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Gonzalez heads to mound as Nats hope to sweep Marlins in opening series

Gonzalez heads to mound as Nats hope to sweep Marlins in opening series

Matt Wieters was signed by the Washington Nationals after spring training had already started.

So the veteran catcher, who had spent all of his big-league career with the Baltimore Orioles, is trying to quickly learn the patterns of the Washington pitching staff.

Wieters knows what it is like to hit against Nationals left-hander Gio Gonzalez, who will start Thursday against Miami Marlins right-hander Tom Koehler in the series finale in Washington. The Nationals will be looking to sweep the three-game series after wins Monday and Wednesday, as Wieters had three hits in the second game.

Gonzalez has been with the Nationals since 2012, and each year Washington plays a home-and-home series with the Orioles.

"I remember Gio when he was younger," Wieters said. "He has definitely evolved his pitching style where he can pitch in different ways. That is something you will see as a catcher that you will have multiple options and you kind of point him in the direction for whatever we need that day."

Gonzalez has made at least 32 starts in six of the last seven years, but his ERA has risen in each of the last four seasons.

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He will be opposed by Koehler, who was 9-13 last season with a 4.33 ERA in 33 starts. The product of Stony Brook in New York is 1-2 in five career starts against the Nationals with a 4.50 ERA.

"He doesn't give in (to hitters) ever. He tries to give you as many innings as possible," Marlins closer A.J. Ramos said. "He is a competitor. He is always prepared. He has the preparation and desire. That is all we ask of starters: Go out there and keep the game close and do your best."

Koehler has given up six home runs in 32 at-bats to Bryce Harper, the Washington right fielder. He has made at least 31 starts in each of the last three seasons.

"He has been a guy that takes the ball," Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. "It is something you can count on. Tom is a picture of consistency for us."

The Nationals won the series opener 4-2 on Monday as Harper and pinch-hitter Adam Lind hit homers off reliever David Phelps.

In the second game Wednesday, the Marlins scored two runs in the first off right-hander Tanner Roark before the bats awoke for the Nationals.

Washington scored four times in the fourth to chase starter Dan Straily and came back to win 6-4.

"Well, he made an adjustment," manager Dusty Baker said of Roark. "He was throwing high with his fastball. This is a team that's hit him pretty good in the past. He's had some success the last couple times out, but Tanner makes adjustments. Wieters helped him make those adjustments. Wieters called a very good game for him. He went a little longer than we had thought."

Baker is encouraged by the fast start of first baseman Ryan Zimmerman, who hit a homer Wednesday and is batting .427 coming off the worst year of his career, when he hit .218.

"He's healthy. He feels good," Baker said. "You see his confidence growing daily. He hit a tough pitch out to right field. That's a good sign, especially this early in the year when that ball's not flying out there too much until it warms up. Anything he gives us is big, especially in the middle of that lineup. He's getting better every day."

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Bryce Harper's longtime friend Kris Bryant says Harper isn't headed for Cubs

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Bryce Harper's longtime friend Kris Bryant says Harper isn't headed for Cubs

After weeks of twists and turns and not enough information for any Nationals fan's satisfaction, the Chicago Cubs seem to be out of the race for free agent Bryce Harper.

Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant seemingly confirmed the news on Friday night from the opening ceremonies of the 2019 Cubs Convention.

"He's not signing here," Bryant said as he sat down with NBC Sports Chicago. 

Though there have been no official reports of whether or not the Cubs are completely out in the race to sign Harper, a word from one of Harper's longtime friends shouldn't be brushed aside.

Bryant and Harper took the field together in the 2016 MLB All-Star game, and faced off in the 2017 NLDS Cubs-Nats matchup. 

The pair have known each other since grade schoool, and played for rival high schools in Las Vegas. But despite their history, Bryant says that they haven't chatted much about the situation otherwise, choosing to focus on preserving their friendship.

"I never bring it up to him," Bryant admitted. "I try to be a good friend to him, and not talk about baseball when he doesn't want to talk about baseball."

"Whatever happens, I wish [him] the best."

You can see more of Bryant's interview with NBCSC below.

