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Strasburg gets the win - and hits a HR

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Strasburg gets the win - and hits a HR

From Comcast SportsNet
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Stephen Strasburg took a swing and looked in amazement as the baseball carried over the left-field wall. If Strasburg's first major league homer came as a surprise, his performance on the mound did not. With Strasburg leading the way, the Washington Nationals beat the Baltimore Orioles 9-3 Sunday to avert a three-game sweep. In addition to his 2-for-2 performance at the plate, Strasburg (4-1) struck out eight in five innings before being lifted by manager Davey Johnson, who said the pitcher mentioned tightness in his biceps. "I don't care who it was, if I find out they have tightness, they're out," Johnson said. "I talked to him later in the game. He said it relaxed a bit and was a lot better. I'm not as concerned when it's in the biceps." Strasburg attributed the soreness in part to working too hard in the days following his previous start. "The biceps is fine," he said. "It's just throwing a lot of pitches early, then we put up a lot of runs and stuff. I just got a little tired, got a little tight, but that's nothing different than any other outing." Strasburg sent an 0-2 pitch from Wei-Yin Chen into the Baltimore bullpen in the fourth inning to put the Nationals ahead 5-3. After dusting off his home run trot and returning to the dugout, he responded to a curtain call by waving to the crowd of 41,918. "Shocking, that's for sure," Strasburg said of his clout. "I feel like in (batting practice) I have to swing a lot harder to hit it out. I just somehow ran into one." He was almost embarrassed about his trip around the bases and subsequent climb up the dugout steps. "I'm not big for going out there and showboating," Strasburg said. "It was great, but I know my place. I'm not a real hitter out there so I'm not going to go out there and act like I do it all the time." The hard-throwing Strasburg had five hits in 40 big league at-bats before Sunday. He singled and scored in the third inning, then followed a shot by Jesus Flores with one of his own in the fourth. "I didn't expect Stras to hit a breaking ball," Johnson said. "He doesn't usually see breaking balls. (Third base coach) Bo Porter came in after and said we found a left fielder." Known more for his pitching than his hitting, Strasburg excelled at both. The right-hander allowed three runs, one earned, four hits and a walk in his first career appearance against Baltimore. He retired the last 10 batters he faced. Since returning from elbow ligament replacement surgery last September, Strasburg is 5-2 with a 1.99 ERA in 14 starts. Danny Espinosa also homered, and Bryce Harper drove in two runs and scored three for the Nationals. Chen (4-1) yielded six runs and eight hits in 4 1-3 innings and absorbed his first major league loss. The Taiwan native was vying to become the first Baltimore starter to begin his Orioles career with five straight wins since Jimmy Key in 1997. "This is baseball. Sometimes you have a good day, sometimes you have a bad day," Chen said through a translator. "Definitely, I had a terrible start today." The loss ended Baltimore's five-game winning streak and nine-game road run. The Orioles scored the game's first three runs but got only two hits after the second inning -- both in the ninth. "If you came in today thinking you'd get their starting pitcher out of the game after five innings, you'd like your chances," manager Buck Showalter said Baltimore went up 1-0 in the first when Xavier Avery walked, advanced on a fly ball and scored on a single by Nick Markakis. The Orioles added a pair of unearned runs in the second after Harper drifted from center to left field to chase down a wind-blown fly ball, then dropped it. Robert Andino drove in a run with a groundout and Avery added an RBI single before Strasburg struck out J.J. Hardy with two outs and runners on second and third. Harper made amends in a three-run third. Strasburg singled, Espinosa doubled and Harper hit a liner to right that a diving Markakis gloved but lost when he hit the ground. The triple scored two runs, and Harper scored on a groundout by Ian Desmond. Flores gave Washington a 4-3 lead with his first homer since Aug. 18, and that only served as a prelude to Strasburg's drive. Desmond chased Chen with an RBI single in the fifth, and Espinosa homered with a runner on during a three-run eighth. NOTES: Orioles C Matt Wieters, who had the day off after a night game, will have to wait until Monday to try to snap an 0-fror-18 slump. ... Tommy Hunter (2-2) takes the mound for Baltimore on Monday night in the opener of a three-game series against visiting Boston. ... Gio Gonzalez vies for his sixth win when the Nationals open a nine-game road trip Monday in Philadelphia. ... Avery got his first major league stolen base.

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MacLellan: Reirden will get the first crack at replacing Trotz

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USA TODAY Sports

MacLellan: Reirden will get the first crack at replacing Trotz

Will Todd Reirden replace Barry Trotz as head coach of the Washington Capitals?

Based on what GM Brian MacLellan said Monday, it certainly sounds like it’s Reirden’s job to lose.

“We’re going to start with Todd here,” MacLellan said. “I think we’ve been grooming him to be a head coach, whether for us or someone else.”

“We’ll see how the talk goes with him and we’ll make a decision based on that,” MacLellan added. “If it goes well, we’ll pursue Todd. And if it doesn’t, we’ll open it up a little bit.”

