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Could Nats hire Francona or Scioscia as manager?

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Could Nats hire Francona or Scioscia as manager?

After firing Matt Williams as manager on Monday morning, the Nats will undergo a managerial search for the second time in two years. The last time this happened it took them over three weeks to find Davey Johnson's replacement, when Williams was hired for the job in October of 2013.

The first step for the Nationals is coming up with a list of names to pursue, a process they will begin on Monday afternoon. That group could include former managers who boast experience like Bud Black and Rod Gardenhire. They could also circle back to Cal Ripken, Jr., who was linked to the job the last time around and has spoken publicly about his interest in managing.

But what about managers around the league who are already under contract? With perhaps no obvious candidate on the free market, could they try to do what the Chicago Cubs did last offseason when they scooped Joe Maddon from the Tampa Bay Rays?

There are two names currently in manager jobs around baseball who boast far better résumés than Black, Gardenhire and Ripken, and who each have opt-out clauses in their contracts. Terry Francona and Mike Scioscia would be names, and both have led teams to World Series championships.

Francona, in fact, has a very similar contract clause to what Maddon had. Like Maddon, who was able to leave because of the departure of his GM Andrew Friedman in Tampa, Francona can opt out now that Mark Shapiro left the Indians for the Blue Jays. Francona wanted the opt-out clause in his contract when he agreed to coach the Indians in case this very event occurred because of his close relationship with Shapiro. Shapiro was pivotal in convincing him to take the position.

Francona, for what it's worth, has indicated he would not use that clause as leverage to get a new job. But the prospect of having a two-time World Series-winning manager - who happened to play most of his MLB career with the Expos - could entice the Nationals.

Francona is one of the most accomplished managers in baseball. His teams have finished with winning records in each of his last 11 seasons as skipper. Before coaching Cleveland his Red Sox teams averaged 93 wins in eight seasons and never posted a losing record.

Scioscia also has an opt-out clause in his contract. He did, however, announce on Sunday he does not plan to opt out of his deal with the Angels, despite L.A. falling short of the playoffs this season.

Scioscia led the Angels to a World Series title in 2002. His Angels have posted 12 winning seasons in his 16 total years at the helm. His team also went through front office changes recently, as GM Jerry DiPoto resigned in July.

Both Francona and Scioscia are two of the biggest names in coaching and the Nationals remain an attractive destination for any manager looking for a new job. The Nats have also indicated that experience will be a big factor in their decision this time around.

MLB teams can also trade for managers, as the Red Sox did in 2012 when they acquired John Farrell from the Toronto Blue Jays. The cost in that deal was big league infielder Mike Aviles.

There are hurdles to jump, given they both coaches under contract. But, as the Cubs showed last offseason, that does not necessarily rule them out as candidates.

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Washington Nationals Roundup: Juan Soto stays hot at the plate

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Washington Nationals Roundup: Juan Soto stays hot at the plate

The Washington Nationals are roughly a week and a half away from Opening Day, so players are rounding into form for the start of the season.

Here are the latest news and notes from Spring Training.

Players Notes:

Young outfielder Juan Soto went yard again, taking Hector Santiago deep in the first inning sunday against the Mets. His third home run boosted his Spring Training average to .400.

Outfielder Michael A. Taylor received good news on his MRI, and tweeted out that he did some hitting, throwing, and running in a pool Sunday.

Pitcher Stephen Strasburg allowed three runs in five innings against the Mets. He gave up six hits, and also struck out six, and now has 19 strikeouts in 15.2 innings this spring.

Injuries: 

RP Koda Glover: Elbow, but should be ready for Opening Day

OF Michael A. Taylor: Knee, out indefinitely

Coming Up:

Monday 3/18: Nationals vs. Marlins, 1:05 p.m., FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches

Monday 3/18: Nationals @ Mets, 1:10 p.m., First Data Field

Tuesday 3/19: Nationals @ Braves, 1:10 p.m., Champion Stadium at ESPN Wide World of Sports

News update courtesy of Rotoworld

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Nationals star Stephen Strasburg is, in fact, happy to be here

Nationals star Stephen Strasburg is, in fact, happy to be here

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- A jovial guy looking strikingly like Stephen Strasburg was at Strasburg’s locker Sunday afternoon. Beard a bit long, hair on top a bit shorter.

