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Nats' Taylor presents intriguing potential as 4th outfielder

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Nats' Taylor presents intriguing potential as 4th outfielder

Projected to be the Nationals' fourth outfielder this season, Michael Taylor brings several attributes that make him ideal for an MLB bench.

If you're looking for speed, he's got it. He stole 16 bases in 19 tries in 2015 and once had 51 steals in 58 attempts as a Single-A player in 2013. The athletic tools are there, he's a smart player and having baserunning expert Davey Lopes on staff will only help.

If the Nats need a defensive replacement late in a game - for, say, Jayson Werth - Taylor also brings value there. He showed tremendous range and athleticism in 2015, and good instincts overall. Taylor can play plus-defense particularly in center field, which gives the Nats a luxury for their bench that many teams don't have.

Taylor also has pretty good power. He clubbed 14 homers in 138 games last season and had 23 in 110 minor league games in 2014. If Dusty Baker needs some pop off his bench, Taylor may be the guy depending on the situation.

Where Taylor will need to improve to earn Baker's trust is in cutting down strikeouts and it won't be easy to do that with infrequent at-bats. Taylor needs to get more consistent at the plate and his new role could make that difficult.

Taylor is doing his best to prepare for the unpredictability of his expected role on the bench.

"I think the biggest difference that I've noticed the last few years is just that coming off the bench is a little different not having the timing or the flow of the game. You're kind of thrown into an at-bat. That being said, it's not something that is impossible. Guys are able to do it," he said.

Taylor put in more time this offseason watching film and hopes an extra effort in studying pitchers will help him as a bench player.

"I have learned a few things I can do to help myself personally. Whether that's track pitches in the dugout or just tracking in between games in live BPs or bullpens," he said.

Taylor's career so far off the bench is a small sample size, but there are some numbers that suggest he has already been successful as a reserve.

Check out his splits as a starter and a sub:

Starter: 129 G, 485 AB, 111 H, 48 R, 12 HR, 57 RBI, 36 BB, 168 SO, .229 BA, .284 OBP, .346 SLG, .630 OPS, .322 BABIP, 97 OPS+

Sub: 26 G, 26 AB, 5 H, 6 R, 3 HR, 11 RBI, 2 BB, 7 SO, .192 BA, .250 OBP, .577 SLG, .827 OPS, .125 BABIP, 150 OPS+

The first thing that may jump out is Taylor's low batting average (.192) off the bench, but some of his other numbers as a substitute are impressive. For one, his .827 OPS is quite a bit higher than his .640 career OPS overall. He also has a .125 batting average on balls in play (BABIP), which could mean he's had some tough-luck outs.

Another number that could help his cause is one that was cited many times by those who cover the Nationals in 2015. That is his .304/.379/.478 slash-line in 115 at-bats with runners in scoring position. 

Matt Williams raved about Taylor's approach with RISP last season, saying his ability to shorten his swing and patiently wait for pitches was the key to his success. His .379 OBP with RISP - compared to his .282 career mark - speaks to that.

Taylor has been a standout for the Nats so far this spring, hitting .364 with seven total bases in 11 at-bats. It may be tough for him to win him a starting job on Opening Day with the depth on the Nats' roster, but Taylor he can be a very valuable player on their bench.

[RELATED: Nats' Scherzer struggles through 37-pitch inning vs Astros]

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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.