Nationals

Matt Harrison, Rangers finalize $55M, 5-year deal

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Matt Harrison, Rangers finalize $55M, 5-year deal

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) Matt Harrison has gone from a pitcher the Texas Rangers left off their postseason roster to one they believe can become one of the league's best left-handers.

The Rangers finalized a $55 million, five-year contract with the All-Star lefty Thursday. The deal includes a 2018 club option that could become guaranteed depending on the number of innings Harrison pitches.

``This is a testament to all the hard work he puts in,'' said Thad Levine, the team's assistant general manager. ``The talent shows up every time he pitches. ... The more we've gotten to know Matt Harrison, the more we believe in Matt Harrison. And we believe the best is yet to come.''

Hours later, the Rangers agreed with right-hander Neftali Feliz on a $2.9 million, one-year contract to avoid salary arbitration.

Harrison was 18-11 with a 3.29 ERA and four complete games in 32 starts last year, and his 3.10 ERA in 18 road starts was the lowest in the American League. Over the past two seasons, since being left off the Rangers' postseason roster in 2010, he is 32-20 while throwing 399 innings.

Texas acquired Harrison, Feliz and shortstop Elvis Andrus from Atlanta in July 2007 in a seven-player deal that sent Mark Teixeira to the Braves.

The 27-year-old Harrison made his major league debut in July 2008, going 9-3 in 15 starts after being called up. After starting the 2009 season in the rotation, he started having issues with his left shoulder that eventually required season-ending surgery for Thoracic Outlet Syndrome to remove a rib to alleviate the situation.

``I was definitely on the other end of the spectrum than I am now. Things weren't really going my way and I had a lot of hit-and-miss starts,'' Harrison said. ``The biggest thing that led up to where I am today is just figuring out that mental toughness and the mental part of the game. The talent was there, it was just figuring out how to use it and use it the right way.''

The real turning point for Harrison was the 2010 postseason. After being used primarily as a reliever throughout the regular season while coming back from surgery, he was left off the roster in the playoffs. He traveled with the team throughout the postseason, but was never active while the Rangers went to their first World Series.

``That moment of being left off the roster was a tough, tough month for me, a tough offseason,'' he said. ``I finally grew up as a person and a man. Mentally things started turning around for me, I started having more confidence in myself, success coming around. I started seeing another level come out of me. Hopefully, I can continue to go from that and get better.''

Harrison has a career record of 48-30 with a 4.08 ERA in 126 games over the past five years, all with Texas.

His deal calls for a $1 million signing bonus and salaries of $5 million this year, $8 million in 2014 and $13 million in each of the following three seasons. The agreement includes a $13.25 million team option for 2018 with a $2 million buyout, and the option would become guaranteed if Harrison has 600 innings pitched or more from 2015-17, including at least 200 in 2017. The option price would increase by $250,000 each time he reaches 200 innings in the first five years, up to $15.75 million. That would increase the value of the deal to $68.75 million over six seasons.

Harrison's agreement, negotiated by agents Sam and Seth Levinson, got finalized two days after he had filed for salary arbitration, and also after he turned down an opportunity to pitch for the United States in the World Baseball Classic.

Feliz, the 24-year-old former closer who was moved to the rotation last spring, is recovering from Tommy John surgery to repair a tear in his right elbow and likely will be sidelined until at least this summer. He was 3-1 with a 3.16 ERA in eight games last season, including seven starts, before going on the disabled list in May.

David Murphy, expected to be the everyday left fielder, also filed for salary arbitration this week. General manager Jon Daniels said the Rangers felt they were close enough to think a deal would be reached, even if not completed, before they are required to exchange proposed salaries Friday.

With Harrison under contract, the Rangers have three of their starting pitchers signed for at least four more seasons with another under control for at least that long.

Japanese ace Yu Darvish last year signed a $56 million, six-year deal with the Rangers and then won 16 games as a major league rookie. There are provisions in his contract that could allow the 26-year-old righty to become a free agent after the 2016 season.

Texas has 26-year-old left-hander Derek Holland under contract through at least 2016, with club options for two more years after that. Holland is planning to pitch in the WBC this spring.

Alexi Ogando, who won 13 games as a starter and was an All-Star in 2011, is returning to the rotation this spring. The 29-year-old is under Rangers control for at least four more seasons, including his arbitration-eligible years.

``Those are four solid pitchers who are in their prime who will be part of the Texas Rangers family for the foreseeable future,'' Levine said. ``We'll take our chances if we're going to build around that core of men that we'll be able to compete for championships in the American League for this time and in the future.''

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Sean Doolittle on recent pitching woes: 'It was kind of of a helpless feeling'

Sean Doolittle on recent pitching woes: 'It was kind of of a helpless feeling'

When Sean Doolittle pitched Friday evening against the Milwaukee Brewers, he thought he'd made huge progress on his mechanics and felt good heading into Saturday's game.

But when things fell apart after Christian Yelich helped the Brewers rally to a 15-14 win in extra innings, Doolittle knew something was wrong.

