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Harper, Escobar, Span all out of Nats lineup again

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Harper, Escobar, Span all out of Nats lineup again

PHILADELPHIA — The Nationals submitted a lineup for Saturday’s game against the Phillies that featured only one player projected to start on Opening Day (Ian Desmond) hitting in a spot he rarely has held in his career (third).

Such is life for Matt Williams right now, with six of his regular position players currently out due to injury, plus catcher Wilson Ramos needing a day off after starting four consecutive nights.

“It’s opportunity,” the second-year manager said. “That’s the way I look at it. It’s an opportunity for Clint [Robinson] to play, and for [Tyler Moore] to play and for Matt den Dekker to get in there and hit a 2-run homer to seal it for us. … You gotta do what you gotta do, right? That’s how we play it.”

The Nationals have managed to win seven consecutive games despite the injuries, thanks to some dominant pitching and contributions from bench players, but they do recognize they can’t go on forever with a lineup as depleted as this.

In that regard, Williams is hopeful none of Saturday’s scratches will miss significant time. Bryce Harper (strained right hamstring) might have played if not for the rainy conditions at Citizens Bank Park that left the outfield grass slick. Denard Span (back spasms) was moving around much better after having to miss Friday’s game with the recurring condition. And X-rays taken of Yunel Escobar’s left hand were negative, though it remained swollen Saturday after he was hit by a pitch in the first inning the previous night.

So the Nationals didn’t feel the need to make a roster move Saturday, bringing up another position player for their game against the Phillies.

“As of today, no,” Williams said. “I think we’re OK. Both Harp and Spanny are day-to-day. So it’s not like there’s a long-term issue with either of them.”

As for Escobar, there are no immediate plans to have him get an MRI on his hand.

“Not unless it continues to be sore,” Williams said. “Right now, standard process is to get an X-ray, see how he is the next day, treat it, give him a day off. And then if the swelling goes down and he’s got some function and feels better, then we don’t necessarily go there unless he doesn’t feel well.”

MORE NATIONALS: ANOTHER NATS INJURY CONCERN

Thus, the Nationals’ lineup Saturday featured one regular, Desmond, batting third despite his current .226 batting average, .268 on-base percentage and .616 OPS. He did bat third 11 times previously in his career, though his numbers in that position (.116/.208/.116) are even worse.

Through it all, though, the Nationals continue to win games. They entered Saturday on a 7-game winning streak, having opened up a 3 1/2-game lead in the NL East. That provides some comfort to the otherwise nervous Williams.

“With the current state of our club, I don’t get a whole lot of enjoyment out of most things right now,” he said with a laugh. “I enjoy winning. And the fact that our guys that are not the regular guys but are in the lineup and are doing well and we’ve been able to win some games, that’s enjoyable. But it’s stressful when you have to try to see if we can get guys going for the game. Guys getting hit in the hand and having to come out. And having a pitcher going up to pinch-hit when you have four other guys on the bench who are position players but you don’t want to use them. That’s not fun. That’s not the fun part of it. It’s the challenging part of it.”

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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