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Around the NL East: Help on the way for first-place Mets

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Around the NL East: Help on the way for first-place Mets

ATLANTA BRAVES

The Braves' have dropped five out of their last six games, and once again the bullpen continues to be the main culprit. Over the past 14 games, Atlanta relievers have a 7.62 ERA, a stretch that has made their season ERA of 4.90 the highest in baseball. So once again Nats fans, it could always be worse. 

Atlanta made a move to bring in veteran righty David Aardsma to try to stabilize the situation. The 33-year-old has plenty of experience, but hasn't pitched in the majors since 2013. We'll see if that's enough to make getting the ball to closer Jason Grilli any easier. 

MIAMI MARLINS 

Who has the best record in this division over the last 10 games? That's right, it's the Marlins at 6-4 -- and they're still seven games out of the division lead. In fact, all the NL East teams are actually further back in the wild card chase than the one for the NL East. Ouch. 

Anyway, even though Miami is still buried in a mediocre division, it has seen Giancarlo Stanton return to playing like Giancarlo Stanton. The $300 million man is tied with Bryce Harper for the league lead in homers with 19, and is one long ball shy of notching his sixth straight season of 20 or more home runs. 

NEW YORK METS  

The good news for the Mets? They're back in first place -- albeit by a slim 1/2 game margin. The even better news? It looks like more help is on the way. Catcher Travis d'Arnaud, pitcher Bobby Parnell and second baseman Dilson Herrera are all inching closer to their return to the big club, with their arrival set near the end of New York's next home stand. 

And if that's not enough, second year starter Jacob deGrom continues to show that his rookie season was no fluke, as he shared NL-Player of the Week honors with Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw on Monday. The 26-year-old righty is 7-4 with a 2.44 ERA, and is just two wins away from matching last year's total. Interesting times for a club that's not ready to cede the division to the Nats.

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES 

The Cole Hamels derby continues, as the AL West-leading Houston Astros are reportedly the latest team to potentially trade for the left ace. The Astros, who have a bevy of minor league prospects, could provide a nice landing spot for Hamels should he waive his no-trade clause. Between the Astros, Cubs, Red sox and Dodgers, it's not like GM Ruben Amaro Jr. will have a shortage of trade partners. But at this point, the Phillies probably just want to get this over with, because this saga has certainly gone for a bit too long. 

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

Its 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

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Nationals Spring Training Schedule 2018

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USA Today Sports Images

Nationals Spring Training Schedule 2018

Now that pitchers and catchers have reported, the next step in our long journey to Opening Day is the spring training games themselves. Not every game is televised, so get ready to follow along with your favorite beat writer's Twitter account for all your updates.

Even without getting to watch the games, it'll still be exciting to once again check box scores in the morning to see if Bryce Harper homered again, or if Max Scherzer is perfect through 4 innings (spoiler: both of these will happen).

This year's spring training will be especially interesting, considering how many big-name players will be signing contracts in the next few weeks. The Nats are always willing to make a big splash, and even beyond the available free agents, have been linked to impact players like J.T. Realmuto in trade rumors.

Typically, the excitement of adding a new piece to the roster has to be reignited after a long winter off, but this season, those additions will be happening while camp is already underway.

It's going to be a hectic few weeks as teams prepare for their seasons, so bookmark this page to check on the Nationals spring training schedule over the next few weeks as the team finally takes the field in 2018.

Nationals 2018 Spring Training Schedule

Friday, Feb. 23 - Nationals at Astros, 1:05 pm (MLBN)
Saturday, Feb. 24 - Nationals at Marlins, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Feb. 25 - Braves at Nationals, 1:05 pm (MASN)
Monday, Feb. 26 - Nationals at Braves, 1:05 pm
Tuesday, Feb. 27 - Marlins at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Wednesday, Feb. 28 - Nationals at Marlins, 1:05 pm
Thursday, Mar. 1 (SS) - Nationals at Braves, 1:05 pm
Friday, Mar. 2 (SS) - Nationals at Mets, 1:10 pm
Saturday, Mar. 3 - Nationals at Astros, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 4 (SS) - Tigers at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 4 (SS) - Nationals at Mets, 1:10 pm
Monday, Mar. 5 - Nationals at Cardinals, 1:05 pm
Tuesday, Mar. 6 (SS) - Astros at Nationals, 1:05 pm (MASN)
Wednesday, Mar. 7 - Nationals at Cardinals, 1:05 pm
Thursday, Mar. 8 - Mets at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Saturday, Mar. 10 - Nationals at Astros, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 11 - Cardinals at Nationals, 1:05 pm (MASN)
Monday, Mar. 12 - Nationals at Tigers, 1:05 pm (MLBN)
Tuesday, Mar. 13 (SS) - Mets at Nationals, 7:05 pm (MLBN) (MASN)
Thursday, Mar. 15 - Astros at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Friday, Mar. 16 (SS) - Cardinals at Nationals, 1:05 pm (MASN)
Saturday, Mar. 17 - Mets at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 18 - Nationals at Cardinals, 1:05 pm
Monday, Mar. 19 - Nationals at Marlins, 1:05 pm
Tuesday, Mar. 20 - Marlins at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Wednesday, Mar. 21 - Astros at Nationals, 1:05 pm (ESPN2) (MASN)
Thursday, Mar. 22 - Nationals at Mets, 6:10 pm
Friday, Mar. 23 (SS) - Astros at Nationals, 6:05 pm (MASN)
Friday, Mar. 23 - Nationals at Marlins, 7:05 pm
Saturday, Mar. 24 - Marlins at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 25 - Cardinals at Nationals, 1:05 pm (MLBN)
Tuesday, Mar. 27 (at Nationals Park) - Twins at Nationals, 4:05 pm