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Howie Kendrick? He wants everyone to know he is fully healed

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Howie Kendrick? He wants everyone to know he is fully healed

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Howie Kendrick stated this months ago: He’ll be ready for spring training.

He said it toward the end of last season. Kendrick was walking gently at that point, just a few months out from a surgery to repair his torn Achilles tendon. May 19. Kendrick was on the seat of his white pants on the warning track. He no longer had control of his foot. Kendrick knew the year was over.

Various members of the Nationals would mention him the rest of the season. Davey Martinez always added Kendrick if someone rattled off the list of injured and forgot to include the 35-year-old. Mike Rizzo brought it up in public and private. Gone was a veteran who could play two infield positions and left field, as well as handle any situational hitting in his 13th season. Gone was a veteran who would use directness in the clubhouse when necessary. Both became factors in a middling season.

“When Howie was available and playing every day, he was doing really well,” Martinez said. “I could hit him anywhere in the lineup -- at second, at first, at outfield. He was doing really well. But, what people don’t realize, is Howie in that clubhouse is the constant. He’s the guy where if he thinks something is not right, or you didn’t do this, you didn’t do that, he’d be the guy to say, ‘Hey, you’ve got to be the guy to run the balls out. Let’s go.’ Or if he’d somebody down, he pats them on the back.’ C’mon, man. Let’s go. We’ll get this done.’ But he was that constant guy.”

He’s back now, like he said he would be, taking ground balls at second base along with newly signed Brian Dozier during the Nationals’ first full squad workout of spring training Tuesday. Kendrick worked in Arizona last season and in the offseason to get to this point. He followed protocols from the Nationals’ medical staff and his personal trainer, helping Kendrick evolve from scooter-dependent to walking slowly to running to sprinting. Once in West Palm Beach, he was unrestricted, as promised.

“Everything has been good,” Kendrick said. “I told them last year when I left, I told them my goal is to be ready for day one of spring training, and I've been running for about three weeks now, sprinting and stuff, simulating running the bases and things like that.”

Rizzo entered the offseason by saying the team was comfortable with a platoon of Wilmer Difo and Kendrick at second base. He later signed Dozier to a one-year deal, chasing the pop of his bat and expecting a bounce-back season. Dozier is right next to Kendrick in the clubhouse. The move pleased Kendrick. It could have irritated him because of its clear influence on his playing time.

“We're trying to win ball games, I don't really think about it,” Kendrick said. “I know Brian, I played against him over in the AL. He's a great player, great defender, a lot of power, you know I'm excited to have him here. My role on this team hasn't changed, I'm going to play everywhere like I did in previous couple years, and you know I look at it like that. The at-bats I get are the at-bats I get, I'm not here to complain about anything, I'm here to play baseball, try to help guys get better and try to win ball games. 

“At the end of the day I think that's really important. As far as Dozier, he's the second baseman, guy can play.”

Kendrick’s time in the game is dwindling. He’s coming off major surgery. The market for 36-year-old second baseman/outfielders is extremely limited. If other value what Martinez and Rizzo do, maybe Kendrick finds another contract, which prevents him from graduating to full-time coach status for his kids. In the interim, he’s healthy in West Palm Beach.

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Nationals' pitching staff rocked in Colorado as Nats close out ugly road trip

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Nationals' pitching staff rocked in Colorado as Nats close out ugly road trip

The Washington Nationals lost to the Colorado Rockies, 9-5, Wednesday afternoon and fell to 11-12 on the season. Here are five observations from the game...

1. The Anibal Sanchez experiment is not going well so far.

The veteran right-hander came to Washington over the winter fresh off a fantastic season in Atlanta, one that was an aberration from previous years and may have extended his career. The Nationals hoped he would be much more like his 2018 version and not the guy he was from 2015 through 2017. 

But through five starts, the results have not been pretty, and Wednesday was his worst game yet. Sanchez got rocked for six earned runs on nine hits and five walks in five innings of work. His season ERA sits at 6.00 and he has 16 walks in 27 total innings.

The early returns on the Nats rotation have not been great. Patrick Corbin is their only starter with an ERA below 4.00. But Sanchez has been far and away the weakest link.

