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Scherzer hopes for less homers, more jokes in 2nd year with Nats

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Scherzer hopes for less homers, more jokes in 2nd year with Nats

Take a quick glance at his numbers and it's obvious Max Scherzer had a very good year in his first season in Washington. He set a record at the time with his $210 million free agent contract and lived up to the billing through Year 1 with a 2.79 ERA and 276 strikeouts in 228 2/3 innings.

But those numbers, and the fact he finished fifth in NL Cy Young voting, do not do justice for exactly how good he was for most of 2015. Through his first 16 starts - or the halfway point of his season - he held a 1.82 ERA. That was where he stood on July 2 after his fourth consecutive outing of at least eight innings.

After that, however, there was a difference. It began before the All-Star break and continued until the final week of the season. Scherzer started giving up more home runs and had trouble adjusting to solve the problem. His arm angle was throwing off his release point and all of a sudden hitters were sitting on his fastball.

From July 7 through Sept. 23 - a string of 15 starts - Scherzer gave up 20 homers and posted a 4.45 ERA in 93 innings. His strikeouts stayed up and his walks down, but he just couldn't keep the ball inside the park.

Scherzer highlighted the homer issue late in the 2015 season as an area of concern, as he ended up with 27 on the season, the second-most he's surrendered in his career. And, with the offseason halfway over, Scherzer is still trying to correct the problem.

"I’ve really thought long and hard - really in that second half – about why I was able to give up so many home runs," he said. "I don’t want to sit here and tell you those answers because it’s all in theory. I gotta actually go out and do it to see if I’m right or wrong. It’s something I took seriously and really thought about different things I can do differently and how I can pitch differently against the same hitters. Even in October I was thinking about those things."

Scherzer will now have a new pitching coach in Mike Maddux to help with those adjustments. Maddux comes to Washington from Texas where he oversaw the development of guys like Yu Darvish and C.J. Wilson. Scherzer is excited to start working with him.

"I’ve had some teammates who have been with him before in Texas and they’ve come back and said great things about him and how he prepares and the information that he gives to you," Scherzer said. "I’m excited to pick his mind as well. It’s always good to have new faces and new ideas because that’s how you get better."

Maddux is thrilled to work with Scherzer himself. He has admired him from afar throughout his career and loves the way he approaches the game.

"Love [his emotion]. I'd rather see a guy with snot coming out of his nose than I would a guy out there being a tinkerbell," Maddux said. "Sure, stomp your feet, make yourself known, if you hold yourself to a high standard. You can pitch with emotion, but you can't pitch emotionally, so you get mad, yeah you stomp it and it's done versus the guy that holds it in, holds it in, holds it in, and then freaking snaps. It's ok to let it out and I like that because all you're doing is holding yourself to a higher standard. I'm all for it."

Scherzer will have to develop a relationship with Maddux, but he is now entering his second year in the Nationals clubhouse. That could have its benefits, Scherzer says.

"The comfort level changes and that’s about it. I just have now more of a rapport with everybody. I feel more comfortable with everybody. I’m able to joke with everybody a little bit harsher now."

[RELATED: Appreciating Jordan Zimmermann’s Nationals career]

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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