Could Nationals' interest in Cora mess with Red Sox' plans?

Could Nationals' interest in Cora mess with Red Sox' plans?

The Washington Nationals will ask to speak to Houston Astros bench coach Alex Cora after the ALCS, Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe reported, which could throw a wrench into the Red Sox' plans to name Cora their manager.

The Sox appeared close to naming Cora to replace John Farrell after the Astros season is finished, NBC Sports Boston Red Sox Insider Evan Drellich reported earlier this week. Then the Nats decided to part ways with manager Dusty Baker after consecutive N.L. East titles but Division Series flameouts.

Cora, 41, as Cafardo points out, was once offered a player development job with the Nats, who were the last team he played for (2011) in his 14-plus years as a major league infielder, including 2005-08 with the Red Sox. 

Nationals GM Mike Rizzo obviously has a fondness for Cora, telling MLB.com in 2011:

"I think it comes natural to him to be a teacher. Alex still has a lot left in his tank as a player. But he has my number, and when he’s done playing, he can make a call. It will be well-received."

After interviewing Cora, ex-Detroit Tigers manager Brad Ausmus and Ron Gardenhire, who took the Tigers job this week, Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski told WEEI.com that he was still "undecided" if he'll interview anyone else.


 

CSN MID-ATLANTIC: Bryce Harper goes on DL; no structural damage in knee

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CSN MID-ATLANTIC: Bryce Harper goes on DL; no structural damage in knee

WASHINGTON -- Bryce Harper injured his left knee when he slipped on a wet first base, a potentially devastating blow to the NL East-leading Washington Nationals.

Manager Dusty Baker said Harper hyperextended his left knee and was scheduled to have an MRI on Sunday.

"We just ask for prayers that it's not serious," Baker said after his team's 3-1 victory over the San Francisco Giants that was overshadowed by the injury to one of baseball's top players. "He was in obvious pain, and he was praying and I was praying, too."

Harper was limping but walking after the game. He was not made available to speak to reporters.

Starter Edwin Jackson was upbeat that Harper was walking around. General manager Mike Rizzo is expected to provide an update on Sunday morning.

"Fortunate that he's up and walking," Jackson said. "He's definitely one of those guys that you can't replace on a team. It's crazy but it's definitely great to see him up in spirit and walking around and know that he won't be significantly out for a period of time or just hurt period. He's doing great."

While running out a ground ball to the right side of the infield in the first inning, Harper avoided contact with first baseman Ryder Jones and his left foot slipped on the base. His leg buckled , he went airborne and fell to the ground as his helmet went flying.

"I think (starter Jeff Samardzija) said he tried to extend the knee a little bit and try to catch the corner of the bag, and I think he might've slipped on the top," Jones said. "It was a little wet. It didn't look good. I hope he's all right. It's just one of those freak plays where you kind of thought there would be a collision and there wasn't and that might be part of it, too."

Harper clutched at his left knee after going down and was attended to by trainers. The star outfielder put no weight on his left leg as he was helped off the field by hitting coach Rick Schu and head athletic trainer Paul Lessard.

"He looked like he was in pretty good pain," Jones said. "You never want that to happen to a player. ... Hopefully he's all right."

Baker said his first reaction was to think about last September, when catcher Wilson Ramos tore the ACL in his right knee on a noncontact play after a rain delay. Baker said he hopes that's not the case with Harper.

The game began just after 10 p.m. following a 3-hour rain delay. It was raining steadily when Harper's injury happened.

Major League Baseball was in control of weather decisions because it's the Giants' final trip to Washington this season. The series opener Friday was postponed after a lengthy rain delay to be a part of a day-night doubleheader Sunday, adding to baseball's incentive of getting the game in Saturday.

Baker refrained from criticizing the league, saying the teams "were kind of at the mercy of the schedule."

But the game is unlikely to have an impact on the playoff race, as the Nationals lead the NL East by 14+ games and the Giants are out of contention. At the most, it could have an effect on home-field advantage in October.

Even though first baseman Ryan Zimmerman is having an All-Star season, Washington's title hopes hinge largely on Harper's health. The 2015 MVP is having another spectacular season, hitting .327 with 29 home runs and 87 RBIs while playing in 105 of the Nationals' first 113 games.

Harper didn't last long in his 106th game and was replaced by Andrew Stevenson, who took over in center field with Brian Goodwin moving to right. Despite many fans waiting out the delay, the stadium went eerily silent in the minutes after Harper's injury.

Because of a bevy of injuries, the Nationals have used 12 outfielders this season. They have been without Adam Eaton since late April because of a torn ACL in his left knee that ended his season, Jayson Werth since early June because of a bruised left foot and Michael Taylor since July with a right oblique strain.

