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Reds have to decide on Baker after playoff exit

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Reds have to decide on Baker after playoff exit

CINCINNATI (AP) Manager Dusty Baker has trouble even thinking about next year.

``I don't know, man,'' he said, after the Cincinnati Reds' season ended with a collapse. ``I'm kinda numb in this situation.''

Pretty much summed up the season. A team that had been able to overcome so many setbacks couldn't get that one last comeback to make it something really special.

A 6-4 loss to the San Francisco Giants on Thursday knocked the NL Central champions out of the playoffs far earlier than expected. The Reds won 97 games and their second division title in three years, but couldn't get that elusive home playoff victory to move on.

Make it 17 years now since the Reds have won a postseason game at home.

``It was disheartening to have my club go through this,'' the 63-year-old manager said.

The Reds went through a lot, and handled all of it well until the final three home games in the playoffs. They became the first NL team to win the first two in a best-of-five division series and fail to move on.

What next?

The biggest question involves Baker, who was hospitalized in September for an irregular heartbeat and a mini-stroke. He rejoined the team for the final regular season series in St. Louis, feeling good and upbeat.

His two-year contract ends after this season. Owner Bob Castellini is fond of Baker and talked last February about giving him an extension. Baker feels he's healthy enough to keep managing.

The Reds have won 269 games under Baker in the last three seasons, their best such stretch in 30 years. Their two division titles in three years is the best such run since Sparky Anderson managed the Big Red Machine to World Series championships in 1975-76.

The question is whether the front office is ready to make a commitment to Baker after Reds lost in the opening round of the playoffs again.

``I'm not sure where my career is going here in Cincinnati,'' Baker said. ``We're going to talk about that in the next couple of days. But I'm not through managing yet. I have more to do.''

General manager Walt Jocketty has a few important player decisions to make as well, starting with the closer.

The Reds were prepared to have hard-throwing Aroldis Chapman move back into the rotation until closer Ryan Madson blew out his elbow in spring training. Chapman was eased into the closer's spot and was one of baseball's best, converting 38 of 43 save opportunities and a club-record 27 straight.

Do they simply entrust the job to Chapman? Or do they try to make him a starter again? Madson has a mutual option for 2013 at $11 million - too pricey for someone coming off major elbow surgery - with a $2.5 million buyout.

Third baseman Scott Rolen had another injury-filled season in his final year under contract, slowed by a bad back and a chronic shoulder problem. Rolen turns 38 next April and has to decide whether he wants to keep playing. Todd Frazier could take over at third.

Then there's left fielder Ryan Ludwick, who helped carry the team in the second half after Joey Votto hurt his left knee. Ludwick batted .313 in his last 80 games of the season with 18 homers. He led the Reds with three homers in their playoff series. Ludwick has a mutual option for next season at $5 million with a $500,000 buyout.

Votto is the Reds' best hitter, acknowledged by the 10-year, $225 million extension he got before opening day. The Reds went 36-12 when he was out in the second half of the season with torn knee cartilage.

The leg wasn't at full strength when he returned, affecting his power. Votto didn't hit a homer after June 24. He had seven singles during the playoffs. The Reds expect their 2010 National League MVP to be back to normal next season.

The rotation returns intact, including 19-game winner Johnny Cueto and Homer Bailey, who pitched the 15th no-hitter in franchise history. Bronson Arroyo and Mat Latos give the Reds one of the best foursomes in the majors.

The Reds will be considered a favorite to win the division again next year and beyond.

``I envisioned sustained success, and I think that's what people may tend to overlook - ownership's commitment to being better not just for a year but for years,'' right fielder Jay Bruce said. ``I think these days, the way that contracts and free agencies have gotten, you have to do it the right way or it's tough to sustain success over a period of time.

``I think that the Reds' ownership has done that, and I'm happy to be part of it.''

The pitching staff was the club's strength in 2012. The bullpen led the majors with a 2.65 earned run average and 56 saves. For the first time in franchise history, none of the five starters missed a game because of injury - until the playoffs.

Only eight pitches into the opener in San Francisco, Cueto strained a muscle in his right side and was done. The Reds had to juggle their rotation and won the first two games, but missed Cueto when they had a chance to wrap it up back home.

That left it up to an offense that had depended upon the big inning all season. It ended with Rolen striking out with two runners aboard.

``We hadn't lost three games in a row at home all year,'' Ludwick said. ``This team lived and died all year with the big hit.''

And came up one short.

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Follow Joe Kay on Twitter:http://twitter.com/apjoekay

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Instant analysis: 5 field goals lift Redskins past Jets

Instant analysis: 5 field goals lift Redskins past Jets

LANDOVER, MD — Here is my instant analysis of the Redskins’ 15-13 preseason win over the New York Jets.

