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Nats about to face bullpen decisions


Nats about to face bullpen decisions

A string of injuries has forced the Nationals to reshuffle their bullpen several times over the last month, but the day is coming when those injured relievers all make their return, leaving the organization facing more reshuffling dilemmas.

Closer Drew Storen was back at Nationals Park today to be checked on by team doctors and trainers and said his rehab from elbow surgery continues to progress well.

"Everything feels great," Storen said. "Every day I've taken a step forward."

Storen worked out at the Nationals' spring training complex in Viera, Fla., last week and continued his throwing program today at Nationals Park, throwing off flat ground for the second straight day for the first time since he had surgery to remove a bone spur in his elbow in April.

The right-hander expects to start throwing off a mound in the "next couple weeks" and then should be able to begin a rehab assignment shortly after that. He continues to target the All-Star break for his return from the disabled list.

Brad Lidge, meanwhile, was back in Washington today after making his first rehab appearance last night for Class A Potomac. The outing didn't go all that well -- Lidge retired only one of four batters faced and threw only 10 of 22 pitches for strike -- but the veteran said his arm felt strong and he believes his command will continue to improve as he makes more appearances.

Lidge is scheduled to pitch for Potomac again Wednesday and Friday, at which point the Nationals will decide whether he's ready to come off the DL.

Ryan Mattheus also is moving closer to a return from the DL after missing the last two weeks with plantar fasciitis in his left foot. The right-hander initially hoped he would miss only the minimum 15 days required for a DL stint, but the club would like him to take things slower. He was scheduled to throw his first bullpen session today.

Who loses their spot in the bullpen when those three pitchers are ready to come back? The Nationals could face some difficult decisions.

Their current relief corps is a bit out of whack, with four left-handers (Sean Burnett, Tom Gorzelanny, Ross Detwiler and Michael Gonzalez) and only three right-handers (Tyler Clippard, Craig Stammen and Henry Rodriguez).

Gonzalez was promoted Sunday after making only one appearance at Class AAA Syracuse -- he had an "out" clause in his contract that would have allowed him to become a free agent if the Nationals didn't call him up by mid-June -- and has faith he'll perform well enough to merit a long-term stay.

"If I'm pitching well, I don't have to worry about anything else," the veteran lefty said. "I'm pretty sure that's how every one of these guys is taking it as well. That's the front office's headache to worry about, not really ours as ballplayers. I know if I'm out there and throwing the way I want to throw, I don't need to worry about it."

Rodriguez has struggled mightily -- his ERA over his last 14 games is 8.49, and he's put 19 men on base over his last 11 23 innings -- and is now only being used in low-pressure situations. He would seem a logical candidate for demotion, but he's out of options and would have to clear waivers before being sent to the minors.

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The sound of Bryce Harper's first spring training HR is beautiful


The sound of Bryce Harper's first spring training HR is beautiful

It's that wonderful time of year again — when baseball teams flock to warmer climates for spring training and the regular season is practically around the corner — and Bryce Harper is already killing it.

It took the Washington Nationals a few games to brush away their offseason cobwebs and get back into gear, but since the beginning of March, they're riding a five-game win streak as of Sunday the 4th.

They are 6-4-1 in spring training going into Monday's matchup against the St. Louis Cardinals.

Since Thursday, the Nats have taken down — in order — the Atlanta Braves, New York Mets, defending World Series champion Houston Astros, the Detroit Tigers and the Mets again. Sunday's 6-2 win against the Tigers was in large part thanks to Harper's bat, as the star of the team drilled his first home run of spring training. 


Turn up the volume for this one because the sound of Harper's contact with the ball is just beautiful — and perhaps enough to get you pumped for the March 29 opener.

Harper blew this ball away in the bottom of the third for a two-run homer with Howie Kendrick on base. He also had a single in the fourth and finished the game with three RBI.

Gio Gonzalez was the winning pitcher for the Nats. 


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Per usual, Max Scherzer strikes out Tim Tebow on three pitches


Per usual, Max Scherzer strikes out Tim Tebow on three pitches

We are fortunate enough to live in a world where we can watch a former Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback (attempt to) hit against a three-time Cy Young pitcher in a Major League Baseball preseason game.

Max Scherzer took less than a minute to strike out Tim Tebow, who was batting cleanup for the Mets in a spring training game Friday. You can watch the whole at-bat here:

It looks like Tebow and Scherzer are starting to develop a pattern - last year’s matchup between the two went down the exact same way.

Tebow was able to redeem himself later in the game with his first hit of the year against Nats prospect Erick Fedde. He will likely begin the season with the Double-A Binghamton Rumble Ponies, but Mets GM Sandy Alderson said he believes Tebow will eventually see some at-bats in the Majors.