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Now healthy, Strasburg preparing for contract year with Nats

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Now healthy, Strasburg preparing for contract year with Nats

Though a month had passed since Jordan Zimmermann signed away with the Detroit Tigers, the former Nationals pitcher's name came up many times over the course of this past weekend's Nats WinterFest. His now-former teammates had long prepared for his departure, but that didn't make it any easier seeing one of the best players in team history move on.

That exact scenario could play out very similarly one year from now with one of the team's other stars, Stephen Strasburg. This winter it is Strasburg whose future with the organization is up in the air. Now it is him who is one year away from possibly leaving the Nats for a contract worth over $100 million.

Playing through a contract year is not easy. And if Strasburg and the Nats cannot reach agreement on a contract extension, that will be his reality very soon. For now, Strasburg thinks he is prepared well for that dynamic, as long as he remains focused on the present.

"I found with pitching that I pitch better, I don't stress out as much, if I just focus on the now," he said. "Especially in spring training, getting ready for the season, taking it one start at a time, one pitch at a time, really just give it everything I can this next season and see what happens. Not going to look too far ahead and too far in the past either."

Money is important to every player to varying degrees, but Strasburg wants to appreciate his 2016 season with the Nationals, no matter what the future holds beyond it.

"I play this game because I love [it], because I'm competitive, because I want to win. This team has the potential to win and do a lot of good things. I'm just gonna focus on that. You know, winning cures a lot of things. I'm just gonna do everything in power to get better and help this team win games. When the time comes to make decisions, it will happen," he said.

Max Scherzer knows all about pitching in a contract year. Before signing with the Nationals, he turned down a contract with the Tigers worth six years and $144 million before the 2014 season. Then he pitched well enough to earn himself a seven-year, $210 million deal with the Nats last winter.

Focusing on the task at hand is the advice he would give Strasburg.

"It’s all about winning. When you come to the park and you walk those doors and you come into the clubhouse, your only thought at that point in time has to be about winning and what it takes to do that. Because there’s times off the field where there’s decisions you’re making that you have to understand that you’re living with. That can be some pressure but that all has to completely subside when you walk into clubhouse. When you walk into that clubhouse, it’s about winning. And if it’s not then you need to go."

Strasburg says he is now 100 percent after battling through numerous injuries in 2015, and after having surgery in November to remove a non-cancerous growth in his upper back. He struggled for much of 2015 before closing strong to post a 3.46 ERA, which was still the worst of his career.

"I'm not going to say it was the reason for pitching poorly, but it was a fibrolipoma in my back and it was benign. It was above the muscle so they didn't cut into muscle or anything. It was a procedure all in itself took about 15 minutes and said it was almost a zero percent chance of coming back," Strasburg explained.

That tied a knot on a trying year in terms of Strasburg's health. It all began with an ankle sprain in spring training that threw off his mechanics and ended up affecting his back and neck with various ailments.

Strasburg feels confident in his abilities given the way he finished last season with a 1.76 ERA over his final 13 starts, and believes he will produce better results in 2016 as long as he stays healthy.

"I'm really not going to change anything besides just maybe not doing some exercises in the gym that might cause a severe ankle sprain," he said.

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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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USA Today Sports Images

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