The Nats closed out their road trip with a 2-4 mark. Both series were against teams with losing records. They have lost three of their past four series overall.

2. Adam Eaton also had a rough day. His worst moment was in the bottom of the third, when Raimel Tapia knocked a bases-clearing double over his head in right field. 

Eaton appeared to misjudge the ball by stepping in too far. He jumped in an attempt to make up for it with a leaping grab, only to have the ball sail past him and to the wall. Though Victor Robles sprinted over to back him up, Eaton made the play look even worse by giving up on it and doubling over with his hands on his knees in frustration.

Just one frame later, Eaton struck out with the bases loaded to end the top of the fourth. He went 1-for-5 on the day with his lone hit a single in the top of the ninth.

Eaton also had a minor injury scare. While running out a grounder in the first, he slowed down and appeared to be limping. He was then shown on TV chatting with trainer Paul Lessard in the dugout. 

3. Because this is the 2019 Nationals, the bullpen of course played a factor and once again it was an adventure for Trevor Rosenthal.

Per usual, he was pumping heat but with zero control. He began the eighth inning by hitting Charlie Blackmon and finished the frame with three runs allowed on two hits and a walk. Of his 31 pitches, only 16 were strikes and three were wild. 

Those three runs were costly because the Nats scored two in the ninth and left runners on the corners. If Rosenthal had pitched a clean eighth, it would have been a one-run game.

Rosenthal has allowed runs in six of his seven appearances this season. He now leads the majors with five wild pitches.  

Rosenthal remains one of the Nats' highest upside relief options, so it may pay off down the road if they show patience in him. But it continues to be a disaster just about every time he takes the mound.

4. It wasn't all bad for the Nats. Juan Soto, who fouled a pitch off his right ankle in Tuesday's game, played in this one and launched his fourth homer of the season over the right field fence. He also drew a walk.

Jake Noll made the first start of his MLB career and landed his first hit. He rifled a double down the left field line in the second inning to score Matt Adams. 

Noll started at third base, which was a bit of a strange sight. By now everyone knows of him as the guy who looks like Ryan Zimmerman; now he's playing his old position?

5. The Rockies got a key piece back in their lineup, a guy who is a familiar face to Nats fans. Wednesday was Daniel Murphy's return from a fractured left finger. 

The injury gave him a four-to-six week recovery timeline, but he came back a few days early. Perhaps that can be taken as a sign of hope for Trea Turner, who remains out with a broken finger himself.

Murphy did some damage against his former team. He singled in his first at-bat off Sanchez, then walked and scored in the third inning. He also moved a runner over on a lineout in the fourth that contributed to a run.

Murphy's best highlight, though, came in between innings when he barely avoided disaster while running onto the field during the Rockies' equivalent of the Presidents Race.

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By the skin of his teeth, former Nat Daniel Murphy avoids getting run over by Rockies' giant tooth

By the skin of his teeth, former Nat Daniel Murphy avoids getting run over by Rockies' giant tooth

You thought your Racing Presidents days were over, Daniel Murphy? Think again. 

Murphy, the second baseman for the Colorado Rockies and former first baseman for the Washington Nationals, was almost knocked over by a racing… tooth? The Comfort Dental Tooth Trot is a stadium staple at Coors Field, and Murphy got stuck in the action. 

Distracted, Murphy walked out of the dugout and right in front of the racers. He jumped out of the way as fast as he could, but couldn’t avoid getting shaken up by, you know, the giant tooth running toward him

Murphy was reinstated from the 10-day injured list Wednesday after fracturing his left index finger during the second game of the season. He was planed on the list on April 1 and missed 20 games. He was reinstated for Wednesday’s game against the Nationals to play first base and bat third, according to the Associated Press.

In 2016, Murphy was traded to the Nationals from the New York Mets, where he played for seven seasons. He signed a three-year, $3.75 million contract with Washington. He was traded to the Cubs in 2018, two and a half years into his time with the Nats. 

In December, he was traded to the Rockies to earn $19 million in 2019, according to Ken Rosenthal.

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