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What's it like for MLB players when their big contract money hits? Some advice for Bryce Harper

What's it like for MLB players when their big contract money hits? Some advice for Bryce Harper

An old friend of Max Scherzer’s came up with an idea: The new buy-in for their longstanding and hyper-competitive fantasy football league would be 10 percent of the participant’s salary. As an assistant baseball coach at a midwest Division I university, this would be a significant risk. However, he believed the chance was worth it since Scherzer had just signed with the Washington Nationals for $210 million.

Scherzer enjoyed the humor and emphatically nixed the idea. But, the point remains. Things change when finances increase to unfathomable levels. In the case of Bryce Harper, the world is about to change for generations of Harpers once he finally signs a new contract.

The idea of signing a single contract which guarantees such gargantuan sums is a strange one. Even to those signing. The 2016 Census pegged average annual American income at $57,617. If Scherzer averages 32 starts per year during the course of his seven-year deal, he’ll earn $937,500 per start. Informed having such financial clout is inconceivable to 99.9 percent of the population, Scherzer laughed in agreement.

“I know, I know,” Scherzer told me. “It’s inconceivable to me, too.”

So, what’s it like when money of that level hits? Harper’s next contract is expected to be north of Giancarlo Stanton’s $325 million extension. For this extrapolation exercise, let’s call it $350 million coming up for Harper. That should be enough to cover eight generations of Harpers at $100,000 annually for 80 years each with plenty left over. Crazy, right?

Scherzer and Ryan Zimmerman were both wealthy by any standard before signing their large deals. Scherzer banked nearly $30 million worth of contracts prior to the giant haul with the Nationals. Zimmerman cashed almost $20 million ahead of his six-year, $100 million contract extension in 2012.

They share similar views on the path to the money, why it exists and what happens (or should) after it hits.

“I think a lot of us work our whole lives, sacrifice a lot of things, [but] not for that,” Zimmerman told NBC Sports Washington. “Like, when you first start doing something, you don’t do it to make $100 million. But once you get into the business and start to do what you have to do -- it doesn’t, at least for me, I think you hope it doesn’t change who the person is. I think you come to realize, or at least I was always taught, you receive that or earn that because of the person that you are or the work that you do and you should just continue being that same person. You shouldn’t change. You’re just really fortunate to get paid that much money and play a game, but you have to remember why you got to that point.

“It’s hard to comprehend what it does to your life, because you’re in it. I think you’ll understand that more when you’re done playing. But you have the ability to obviously take care of your children and their children, and that’s the life side of it. I think that’s pretty cool. When you sign that, you realize I just took care of -- not just yourself, you don’t care about yourself -- you think about generations if you correctly take care of it.”

Scherzer was in agreement.

“Look...I think a lot of us, at the end of the day, would play this game out of love,” Scherzer said. “The money’s just a bonus on top. The money aspect of it really is just a fight for what -- the game generates all this type of money and it’s a fight for who rightfully deserves it, whether it’s the owners or the players. Who actually gets the fans to come out to the games? That’s where the business side of the game gets ugly because it turns into you’re actually having to argue what you’re actually doing on the field. That’s why it’s never a fun thing to actually talk about or have to explain, but every player understands it at the end of the day.

“Free agency exposes everything in your life. All your friends, your family. Just exposes every single circle that you have. You find out more about yourself going through that process, about the people around you, about how stable your life is. So that when you do actually sign a contract that sets you up for life, you know you’ve been down a road that you’ve had to fight for and you can just compartmentalize what’s going on, that you now have money for the rest of your life. That, at the end of the day, that is not the reason you play the game of baseball. The reason you play the game of baseball is because you want to win. For me, that was something I was able to grasp onto.”

Scherzer went on to point out there are no rule changes on the field because you own an enormous contract. The ball doesn’t care, the mound doesn’t care, the parameters of the game between the lines don’t care.

He also mentioned he still has the same favorite televisions shows. He continues to root for his favorite non-baseball teams just the same. His year-old daughter, Brooklyn, is unconcerned, as is the horde of rescue animals patrolling the house.

“Money doesn’t buy happiness,” Scherzer said. “It buys comfort and convenience.”

Zimmerman had to think for a minute when asked if he made any nonsensical purchases following his large extension. He bought a Land Rover (“or something like that”) and paid off his parents’ house. He also eventually bought a new house for his family.

“That was really it,” Zimmerman said. “... I don’t do anything crazy. I don’t know. I try not to be real stupid with anything.”

He laughed at the final line. Though it seems like sound advice, no matter income level.

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