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It may not last, but Phillies proving unexpectedly tough for Nats

It may not last, but Phillies proving unexpectedly tough for Nats

As teams go through rebuilds and overhaul their roster with young prospects, they can be hard to evaluate at certain stops along the way. If a young and unproven team gets off to a decent start in the first month of a season, when and how do you know they are for real?

The Phillies are kind of there right now. They blew up their formerly great roster by trading Chase Utley, Cole Hamels and Jimmy Rollins. Now they are led by youngsters like Odubel Herrera, Maikel Franco, Aaron Nola and Vincent Velasquez.

And, though they may not be built for sustained success quite yet, they are 11-10 after 21 games. With their 3-0 win on Wednesday, they are 3-2 in five matchups with the Nationals, a 14-6 team many picked to win the NL East. On Thursday, the Phillies will aim for a series sweep.

The odds of the Phillies keeping pace with the Nats for all of this season seem slim, but there's no question they have proven to be worthy competitors in the season's first month. The Nationals have taken notice.

"These guys are starting to think that they are pretty good, and they should because they've got good talent," manager Dusty Baker said.

"I talked to my former general manager Andy McPhail, who I liked quite a bit when I was with the Cubs, and he told me they have some talent down there in the minor leagues. When you lose some free agents, through the draft and through trades, when you dismantle a great team like they had, and when your scouting system is doing pretty good at their jobs, then you're going to come out with everybody's best talent that they drafted ahead of you."

Second baseman Daniel Murphy has seen the Phillies up close over the last few years in the NL East having played for the Mets and now the Nationals. He sees a team on the rise.

"It's a pretty good ballclub over there," he said. "They've come in here and beat us twice. They've got really good veteran leadership with [Carlos Ruiz] behind the plate and Ryan Howard at first base. The guys at the top of the lineup, they grind out at bats, they put the ball in play, they keep pressure on the defense. They've played well here the first two games and kind of put us in a tough spot."

The Phillies have been a nice surprise so far at one game above .500. They sit third in the NL East. The stats, though, tell another story. They have the MLB's lowest scoring offense and a -22 run differential. Things will even out sooner than later, but the Phillies don't appear to be the doormat they used to be.

"They're pretty tough right now, but we've got a long way to go," Baker said.

[RELATED: Nats' first shutout loss highlights collective lineup struggles]

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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