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How Dusty Baker's pep talk with Joe Ross helped the Nats top the Mets

How Dusty Baker's pep talk with Joe Ross helped the Nats top the Mets

Already down 4-0 in the third inning to the New York Mets, it would have been hard to blame Joe Ross if he thought his outing on Monday night might end a little earlier than he would have hoped.

At that point, Ross had allowed a career-high nine hits in two-plus innings, and was en route to perhaps his worst start of the season. So with two men on and none out in the third, Dusty Baker took a stroll from the dugout to the mound — usually the surest sign of a pitching change. 

"I was kind of like 'Well, I don't think anyone's in the bullpen, hopefully I'm not done yet.'" Ross said. 

He wasn't. It turned out that Baker wasn't out to yank his 23-year-old starter from the game. Instead, for the first time this season, the Nats' manager played the role of pitching coach Mike Maddox, opting to give Ross a rare pep talk to help him stop the bleeding and keep the Nats in it. 

"I just felt it. It was time for me to go [to the mound]," Baker said."I'll go out from time to time. I haven't gone out at all this year.....but it was something I felt I had to say and it couldn't wait any longer." 

And what, exactly, did Baker say to Ross? 

"I just told him, 'Hold the game where it is right there and give us a chance to come back.'"

The motivational words worked. Ross retired 11 of the next 12 hitters he faced, including nine straight immediately following the mound visit. He kept New York's offense at bay while the Nats scored 11 unanswered runs to turn what looked like a potential blowout loss into a laugher of a win.

So after rebounding, Ross' stat line looked far more respectable by game's end: Six innings, four earned runs on 10 hits, earning his seventh win of the season. For sure, it was far from his most dominant outing, but the ability to rebound after a rough beginning is another feather in his cap as he continues his maturation as a big-league starter. 

"I think I just found a rhythm," Ross said. "The first three innings, fastball command wasn't there, slider wasn't good...and then I kind of picked it up the last three. Just overall felt my better command came back." 

Baker has spoken highly of Ross ever since he's become the Nats' skipper, even saying a few weeks ago that the young right-hander was one of the most pleasant surprises of the season thus far. And after Monday night, despite the first three innings, Ross may have earned himself even more trust. 

"[Baker] came out there, had the confidence in me, let me keep going, work my way through it and it worked pretty well," Ross said. 

MORE: REVERE SETS TONE FOR NATS 

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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