MacLellan said he isn’t sure exactly when the interview with Reirden will take place. The front office needs a few days to regroup. It’s also a busy stretch in hockey’s offseason. In the coming two weeks, MacLellan will direct the NHL draft in Dallas, monitor development camp in Arlington and then call the shots when free agency begins on July 1.  

“We need to take a breather here but I think Todd is a good candidate for it,” MacLellan said. “I’d like to sit down with Todd and have a normal interview, head coaching interview. I think most of our discussions are just casual. It’s about hockey in general. But I’d like to do a formal interview with him and just see if there’s differences or how we’re seeing things the same and if he’s a possibility for the head coach.”

Reirden, 46, spent the past four seasons on Trotz’s bench. He was elevated to associate coach prior to the 2016-17 season after coming up just short in his pursuit of the head coaching position in Calgary.

Reirden’s primary responsibility on Trotz’s staff was overseeing the defense and Washington’s perennially potent power play.

Prior to joining the Capitals in 2014, he was an assistant coach for four seasons with the Penguins. And before that, he spent a couple of seasons as the head coach of AHL Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, the Penguins’ top minor league affiliate.

A native of Deerfield, Ill., Reirden also had a lengthy professional career that included 183 NHL games with the Oilers, Blues, Thrashers and Coyotes.

Asked what he’s looking for in the Caps’ next head coach, MacLellan said he’s looking for a forward-thinker, a strong communicator and a players’ coach.

Reirden is all of those things.

“Someone that's up to date on the modern game,” MacLellan said. “Someone that's progressive, looking to try different things. Someone that has a good relationship with players. They communicate, can teach, make players better. It's becoming a developmental league where guys are coming in not fully developed products and we need a guy that can bring young players along because more and more we're going to use young players as the higher end guys make more money.”

One of the side benefits of elevating Reirden is the fact he already has a strong relationship with many of the current players, meaning there won’t be much upheaval as the Caps look to defend their championship.

“It could be a natural transition,” MacLellan said. “But once we sit down and talk face to face about all the little small details in the team, I'll have a better feel for it.”

MacLellan said a decision on the other assistant coaches—Lane Lambert, Blaine Forsythe, Scott Murray, Brett Leonhardt and Tim Ohashi—will be made after the next head coach is named.

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Brian MacLellan explains the reasoning behind not extending Trotz before the 2017-18 season

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Brian MacLellan explains the reasoning behind not extending Trotz before the 2017-18 season

As shocking as the news of Barry Trotz’s resignation on Monday felt, it probably shouldn’t have given that whether or not he would return to Washington after the 2017-18 season was a storyline all year long.

Trotz entered the 2017-18 season on the last year of his initial four-year deal leading to speculation over whether the team was dissatisfied with his results and ready to move on from the head coach when his contract expired. Teams typically do not allow a head coach to enter the final year of a contract so that they do not appear to the players to be a lame duck coach.

Ultimately, that turned out to not be a problem as Trotz led the organization to its first Stanley Cup in his contract year. While there was interest from both sides in an extension in the wake of winning the Cup, ultimately a new deal could not be agreed upon and now the defending champs are without a head coach.

This begs the question, could things have been different had the team worked out a new contract with Trotz before the 2017-18 season? The answer is almost certainly yes, so how did things get to the point where Trotz was allowed to go into 2017-18 without an extension?

During a press conference with the media on Monday, general manager Brian MacLellan explained the team’s reasoning in not extending Trotz in the summer of 2017.

“We were struggling at the time to get over the hump,” MacLellan said. “We couldn't get over the second round and Barry hadn't been able to coach out of the second round yet either.”

In 15 seasons with the Nashville Predators, Trotz was not able to coach his team past the second round in the playoffs. In his three seasons with Washington leading up to the 2017-18 campaign, he had led the Caps to two division titles and two Presidents’ Trophies, but again could not get past the second-round hump that had plagued both him and the team.

Based on MacLellan’s comments, another early playoff exit would have likely led to the team choosing to allow Trotz's contract to expire.

“I think from the organization's perspective, some changes would've had to be made if we lost in the second round again,” MacLellan said.

But what if instead the unthinkable happened? What if the Caps forced Trotz into a “prove it” contract year and he was able to lead the team to the Stanley Cup? Didn’t they risk losing him all along?

Yes and no.

MacLellan confirmed reports on Monday that Trotz’s contract included an automatic two-year extension “at an increased rate” if he won the Cup. So while both sides were negotiating an extension, technically Trotz was already under contract through the 2019-20 season.

In the summer of 2017, MacLellan had a choice to make. At the end of the two-year championship window, he could choose to extend a head coach who had not brought the team the type of postseason success he was hoping for, he could fire a coach who had just won two consecutive division titles, two Presidents’ Trophies and whose team was eliminated in the playoffs by the eventual Stanley Cup champions, or he could ride out the final year of Trotz’s deal and, in the off chance the team won the Stanley Cup, still rest easy in the notion that Trotz would automatically remain under contract.

MacLellan went with option C. It almost worked.

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