and is fully participating at workouts, Max Scherzer is not

What to expect as Nationals go to work in West Palm Beach

The day has arrived. This morning in West Palm Beach, Fla., Nationals pitchers and catchers will take the fields outside The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches as a group and conduct their first official workout of 2021. It’s quite all right if you need a moment here to compose yourself, wipe a tear from your eye or just take a few seconds to enjoy the

Nats invite 71 total players to big league camp

The Nationals have invited 32 players on minor league contracts to spring training, bringing their total big league camp roster to a whopping 71. The extensive list of non-roster invitees includes several well-known veterans with prior experience either with the Nationals (Gerardo Parra, Javy Guerra, Aaron Barrett, Adrián Sanchez) or other clubs (Luis Avilán, T.J. McFarland, Welington Castillo, Jordy Mercer, Hernán Pérez, Blake Swihart, Yasmany

Spring training storylines: Holding camp in a pandemic

Would you believe we’ve reached the final countdown to spring training? That’s right, pitchers and catchers are holding their first official workout in West Palm Beach, Fla., tomorrow. So it’s time to count down the Nationals’ top storylines of the spring. We conclude today with the unique challenges the team will face conducting a six-week camp during a pandemic ... The last time the Nationals

Spring training storylines: Strasburg’s return from injury

Would you believe we’ve reached the final countdown to spring training? That’s right, pitchers and catchers are holding their first official workout in West Palm Beach, Fla., in two days. So it’s time to count down the Nationals’ top storylines of the spring. We continue today with Stephen Strasburg’s return from carpal tunnel surgery ... Stephen Strasburg pitched a career-high 209 innings in 2019, plus

Spring training storylines: Another chance for Kieboom

Would you believe we’ve reached the final countdown to spring training? That’s right, pitchers and catchers are holding their first official workout in West Palm Beach, Fla., in three days. So it’s time to count down the Nationals’ top storylines of the spring. We continue today with the ever-pressing question: Will Carter Kieboom seize the starting job at third base? ... The Nationals had five

Spring training storylines: Improving defense

Would you believe we’ve reached the final countdown to spring training? That’s right, pitchers and catchers are holding their first official workout in West Palm Beach, Fla., in four days. So it’s time to count down the Nationals’ top storylines of the spring. We continue today with perhaps the club’s greatest need for improvement: defense ... Why did the Nationals struggle so much in 2020?

Spring training storylines: Who’s the fifth starter?

Would you believe we’ve reached the final countdown to spring training? That’s right, pitchers and catchers are holding their first official workout in West Palm Beach, Fla., in five days. So it’s time to count down the Nationals’ top storylines of the spring. We begin today with a familiar battle for the No. 5 starter’s job ... So much about this spring will be different

Spring training tweaked to eliminate long trips

The Nationals unveiled a revised spring training schedule today, and though it doesn’t feature many changes, it is missing something notable from every previous spring: long road trips. In an attempt to reduce travel and the number of opponents faced to try to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the Nationals will only face the four clubs that train within a 45-minute drive of West Palm

Better, worse or the same in 2021: Pitchers

With spring training less than a week away and the roster mostly set, it’s a good time to look at the 2021 Nationals in comparison to the 2020 Nationals. Have they gotten better? Have they gotten worse? Have they essentially stayed the same? We looked at position players yesterday, and in most cases the conclusion was that the Nats should be better at most positions.

Better, worse or the same in 2021: Position players

The Nationals, as a team, were not very good last season. It was only 60 games, so you have to be careful about drawing broad conclusions, but nobody would try to claim 2020 was a success for the defending World Series champs. Thus, the objective entering 2021 is rather simple: Be better. Hopefully better enough to return to the postseason and then make a run

Protocols to begin 2021 season are similar to 2020 precautions

Major League Baseball formally announced its health and safety protocols Tuesday. And if you haven’t heard yet, the 2021 season is going to look a lot like the 2020 season. At least at the outset. With the pandemic still consuming the nation and vaccinations still not available to most Americans yet, baseball had little choice but to reinstate many of the procedures that were necessary

Checking out possible spring training surprise candidates

Unless you’re one of those who mines the minor leagues for every possible nugget of information, you didn’t really know who Jake Noll was heading into 2019 spring training for the Nationals. Maybe you knew he was a seventh-round pick in the 2016 First-Year Player Draft out of Florida Gulf Coast. Maybe you were aware that he’d followed up a .291/.341/.412 campaign between Single-A Potomac

When will Tanner Rainey be ready to close?