The Nationals are running away with the division despite those injuries and more to starters Stephen Strasburg and Joe Ross, relievers Shawn Kelley and Koda Glover and shortstop Trea Turner, but a long-term injury to Harper would be far more trouble to Washington's postseason hopes.

Harper is under contract through next season and can be a free agent in the winter of 2018.

"The good thing is he's young and strong," Baker said. "I'm very optimistic that he'll be at least fine shortly."

Strickland suspended six games, Harper four after wild brawl

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Strickland suspended six games, Harper four after wild brawl

SAN FRANCISCO -- There is widespread agreement on one topic the day after a bench-clearing brawl that led to a six-game suspension for Giants reliever Hunter Strickland and a four-game ban for Washington slugger Bryce Harper.

Whatever beef might exist is about a long-held grudge by Strickland three years after Harper homered off him twice in the playoffs and not between the teams as a whole.

San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy called the fastball that Strickland threw at Harper in the eighth inning Monday "a personal thing" and said he talked to his reliever privately about his actions.

Washington manager Dusty Baker said there is no need for the Nationals to retaliate against the Giants because he believes Strickland was acting on his own.

"I know Bruce Bochy didn't give the command and order," Baker said before Tuesday night's game. "I could tell the way Buster Posey reacted he had nothing to do with it. In our mind, it was not a team act but a selfish act on his part. It's more selfish because he probably won't ever get to come to the plate for there to be any retaliation."

Strickland hit Harper in the hip with a pitch in the eighth inning and the Washington slugger charged the mound, wildly firing his helmet before trading punches to the head with Strickland during the Nationals' 3-0 win Monday at San Francisco.

MLB Chief Baseball Officer Joe Torre's explanation of the disciplinary decisions said Strickland intentionally hit "Harper with a pitch, inciting the bench-clearing incident and fighting" while Harper's suspension came "for charging the mound, throwing his helmet and fighting."

"You can't really worry about what MLB is going to do because you don't really know," Harper said. "Whatever they say goes and I'm just going to worry about the four games I got and see what I can do."

Each also was fined an undisclosed amount. Major League Baseball said both players planned to appeal, so they were eligible to play in Tuesday night's game between the clubs. Baseball Senior Vice President Joe Garagiola Jr. typically hears player appeals.

"I'm obviously not thrilled about it," Strickland said. "It's their call. We'll go from there. Whatever they ultimately decide, I'll own it and take the responsibility."

Harper was booed loudly before his first at-bat Tuesday before grounding out to first base.

The bad blood stems from a pair of home runs Harper hit off Strickland in the 2014 playoffs, when the Giants went on to capture their third World Series championship in five years.

After the first homer, Strickland said he wasn't afraid of Harper. After the second, Harper stared at Strickland as he rounded the bases.

"It's just crazy that it even happened yesterday after three years to do that," Harper said. "I don't know. I don't know what was going through his mind or how upset he was the past couple of years. If he did have a problem, he could have talked to me about it."

Washington led 2-0 with two outs in the eighth and none on when Strickland drilled Harper on the first pitch -- a 98 mph fastball. Harper immediately pointed his bat at Strickland, yelled at him and took off.

Harper flung his helmet and they began throwing punches, with the 6-foot-4 Strickland clocking Harper in the face. They then broke apart for a moment before squaring off again. Harper punched Strickland in the head as the benches and bullpens emptied.

"Probably only Martin Luther King or Gandhi would have turned the other cheek and not done something reactionary," Baker said.

Giants teammates Michael Morse and Jeff Samardzija collided hard as they tried to get between the two fighters, and Harper said it could have been more serious if that hadn't happened.

"As I was going out there, the first initial reaction is you might get blindsided by one of their players coming in," he said. "I'm kind of thankful that Mikey Mo and Samardzija collided because Samardzija saw blood a little bit, I thought. Very thankful for Mikey Mo."

Morse got the worst of the collision and was placed on the seven-day concussion disabled list Tuesday.

One player who didn't join the fray was Posey, who stood behind the plate and watched as Harper rushed the mound and then stayed to the edges of the fight.

While much was made on social media about Posey's inaction, Strickland said there was no need for Posey to explain himself.

"I know Buster has our back," Strickland said. "We as a whole group and team, we stick together. That's never a worry of mine."

Harper had his own theory why Posey stayed out of the mix.

"I think a lot of their guys were shocked," Harper said. "Buster was definitely shocked and not looking for that to happen."

Posey said he hasn't paid attention to the hubbub and declined to talk about Mo