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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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Nationals' Howie Kendrick won’t be ready for Opening Day

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Nationals' Howie Kendrick won’t be ready for Opening Day

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- More sun is coming Howie Kendrick’s way.

The Nationals’ veteran right-handed bench bat is staying in Florida when the team breaks camp Sunday night. Kendrick’s hamstring strain has greatly improved. He’s just not going to be ready for Opening Day in Washington.

“I’m almost there,” Kendrick said. “I think we have quite a few spring days [to work] down here. So I’m not going to break with the team, obviously. I’m going to stay down here and try to get back as soon as possible. I’ve been running, running, running, but I’m not quite there yet.”

Kendrick expects to participate in multiple minor league games to start the week. He’s been running almost full speed in a straight line and lightly running the bases. He’s fielded ground balls, but limited his range while doing so. Kendrick has been swinging throughout.

“As far as the offensive side, I don’t think it’s really going to take long to get there,” Kendrick said. “Especially if I’m [in Florida], I can get at-bats every inning pretty much. I think the biggest thing is trying to feel good running and things like that. That’s what’s most important. The bat will come around. That’s just timing.

“I think the biggest thing is not wanting to have to go backwards. If I try to come back too soon – and I’ve done my hamstrings before, and I’ve been hard-headed about it where I’ve hurt it again later and you’re out more time. So I think the biggest thing is trying to feel great and really confident about where I’m at and trusting it a lot more. I trust it now, but I know I’m not 100 percent.”

Going to Washington but not as a starting pitcher is Jeremy Hellickson. He will be a long man out of the bullpen to start the season. Washington has three off days in the first eight days of the season. So, it doesn’t need a fifth starter until April 10 in Philadelphia to close the opening road series against the Phillies. 

“He’s had a really good spring training,” manager Davey Martinez said of Hellickson. “His stuff is really good. He added a little slider, which turned out to be pretty effective.”

The Nationals will open with Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Patrick Corbin and Anibal Sanchez as their rotation. That lines up Sanchez to pitch April 2 in Bryce Harper’s return to Nationals Park. Scherzer will pitch the April 3 day game which completes the quick two-game set with the Phillies. It also means the Nationals have Scherzer and Strasburg lined up to open a three-game series in Philadelphia the following week.


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Fresh round of cuts helps Nationals Opening Day roster take shape

Fresh round of cuts helps Nationals Opening Day roster take shape

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- The Opening Day roster became much clearer Saturday following a slew of player moves by the Nationals.

Right-handed pitcher Joe Ross was optioned to Triple-A Fresno. After consideration of using Ross in the bullpen, the organization decided to send him to Triple A and stretch him out there. Manager Davey Martinez said they view Ross as a starter now and in the future.

Catcher Spencer Kieboom and right-handed starter Erick Fedde will go to Double-A Harrisburg. This is the first instance of a decision based on the change in Triple-A affiliation. The Nationals switched from Syracuse to Fresno in the offseason -- a move they did not have complete control of. So, Kieboom and Fedde will go to Harrisburg in order to be readily available should something happen to a player on the 25-man roster during the opening homestand.

Prospect Carter Kieboom, right-handed starter Henderson Alvarez, right-handed reliever Aaron Barrett, right-handed reliever Scott Copeland and left-handed reliever Vidal Nuno have been reassigned to minor-league camp.

Carter Kieboom impressed at the plate throughout the spring. He continues to learn second base after sliding over from his traditional shortstop position. Barrett takes another step in his comeback following Tommy John surgery and a fractured elbow. Martinez said he thinks Barrett will help the parent club at some point this season.

Washington has three spring training games remaining. Patrick Corbin and Joe Ross pitch in split-squad games Sunday. Monday, the team is back in the District for its final game of the exhibition season. The season opener is Thursday, March 28.

This round of cuts drops the team’s options to 30 players. Koda Glover (forearm), Howie Kendrick (hamstring) and Michael A. Taylor (hip/knee) are unlikely to be ready for Opening Day. That trio appears heading for the injured list. Which leaves two bench spots among utility player Adrian Sanchez, outfielder Andrew Stevenson or first baseman, and out-of-nowhere minor-leaguer, Jake Noll until Taylor and Kendrick are ready. Two bullpen spots are available to Wander Suero, Justin Miller and Austen Williams in that alignment.

The Nationals could keep all three relievers for Opening Day. That would give them a bench of catcher Kurt Suzuki, utility player Wilmer Difo, first baseman Matt Adams, and likely Stevenson as the fourth outfielder.

Another wrinkle: reliever Kyle Barraclough, who has a 5.19 ERA and has allowed three home runs in 8 ⅔ innings, still has options. Sending him down would be a significant pivot after the organization often touted him as one of its featured relievers.

Last, multiple off-days to start the season play into this equation. If the Nationals choose a smaller bullpen group, it will have more time than usual to recover. What we know is these players are coming to play Thursday:

Starting pitchers:
Max Scherzer
Stephen Strasburg
Patrick Corbin (L)
Anibal Sanchez
Jeremy Hellickson

Tony Sipp (L)
Matt Grace (L)
Wander Suero
Trevor Rosenthal
Sean Doolittle (L)

Position players:
Yan Gomes (C)
Kurt Suzuki (C)
Ryan Zimmerman (1B)
Brian Dozier (2B)
Trea Turner (SS)
Anthony Rendon (3B)
Adam Eaton (RF)
Victor Robles (CF)
Juan Soto (LF)
Wilmer Difo (Utility)
Matt Adams (1B)

A few decisions remain to determine who will join them.