So little went right for the Nationals last season that it’s easy to get excited about the players that made significant improvement. Tanner Rainey is one of them, a bulldog of a right-hander who used the shortened 2020 season to show that all that fantasy baseball chatter about players making a leap in their age-27 seasons isn’t just idle babble. Rainey has something few pitchers

Which players are on Nationals’ roster bubble?

When the Nationals convene in 10 days at West Palm Beach, Fla., they will be full of optimism and eager to erase the stench of a 26-34 record in the truncated 2020 season that earned them a share of last place in the National League East. But amid all the cliches about being in the best shape of their lives, boundless hope that things will

The state of the NL East heading into spring training

We’ve been surmising all winter that the National League East is going to be a beast in 2021. And now that winter is turning into spring (at least, in Florida and Arizona) we’re starting to get a true sense of what each of the division’s five clubs will actually look like this season. That was especially true Friday when the Nationals’ two likeliest challengers were

Friday morning Nats Q&A

Hi, folks. It’s been a while since we’ve done one of these. That’s in part because there’s finally been a nice run of news to report and analysis to write the last couple of weeks. It took long enough, but at last stuff is happening. And now we’re a mere 12 days away from pitchers and catchers reporting to West Palm Beach, Fla. Are the

Avila eager to work with Nats pitchers again, seek first ring

The thought of reuniting with Max Scherzer six years since they were last batterymates in Detroit certainly was appealing to Alex Avila. As was the opportunity to catch Patrick Corbin and Jon Lester again after previous opportunities in Arizona and Chicago, plus the chance to work with Stephen Strasburg for the first time in his career. All of that made the Nationals attractive to Avila

Source: Parra returning to Nats on minor league deal

Though a bunch of members of their World Series roster have now departed, the Nationals are bringing back one beloved player from that championship group few could’ve envisioned returning: Gerardo Parra. Yes, the Nats have signed Parra to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training, a source familiar with the deal confirmed. The popular outfielder will report to big league camp in

Class off the field, Doolittle was critical to Nats’ on-field success

Because his final year-plus was beset by injuries and inconsistent performances on the mound, we might tend to forget just how great Sean Doolittle was for the majority of his Nationals career. Make no mistake: Doolittle not only was the anchor of the Nats bullpen, but one of the most dominant relievers in baseball for a prolonged stretch. The left-hander made his Nationals debut July

Report: Doolittle signing one-year deal with Reds

The chances of Sean Doolittle’s return to D.C. already looked slim after the Nationals signed All-Star left-hander Brad Hand last week. Today, that chance became nonexistent after Doolittle reportedly agreed to a one-year, $1.5 million deal with the Reds. That agreement, first reported by The Athletic, gives Doolittle an opportunity to re-establish his career in Cincinnati after a rough 2020 season in Washington that was

What will spring training look like?

As expected, the Major League Baseball Players Association on Monday night shot down MLB’s proposal to push back the start of spring training one month, reduce the regular season to 154 games and complete an expanded postseason in early November, all while receiving full-season pay and reinstituting the universal designated hitter for 2021. “The MLBPA Executive Board and Player leadership reviewed and discussed the owners’

Will players go for MLB’s delayed, 154-game proposal?

It’s February, and February means the start of spring training. Nationals pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report to West Palm Beach in 16 days, and if that isn’t reason to smile on this snowy morning, what is? Unless pitchers and catchers don’t actually report on Feb. 17 as scheduled, which appears to be the preference of Major League Baseball. MLB, according to multiple reports

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