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Blowout sets Zimmermann up nicely to face Mets

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Blowout sets Zimmermann up nicely to face Mets

In the Nationals' 15-1 pounding of the Atlanta Braves on Thursday night, manager Matt Williams was afforded the opportunity of letting several key players sit out the later innings. Bryce Harper, for one, was pulled in the sixth to rest his left glute tightness. Ryan Zimmerman and Jayson Werth also hit the showers and called it an early night.

Jordan Zimmermann was among those given an early exit and it came at a good time for the right-hander. Zimmermann was coming off three straight outings where he threw 100 pitches or more. He had topped the century mark in four of his previous five starts.

This time? Only 87, which sets him up rather nicely to face the New York Mets on Tuesday in Washington.

"It's huge," he said. "I've had a couple of outings where I've pitched 100 or 115 pitches. To have a short one like this and get a little extra rest and hopefully be good to go when we face those guys."

"It’s important to limit Zim a little bit," Williams said. "He’s been [106], 116, 100 his last three. Those are some heavy workloads so we got him out of the game which is good. A limited pitch count through six so that’s a good thing for him going into his next one."

Zimmermann made it through six innings with just one run on two hits allowed, but he gave up four walks, which tied a career-high. He also had a balk for just the second time in his career (7/31/2011).

This one came in the second inning and it helped Atlanta score a run. The mistake moved Nick Swisher to second and the Braves outfielder later scored on a groundout by Hector Olivera.

"I guess it's [from watching] a little too much Little League World Series," Zimmermann joked. "I got on the mound and I knew something wasn't right. Then I went to step off and I ended up stepping off with the wrong foot. That was a huge mistake on my part and it ended up costing me a run."

Forgive Zimmermann if he was a little out of rhythm. The Nationals' starter had unusually long rests in between innings, as the Nats scored their 15 runs on 18 hits and eight walks. Inning after inning they loaded the bases and sustained long rallies against a total of eight Braves pitchers.

"It's tough. Long innings and you're sitting around and your arm gets a little tight. But I'd rather have a long inning with a bunch of runs then short, quick innings," Zimmermann said.

Zimmermann has now won four consecutive starts and sits at 12-8 with a 3.38 on the season. Against the Braves in 2015 he is 3-0 with a 1.84 ERA (7 ER in 34.2 IP).

Zimmermann has gone at least six innings with only one earned run allowed in four of his last six outings. The other two in that stretch were games in which he gave up four earned runs on at least eight hits.

That right there kind of sums up Zimmermann's 2015 season. He has shown flashes of brilliance, looking like the top shelf starter he has been over the last four years. But periodically he will put out a few clunkers that produce a sum of inconsistency.

Zimmermann now, though, looks well-positioned for his next outing against the Mets. He has some momentum and a well-rested arm working in his favor with his biggest start of the season so far on the horizon.

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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

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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