— Alex Smith started the game and so did most of the other players who are expected to start Week 1. Rob Kelley was at running back, Josh Doctson and Paul Richardson lined up at receiver, and the offensive line was intact — with the exception of Geron Christian playing left tackle. Vernon Davis was the tight end. 

— Smith moved the team efficiently on the first drive, completing four of six passes for 48 yards. He converted one third-and-9 by finding Doctson in a big soft spot in the Jets’ zone for 11 yards. On third-and-goal at the 4, he threw a pass a little behind Trey Quinn; it was catchable but not easy and Quinn couldn’t handle it. A field goal made it 3-0. After that 11-play, 71-yard drive, Smith and most of the rest of the offensive starters left the game. 

— Ten of the 11 regular defenders started the game, the exception being Matt Ioannidis. In his first series in a Redskins uniform, Daron Payne stopped the drive with a sack on third down. After that three-and-out, they weren’t as effective against Sam Darnold on their second possession. The rookie was sharp leading a 12-play, 42-yard field goal drive. 

— The first time Samaje Perine touched the ball, he ran for 30 yards off left tackle, following a nice block from J.P. Holtz, a tight end who was lined up at fullback. Since they released the only fullback on the roster last week, TE as FB is likely to be the plan. Perine then left the game with an ankle injury. He did not return. 

— There were some special teams gaffes in the first half. Dustin Hopkins hit the right upright on a 35-yard field goal try but it went through. On the ensuing kickoff, though, the kick went out of bounds. Later on, Byron Marshall put the ball on the ground on a kickoff return but replay showed it that he was down. So there was one costly miscue and two near-misses. 

— The Redskins backup defensive unit was back on its heels in a second-quarter drive with most of the Jets’ offensive starters in. They ended the drive when Danny Johnson make a good tackle to force a third and one. The Jets went for it and Darnold’s pass was tipped by Deshazor Everett and intercepted by Troy Apke. Tim Settle dominated in the middle, usually matched up against former Redskins center Spencer Long. 

— It was bad news, then good news for rookie WR Cam Sims in the second quarter. First he had a pass in his hands for a first down in the red zone but the ball popped out without him being touched and the pass was picked off. On the Redskins’ next possession he made a nice catch between two defenders for a 27-yard gain on third-and-10. Later in the drive he made a leaping catch in the end zone, but a penalty negated the TD. He has been inconsistent in practice in Richmond and is carrying over. 

— The Redskins had some red zone woes in the first half. The had three shots from there and settled for field goals every time. They also had the situation where Sims had the pass in his hands in the red zone before it popped out for an interception. 

— Long shot Martez Carter got his name on the board with a runs of nine and then 30 yards, showing blazing speed around the corner on both runs. He remains a long shot but speed like that will get you some attention. 

— Third QB Kevin Hogan was able to lead a scoring drive on his first possession but it was done mostly via Carter’s runs and the first application of the new helmet rule in a Redskins’ game this preseason, a flag that went against the Jets. The next two possessions he went two for three for seven yards and the Redskins went three and out both times. 

— The Jets kicked a late field goal to take a 13-12 lead. Hogan had a chance to bring them back and got them into Jets territory. Then Cam Sims made a 20-yard grab to set up a 40-yard field goal attempt. Hopkins hit it as time ran out to give the home team a 15-13 lead. 

— The win doesn’t mean anything but it’s always more fun to win than to lose. 

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS and on Instagram @RichTandler

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Washington Nationals announce the addition of a bullpen cart

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USA TODAY Sports

Washington Nationals announce the addition of a bullpen cart

Sean Doolittle has gotten his wish - the Washington Nationals will now have a bullpen cart for the remainder of the 2018 season. 

In a release on Thursday, the Nationals announced that they will unveil a the WGL Energy Bullpen Cart on their upcoming Friday night game against the Miami Marlins. The cart will be at all remaining home games at Nationals Park.

Both the Nationals’ pitchers and opponents will be able to utilize the cart to enter a game as a reliever. The cart will transport the relief pitcher from the bullpen to their dugout instead of the traditional long trout out to the mound. 

Players are not required to use the vehicle if they do not want to. 

Earlier this season, Doolittle was the first National ever to use the bullpen cart at Chase Field, against the Arizona Diamondbacks. Afterward, he noted that although he had less time, he was not out of breath and “loved it.”

In addition to the Diamondbacks and the Detroit Tigers, the Nationals are the third active team to have a bullpen cart. Per the release, this is the first season that the bullpen cart has been used in MLB since 1995.

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