"I thought I was every bit good enough to grind this out," Doolittle explained on Grant & Danny on 106.7 The Fan Tuesday morning.  "It was kind of a helpless feeling coming off the mound."

That helplessness led to him being placed on the injured list with a knee injury.

"I kinda battle a little bit of knee tendonitis regularly. It's something I've managed throughout my career," Doolittle said.

He thinks he tweaked it playing in San Diego early June. Since then, he believes his mechanics have suffered trying to alleviate the pain.

"Trying to compensate for it maybe favoring it a little bit subconsciously, my mechanics eroded," Doolittle noted. "It's just this beautiful chaotic circle we have to just pause, get the knee right."

Doolittle says he's going to take the time off to re-work his mechanics. Specifically, he wants to work on a toe-tap and slight hitch he has in his throwing motion, which he described as a subtler version of Clayton Kershaw's famous leg kick.

"I think there's some things I can do mechanically to get my body in a better position," Doolittle said. "This is an opportunity to get it right."

His big goal is to get his body in "better position over the rubber before the kick."

That way, he can have more momentum over the baseball, especially with a powerful four-seam fastball. "You're basically falling down the mound rather than driving and getting behind the ball." 

Throughout the season, he noted he's had good communication with manager Davey Martinez, and that blaming anybody would be a waste of time.

Since being placed on the IL, he's had a few days to rest before he started some light pitching activities Tuesday.

"It'll be a good break to get my body ready for September and October," he noted. "I'm throwing myself into this process and I'm not hanging my head."

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Former Penn State stars Trace McSorley and Miles Sanders catch up after joint practice

Former Penn State stars Trace McSorley and Miles Sanders catch up after joint practice

Things this time last year were a lot different for Ravens quarterback Trace McSorley and Eagles running back Miles Sanders.

McSorley was entering his final year at Penn State, and not highly sought after as an NFL QB prospect. Many draft 'experts' predicted McSorley would have to change positions in order to play at the highest level of the game.

But McSorley, was profiled in NBC Sports Washingtons' I Am The Prospect' series, stuck with quarterback, and early on, it's paid off. The Ravens selected Penn State's all-time passing yards and touchdown passes leader in the sixth-round, and thus far, McSorley has shown promise. 

Sanders, a rising junior at the time, had just 56 career carries and less than 400 rushing yards in his first two seasons with Penn State. While that was not a reflection on Sanders (after all, he was the backup to some guy named Saquon Barkley), the junior had little film to indicate to pro scouts that he would be ready for the jump just a year later.

But after being the Nittany Lions workhorse in 2018, where he rushed for just under 1,300 yards and nine touchdowns, Sanders immediately became on the league's radar. The 22-year-old earned his way to All-Big 10 second-team honors and showed enough at the combine for the Eagles to invest their second-round pick in him.

The Ravens are set to face the Eagles in their third preseason game on Thursday, but Baltimore has been in the City of Brotherly Love for the past two days, competing in joint practices with the Eagles. These practices have given the former Penn State teammates time to catch up before they play each other in a couple of days.

"I think it's cool, just thinking that we were at Penn State a year ago," Sanders said. "Now we're all living our dream, just on different teams. When we get together for times like this, it's pretty cool."

"It's really cool. Spending years together in college, now we're all on separate teams now, but it's cool," McSorley said, echoing his former running back. "We're rooting for these guys. Turning on one of [Miles] games and watch him run, rooting him on. it's cool to come out and be on the practice field with him again. Haven't seen him in a while, being able to say 'what's up,' it's pretty cool."

Very few people know each other's skillsets the way McSorley and Sanders do of one another. So who better to ask than each of them as to what their respective team can expect out of each?

"They're getting a dawg, man, " McSorley said on his former teammate. "They're starting to figure that out now. He's a special player and Philly is going to love him."

"Same with Baltimore. They got a dawg," Sanders said on McSorley. "He's been showing it in the preseason games. They said he's not a quarterback, but he's proving everybody wrong. That's just how Trace is."

Besides checking in regularly to see how Sanders is doing, McSorley has found another way to follow his former running back's rookie season.

"[I'm going to] try and get him on my fantasy team," McSorley said, getting quite the chuckle out of Sanders.

Besides the loyalty aspect, McSorley could end up getting significant production from Sanders on his fantasy squad. After an impressive performance in the Eagles second preseason game, NJ.com reported that "it is increasingly hard to project him as anything less than this team’s No. 1 running back." 

Sanders may be a more than viable fantasy option as a rookie, but he doesn't play the popular game himself. But if he did, he knows one player he would snag.

"I don't do the fantasy stuff, but if I did, I would definitely put my boy on there," Sanders said on McSorley. "Watching everyone I played with in college, looking at their stats each week and seeing them. Just grow and be better players each week. The way we do it here, it's the same mentality because we all went to the same school."

The two will get to see each other in person for the first time at the NFL level on Thursday. 

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