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Dusty Baker has tough decisions to make for Nationals playoff roster

Dusty Baker has tough decisions to make for Nationals playoff roster

There have been certain subjects when it comes to his postseason roster that Nationals manager Dusty Baker has been quite forthcoming with. He's suggested that Reynaldo Lopez and Matt Belisle will make his bullpen and that catcher Pedro Severino could start Game 1 with lefty Clayton Kershaw on the mound.

There are other areas where Baker has done his best to avoid specifics. He named Max Scherzer his Game 1 starter on Tuesday, but won't name his Game 2 pitcher, even though Tanner Roark is almost certain to be the guy. 

Baker has plenty of knowns when it comes to his roster, but in terms of filling out his bench it is much more complicated. He has a lot of options and, to throw an especially tough wrinkle into things, he has several injuries to consider when comprising his final 25.

Daniel Murphy (buttock) and Jayson Werth (back), for instance, are likely to start Game 1. But between them, Bryce Harper's jammed thumb and Ryan Zimmerman's sore calf, Baker may need to prepare with contingency plans.

Could that mean an extra bench player instead of another bullpen arm for roster spot No. 25? Baker can't rule it out.

"That's what we're wrestling with right now," he said. "You don't normally carry extra bench players or carry extra relievers or an extra left-hander. We're trying to determine, trying to get this roster ready. I don't think any roster is completely the way you want it, but we're gonna try to get it as close as we can to fill as many holes or possibilities as we can. It is what it is, it definitely hurts to have some key guys hurt, but again, we just gotta find a way."

[RELATED: Nats name Scherzer their Game 1 starter vs. Dodgers]

Baker has been meeting with his assistant coaches and members of the front office about those decisions. They rested some regulars in the final week and got to see others play in what Baker referred to as their "final interviews." They will also continue to evaluate throughout this week at Nationals Park before Game 1 arrives.

"We're gonna have some guys continue to work out in case they have to take the place of some other guys on the roster," he said. "There's a lot that goes into this and we're gonna try to wait until as late as possible to make that decision."

If Belisle and Lopez are indeed on the roster, that gives the Nats at least seven relievers, it would seem. Mark Melancon, Sammy Solis, Blake Treinen, Shawn Kelley and Marc Rzepczynski would be the others. With Scherzer, Roark, Gio Gonzalez and Joe Ross in store, that's 11, leaving one spot for a pitcher, if they decide to keep 12 and tip the scale towards their bench with 13 position players.

If they take 13 position players, the bench would likely include Jose Lobaton (if Severino starts), Clint Robinson, Stephen Drew, Chris Heisey and one other, likely a backup outfielder chosen between Ben Revere and Brian Goodwin, with Revere holding the advantage as a more proven player. 

For that final roster spot, will they go with another reliever like Oliver Perez, Sean Burnett or Yusmeiro Petit? Or, would Wilmer Difo or another outfielder make sense to ensure they are well-positioned if Murphy or Zimmerman aggravates their injury early in a game?

Major League Baseball allows a player to be replaced during a series due to injury, but that player then becomes ineligible for the remainder of the series and for the following playoff round. If Murphy went down and had to be removed from their roster, for instance, he would then miss the rest of the NLDS and the NLCS, if they make it that far.

It's not an easy decision and Baker is doing his best to sort it all out.

[RELATED: Nats' Bryce Harper looking forward to playoffs, clean slate]


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May the odds be ever in your favor: Vegas sets over/unders for 2018 MLB season

May the odds be ever in your favor: Vegas sets over/unders for 2018 MLB season

The start of spring training is a glimmer of hope during the cold of winter. It means warm weather, cold beers and hot dogs at the ballpark are coming your way.

It's our first chance to get a taste of how our favorite team is shaping up for the 2018 season, and for those who are not quite into just the game itself, betting odds.

CG Technology, a Las Vegas sportsbook operator, has set the 2018 odds for each MLB team.

Specifically, how are things looking for the local teams?


