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Always evolving, Max Scherzer ready for 2nd Nats' Opening Day start

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Always evolving, Max Scherzer ready for 2nd Nats' Opening Day start

Max Scherzer often talks about the cat-and-mouse game between pitchers and hitters, how a 162-game baseball season is all about making adjustments and trying to stay ahead of the curve. The Nationals right-hander - who is set to pitch Opening Day against the Braves - has consistently evolved throughout his career to remain elite in his profession.

Scherzer debuted in 2008 and in the nine years since he became a big leaguer, loads of new information has become available from the increased understanding of Pitch F/X to StatCast. The right-hander likes to use whatever data he can get his hands on.

"It's kind of hand-in-hand as you keep getting more and more information. Why not use it? If there are situations where you feel like it can make you a better pitcher, knowing different things about a hitter, of how they hit the ball in the past, it can help," he said.

"Where we've really seen the biggest increase is how we position everybody. Now we know exactly how they're hitting the ball and when the ball is in the air, we know everything. Based upon those types of spray charts, you're able to put guys in positions that you will have confidence that you know they're going to hit the ball most often in these spots."

Scherzer considers most stats useful, but there is not one that he believes tells the entire story.

"I think you look at everything... Just don't say anything is the gospel," he explained. "I take everything with a grain of salt. Even if you talk about the sabermetric numbers, you take those with a grain of salt, as well. I don't think there's any number out there that puts everything together. I think we think WAR does that, but I think there are still some things that it's missing."

Scherzer was excellent in his first season with the Nationals after signing a record free agent contract last winter. He posted a career-best 2.79 ERA and 7.1 WAR, threw two no-hitters and finished fifth in Cy Young voting. 

Scherzer also made a positive impact on the Nationals in the clubhouse with his outgoing and unique personality. After working with him for less than two months, manager Dusty Baker has already been impressed by his demeanor. 

"He’s our energy guy," Baker said. "He’s a heck of a guy and a heck of a competitor."

Scherzer said over the offseason he felt more comfortable heading into Year 2 with the Nationals in terms of being a vocal leader and in joking with teammates. During his preseason press conference ahead of Opening Day he even jabbed Jayson Werth for his age, calling him "grandpa." 

Scherzer's status as a veteran on the Nationals has become even more clear with the infusion of young prospects to their roster this spring.

"It feels different in Year 2, because I'm realizing how much older I am than all these other guys. At 31, you feel pretty old in that clubhouse when you've got 23-year-olds in there that barely even know the O.J. trial even happened. That's the stuff I'm dealing with," he joked.

One year wiser, and with more ammunition to poke fun at his teammates, now comes the encore for Scherzer. Can he top his first season in Washington? It all begins Monday in Atlanta.

[RELATED: Baker ready to return to Atlanta, where his MLB career began]

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With Ross placed on 60-day DL, Nationals agree to 1-year deal with veteran reliever

With Ross placed on 60-day DL, Nationals agree to 1-year deal with veteran reliever

WASHINGTON  -- The Washington Nationals say they have agreed to a one-year deal with 40-year-old reliever Joaquin Benoit.

The team announced the move Wednesday, along with placing pitcher Joe Ross on the 60-day disabled list as he recovers from Tommy John surgery in July.

The Nationals didn't release terms of the agreement, though a person with knowledge of the deal told The Associated Press on Monday that it was for $1 million.

The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the deal wasn't official at the time.

MORE NATIONALS: FULL 2018 SPRING TRAINING SCHEDULE

Benoit is a right-hander who first reached the big leagues in 2001. 

He has played for eight teams, finishing last year with Pittsburgh.

He has 764 career appearances, going 58-49 with a 3.83 ERA and 53 saves.

RELATED: 2018 MLB BETTING ODDS

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It's Day 1 of spring training and Bryce Harper is already done taking questions regarding his future

It's Day 1 of spring training and Bryce Harper is already done taking questions regarding his future

So if you have not heard, Bryce Harper is going to be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the 2018 season.

All off-season talking heads, baseball aficionados, radio hosts, etc. were speculating on where the outfielder’s destination will be next year.

And we are still a year away from it actually happening.

RELATED: VEGAS SETS OVER/UNDERS FOR 2018 MLB SEASON

Reporting to spring training on Monday, Harper did not waste any time telling the media how his press conferences were going to play out this season.

“If guys do [ask], or talk anything about that, I will be walking right out the door.”

Entering his seventh season with the Washington Nationals, the 25-year-old is coming off the second-best season, statistically, of his career. The 2015 NL MVP has hit .285 in his career, with 150 home runs and 421 RBIs. Unquestionably he is the face of the Nationals’ organization, if not, the best player in the team’s history.

If he does end the season without a contract extension, he will join Rafael Palmeiro, Alex Rodriguez, Randy Johnson, and Barry Bonds as the top sought out free agents in MLB history.

One thing is for certain in terms of Harper’s free agency; Harper has given no inclination on where his landing spot will be.  The top three cities are of course his favorite childhood team, the New York Yankees; joining with one of his closest friends with the Chicago Cubs; or just staying with Washington.

Wherever he does land, it does appear that it will be the largest contract given to a free agent ever.

As for now we just wait and direct any of your calls to his agent Scott Boras.

READ ALSO: NATIONALS FULL SPRING TRAINING SCHEDULE