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Espinosa, Turner feel good about their chances in Nats SS battle

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Espinosa, Turner feel good about their chances in Nats SS battle

The Nationals have one major position battle to watch this spring training and they are in pretty good shape with the candidates to choose from.

In Danny Espinosa they have a 28-year-old defensive specialist who last year proved he could also provide value with his bat. In Trea Turner they have a recent first round pick who could someday turn into one of MLB's more well-rounded players at the position. 

Espinosa has been with the Nationals for six seasons, but will admit this year feels a little bit different given his offensive resurgence in 2015.

"It's a lot different now. I've talked to the staff and the front office. They have a lot of confidence behind me. They believe in me. For me to come in this spring and compete for that starting job, that means a lot. It's a lot different this year," he said.

Turner knows he has a shot at the starting job, but is also learning the ropes as a major leaguer. His most worried about what he can control and that is becoming a more reliable commodity in the big leagues.

"I need to let my teammates and coaches know what to expect from me; hustle, or whatever it may be, good attitude. I think that's the biggest thing, just being consistent," Turner said.

"I don't want to make errors for my pitchers. I want to have good at-bats. You're not going to get a hit every time, but the more times you can repeat your swing and the more you can field groundballs and complete the play, I think that's good for anybody. That's what I try to do."

Defense may be Turner's biggest area of concern at this point. He committed 11 errors in 44 games for the Triple-A Syracuse last season. In 99 total minor league games in 2015, he had 20 errors. Those numbers should improve as he gains experience, but he will need to cut down on those quickly to catch up to Espinosa, who is a very strong defensive player.

Daniel Murphy has a good vantage point of the battle between Espinosa and Turner. He is the starting second baseman and has been working with both players in defensive drills this spring.

"Danny and Trea have been crisp at short. I've grown accustomed to expecting Danny catch everything from playing against him. I know Trea has performed at every level he's been at. I think the nicest thing to look at is that this is a deep group of position players. It's always nice to have options no matter what," Murphy said.

Turner said he hopes to speak with Murphy - who was signed by the Nats this offseason - about hitting. Turner knows Murphy is one of the best in the business at hitting for contact and Turner wants to someday be known for the same. He also plans to work closely with assistant coach Davey Lopes, who is known for his baserunning expertise.

"Reaction is the biggest thing," Turner said of what he needs to improve on. "Reading pitchers and studying. The more you study, the more you know about a pitcher and the more relaxed you can be on the basepaths. When you're more relaxed you can have better reaction times because you can read stuff better. You can slow the game down." 

Competing with a teammate is a dynamic the players say is not awkward. Espinosa said it does not feel unusual at all to be pitted against someone he is also expected to get along with.

"It's competing. It's just like when you're a kid and you compete with your best friends in the backyard. Whatever it was, whether it was baseball or if it was swimming, whatever it was. They can be your best friends and you're still going to compete. There's nothing wrong with that," he explained.

One part of the competition that will be interesting to watch is how long it takes the Nats to decide who wins. Will that be settled before, say, the setup role position? With Espinosa as the frontrunner at this point, the longer it takes, the better it is for Turner's chances.

[RELATED: Vegas gives Nats second-highest projected win total in opening odds]

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Former Nats manager Jim Riggleman named interim manager of Reds

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Former Nats manager Jim Riggleman named interim manager of Reds

Remember Jim Riggleman, the infamous Nats manager that resigned from the position back in 2011 after a win against the Seattle Mariners? Well he's back in a managerial position.

Bryan Price was fired as manager of the Cinncinati Reds Thursday, after the team started the 2018 season 3-15. Riggleman, who spent four seasons as their bench coach, was named the interim manager to replace Price.

Riggleman was promoted to interim manager of the Nats in July of 2009, after Manny Acta was let go midseason. He stayed on as manager for 2010 and 2011, and he then resigned from the team on June 23, 2011 after a win agaisnt the Seattle Mariners. He had lead the team to a win in 11 of their last 12 games prior to stepping away.

The reason behind the dramatic exit was due to the organization not yet picking up his 2012 contract option. He had reportedly requested a conversation with the front office about his future with the organization, and was upset after they declined. At 58 years-old, he felt he deserved more respect.

He's been with the Reds organization since 2012, and has spent time managing the Padres, Cubs and Mariners, in addition to the Nationals. His career winning pct. with each team has been below-.500.

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Nationals fall after Mets score 9 runs in 8th inning

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Nationals fall after Mets score 9 runs in 8th inning

NEW YORK -- Yoenis Cespedes launched a grand slam during a nine-run outburst in the eighth inning that rallied the New York Mets past the Washington Nationals 11-5 on Wednesday night, preventing a three-game sweep.

Todd Frazier tied it at 4 with a two-run single and pinch-hitter Juan Lagares put New York ahead for the first time with a two-run double off ineffective setup man Ryan Madson (0-2).

Shut down by Tanner Roark for seven innings, the first-place Mets broke loose in the eighth and improved to 13-4 with a stirring victory against their NL East rivals.

Ryan Zimmerman homered twice, tripled and drove in four runs for the Nationals, who pulled off their own big comeback in the eighth inning of the series opener.

Two nights later, New York returned the favor.

Roark limited the Mets to two hits and left leading 4-2. Michael Conforto, Cespedes and Asdrubal Cabrera singled off Madson to load the bases with nobody out in the eighth. Jay Bruce fouled out before Frazier smacked a two-run single up the middle and advanced to second on the throw home.

After an intentional walk to Adrian Gonzalez loaded the bases again, pinch-hitter Wilmer Flores struck out. Lagares then lined a two-run double the other way, just inside the right-field line at the outer edge of the infield grass, to put the Mets up 6-4.

Sammy Solis walked Amed Rosario and Conforto to force in a run. Cespedes connected for his sixth career slam -- the third by the Mets already this season -- off A.J. Cole, sending fans into a frenzy.

Both of Cespedes' hits in the inning came on 0-2 pitches.

AJ Ramos (1-1) worked a perfect inning for his first win with the Mets since being acquired from Miami last July.

Howie Kendrick reached on an infield single for Washington in the first and Bryce Harper drew his 24th walk, most in the majors. Zimmerman, batting .121 at that point and struggling to make opponents pay for bypassing Harper, came through with a drive to left-center off Steven Matz for his second home run of the season.

Matz steadied himself after a 33-pitch first inning and retired his final 10 batters. He was pulled for a pinch hitter in the fourth after throwing 74 pitches.

Cabrera doubled to open the fourth and scored on Gonzalez's single. Zimmerman had a chance to start an inning-ending double play, but his throwing error from first base allowed another run to score on Jose Lobaton's RBI grounder as the Mets cut it to 3-2.

After Mets pitchers retired 16 in a row, Zimmerman's leadoff triple in the seventh got past a diving Bruce in right field, and Moises Sierra followed with a sacrifice fly to make it 4-2.

Zimmerman also hit a solo homer in the ninth.