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Nats' Joe Ross throws simulated game, inches closer to return

Nats' Joe Ross throws simulated game, inches closer to return

With each of the Nats' minor league affiliates eliminated from playoff contention, Joe Ross threw a simulated game at Nationals Park on Saturday in lieu of a rehab assignment game. He threw around 60 pitches while Brian Goodwin, Michael Taylor and Wilmer Difo stood in the box and took swings.

Though Taylor took him deep to left field, Ross was pleased with how it went.

“It felt good. Fastball, slider, changeup. It was nice to get back out there and face some of our guys. It was hot out there, easy to stay loose for a couple of up-and-downs. I'm feeling pretty good,” he said.

Ross is working his way back after his previous rehab attempt was shut down due to a setback. He hasn't pitched in the majors since July 2, when the Nats noticed his velocity was down and realized something was wrong. Ross was then placed on the disabled list with right shoulder inflammation.

Ross made two minor league starts in late July before his rehab assignment was ended. He then recovered to make three more rehab outings with Triple-A Syracuse before throwing the sim game. This time, he's looking and feeling much more like himself.

"He had good velocity. Had good break on his breaking ball. Changeup looked like he'd never been out," manager Dusty Baker said. "The thing that I was most impressed with was his location on a couple of pitches. Location is usually the last thing to come. He's looking good."

Goodwin agreed after facing Ross. He said Ross' sinking fastball "had a lot of run on it." 

Ross is closer to 100 percent than he was before his first rehab was shut down, but he's still not quite there in terms of his pitch count. Ideally, the Nats would get Ross to 80 or 90 pitches before bringing him back to start.

They have floated the idea of having him begin as a reliever to continue to build his arm, then return to their rotation. But with the recent loss of Stephen Strasburg due to a right flexor mass strain, there may be more urgency to get Ross ready to start.

Though that dynamic exists, the Nats aren't ready to commit to Ross' next step.

"We haven't made up our minds yet," Baker said. "It depends on what we may need and how much depth we need at the position. Right now it looks like he's ready to start. The workload is the issue right now."

Ross, 23, is 7-4 with a 3.49 ERA in 16 starts this season.

[RELATED: Nats' Strasburg had PRP injection, may get second opinion on elbow]

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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