Washington Nationals: 91 1/2 wins

The 2018 season is looked at by many as the last World Series run for some time for the Nationals and their core group of players. Bryce Harper, Daniel Murphy and Gio Gonzalez will become free agents after the 2018 season in addition to general manager and President of Baseball Operations, Mike Rizzo.

In 2017, the team won 97 games and went on to win the NL East, but couldn't make it past the first-round of the National League Division Series. In 2018, Vegas is giving the Nats 7/2 odds of taking the National League title. They are just behind the Chicago Cubs, who knocked them out of contention last season, at 4/1 odds.

As far as winning the World Series, Vegas is giving the guys an 8/1 chance of their first title, tied with the Cubs.

Baltimore Orioles: 77 1/2 wins

The O's finished the 2017 season with 75 wins, which could be considered somewhat of an accomplishment considering their pitching resources.

The same problem will occur in 2018 as the organization hasn't signed any new starting pitchers. Vegas is giving them 50/1 odds of taking the American League title and 100/1 odds of winning the World Series.

The lack of depth in their rotation will come back to bite them as division rival New York Yankees have 5/1 odds of winning the World Series and the Red Sox have 10/1 odds.

A below average season should be expected.

A few other standouts, good and bad, include the Miami Marlins at 500/1 odds of winning the World Series, the Kansas City Royals at 200/1 and current champions, the Houston Astros, at 6/1 odds.


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Former Nationals pitcher Esteban Loaiza arrested with more than 40 pounds of suspected cocaine


Former Nationals pitcher Esteban Loaiza arrested with more than 40 pounds of suspected cocaine

SAN DIEGO — Former All-Star pitcher Esteban Loaiza has been arrested on suspicion of trafficking drugs after packages containing a white powder believed to be cocaine were found at a home he rented in Southern California, officials said Monday.

The 46-year-old former Major League Baseball player was booked Friday on charges involving the possession, transport and sale of 20 kilograms (44 pounds) of suspected cocaine worth an estimated $500,000, according to the San Diego Sheriff's Department.

Loaiza played for numerous teams between 1995 and 2008, starting with the Pittsburgh Pirates and concluding with his second stint with the Chicago White Sox. He had a 21-9 record with the Chicago White Sox in 2003 and started in the All-Star Game that year.


He also played one season for the Washington Nationals in 2005 — the team's inaugural season in D.C. after the franchise changed from the Montreal Expos. During his one season in Washington, Loaiza finished with a 12-10 record adn a 3.77 ERA over 34 games played that year.

It was not immediately known if Loaiza had hired a lawyer and the former player could not be reached to comment. He was being held Monday for lack of $200,000 bail pending a court appearance on Wednesday.

Loaiza's agent, John Boggs, told the San Francisco Chronicle that he had no information about the arrest and that he has not spoken to Loaiza recently. He said that Loaiza had called his office early last week but Boggs was unavailable at the time.

"I am shocked and saddened by the news and had no indication he would ever be in this type of situation," Boggs said in a text to the newspaper. "I don't know how he would get himself involved in this, so it's difficult to even comment on it."

Officers stopped Loaiza for a minor traffic infraction Friday after he left the home he started renting recently in the Pacific coast community of Imperial Beach, along the U.S.-Mexico border. Authorities had the vehicle under surveillance on suspicion it was used for smuggling drugs.

When they searched the vehicle, they found a sophisticated compartment used to conceal contraband, authorities said. That led them to obtain a search warrant for Loaiza's rental home, where they found the packages of drugs, according to investigators.

The packages containing a white powder are still being tested but are believed to be cocaine, said San Diego Sheriff's Lt. Jason Vickery.

Loaiza was born in Tijuana, Mexico and was married for two years to the late Mexican-American singer Jenni Rivera. She filed for divorce shortly before she died in a plane crash in 2012.

The 43-year-old Rivera was known as the "Diva de la Banda" and died as her career was peaking. She was perhaps the most successful female singer in grupero, a male-dominated Mexico regional style, sold more than 15 million records, and moved into acting and reality television.

Loaiza sued the aircraft's owners in 2014 for wrongful death but her relatives accused him of trying to profit from her death. He denied the accusations and later retracted his lawsuit.

NBC Sports Washington contributed to this report.