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Murphy makes progress in pre-NLDS workout, Nats still expect him to start Game 1

Murphy makes progress in pre-NLDS workout, Nats still expect him to start Game 1

With two days left until their playoff opener against the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Nationals still expect second baseman Daniel Murphy to be in the starting lineup for Game 1.

The 31-year-old, hampered by a left glute strain, spent Wednesday’s pre-NLDS workout making progress toward his first start since Sept. 17. Like Tuesday, he was seen taking batting practice and fielding ground balls at second base. The big step he took Wednesday was that he was able to run the bases successfully for the first time in a few weeks.

“I felt really good today,” a sweaty Murphy said at his locker shortly after the workout. “I think today was a step in the right direction. See how we respond tomorrow. Get some work in tomorrow. See Friday.”

“He's looking better every day,” added manager Dusty Baker. “He's moving around with more confidence.”

Murphy highlighted the importance of getting reps on the base paths, perhaps the area he’s been limited the most since the injury.  

“I think that’s the toughest part when you take some time off, replicating the turns,” he said. “The real answer to that is there’s things I’m not going to be able to replicate until the bell rings. Some of this stuff I won’t find out until I’m in game action.”

If all goes as expected and Murphy plays, he’ll return to the stage that made him a household name in 2015. While guiding the New York Mets to a World Series appearance, he slashed .328/.391/.724 with seven home runs and 11 RBI. And as fate would have it, the man who would be Murphy’s future manager had a front row seat to that torrid stretch as a broadcaster.

“I was at TBS for a couple of those games,” Baker said.  “I just thought 'nah, he can't do it again.' And the next thing you know, he does it again. Then it's like 'nah, he can't do it this time again.' And then he does it again. [The Mets] wouldn't have gotten there if it weren't for Daniel Murphy. It would have made it tough on us to get where we wanted to go without Daniel Murphy. Not only at the plate, but also his leadership on the field.”

Murphy, of course, parlayed his impressive postseason run by signing a three-year, $37.5 million contract with the Nats the following winter. Nearly a year later, he’s already outperformed that deal. He became Washington’s best hitter this season, putting himself into the NL MVP discussion by proving that his final act with the Mets was no fluke. 

And assuming Murphy's health allows him to embark on his second straight playoff appearance, the Nats will hope he'll be able to rekindle some of that 2015 magic. 

“I think the biggest thing is to enjoy the moment,” Murphy said. “…that's what I’ve learned from the postseason: enjoy the times, enjoy the goals you’ve accomplished because it allows you to stay in the moment a little more.”

[MORE: NATIONALS NOT OVERLY CONCERNED INJURIES WILL AFFECT DEFENSE IN PLAYOFFS]

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Whoa. Dusty Baker not returning as Nationals' manager. What comes next?

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Whoa. Dusty Baker not returning as Nationals' manager. What comes next?

The Washington Nationals announced Friday Dusty Baker will not return as manager of the club in 2018. 

Baker led the team to the first back-to-back division titles in franchise history, and the Nationals were 192-132 under Baker, but they failed to make it to an NLCS.

Baker is 14th in MLB history with 1,863 career wins.

The next Nationals' manager will be their seventh since they arrived in DC.

Only the Marlins have had as many.

"I'm surprised and disappointed," Baker told USA TODAY Sports. "They told me they would get back to me and I told them I was leaving town yesterday and they waited 10 days to tell me."

"I really thought this was my best year. We won at least 95 games each year and won the division back to back years but they said they wanted to go a different direction. It's hard to understand." 

The team also announced the contracts for the Major League coaching staff have also expired, and the search for a new manager will begin immediately.

RELATED: BRYCE HARPER THANKS NATIONALS' FANS FOR SUPPORT

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Nationals second baseman Daniel Murphy undergoes successful knee surgery

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Nationals second baseman Daniel Murphy undergoes successful knee surgery

While Nats fans were still digesting the news that Dusty Baker will not return as manager next year, the team released some more surprising news. 

Second baseman Daniel Murphy underwent knee surgery today, per an official team report. 

Washington Post reporter Chelsea Janes reported that the surgery is considered significant and the team won't put a timeline on the recovery process:

"The procedure, according to the statement released by the team, repaired articular cartilage in Murphy’s right knee. For those interested in the details, it was a debridement and microfracture surgery, and orthopedic surgeon Timothy Kremchek performed it."

"For those concerned with the implications of the procedure, those are still unclear. The statement clarified that Murphy’s rehab “will progress throughout the offseason,” as one would hope, and did not include a timetable.

RELATED: HARPER THANKS FANS FOR SUPPORT