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Espinosa's two-homer game vs. Reds caps monster June

Espinosa's two-homer game vs. Reds caps monster June

As Danny Espinosa hopped up on the top step of the dugout for his second curtain call of the night, there may not have been a more fitting — and unlikely — image to punctuate what was perhaps the best month of his career. 

By now, many thought the Nationals' 29-year-old shortstop would have been supplanted by the much ballyhooed Trea Turner, considered the organization's top infield prospect. And yet here was Espinosa, putting a stamp on a monster June with a two-homer, 7 RBI performance in Thursday night's 13-4 drubbing of the Cincinnati Reds.

"There were people calling for Danny's job earlier," Dusty Baker said. "It's a long season. Guys learn, guys get better with instruction."

Indeed, during Espinosa's nadir in May, when his batting average dipped to .176, there was a loud clamoring from fans to see Turner promoted to the big club. But since hitting .309 in June with nine home runs and 21 RBIs, there hasn't been a lot of talk lately about getting him out of the lineup. 

"Everybody's calling for the next new guy," Baker said. 

Espinosa's sudden turnaround at the plate is not just a testament to his ability — remember, he was once a top prospect himself — but it's also a display of the belief he's earned from his teammates over the years.

"The talent’s always been there," said Ryan Zimmerman, who has played with Espinosa since 2010. 

After being a part-time player the last two seasons, 2016 represented Espinosa's first chance at being in the everyday lineup at his natural position at short. And while some viewed his time patrolling the six-hole as merely a countdown to Turner's arrival, the switch-hitting infielder had other plans. 

“[I] just continued to have trust in myself," Espinosa said. "To know I could do it. To have the staff behind me ...to have all my teammates behind me encouraging me. It means a lot as a player."

"In Danny we trust, man," Gio Gonzalez said. "No one gave up on Danny."

After Thursday night's big performance, Espinosa is second on the team to Bryce Harper with 15 home runs, and is now just six long balls away from setting a new single-season high he set in 2011.

Oh, and as for that Turner guy? The Nats revealed earlier this week that they're trying him out at centerfield in the minors — a sure sign that the incumbent isn't going anywhere anytime soon. 

"He's coming with vengeance now," Gonzalez said. "He's just a guy [that's] a force to be reckoned with right now. You can it in his swing, you can see his approach in the batters box. He just looks like a stone cold killer up there."

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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