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Duke, Garcia added to bullpen

Duke, Garcia added to bullpen

As well as each was pitching all summer at Class AAA Syracuse, neither Zach Duke nor Christian Garcia ever gave serious thought to the possibility of getting promoted to join the Nationals before season's end.

Not that they hadn't performed well enough to merit consideration for a promotion. But with the Nationals posting baseball's best record behind the sport's best pitching staff -- and considering neither held a spot on the organization's 40-man roster -- they knew the odds were slim at best their services would be needed at the big-league level.

That only made the experience of donning Nationals caps and jerseys for the first time this morning sweeter for both players. Each had his contract purchased and was promoted to Washington for the remainder of the season.

"I knew the way these guys were throwing up here that for me to get called up there'd have to be an injury -- or probably two or three injuries -- so I didn't expect to be called up," Duke said. "It was pretty shocking and very overwhelming. ... I'm just so thankful for it."

"To be with guys as talented as everybody in here, it's an honor just to be able to put their jersey on," Garcia said. "Knowing they're in first place, trying to clinch a playoff spot, it's an honor."

Each player's promotion is testament to perseverance, because each took a long road to reach this juncture.

Duke, 29, owns 48 big-league wins and a 2009 All-Star selection with the Pirates, but after getting released by the Astros at the end of spring training had only one offer for a minor-league contract: from the Nationals. He reported to Syracuse and proceeded to go 15-5 with a 3.51 ERA in 26 starts.

There's no room for Duke in the Nationals' rotation; even with Stephen Strasburg's pending shutdown, only fellow lefty John Lannan will be needed to make a couple of spot starts down the stretch. But manager Davey Johnson plans to use Duke out of his bullpen, perhaps needing the left-hander to record a key out or two at some point.

Duke, who has some relief experience with the Diamondbacks, insists he'll contribute any way he can, ecstatic simply to be given the opportunity to don a major-league uniform again after not knowing if it would ever happen again.

"When you get released from a team like Houston who has the worst record in baseball, it doesn't look really good for you," he said. "The Nationals still believed in me, gave me a shot, and it worked out."

Garcia, 27, is a big leaguer for the first time after a long and arduous road that included two Tommy John surgeries on his right elbow. A third-round pick of the Yankees in the 2004 draft, he signed with the Nationals last year and worked his way up from short-season Class A Auburn to Class AAA, where he posted a 0.56 ERA in 27 games.

Having made a career-high 45 relief appearances this season, Garcia is in uncharted waters. He's not worried, though, about fatigue down the stretch, certainly not given the opportunity he's now been given.

"I feel great," he said. "I feel healthy, 100 percent. I'm not tired at all. I think I just got another shot of life getting up here."

The Nationals had only 39 players on their 40-man roster at the start of the day, so there was room for one of the additions. Another spot was created when reliever Henry Rodriguez (who had surgery to remove a bone spur from his elbow) was transferred to the 60-day DL.

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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