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Gio on Papelbon as a teammate: 'I love that he's in our locker room'


Gio on Papelbon as a teammate: 'I love that he's in our locker room'

VIERA, FL. — The Nationals bringing back Jonathan Papelbon for the 2016 season may have surprised some, but that does not appear the case for the players on the team. Everyone who has spoken about the fight between Papelbon and Bryce Harper, and the fallout that ensued, has categorized it as no big deal. Papelbon is back and they seem just fine with that.

It is evident in their comments and in observing their interactions with him in the clubhouse. It's only February, but Papelbon appears to be relatively popular. He has made a habit of posting Photoshop pictures around the locker room and joking with his teammates.

His locker is right next to Gio Gonzalez, who showed up to spring training with hair down to his shoulders. Papelbon posted a picture of Aladdin with the caption 'you know you need to cut your hair when you start looking like a Disney character.'

Gio and Papelbon, in particular, seem to have become very good friends. They are lockermates, throwing partners and Papelbon has been seen on the field giving Gio tips during fielding practice drills.

Gonzalez likes Papelbon and believes he is not alone in the clubhouse in appreciating his personality.

"I love Pap. I think what I love about him is that he's just not afraid to speak his mind and those are the people that you cherish the most because you appreciate what he's saying. He's not going to lie to you, he's not going to tell you something that you want to hear. He's going to tell you the truth and that's what you love about the guy. Where I grew up, telling somebody straight up what it is is something you appreciate. It's someone that actually cares for you. It's the people that say it behind your back that are the ones you gotta worry about," he said.

"That's what I love about him. He'll tell you how he feels and without any intentions of hurting you. He wants to help you and I think that's what he's been doing with me as my throwing partner, as my lockermate. He's been showing me that you can have fun in this game without taking it seriously or taking it personal. I think that's his presence. I love that he's in our locker room. He's going to be our closer and definitely save our butts a lot this year."

Again, it's early, but clearly Gonzalez believes Papelbon will not be a problem for the Nats this year.

[RELATED: Nats' Shawn Kelley wants you to know that relievers are people, too]

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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.