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Harper believes he and Papelbon can move on from fight


Harper believes he and Papelbon can move on from fight

Bryce Harper was out of the Nationals lineup on Monday as punishment for his involvement in a fight with Jonathan Papelbon in the home dugout at Nats Park the day before. It is generally team policy that players who do not appear in games do not talk after them. But there Harper was, waiting at his locker to comment further on the situation and why he was dealt a penalty for his actions.

Harper understood the team's decision and explained why he thinks it was made.

"I think just being part of the incident, being part of what went on. I don’t want to stay out of the lineup, but something happened and it’s part of the game," he said. "You don’t expect to fight your teammates or anything like that. It’s definitely something that as the Nationals, we don’t pride ourselves on that. We’re a family in here."

Harper was asked what he thought he should have done in hindsight. It was a tough question for him to answer, given how quickly it all transpired.

"I don’t know. It something that if you’re in a bar or if you’re in the dugout or if you’re anywhere, if somebody grabs your neck, your first reaction is to do what I did, I guess. Like I said, it’s something that happens in the game. It happens in life. There’s nothing I can do about it now. It’s just what happened," he said.

Harper hopes to speak with Papelbon at some point soon about the whole situation. Papelbon is under contract for 2016 and, as of now, will be Harper's teammate again come February when players report for spring training.

"I’d like to talk to him in person if that’s possible but I think we’ll worry about that when that comes up," Harper said.

Harper believes he and Papelbon can get past their differences and repair their relationship as teammates.

"It’s something we need to do because we want to win. That’s his main goal every single day. That’s my main goal every single day," he said. "We need the support of every single guy in this clubhouse. We need support of teammates and that’s what we need. If Pap’s gonna help us win a World Series next year, that’s what I need."

Harper continued and even acknowledged the support Papelbon may need from him.

"As much as I need him, he needs me," he said.

Harper's 2015 season playing in Washington is over, as the team finishes their schedule on the road, and it did not end as he had hoped. He was supposed to get a final ovation from the crowd on Sunday and that opportunity never arose. Then, he was out of the lineup on Monday, the team's final home game, for disciplinary purposes.

Harper wasn't concerned about that fact, knowing he will be back next season, no matter how many changes occur this winter around him on the Nationals' roster.

"I think I got three more years at Nats Park, so I think I’m okay. Being able to play in front of these fans has been a lot of fun for me. I have three more years to play here and hopefully a lot longer. It’s somewhere I love to play and it’s somewhere I love to be."

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Make-A-Wish Mid-Atlantic and Nationals grant boys wish to be a player for a day

Make-A-Wish Mid-Atlantic and Nationals grant boys wish to be a player for a day

The Nationals welcomed 10-year-old cancer patient Parker Staples as the newest addition to their team on Friday, in conjunction with the Make-A-Wish Mid-Atlantic Foundation.

While battling lymphoma, Staples learned he would receive a wish and didn’t hesitate about what he wanted to choose. After being sidelined for two years during treatment, Parker couldn’t wait to celebrate his remission by becoming part of his favorite baseball team. 

Staples was introduced to his new teammates and got signed autographs from Matt Adams, Juan Soto, Anthony Rendon, and Yan Gomes. He also got to spend time hitting and playing catch with his new teammates, as well as being interviewed as the newest member of the team. It gets even better than that, Staples threw the ceremonial first pitch at Nationals Park leading up to the Marlins-Nationals game Staples 

"My favorite moment was throwing the first pitch. It was really cool," Staples said.

"Probably the biggest day of my life."

The Nationals are hosted the Miami Marlins in the series opener Friday.


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Nationals GM Mike Rizzo: It's too early to make changes - at manager or otherwise

Nationals GM Mike Rizzo: It's too early to make changes - at manager or otherwise

WASHINGTON -- Max Scherzer and Mike Rizzo met at the upper corner of the dugout railing Friday around 2 p.m. Scherzer, coming in from a bullpen session, leaned against the padded bar. Rizzo did most of the talking, at times using both hands and gesturing toward different parts of the field.

Scherzer walked into the dugout following the five-minute conversation with Rizzo. Turns out, everyone has questions and is searching for answers during this failing Nationals season.

Not long after the general manager and his Hall-of-Fame-bound starter finished their conversation, manager Davey Martinez came up the dugout steps to watch Anibal Sanchez throw a simulated game. Martinez’s emergence confirmed he was still in charge Friday. Rizzo’s words two hours later further entrenched that idea -- for now.

“We're not making any decisions with a third of the season gone,” Rizzo said when asked his confidence level with Martinez as manager. “We've got a lot of season left. Davey's not happy with what's going on, nobody's happy with what's going on, the fanbase, ownership and myself. Things got to get better. We've got to play better baseball.”

In a planned group session with reporters, Rizzo harped on a trio of points: One was the stage of the season, a second was the need to play cleaner baseball, the third centered on his hunt for bullpen help.

To the first, it’s a semantics dance. Washington, 19-31 coming into Friday following stomach-churning losses to a Mets team in disarray when the Nationals arrived at Citi Field last Sunday, are 30.9 percent into the season. Forty games is historically used as a marker for determining a team’s capabilities. The Nationals are beyond that point and in a deep corner. It’s no longer early because of the broad hole the Nationals have dug.

To the second, the call for cleaner baseball began last offseason. That it’s still being made May 24 is perhaps the most explanatory aspect of how the Nationals find themselves just 1.5 games in front of the trying-to-lose Marlins. Despite persistent harping on the concept, near-daily gaffes continue on the field. The Nationals often do early work, have extra meetings and try to drill down specific points. But, the attempts are betrayed time and again during the actual games, whether it’s baserunning, fielding or math-countering pitch selection.

To the last, Rizzo said he is in pursuit of bullpen fixes from any location: trade, waiver wire, wherever. He also expects those on the roster to perform better. This idea is akin to the demand for cleaner baseball, if with a shorter shelf life. The bullpen roared into the bottom of the league the second day of the season when it allowed seven runs across the eighth and ninth innings. It’s been atrocious since. Of the five relievers used that day, all five remain in the organization. Only Trevor Rosenthal is not on the active 25-man roster.

The three pillars of Rizzo’s discussion -- the calendar, bad baseball and tragic bullpen -- have conspired to put Martinez’s future at risk. He was more stern and explanatory in Friday’s pregame press conference before his boss delivered a proportional backing. Rizzo did not explicitly say Martinez will remain manager. He also did not say he would not. Instead, the generalist approach reigned.

“Well certainly you have to have a plan in place for all contingencies,” Rizzo said. “And like I said, we're fairly spoiled here. We've had winning records, we've been in first place for a lot of the last seven years. There's only three teams in all of baseball, I think, that have played .500 baseball over the last seven years. So we're certainly cognizant of the calendar and where we're at in the standings, and we always have a one-, three-, and five-year plan in our minds, and that'll continue.”

The question is how many of those years will include Martinez if this one continues on the same path.