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Janssen's rehab positive, Johnson wants to return

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Janssen's rehab positive, Johnson wants to return

Casey Janssen emerged from his first rehab appearance with Class A Potomac feeling more encouraged about his pending return from a shoulder injury than he expected.

“Everything was positive,” the veteran reliever said. “It was definitely a nice step, probably a bigger step than I initially thought it was going to be.”

Out since late-March with tendinitis in his right shoulder, Janssen made his minor-league rehab debut Thursday night, starting for Potomac and retiring the side on nine pitches. He didn’t know what his velocity readings were but said it felt like he was throwing harder than he did while at extended spring training in Viera, Fla.

More important, in Janssen’s mind, was his command during the 1-inning appearance.

“There’s no magic number velocity-wise to get to, because I’ve always needed to hit my spots anyway,” he said. “I think if what I feel like, if my arm can hang like it has been, the sharpness and the command, that stuff’s going to be there. If it’s not right out of the gates, it’s going to be there. It won’t take long. And once I challenge my arm and my body and it can hang with it, then I think I can get back real quick.”

Next up for Janssen will be another rehab appearance Sunday. If all goes well, he would likely return to the mound Tuesday, then possibly make back-to-back appearances before coming off the disabled list and making his Nationals debut.

Janssen, 33, signed a contract with the Nationals over the winter that guarantees him $3.5 million, expected to serve as the club’s top setup man after Tyler Clippard was traded to Oakland.

Meanwhile, veteran outfielder Reed Johnson was back in the Nationals’ clubhouse Friday for the first time since surgery to repair a torn tendon in his left foot and expressed optimism he can return to play this season.

“I guess my goal when I signed here was: Help this team out not only during the regular season, but deep into the postseason,” Johnson said. “I still feel like the timing of this injury gives me that shot to be able to accomplish part of that goal, which is to help this team deep into the postseason, deep into the playoffs. But we’ll see how I’m coming along with my rehab and all that if I’m able to do that. That’s where my focuses are now to keep me sane.”

Johnson hurt himself running out a double during the Nationals’ record-breaking, 13-12 comeback victory over the Braves on April 28, feeling a pop in his left foot. Turns out the peroneal tendon (which connects the foot to one of the calf muscles) snapped, causing the muscle to become detached and curl up inside his lower leg.

“It was basically like rolling up into my leg,” he said. “That’s what happens with Achilles’ tendons and all that, kind of roll up your calf or whatever. It just feels like a muscle cramp. It’s uncomfortable, but not in agony, just kind of confused.”

Johnson is scheduled to have his cast removed in the next few days, though he’ll still need to keep his foot in a walking boot. He said he should be able to resume running in 8-to-10 weeks, then begin baseball activities in 10-to-12 weeks. That could put the 38-year-old outfielder on track to return sometime in August or September.

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2018 MLB Power Rankings: All-Star update

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2018 MLB Power Rankings: All-Star update

The All-Star break is a perfect opportunity to sit down and re-evaluate the landscape of Major League Baseball. As it turns out, however, there aren't as many meaningful moves as one might expect.

The unrivaled dominance of the Astros, Red Sox, and Yankees sets us up for a wildly entertaining October, and the uber-talented rosters of the Indians, Cubs and Dodgers will make noise as well. Still, it means the top three (and, moving down, the next three to four teams) in our power rankings haven't experienced much variance in 2018.

The gap between the haves and the have-nots has never been more pronounced than it is in this era, which means the bottom-four teams have stayed pretty steady since May. Yes, the Reds have made a nice jump since Jim Riggleman took over, and the Orioles are about 15 spots lower than we had them in March, but none of the major moves will have any real impact on who we expect to win the World Series this year.

That doesn't mean it's not worthwhile to see where each team stands, however, and these are certainly still subject to change. The Nationals, for example, have enough talent and starpower on the roster to jump into the top six or seven teams as a legitimate title contender at some point.  

The stars are out in D.C. this week, as baseball converges onto the nation's capital. Are the hometown team's stars enough to keep the roster in the conversation for the playoffs? 

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    2018 MLB Home Run Derby Live Blog

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    USA TODAY Sports

    2018 MLB Home Run Derby Live Blog

    It's dinger donging time. 

    Tonight's the night that Nats fans have looked forward to for a few years now — a Home Run Derby in D.C. featuring Bryce Harper, who's favored to win this year's contest. All eyes will be on Harper and Nats Park and I guess everyone else who's taking part in the event, and NBC Sports Washington will have you covered from batting practice through the last mashed tater. 

    Make sure to follow along on our social channels as well, where we'll be sure to be supplying okayish tweets all night. 

    8:30 PM - Jesús Aguilar "only" hit 12, so Hoskins moves on from this round. For what it's worth, Aguilar wore his hat backwards and therefore should have advanced. 

    8:20 PM - Rhys Hoskins is up first, and after a slow start hoooooo boy did he find a groove. He ends the first round with 17 homers. 

    8:00 PM - Bryce is our King:

    Stylin' Bryce Harper (6 p.m.)

    We knew the Nats' slugger was ready to show his love for his team and the MLB All-Star Game's host city with some spectacular Washington-themed cleats, but Harper took it a step further Monday before the fun started. Harper is hitting in the derby with a special cherry blossom bat, as an additional nod to the nation's capital. 

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