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Around the NL East: Marlins climbing out of early-season hole

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Around the NL East: Marlins climbing out of early-season hole

ATLANTA BRAVES 

While Nats fans are still reveling in Tuesday night's historic comeback victory, imagine what Braves fans are feeling right now. Their hot start to April has dissipated, losing seven of the last 10 games and falling below .500 for the first time this season at 10-11. Worst of all for Atlanta was that dropping the series to Washington might have awakened a sleeping giant.  

It was just one outing, but losing that dramatic game to the Nats shows the value of former closer Craig Kimbrel. That's no slight to Jason Grilli, who has been a proven closer at other stops, but who thinks Kimbrel would have given up a go-ahead three-run homer to Dan Uggla on an 0-2 pitch? Blown saves used to be a rarity for the Braves, but as the season wear they'll probably find themselves missing their former stud reliever (if they haven't already, that is). 

MIAMI MARLINS

Okay, so maybe that players only meeting might have worked a little bit. Miami has won seven out of its last eight games and is steadily climbing out of an early-season hole.

The most encouraging trend over the last week has been the consistency of the rotation. Marlins starters have posted quality starts in six of their last eight games, lowering the team ERA from 5.10 to 4.09. And to top it off, reports are that Jose Fernandez will start to face live hitters as he works his way from rehabbing Tommy John surgery. That's quite the turnaround for a pitching staff that looked like it was in panic mode just a few weeks ago. 

And the staff picked a good time to straighten things out, too, because Giancarlo Stanton is starting to do Giancarlo Stanton-like things at the plate. In his last ten games, he's hit four home runs and now leads the NL in RBI at 21. 

NEW YORK METS  

It's still hard to believe that the Mets are in first place in the division and have the best record in the NL. One would think they were doing it via smoke and mirrors, but you don't win 11 straight without being good. To put their recent win streak in perspective, it's only happened four other times in franchise history, including the championship seasons of 1969 and 1986. So how much of a mirage could this be?

If their rotation stays healthy (which is far from guaranteed), there's no reason to think the Mets can't hang around all season and contend. Between Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom and the ageless Bartolo Colon, it's difficult to envision New York going on a long losing streak. Sure, they could regress -- they've dropped two straight series -- but with the way the rest of the division has played thus far, they have as good a shot as anyone to take the NL East crown. 

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES 

A month hasn't even gone by, and we're already hearing trade rumors involving the Phillies. The Cole Hamels saga has taken on a life of its own, as GM Ruben Amaro Jr. finds himself trying to sift through the best offers from around the league for the lefty starter. When will he finally pull the trigger on a deal? And with which team? And at what price? There's still plenty to sort out here, but one thing that the Phillies GM has made clear it that his club is willing to eat some of Hamels' contract, which should make things easier for other teams looking to make a move. Teams reportedly interested in Hamels' services include the Cardinals, Dodgers, Red Sox and Blue Jays. 

[RELATED: Confident once again, Nats lineup on fire]

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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.

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