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Nats leaning toward manager with experience

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Nats leaning toward manager with experience

In searching for Matt Williams’ replacement, Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo intends to place a significant emphasis on candidates with prior experience, particularly in the big leagues.

“Experience is always helpful,” Rizzo said during a conference call Monday afternoon to announce Williams’ firing. “It always adds a layer of expertise to anybody’s resume. We feel that where we’re at in our timetable of winning a championship, we certainly would lean toward someone that has some type of managerial experience, especially at the major-league level. But … we’re going to be open-minded and look for the best candidate that we can that allows us to win a championship here in the very near future.”

This plan comes in stark contrast to the Nationals’ last managerial search, two years ago. Seeking a replacement for the 70-year-old Davey Johnson, Rizzo interviewed at least six candidates, none with prior major-league managerial experience: Randy Knorr, Trent Jewett, Brad Ausmus, DeMarlo Hale, Dave Martinez and Williams.

RELATED: Rizzo on firing Williams as manager: 'A tough day'

That won’t be the case this time around, with Rizzo conceding that Williams’ inexperience — he had only managed brief stints in the Arizona Fall League and at Class AA — proved detrimental this season.

There are only a handful of available former big-league managers right now, headlined by Bud Black, Ron Gardenhire and Dusty Baker. All three are likely to be considered by the Nationals; Baker expressed interest in the job two years ago but never formally interviewed. Former Astros manager Bo Porter, a popular member of the Nationals’ staff from 2011-12, is also available, as are former Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu and former Brewers manager Ron Roenicke.

Prior major-league managing experience, though, is not a prerequisite for the job, Rizzo insisted, with time spent managing in the minor leagues a valuable trait as well. And significant experience on a major-league coaching staff, particularly as bench coach, also would be seen as a plus for a potential candidate.

That would open the door for the likes of Ron Wotus (longtime Giants bench coach), Martinez (Joe Maddon’s second-hand man with both the Rays and Cubs), Hale (who has managed at Class AAA and been on three big-league coaching staffs) and Wally Backman (long-time minor-league manager, currently with the Mets’ Class AAA affiliate).

“We’re going to bring in a group of people with diverse backgrounds, diverse experiences and diverse skill sets,” Rizzo said. “I think that’s something we did not do last time. Last time we brought in managing candidates with little or no managerial experience. I think that we’ll have a greater pool of manager candidates this year, stemming from very experienced to limited experience, and really go through a process that gets to know the manager personally at first and then professionally and what he does on the field.”

The biggest-name potential candidate is one of the biggest names in baseball history: Cal Ripken Jr. The Hall of Famer spoke to Rizzo about the job two years ago, though he has always loomed as a fringe contender for positions like this, never shooting down the possibility but never diving headfirst into the mix. And given Ripken’s lack of any prior coaching experience at the professional level, he wouldn’t appear to fit Rizzo’s preferred criteria at the moment.

There does remain one in-house candidate in Knorr. Though the Nationals’ bench coach of the last four seasons and a member of the organization since the franchise called Montreal home was told Monday he was not having his contract renewed, Rizzo left open the door for a reunion. Knorr will be considered for the managerial position, and if he doesn’t get it could still remain on either the new manager’s big-league staff or in another position within the organization.

“Randy has been a source for this organization for many, many years,” Rizzo said. “He’s managed in the minor leagues. He’s got a great rapport, not only with the front office but with the players in the clubhouse. He would be a great candidate for anybody’s managerial job. … We have not ruled out Randy Knorr as a guy that we would talk about for the job this year.”

RELATED: Report: Nats will look at Cal Ripken for managerial job

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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

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Nationals Spring Training Schedule 2018

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Nationals Spring Training Schedule 2018

Now that pitchers and catchers have reported, the next step in our long journey to Opening Day is the spring training games themselves. Not every game is televised, so get ready to follow along with your favorite beat writer's Twitter account for all your updates.

Even without getting to watch the games, it'll still be exciting to once again check box scores in the morning to see if Bryce Harper homered again, or if Max Scherzer is perfect through 4 innings (spoiler: both of these will happen).

This year's spring training will be especially interesting, considering how many big-name players will be signing contracts in the next few weeks. The Nats are always willing to make a big splash, and even beyond the available free agents, have been linked to impact players like J.T. Realmuto in trade rumors.

Typically, the excitement of adding a new piece to the roster has to be reignited after a long winter off, but this season, those additions will be happening while camp is already underway.

It's going to be a hectic few weeks as teams prepare for their seasons, so bookmark this page to check on the Nationals spring training schedule over the next few weeks as the team finally takes the field in 2018.

Nationals 2018 Spring Training Schedule

Friday, Feb. 23 - Nationals at Astros, 1:05 pm (MLBN)
Saturday, Feb. 24 - Nationals at Marlins, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Feb. 25 - Braves at Nationals, 1:05 pm (MASN)
Monday, Feb. 26 - Nationals at Braves, 1:05 pm
Tuesday, Feb. 27 - Marlins at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Wednesday, Feb. 28 - Nationals at Marlins, 1:05 pm
Thursday, Mar. 1 (SS) - Nationals at Braves, 1:05 pm
Friday, Mar. 2 (SS) - Nationals at Mets, 1:10 pm
Saturday, Mar. 3 - Nationals at Astros, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 4 (SS) - Tigers at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 4 (SS) - Nationals at Mets, 1:10 pm
Monday, Mar. 5 - Nationals at Cardinals, 1:05 pm
Tuesday, Mar. 6 (SS) - Astros at Nationals, 1:05 pm (MASN)
Wednesday, Mar. 7 - Nationals at Cardinals, 1:05 pm
Thursday, Mar. 8 - Mets at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Saturday, Mar. 10 - Nationals at Astros, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 11 - Cardinals at Nationals, 1:05 pm (MASN)
Monday, Mar. 12 - Nationals at Tigers, 1:05 pm (MLBN)
Tuesday, Mar. 13 (SS) - Mets at Nationals, 7:05 pm (MLBN) (MASN)
Thursday, Mar. 15 - Astros at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Friday, Mar. 16 (SS) - Cardinals at Nationals, 1:05 pm (MASN)
Saturday, Mar. 17 - Mets at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 18 - Nationals at Cardinals, 1:05 pm
Monday, Mar. 19 - Nationals at Marlins, 1:05 pm
Tuesday, Mar. 20 - Marlins at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Wednesday, Mar. 21 - Astros at Nationals, 1:05 pm (ESPN2) (MASN)
Thursday, Mar. 22 - Nationals at Mets, 6:10 pm
Friday, Mar. 23 (SS) - Astros at Nationals, 6:05 pm (MASN)
Friday, Mar. 23 - Nationals at Marlins, 7:05 pm
Saturday, Mar. 24 - Marlins at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 25 - Cardinals at Nationals, 1:05 pm (MLBN)
Tuesday, Mar. 27 (at Nationals Park) - Twins at Nationals, 4:05 pm