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Melancon on joining Nats, replacing Papelbon: 'He's been awesome'

Melancon on joining Nats, replacing Papelbon: 'He's been awesome'

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Mark Melancon sat patiently as his name circulated in rumors leading up to the trade deadline.

"I've been through it before, so I realize that until it happens it's not a big deal," Melancon said. "I just waited until I got the phone call."

The call finally came on Saturday, and he was no longer the closer for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Instead, the All-Star was joining the NL East-leading Washington Nationals.

By Sunday, Melancon had joined his new team for a game in San Francisco.

"A lot of different emotions going on just because I've been with the Pirates for a while," said Melancon, who was in his fourth year with Pittsburgh. "It's a little sad to leave those guys, but at the same time I'm really excited to be here on a first-place club."

Washington sent reliever Felipe Rivero and pitching prospect Taylor Hearn to the Pittsburgh Pirates to acquire Melancon, who supplants the struggling Jonathan Papelbon as Washington's closer.

Melancon exchanged text messages with Papelbon on Saturday while he was between flights.

Papelbon is 2-4 with a 4.41 ERA and has allowed eight runs and seven hits in his past three outings.

"He's been awesome about it," Melancon said. "It's a tough situation, so I understand . Like he said, `we're here to win a championship, whatever it takes.'"

The deal reunites Melancon with his Team USA teammate Max Scherzer. He also works out with Anthony Rendon in the offseason.

The 31-year-old right-hander goes from the fringe of the wild-card race to a team that's building a nice lead in its division.

"It gives you a nice little boost, I know that," Melancon said. "For me it was really exciting. Whirlwind of a day yesterday, but I'm here and everything's great."

Melancon has converted 30 of 33 saves with a 1.51 ERA this season. He joins his fifth organization in eight years.

He is making $9.65 million and is eligible for free agency after the World Series; as part of the swap, the Pirates will pay Washington $500,000 on Sept. 1.

Melancon broke into the majors in 2009 with the Yankees, where he was considered a possible successor to Mariano Rivera. He also pitched for Houston, Boston and the Yankees.

He credits the famed Yankees closer with helping him develop the cut fastball that he considers his best pitch.

"I got to watch that a lot from (Rivera)," Melancon said. "Just sit behind the plate, sit behind him pitching. Not only did I notice how important the cutter and the movement, when to throw it in and back door and all that stuff but just his location and how important that was. With him only having one pitch it meant a lot that he hit his spots, so I picked up a lot on those subtleties."

[RELATED: Nats may have gotten a steal with Melancon]


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Bryce Harper wants Tony Romo to predict his future after AFC championship game


Bryce Harper wants Tony Romo to predict his future after AFC championship game

Bryce Harper has been having a little fun on Twitter lately with his fans, who are still anxiously waiting to hear which MLB team the coveted free agent will sign with this season. 

And the 26-year-old slugger's jokes continued through the AFC championship game between the New England Patriots and the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday night. 

The Patriots' 37-31 overtime win over the Chiefs was broadcasted on CBS, so former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo was calling the game, along with Jim Nantz. Since Romo joined the broadcast booth for the 2017 season, he's repeatedly proven he can read a defense before a quarterback does and predict a play before it unfolds. 

He did it again during the AFC championship matchup, and fans watching were stunned at his accuracy. And that brings us to Harper, who chimed in with a joke about Romo's spot-on predictions.

So, does this mean Harper knows what his future team is?! Maybe he's growing as tired of the anticipation as fans (especially Nationals fans) are. 

Recently, he's been responding on Twitter to discussions about where he'll end up with shrugging and questioning emojis -- making light of the offseason's biggest mystery. 

After Romo's proven history of being able to predict the future on the NFL side with incredible accuracy, maybe he does know Harper's future too. Here's a look at some of his predictions from the Patriots-Chiefs game, as well as from his first couple seasons in the booth.


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


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.