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Where does Escobar fit into Nats' infield in 2016?


Where does Escobar fit into Nats' infield in 2016?

ATLANTA — Yunel Escobar was out of the Nationals’ lineup Thursday night, the fourth straight game he has missed with back spasms, but the veteran infielder appears likely to return for this weekend’s final series in New York.

“He’s going to need one more [day off],” manager Matt Williams said prior to Thursday’s game. “He’s going to go through a full round today — batting practice, groundballs — but he feels a little better today, so we’ll evaluate after. I think he’ll be available to pinch-hit tonight, go tomorrow.”

Williams has wanted to give Escobar an opportunity to play as much as possible this final week and finish a strong offensive year on a high note. The 32-year-old entered Thursday fourth in the NL with a .318 batting average, trailing only teammate Bryce Harper, Miami’s Dee Gordon and San Francisco’s Buster Posey.

It has been a career year at the plate for Escobar, owner of a .276 batting average in eight previous big-league seasons with the Braves, Blue Jays and Rays. But it also has been an odd year in the field for him.

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A shortstop for the vast majority of his career, Escobar was acquired for reliever Tyler Clippard last winter for the expressed purpose of filling Washington’s vacant spot at second base. But after missing several weeks in spring training with an oblique strain, and then after Anthony Rendon went down with what proved to be a serious knee injury, Escobar wound up at third base on Opening Day and remaining there all season.

Which leads to uncertainty heading into this offseason. Williams and other club officials have said it’s best for Rendon to return to his natural third base position in 2016, but where does Escobar wind up?

With Ian Desmond all but assured of departing as a free agent, Escobar could return to his natural shortstop position. The Nationals, though, also have a potentially elite defensive shortstop in Danny Espinosa and a top prospect in Trea Turner knocking on the door. Escobar could finally make the originally planned move to second base, but he still has spent precious little time working there.

No matter the case, Escobar would greatly benefit from a full spring spent at one position.

“Yes, it’s important,” Williams said. “His natural position is shortstop. But if it has to be a different one, he would benefit from having the whole spring to play those 20-ish games he can play over there and do all the work he needs to do.”

There’s also a scenario in which the Nationals could trade Escobar, selling high on him before he hits his free agent year and opening the door for both Espinosa and Turner (or potentially another prospect, Wilmer Difo) to play every day.

At this point, the Nationals have made no decisions.

“It depends,” Williams said. “You have years like this one, and you just don’t know. The intent was not to have him play third base this year. You never know what’s presented. I know he’s had a great year offensively. He’s been a good teammate. He’s played just about every day. A few nicks and bumps along the way. But he’s been reliable and in the lineup a lot. And there’s something to be said for that. So regardless of where he plays, that consistency has been there.”

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The sound of Bryce Harper's first spring training HR is beautiful


The sound of Bryce Harper's first spring training HR is beautiful

It's that wonderful time of year again — when baseball teams flock to warmer climates for spring training and the regular season is practically around the corner — and Bryce Harper is already killing it.

It took the Washington Nationals a few games to brush away their offseason cobwebs and get back into gear, but since the beginning of March, they're riding a five-game win streak as of Sunday the 4th.

They are 6-4-1 in spring training going into Monday's matchup against the St. Louis Cardinals.

Since Thursday, the Nats have taken down — in order — the Atlanta Braves, New York Mets, defending World Series champion Houston Astros, the Detroit Tigers and the Mets again. Sunday's 6-2 win against the Tigers was in large part thanks to Harper's bat, as the star of the team drilled his first home run of spring training. 


Turn up the volume for this one because the sound of Harper's contact with the ball is just beautiful — and perhaps enough to get you pumped for the March 29 opener.

Harper blew this ball away in the bottom of the third for a two-run homer with Howie Kendrick on base. He also had a single in the fourth and finished the game with three RBI.

Gio Gonzalez was the winning pitcher for the Nats. 


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Per usual, Max Scherzer strikes out Tim Tebow on three pitches


Per usual, Max Scherzer strikes out Tim Tebow on three pitches

We are fortunate enough to live in a world where we can watch a former Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback (attempt to) hit against a three-time Cy Young pitcher in a Major League Baseball preseason game.

Max Scherzer took less than a minute to strike out Tim Tebow, who was batting cleanup for the Mets in a spring training game Friday. You can watch the whole at-bat here:

It looks like Tebow and Scherzer are starting to develop a pattern - last year’s matchup between the two went down the exact same way.

Tebow was able to redeem himself later in the game with his first hit of the year against Nats prospect Erick Fedde. He will likely begin the season with the Double-A Binghamton Rumble Ponies, but Mets GM Sandy Alderson said he believes Tebow will eventually see some at-bats in the Majors.