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Nationals sign reliever Kyle Finnegan to major-league deal

Nationals sign reliever Kyle Finnegan to major-league deal

The Nationals announced their first move toward rebuilding their bullpen for the 2020 season Sunday, signing right-hander Kyle Finnegan to a major-league deal.

Finnegan, 28, became a free agent for the first time this winter after seven seasons in the Oakland Athletics’ minor-league system. The A’s drafted him in the sixth round of the 2013 Draft out of Texas State, originally developing him as a starter until converting him into a reliever in 2016.

Oakland granted Finnegan an invite to Spring Training ahead of last season, but he never made his way onto the team’s 40-man roster. His breakout season was in 2019, when the organization asked him to lower his arm slot to generate more movement on his pitches.

Finnegan posted a 2.66 ERA with 14 saves over 42 appearances for AA-Midland and AAA-Las Vegas last year. His fastball has touched triple digits in the past but sits in the mid-to-upper 90s. His newfound success has also seen him rack up more strikeouts, as evidenced by his K/9 that jumped from 9.7 in 2018 to 12.8 in 2019.

Prior to signing with Washington, Finnegan joined the Aguilas Cibaenas of the Dominican Winter League. He has a 2.31 ERA in 14 appearances so far this winter.

The Nationals’ 40-man roster now sits at 30 with the addition of Finnegan following non-tenders of Javy Guerra and Koda Glover. It will move up to 32 once the signings of Yan Gomes and Howie Kendrick are made official. The move comes less than 12 hours before the MLB Winter Meetings are scheduled to begin in San Diego.

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ESPN MLB analyst Tim Kurkjian says the Astros' scandal has 'gotten bigger' than he thought it ever would

ESPN MLB analyst Tim Kurkjian says the Astros' scandal has 'gotten bigger' than he thought it ever would

Major League Baseball analyst Tim Kurkjian has covered the sport for over 40 years. The ongoing aftermath of the Houston Astros' sign-stealing scandal is unlike any story he has ever covered.

Kurkjian joined the Nationals Talk podcast to discuss the scandal and admitted he still has yet to fully wrap his head around the entire situation.

"It has gotten bigger than I thought it was going to be," Kurkjian said. "I knew it was going to be the major story of spring training and I knew everybody was going to flock to the Astros instead of the World Champions. But the way so many players have now come out and spoke about this, I'm really surprised that many players are this angry about this."

Several members of the Nationals organization have given their thoughts on the situation. General manager Mike Rizzo wants someone in the Astros organization to say the word "cheaters." Closer Sean Doolittle thinks about the pitchers that lost their jobs because of poor outings against the Astros. Howie Kendrick said he has no sympathy for them. Max Scherzer, Ryan Zimmerman and Kurt Suzuki all shared their thoughts on it, too. The list goes on and on.

Across the sport, several star players have come out and spoken against the Astros, too. We saw the Dodgers' Cody Bellinger and Yankees' Gary Sanchez hold nothing back when they addressed the scandal during the first week of spring training.  Kurkjian says he's never seen anything like it before.

LISTEN TO THE FULL INTERVIEW ON THE NATIONALS TALK PODCAST

"I've been covering baseball for 40 years. I've never seen player go against player quite like this situation," Kurkjian said. "Maybe this is the social media age, maybe this is the Twitter age, and people have the ability to do that easily today, but I've never seen anything quite like this. Sadly, I don't think this is going to end any time soon."

The Astros haven't been the only ones facing a lot of heat. MLB commissioner Rob Manfred has been scrutinized heavily for his handling of the situation, including calling the Commissioner's Trophy a "piece of metal" and his failure to strip the 2017 World Series title from the Astros.

Kurkjian mentioned he doesn't think he's ever seen a commissioner take the heat as much as Manfred has, but also stated he's worried about the future of the game following the scandal.

"I'm a little worried for the game," Kurkjian said. "How do we get past this? How do we move on from this? It's a huge story, I'm well aware of that, and I'm here to cover it because it needs to be covered. But for the sake of the game, eventually, we need to move on from this and talk about the game on the field."

The aftermath of the scandal is just getting started. Prior to spring training, Kurkjian believed the story would dominate the spring and that it would leak into the beginning of the regular season. But based on the events that have happened throughout the first few weeks of this spring, he envisions it being a "much bigger story throughout the season."

While there's already plenty of information out there about the Astros, there are still multiple sides of the story that have yet to be told.

"We still haven't heard from Carlos Beltran, who has a story to tell. From Alex Cora, who really hasn't spoken about this," Kurkjian said. "We still don't even know the punishment of the Red Sox yet. There are still many more layers to this story."

Both Beltran and Cora were fired from their respective managerial duties due to their role with the Astros in 2017.

"Eventually, we'll get to the game, because that's what most of us want to talk about," Kurkjian said. "But this is an enormous story that might even get bigger from here. With each player that speaks out, especially if he's a star player, we need to address that."

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Max Scherzer vs. Justin Verlander spring training matchup: Time, TV Channel, How to Watch

Max Scherzer vs. Justin Verlander spring training matchup: Time, TV Channel, How to Watch

Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander never faced each other last fall when the Nationals beat the Houston Astros in seven games to win the World Series.

It was a matchup between two former Detroit Tigers teammates that fans would've loved to see, but they'll have to settle for a February spring training game instead.

Scherzer and Verlander will take the hill for their respective clubs on Thursday as the defending pennant winners gear up for the start of the 2020 season.

Here's everything you need to know before first pitch Thursday night.

Nationals vs. Astros spring training matchup: How to Watch

Who: Washington Nationals vs. Houston Astros
What: Grapefruit League game with Max Scherzer vs. Justin Verlander
When: Thursday, February 27, 2020 at 6:05 p.m. ET
Where: FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches, West Palm Beach, FL
TV Channel: You can watch Nationals vs. Astros on MLB Network
Radio: 106.7 The Fan (until 7:45 p.m. ET)

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports. Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Capitals and Wizards games easily from your device.

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