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Nats spring training question No. 2: What impact will Dusty have?

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Nats spring training question No. 2: What impact will Dusty have?

This week we are counting down the biggest questions for the Nationals as they begin their 2016 spring training in Viera, Florida with their first official workout on Saturday. The fourth installment looks at Dusty Baker's first spring training as Nats manager...

The Nationals' downfall in 2015 was due to a lot of reasons and Matt Williams lost his job as manager because of it. Was it all Williams' fault that the Nats' missed the playoffs? Of course not. But there were several factors that contributed to his firing.

For one, William's inexperience showed at times throughout the year, especially with his use of the Nationals' bullpen and during key moments of adversity late in the year. He also saw his clubhouse dismantle with anonymous media reports that made matters go from bad to worse.

In comes Dusty Baker, who brings to Washington exactly what Williams appeared to lack. As far as experience goes, few have more. He's been an MLB manager for 20 seasons and has a great reputation for his handling of players, particularly when it comes to stars and their egos.

Time will tell if Baker was the right hire, but there are some clear objectives for him in his first spring training with the Nationals. The most important one may be bringing back together a clubhouse that had both private and public disputes last season.

The obvious one was between Bryce Harper and Jonathan Papelbon. Will the Nationals truly accept Papelbon back as their teammate after all that happened last season? More on that in our final spring training question tomorrow.

Baker will have to lead the way in turning the page for the Nationals not only as a team but as a franchise. Last year's issues went well beyond their losing on the field. 

Looking at their roster, there are few tough decisions for Baker to make ahead of Opening Day. He needs to figure out who starts at shortstop and he needs to sort out his bullpen. But the rotation and the lineup outside of shortstop appear set.

Will Baker lean more on veterans, or will Trea Turner and Lucas Giolito get a fair shot at winning jobs? The same could go for Felipe Rivero and Trevor Gott, two promising young relievers with no clear roles yet assigned to them.

One of Baker's most important responsibilities goes back to yesterday's installment of this series regarding expectations. He can set the tone for this season with the way he shapes the spring training message. The Nationals have seen overconfident comments in spring training backfire in recent years. We know Baker likes to share his opinion, will he say something that becomes bulletin board material for their division rivals?

When Baker was introduced as the Nats' manager last fall, he said he wouldn't make many changes until he was around the team and the coaching staff in spring training. This spring will be an evaluation period for Baker. Though his true impact will not be felt until the regular season, it will be interesting to hear what he thinks of his team by the time they break camp for D.C.

Nats spring training question No. 5: Who plays shortstop?

Nats spring training question No. 4: Enough starting pitching?

Nats spring training question No. 3: Can they catch the Mets?

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Former Nats manager Jim Riggleman named interim manager of Reds

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Former Nats manager Jim Riggleman named interim manager of Reds

Remember Jim Riggleman, the infamous Nats manager that resigned from the position back in 2011 after a win against the Seattle Mariners? Well he's back in a managerial position.

Bryan Price was fired as manager of the Cinncinati Reds Thursday, after the team started the 2018 season 3-15. Riggleman, who spent four seasons as their bench coach, was named the interim manager to replace Price.

Riggleman was promoted to interim manager of the Nats in July of 2009, after Manny Acta was let go midseason. He stayed on as manager for 2010 and 2011, and he then resigned from the team on June 23, 2011 after a win agaisnt the Seattle Mariners. He had lead the team to a win in 11 of their last 12 games prior to stepping away.

The reason behind the dramatic exit was due to the organization not yet picking up his 2012 contract option. He had reportedly requested a conversation with the front office about his future with the organization, and was upset after they declined. At 58 years-old, he felt he deserved more respect.

He's been with the Reds organization since 2012, and has spent time managing the Padres, Cubs and Mariners, in addition to the Nationals. His career winning pct. with each team has been below-.500.

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Nationals fall after Mets score 9 runs in 8th inning

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Nationals fall after Mets score 9 runs in 8th inning

NEW YORK -- Yoenis Cespedes launched a grand slam during a nine-run outburst in the eighth inning that rallied the New York Mets past the Washington Nationals 11-5 on Wednesday night, preventing a three-game sweep.

Todd Frazier tied it at 4 with a two-run single and pinch-hitter Juan Lagares put New York ahead for the first time with a two-run double off ineffective setup man Ryan Madson (0-2).

Shut down by Tanner Roark for seven innings, the first-place Mets broke loose in the eighth and improved to 13-4 with a stirring victory against their NL East rivals.

Ryan Zimmerman homered twice, tripled and drove in four runs for the Nationals, who pulled off their own big comeback in the eighth inning of the series opener.

Two nights later, New York returned the favor.

Roark limited the Mets to two hits and left leading 4-2. Michael Conforto, Cespedes and Asdrubal Cabrera singled off Madson to load the bases with nobody out in the eighth. Jay Bruce fouled out before Frazier smacked a two-run single up the middle and advanced to second on the throw home.

After an intentional walk to Adrian Gonzalez loaded the bases again, pinch-hitter Wilmer Flores struck out. Lagares then lined a two-run double the other way, just inside the right-field line at the outer edge of the infield grass, to put the Mets up 6-4.

Sammy Solis walked Amed Rosario and Conforto to force in a run. Cespedes connected for his sixth career slam -- the third by the Mets already this season -- off A.J. Cole, sending fans into a frenzy.

Both of Cespedes' hits in the inning came on 0-2 pitches.

AJ Ramos (1-1) worked a perfect inning for his first win with the Mets since being acquired from Miami last July.

Howie Kendrick reached on an infield single for Washington in the first and Bryce Harper drew his 24th walk, most in the majors. Zimmerman, batting .121 at that point and struggling to make opponents pay for bypassing Harper, came through with a drive to left-center off Steven Matz for his second home run of the season.

Matz steadied himself after a 33-pitch first inning and retired his final 10 batters. He was pulled for a pinch hitter in the fourth after throwing 74 pitches.

Cabrera doubled to open the fourth and scored on Gonzalez's single. Zimmerman had a chance to start an inning-ending double play, but his throwing error from first base allowed another run to score on Jose Lobaton's RBI grounder as the Mets cut it to 3-2.

After Mets pitchers retired 16 in a row, Zimmerman's leadoff triple in the seventh got past a diving Bruce in right field, and Moises Sierra followed with a sacrifice fly to make it 4-2.

Zimmerman also hit a solo homer in the ninth.