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Dusty Baker's return to baseball with Nats doesn't disappoint

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Dusty Baker's return to baseball with Nats doesn't disappoint

There must be something about Nationals managerial debuts.

Much like Matt Williams' first game on Opening Day of 2014, Dusty Baker's maiden voyage as Nats skipper had just about all you could ask for in a baseball game. There were plenty of positives in the extra innings victory, including another home run by Bryce Harper and a bullpen that helped make up for its own mistakes.

There were also plenty of frustrating moments including a bullpen disaster in the eighth inning and an injury to Ben Revere. The end result, though, was a win and that left Baker off to a good start with his new team.

“It’s kind of like the game telling me: ‘Welcome back.’ There were a lot of highs and lows in that game. Boy, that was some ballgame," Baker said.

Baker saw his team take one-run leads twice in the first four innings on solo home runs, only to give them back on homers against Max Scherzer one frame later. Then, at 2-2 in the eighth inning, Felipe Rivero loaded the bases. His replacement, Shawn Kelley, promptly walked home a run to make it 3-2 Braves.

The very next inning saw the Nationals plate the equalizer on a sacrifice fly to center field by Michael Taylor. That set up a go-ahead RBI double by Daniel Murphy - also new to the Nats - in the 10th inning.

On top of all that, the Nationals also became the first team to benefit from MLB's new rule outlawing off-the-bag takeout slides. All in a day's work.

Afterwards, Baker was given a gameball for his first victory as Nats skipper. It will go down as one of many mementos he's collected through his six decades in Major League Baseball, but it's one he will cherish nonetheless.

"I felt very flattered that [Jonathan Papelbon] and the team, they gave me my first victory ball in a Nationals uniform, so it can go to the house with all the other ones."

Nationals players were happy to deliver Baker the win in his first game with Washington, even if it wasn't as easy as they would have preferred.

"He's going to be a big part of our leadership, and kind of just setting the tone," Scherzer said. "He's already done that in spring, and he's done it here today. For us to go out there and get a big win, a comeback win especially here late in the game, we found a way to get the ball to him pretty nicely."

Only so much can be drawn from a single game, but Bryce Harper thought the way the Nationals beat the Braves - by coming back to tie it and force extra innings - spoke to a larger message Baker has been preaching since he took over the team.

"Dusty's been great for us," Harper said. "He reiterates every single day to keep battling, keep grinding, throughout the whole game and thats' what were going to do. We're going to fight to the end no matter if it's eight to one or whatever."

Over the course of this 162-game season there will be plenty of highs and probably plenty of lows as well. It just might be a while before this many all come in one game.

[RELATED: PHOTO: Harper channels Trump with 'Make Baseball Fun Again' hat]

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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