The Nationals announced finalized free agent contracts with both Shawn Kelley and Oliver Perez on Friday, two veterans who should provide depth to their transforming bullpen. Kelley has signed on with a three-year deal, while Perez has a two-year contract.
Kelley, 31, comes to Washington after pitching for the San Diego Padres last season. It was his only season with the Padres and he had a career-year with a 2.45 ERA through 53 appearances. He struck out 63 batters in 51 1/3 innings and boasted a 4.2 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Kelley throws a fastball in the low 90s and relies heavily on his slider, which he throws 55 percent of the time. Kelley pitched mostly in the seventh and eighth innings for the Padres and will likely fill a similar role in D.C., possibly as the team's setup man, if they end up trading Jonathan Papelbon and/or Drew Storen.
Perez, 34, returns to the organization after a one-year stint in their minor league system back in 2011. A lefty, Perez split his time in 2014 between the Arizona Diamondbacks and Houston Astros, compiling a 4.17 ERA across 70 total appearances.
Perez was very good the year before with a 2.91 ERA in 68 games with Arizona. Since the beginning of the 2012 season, Perez has a 3.31 ERA, 116 ERA+ and 11.1 SO/9 rate. Kelley is also strong in that category with 11.6 SO/9.
Perez should come in handy especially against left-handed batters. Lefties hit just .185/.235/.283 against him in 2015, compared to right-handers who batted .310/.417/.465.
The Nationals have also added veteran Yusmeiro Petit and young right-hander Trevor Gott in recent days to their bullpen. They still have big decisions to make regarding Papelbon and Storen, but so far they have made several smart and practical moves to add depth and experience to their relief staff, which was a major weakness in 2014.
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.
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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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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.