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LaRoche gets $24M, 2-year deal to stay with Nats

LaRoche gets $24M, 2-year deal to stay with Nats

WASHINGTON (AP) The wait for Adam LaRoche to make up his mind had played out long enough. It was time to decide if he would take the Washington Nationals' offer or move on.

The slugging first baseman decided to stay with the Nationals on Tuesday, agreeing to a $24 million, two-year deal with a mutual option for a third year. He wanted a full three-year contract, but Washington was never going to offer one.

``I think we both were getting tired of the process,'' Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said. ``We had a lot of conversations back and forth with his representative. Adam and I had a few private conversations. ... I made it clear to Adam that it's time to get this thing done. Make a decision. Our offer is what it is. It's been on the table for a while. It's time to think of your options and pull the trigger if you want to be here.''

LaRoche's return completes the final piece of an expected starting lineup for the defending NL East champions and renders Michael Morse expendable. Morse played outfield last year but would have moved to first base if LaRoche had not re-signed, giving the Nationals much of the leverage they needed to balk at LaRoche's bid for the extra year in the contract.

La Roche gets $10 million next year and $12 million in 2014, and the deal includes a $15 million mutual option for 2015 with a $2 million buyout.

He had a superb 2012 at the plate - .271 average, 33 home runs, 100 RBIs - but he's 33 years old, and Washington is flush with young, emerging talent that will cost a lot of money to keep in a few years. Also, LaRoche's value was hampered on the open market because any team signing him would have forfeited a supplementary first-round draft pick to the Nationals.

``We were in a pretty enviable position negotiating-wise because our other option was already under contract and in-house,'' Rizzo said. ``And that allowed us to be so patient with Adam.''

Now it will be the Nationals' turn to test the trade market with Morse, who lost his outfield spot when Washington acquired Denard Span in a trade in November. Morse batted .291 with 18 home runs and 62 RBIs in 102 games last year.

``We're certainly not going to give him away,'' Rizzo said. ``But if we can make the right deal that works for Mike and for us as a franchise, we'll certainly do that deal.''

Shortly after the news broke that LaRoche's deal was done, Morse tweeted: ``Hey everyone, going silent for a while.''

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Follow Joseph White on Twitter:http://twitter.com/JGWhiteAP

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Carter Kieboom breaks Ryan Zimmerman's single-game record for assists by a Nats third baseman

Carter Kieboom breaks Ryan Zimmerman's single-game record for assists by a Nats third baseman

Nationals rookie infielder Carter Kieboom set a new team record for the most infield assists by a third baseman in a game when he recorded 10 over the first eight innings against the Orioles on Friday night.

Kieboom passed Ryan Zimmerman’s record of eight assists, set “many times” according to Nationals Director of Communications Kyle Brostowitz.

Though Kieboom was shifted around the infield for most of the night, his new record comes after an offseason full of questions about his defense.

The natural shortstop is Washington’s heir apparent to Anthony Rendon, who departed for the Los Angeles Angels in free agency last offseason after seven seasons with the Nationals. Kieboom had started just nine games at third in the minor leagues before the start of this season.

He still has plenty left to prove as a major-league third baseman, but Kieboom's record did come on an eventful night for the rookie. In addition to his feat (albeit, a bit fluky of one), Kieboom went 2-4 at the plate with an RBI and two runs scored.

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Stephen Strasburg’s latest setback sends a clear signal he should be shut down

Stephen Strasburg’s latest setback sends a clear signal he should be shut down

There’s no good answer for why Stephen Strasburg should continue pitching this season.

The nerve problem in his right hand was still bothering him before his Friday start in Baltimore. He said as much after his first start, which went well for four innings five days ago, then went off the rails. He shook his tingling right hand during that mound appearance, which came two weeks into the season. Strasburg missed his first two starts because a wrist impingement led to a nerve problem in his right hand, more specifically in his right thumb. Then he lasted an alarming  ⅔ of an inning Friday night.

The Nationals said all the pain was gone. This was the key to putting Strasburg back on the mound in the first place.

“He's completely past it,” Mike Rizzo said an hour before Strasburg’s first start Aug. 9. “He wouldn't be on the mound today if he wasn't. His first outing of the season eyes are going to be on him and watch for fatigue, but we are hoping that he gives us a great start and chance to win the baseball game which he often does when he pitches."

Davey Martinez made a similar statement the day before.

“The tingling in his thumb is gone,” Martinez said. “That was the big thing for me. Nothing in his mechanics has changed. He wants to pitch. He’s ready to pitch on Sunday.”

Those statements could hold true even though Strasburg was shaking his hand on the mound during that first start. This is a nerve problem. It has all the predictability of a squirrel in the street. The injections in his wrist were meant to help it heal. The time off was intended for it to subside and slink away. Strasburg pitched off the mound twice, it went well both times, then he was sent to the rubber for his first start. Rizzo and Martinez had reason to believe he was fine to pitch.

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But, there’s no reason for him to pitch again this season. Not now. Not after lasting just two outs and 16 pitches -- nine of which were balls -- against the Orioles. Strasburg looked uncomfortable almost immediately. He flexed his hand after throwing a 2-0, 92-mph fastball down the middle that Anthony Santander, the second batter of the game, hit for a home run. Strasburg threw six more pitches. During them, he yanked a fastball then flicked his hand like something sticky was on it and wouldn’t come off. Martinez and athletic trainer Paul Lessard came to the mound to visit. Head dropped, Strasburg came out of the game.

So, the Nationals sit now with a hefty decision. Strasburg, at most, can only make eight more starts in this kooky, 60-game regular season. He signed a seven-year, $245 million contract in the offseason. The organization chose him over Anthony Rendon. The future-versus-now debate was relevant before the games even began in the middle of a pandemic. It’s the only discussion that matters around Strasburg now, and, so much so, the Nationals were already pondering it before Friday night’s exit.

“Based on our conversation with him, he feels like he can work through this injury,” Martinez said. “But, you know, I want to be smart. I really do. I got to be smart. Not just for right now, but for the future, you know. He’s a big part of our future, he’s a big part of what we do here, so we want to make sure we take care of him. But, we’ll see. As you all know, he’s competitive, he’s tough. But we’ve got to be smart about this. If he’s out there and he starts shaking his hand all over the place, we’re going to have to do something else because I don’t want this to become an issue somewhere else or him to change something. He was in a good place and we want to keep him there.”

Strasburg made a similar point after his last start. In recent years, he’s learned to listen to his body more often. The idea he was unreliable, easily ruffled or just straight injury-prone no longer seeped into his mental being. If other people said it, so what? He was more concerned about maximizing his starts and contribution, which sometimes meant taking a step back.

This situation necessitates precisely that. The Nationals addressed the problem the best they could, crossed their fingers, then put Strasburg on the mound. Their prime concern was the nerve problem would become an arm problem if he was forced to change his mechanics.

There’s no reason to do it again. The risk-reward is too imbalanced. Six more years at $35 million annually needs to be the only thought now. That means Strasburg should be done after someone utters the phrase so long associated with his career: shut down.

Martinez talked to him after he came out. He talked with Lessard, he lamented what to do next. Strasburg declined through a Nationals spokesperson to talk to the media well after midnight when the game finally ended. There’s not much more to say, anyway.

“I’m going to do everything I can to take care of him,” Martinez reiterated after the game. “I don’t want to see him out there shaking his hand in pain. I think the best thing right now is to kind of shut him down and see if we can get this straightened out.”

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