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Baker confident in Papelbon, wants Nats fans to love him

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Baker confident in Papelbon, wants Nats fans to love him

Take a look at the box score and see that Jonathan Papelbon has saved three games in three opportunities and you may think his return to the Nationals has gone perfectly smooth through the first week of the 2016 season. Though he has not been bad by any stretch, he has made it interesting in two of those appearances.

On Wednesday in Atlanta he allowed two basehits and needed 14 pitches to hold on to a 3-1 victory for the Nationals. And on Sunday against the Marlins he gave up another two hits, the first a solo home run by Christian Yelich to cut the Nats' lead to 4-2.

They haven't been clean outings, but that's to be expected from a closer, manager Dusty Baker believes.

"That's a tough job. The closer position is a tough job," Baker said. "I had Rod Beck [with the Giants] who saved 50-something in a row and he scared me to death in about 30 of them. You know what I mean? You just learn that as long as he's not nervous, then I'm not nervous."

Papelbon has 352 career saves and 46 blown saves in 11 MLB seasons, 10 of them as a full-time closer. He has been around long enough to know the positives and negatives that come with the job, and what it takes to be good at it. Baker likes that about him.

"It doesn't matter what it looks like," Baker explained. "There are very few shutdown innings, period. It's hard to take the last breath out of a team. When they're down to their last couple of outs, it increases the concentration on the other side. Everybody can't close. I've tried to move guys into the closer role, but you have to have a special mentality."

Baker hopes to avoid pitching Papelbon on three consecutive days this season, but knows it could be necessary if he racks up saves. If Papelbon is deemed unavailable, he will likely turn to Felipe Rivero, Blake Treinen or Shawn Kelley to be the so-called backup closer.

But Papelbon is the main guy and Baker is completely fine with that. He wants the fans to start coming around to his embattled closer, too.

"I hear people talking about Papelbon, but they need to love Papelbon because he almost has 400-something saves. That's a lot of saves. That's a lot of times being in pressure situations and you're trying to take that last out away from somebody. He works hard. He's one of the leaders in the bullpen. I hear him getting on guys if they're not there in time for stretching or in time for running. This is the kind of guy that you want on your team," Baker said.

[RELATED: State of the Nats: Good start, Harper on Bonds, thoughts on Marlins]

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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