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Dusty Baker consulted Skins legend Joe Gibbs for Nats job

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Dusty Baker consulted Skins legend Joe Gibbs for Nats job

Dusty Baker is returning to baseball after a two-year absence and it will take some adjusting for him to get back into the swing of things.

Baker knows that and decided to give Redskins legend Joe Gibbs a call this week to get some advice on how to return to professional sports after a long layoff. Gibbs returned to coach the Redskins in 2004 after being retired for over a decade.

Baker told reporters in Viera, Fla. on Friday about the conversation:

 

 

 


That should make D.C. sports fans pretty happy.

[RELATED: Mets manager Collins is not a fan of sabermetrics]

 

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Nationals players on the stressful process of choosing a nickname for Players' Weekend

Nationals players on the stressful process of choosing a nickname for Players' Weekend

Zimm, Brown Eye and T3 will all take the field against the Cubs in the annual Players' Weekend series August 23-25.

Some Nationals players got creative when choosing nicknames, and others (yes you, Javy Guerra aka Javy) could use some inspiration. 

Other nicknames just made sense.

Fernando Rodney's nickname, "La Flecha", translates from Spanish to "the arrow". If you had the opportunity to watch the Fernando Rodney experience, you know that he celebrates a save by shooting an imaginary bow and arrow to the sky. 

He described the routine just like pitching: "you know where it is going exactly, you got a good shot."

When asked if he had any other nickname ideas he joked that he thought about using "Plátano Power". A joke dating back to 2017. 

Patrick Corbin is using his Players' Weekend jersey to honor his late friend and Angels pitcher, Tyler Skaggs. His nickname will say "Forty Five", Skaggs' number which Corbin wore days after his death. 

Other nicknames were no brainers, almost decided for the players. 

Wander Suero will go by "The Animal", the nickname given to him in the minor leagues that stuck with him. One of his coaches, Donald Ray "Spin" Williams, would tell him all the time, "you're an animal" because of the way he hustled. It caught on with his teammates and Spin still calls him that. 

Sean Doolittle's nickname was teased for a long time, Obi Sean. His Star Wars-themed bobblehead was a giveaway earlier in the season, featured the relief pitcher as Obi-Wan Kenobi from the popular franchise. The nickname is also his Twitter name though no one calls him that.

Doolittle has changed his nickname for the past three years. "It gives you an opportunity to show a little personality and have some fun with it." He said he can show that he is "a Star Wars nerd." 

These nicknames are chosen in Spring Training, and Doolittle remembers this happening early in the morning. "It's 6 or 7 am and they are walking around the clubhouse with a clipboard asking what you want your players weekend nickname to be at the end of August." He joked, "it's not the most creative time, you're not really awake yet." 

Tanner Rainey was one of those players who may not have been awake yet. When asked if he would answer a few questions about his nickname he laughed and said, "I don't even know my nickname." (For those wondering, it's Rainman).

He said he never really had a nickname but a few guys started calling him Rainman.

"If there's not one I would have went with Rainey on the back of the jersey," he said.

This choice is not because he doesn't like the idea. Rather, he is just focused on baseball during Spring Training.

"Alright that's in late August, this is February," said Rainey. "Let's worry about tomorrow first." 

Doolittle had the perfect way to describe making such an important decision.  "You know-how like the month leading up to Halloween you are like 'I have no idea what I want to dress up as.' You scramble for a costume and you're like 'yeah this works, whatever, at least I dressed up'. That day and the week after it feels like you have all these great ideas and you are like 'aw I should write these down'." 

"So maybe I will do that this year," Doolittle joked. "Maybe I need to start a notes app on my phone."

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Max Scherzer is back and could tilt the postseason race

Max Scherzer is back and could tilt the postseason race

PITTSBURGH -- Everyone wanted Max Scherzer back on the mound. He’s arguably the best pitcher in baseball, undoubtedly a key in the National League pennant race, a preeminent figure on the Nationals. And, he talks a lot.

“I think a lot of guys are ready to get him out of the dugout,” Patrick Corbin said Wednesday. “He’s kind of getting on nerves. He’s taking pre-workout [drinks] in games he’s not even playing. That’s just him. No, we’re excited. He’s the best in the game.”

He was back, finally, Thursday in Pittsburgh. Scherzer threw a 95-mph fastball at 7:29 p.m. At 8:49 p.m., Wander Suero jogged in from the bullpen because Scherzer had finished for the night. Four innings, 71 pitches, 48 strikes, one earned run. Scherzer was effective, not dominant. He’s in full reboot mode following two simulation games and being almost a month out from his previous start.

“Just wanted to come out here, not really empty the tank [Thursday] and just pitch,” Scherzer said. “I can’t get hurt again. That’s just the reality of this. Got out here, was able to go four innings and get a good feel for this of getting back in there. Just getting back in the game action because now it’s real. You can simulate games all you want, but simulated games aren’t real.”

What matters is that he’s back. Scherzer’s first of two tuneups -- he faces Baltimore next on Aug. 28 after dealing with the hapless Pirates -- yield to huge September outings. The Mets. The Braves -- twice. The Phillies. Tight races, big nights, why he makes $210 million. He’s thought about that, “in some ways.”

“But right now I’m living start to start,” Scherzer said. “I’m living really day-by-day of what I can and can’t do and trying to communicate with the trainers and strength coaches of, hey, what exercises can we do to get back out there and get this thing as strong as possible. [Thursday] was a good step. I’ve got a lot more work in front of me.”

He’s been good, but not a powerhouse in the postseason for the Nationals. His 3.72 ERA reflects that. Game 5 against the Cubs in 2017 is the last time Scherzer took a mound in the playoffs. He gave up the lead on three hits, two earned runs and a strikeout. He allowed just one earned run in his start earlier in the series. The loss cost Dusty Baker his job. It also installed another nasty Game 5 chapter in the Nationals’ short existence. 

His nearest shot at redemption could well ride on what he does the rest of the way. Scherzer will still have a limit on his pitch count against Baltimore. He should be loose by his third start -- with the ever-reaching caveat, all is dependent on how he feels the day after an outing. 

"Hopefully [Friday], he wakes up, he's well-recovered and we move forward," Davey Martinez said.

Scherzer’s second stint on the injured list could cost him a chance at another Cy Young Award. He remains top-five in ERA, batting average against, WHIP, strikeouts, opponent OPS and more. He is No. 1 -- by far -- in fWAR despite the time missed. Hyun-Jin Ryu is fifth in that category.

And, the time away didn’t temper his work on the bases. Scherzer beat out a double play in the second inning, then went first to third on a Trea Turner double. He later picked up a single to right field. 

Scherzer has also considered the idea he may need to be different the remainder of the season. His velocity was strong against the Pirates during the Nationals’ 7-1 win. But, that’s never been the problem during this process. Almost half of his pitches against Pittsburgh were four-seam fastballs. They averaged 94.5 mph. 

It’s the other stuff. Throwing a slider with everything he has. Snapping curveballs and managing changeups. Scherzer was pitching more than throwing with pure might in his first start back. 

He hopes to feel well Friday morning after sleeping as much as possible on the flight to Chicago, then more once the team lands. Afterward, he’s back in the weight room to strengthen the area around his rhomboid muscle. His pitch count will go up next time. The ability to “empty the tank” will, ideally, follow. As will a postseason appearance -- maybe.

“This is a good start, but I’m not out of the woods,” Scherzer said.

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