Turns out, it was actually Strasburg, who is including a touch of humor and more frequent smiles in recent post-pitching conversations with reporters. It may not last. But, for now, there is a veteran pitcher pleased with progress in place of an often dour competitor who grapples with his perfectionist self.

Strasburg threw 84 pitches against a recognizable New York Mets lineup Sunday. This was not an afternoon spent against late spring canned ham delivered via a split-squad game. Instead, the Mets rolled out several of the hitters Strasburg will see March 30 when he presumably takes the mound in Game 2 of the season opposite New York’s Noah Syndergaard.

“Fastball command was good,” Strasburg said. “Got really aggressive on it. But that’s OK, at this point. You don’t want to  -- you want to work on stuff, but at the same time, well aware we open up with them. So, you know, don’t want to be featuring everything you might be featuring later on.”

Other recent realizations have reminded Strasburg he is now 30 years old, entering season 10 and just generally a legit veteran. He looked down at first base Saturday and recognized Stubby Clapp, a former Olympic player with Canada. Clapp, 46, was coaching first base for St. Louis. Strasburg turned to Erick Fedde: “‘I faced that guy in the Olympics.”

How did a Sunday afternoon conversation with media arrive at Clapp? Because Strasburg decided to face the Mets. Both Jacob deGrom and Syndergaard were lined up to pitch against the Nationals on Sunday and Monday, respectively. DeGrom was announced as sick Sunday. Syndergaard won’t be pitching in the split-squad game Monday. Instead, they will both pitch a minor-league game. Basically, the Mets chose to have their top two pitchers avoid the first opponent of the season.

Strasburg didn’t bother with such gamesmanship -- beyond relying on his fastball often. Instead, he took the mound then noted his status in the division.

“I mean, I’m the longest-tenured pitcher in the NL East,” Strasburg said. “What’s another start against the Mets? I think it just comes down to execution for me and that’s the same thing for everybody.”

The quote carries weight on three levels: Strasburg, somehow, realizes he has been in the division longer than any other pitcher. And only one starter is close to him. Season six is in front of deGrom. Season five is next for Syndergaard. Max Scherzer is entering his fifth season in the division. Same with Aaron Nola in Philadelphia. It’s technically year nine for Julio Teheran. However, he made six appearances total in his first two years.

Strasburg’s statement also shows inherent confidence that scouting reports can’t counter him when he’s on. Last, a T-shirt worthy slogan -- “What’s another start against the Mets?” -- came from him, of all people.

He was pleased to get a look at the Mets close to the opener.

“You want to see if they’re making any tweaks to their approach or if they’re going to be the same type of hitter,” Strasburg said. “I think over the years, you kind of realize that guys have certain strengths and they’re going to stick to those strengths much like myself.”

So, five innings, six hits, three earned runs, six strikeouts and two walks. Four of those hits happened in the fifth and sixth innings when Strasburg primarily threw first-pitch fastballs down the middle. His work was done in the first four innings when he carved through the Mets. It all left him happy. For now.

Soto rolling along

The box score claims Juan Soto was 3-for-4 Sunday with two doubles and a home run. Not so inside Soto’s brain. He thought he beat out a grounder for an infield single though he was called out.

“In my mind, it’s 4-for-4,” Soto said with a smile.

Soto has hit a home run in three of his last four games. His spring OPS is 1.288 after 35 at-bats. It’s spring -- always a necessary caveat -- but the point here is nothing indicates a change for Soto. If anything, he might be a better all-around player because he is improved defensively and on the base paths. The hitting situation has not changed.

“I feel really comfortable at the plate, I’m seeing the ball really well,” Soto said. “Better than when I got here. I’m almost ready.”

Taylor takes a first -- small -- step

Michael A. Taylor’s MRI revealed a sprained left hip and knee. Sunday, a modest workout sent him to social media to express his pleasure.

Thankful for the good news on my MRI!! Feeling good after hitting, throwing and running (in the pool) today. #Nationals #SpringTraining #MLB

Manager Davey Martinez clarified Taylor took one-handed swings off the tee, threw “lightly” from about 90 feet and did run in the pool. Martinez also called it an expected “baseline” for the day. The explanation appeared targeted to calm takeaways from Taylor’s tweet.

“We'll see how he comes back and feels tomorrow,” Martinez said. “But for us, that's a good thing that he's feeling that good. We'll see where it takes us in the next couple of days.”

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