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Bryce Harper says the Nats 'finally have an All-Star staff'

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Bryce Harper says the Nats 'finally have an All-Star staff'

Of all the tasks on the lengthy to-do list for new Nationals manager Dusty Baker, fostering healthy relationships with his star players is likely near the top. Of course, this isn't new territory for the veteran skipper, who has been around elite talents like Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa and Joey Votto in his accomplished managerial career. 

So it comes as no surprise that the relationship between Baker and his latest phenom, Bryce Harper, will probably be scrutinized throughout most of the 66-year-old's tenure in Washington -- especially compared to that of his predecessor, Matt Williams. 

Harper, who's currently making the media rounds as he's up for a number of year-end honors, was asked Monday night on MLB Network about his new manager as well as pitching coach Mike Maddox and first-base coach Davey Lopes. 

“I think you see that smile on my face,” Harper said after accepting the NL Outstanding Player award. “I’m definitely very excited to have him. Being able to play for a guy like Dusty, somebody that’s been around the game for a long, long time … and being able to do the things with him and learn from him. Also learning from a guy in Davey Lopes, one of the best first base coaches in the game and one of the best baserunning coaches in the game also. I’m very excited for that. And also Mike Maddux. Being able to pick his brain about pitchers and seeing the tendencies that other pitchers throw with. I’m very excited to have the team that we do. We finally have an All-Star staff, and it’s going to be a lot of fun.”

Obviously, that last line about "finally having an All-Star staff" might raise a few eyebrows. Was that a dig at his former manager? Or was it simply praising the new coaching staff?

Harper's been known to speak his mind in the past, but has rarely criticized Williams in public, even staunchly defending him during a September in which rumblings of clubhouse discord grew louder and louder. 

On the flip side, Baker's known strength as a manger is his ability to win over a locker room with his infectious personality. With that in mind, it should be fascinating to watch the dynamic between he and Harper develop in 2016 and beyond.  

MORE NATS: Report: Williams returns to D'backs as 3B coach

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Soto, Harper homer in Nats' win over Padres

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USA TODAY Sports Images

Soto, Harper homer in Nats' win over Padres

WASHINGTON -- Juan Soto, the youngest player in the majors at 19, hit a three-run homer in his first career start as the Washington Nationals defeated the San Diego Padres 10-2 on Monday.

Mark Reynolds had two solo home runs for the Nationals, who snapped a three-game losing streak. Bryce Harper had a homer and an RBI double.

Soto's drive highlighted a five-run second inning for Washington. The promising outfielder, who played for three minor league teams this season, hit the first pitch from Robbie Erlin (1-3) over the Nationals bullpen in left-center field. Soto also singled.

Soto's homer traveled an estimated 442 feet at Nationals Park. He earned a standing ovation from the crowd and the teenager responded by taking a curtain call. Per Baseball-Reference.com, Soto became the first teenager to hit a home run in a major league game since Harper on Sept. 30, 2012.

Called up to Washington on Sunday, Soto became the first 19-year-old to make his major league debut since Dodgers pitcher Julio Urias in 2016. He entered that game in the eighth inning as a pinch-hitter and struck out.

Washington's starting left fielder began the season at Class A Hagerstown. He hit a combined .362 with 14 homers and 52 RBIs in his three minor league stops.

Gio Gonzalez (5-2) allowed two runs and two hits in seven innings.

San Diego's Franmil Reyes, playing in his seventh career game, also hit his first career home run.

Trea Turner hit a pair of RBI doubles for Washington. Reynolds had three hits.

Erlin surrendered six runs and seven hits over four innings in his third start of the season. San Diego had won three in a row.

Reyes connected for a two-run homer in the fourth inning, but the Padres' lineup generated little else against Gonzalez, who allowed one run over six innings in a no-decision at San Diego on May 9.

2018 MLB POWER RANKINGS AND OTHER NATS NEWS:

- Rankings Update: Where does your team fall?
- Cause For Concern?: How worried should Nats fans be?
- Very Persuasive: How Rizzo convinced Reynolds to come to D.C.

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Juan Soto crushes a homer in the first at-bat of his first-ever start

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Juan Soto crushes a homer in the first at-bat of his first-ever start

Juan Soto, the highly-regarded 19-year-old Nationals' prospect, got his first major league start of his career tonight. 

How did it go, you ask? Surely it would take Soto - who was in Single-A less than two weeks ago - some time to adjust? 

What were you doing at 19??

2018 MLB POWER RANKINGS AND OTHER NATS NEWS:

- Rankings Update: Where does your team fall?
- Cause For Concern?: How worried should Nats fans be?
- Very Persuasive: How Rizzo convinced Reynolds to come to D.C.