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Strasburg rocked as Nats fall 14-6 to Diamondbacks

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Strasburg rocked as Nats fall 14-6 to Diamondbacks

GAME IN A NUTSHELL: Stephen Strasburg took the mound Tuesday night at Chase Field with even more eyes focused on him than usual, everyone wondering if he would bounce back from last week's abbreviated start that saw the right-hander wincing after several pitches, or whether there was any cause for lingering concern. Very quickly, it became clear Strasburg wasn't going to put questions about him to rest.

The right-hander was roughed up by the Diamondbacks, allowing eight runs (seven earned) in only 3 1/3 innings. He served up homers to Ender Inciarte and Mark Trumbo, couldn't field a routine bunt and couldn't command any of his pitches. There was no wincing apparent this time, but Strasburg's second straight abbreviated outing did little to quash any concerns about him.

This one didn't prove to be much of a game, because the Nationals' lineup did little against Arizona right-hander Rubby De La Rosa, aside from Bryce Harper (who went 2-for-3 with another home run). The Nats' bullpen didn't help matters, either, with Sammy Solis and Matt Grace combining to give up six more runs. The real pitching star, as it turned out, was Clint Robinson, who became the first position player in Nats history (2005-present) to pitch and recorded a scoreless eighth featuring an 81-mph fastball. That at least brought some levity to an otherwise disconsolate Nationals dugout.

HITTING HIGHLIGHT: It meant very little in this game, and possibly even in the bigger picture, but Harper's sixth-inning homer was a sight to see nonetheless. De La Rosa threw him a changeup down and away, and Harper sort of waved his bat at it, not even following through all the way. Yet somehow he pulled it roughly 380 feet to right-center field for his 12th homer of the season, his seventh in six games. It was a stunning display of the kid's raw power, and further evidence that what he's doing right now is only the beginning of what is still to come.

PITCHING LOWLIGHT: There's plenty of debate right now from those trying to figure out what's wrong with Strasburg, whether he's hurt or whether he doesn't have the mental makeup to pitch through adversity. Truthfully, his struggles probably boil down to this: Poor mechanics and poor command. Strasburg has admitted he's having trouble with his alignment as he releases the ball, his plant foot veering too far to the right. That leads to command issues, especially with his fastball. And that fastball (which doesn't move very much) is eminently hittable right now. The end result isn't pretty: Strasburg now owns a 6.00 ERA, 1.69 WHIP and 50 hits allowed in 36 innings this season. He also has reached the seventh inning only once in seven starts so far. All of that is a real concern.

KEY STAT: The Nationals' regular 5-man rotation now sports a 3.62 ERA. Remove Strasburg and that number drops to 3.10.

UP NEXT: The series wraps up with a Wednesday matinee at Chase Field. Gio Gonzalez (3-2, 3.62) faces Jeremy Hellickson (1-3, 5.85) at 3:40 p.m. EDT.

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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