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Nats players insist Papelbon-Harper situation will not linger

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Nats players insist Papelbon-Harper situation will not linger

When the Nationals sent out their media availability for players for this weekend's WinterFest, there were two notable absences. Off the list were both Jonathan Papelbon and Drew Storen, the team's two very talented late-inning relief pitchers whose futures with the franchise are complicated for much more than simple baseball reasons.

Both Papelbon and Storen, it is widely known, could be traded this offseason; Papelbon because of his infamous attack on Bryce Harper in the team's dugout, and Storen because he has now twice been supplanted as closer and is probably best served by a change of scenery.

Besides the fact having both players at WinterFest may have been awkward, as every fan within an earshot would ask them about their futures, the reason given by the team was that each had something else to do. Papelbon was traveling out of the country on a pre-planned trip. And Storen had an undisclosed prior commitment.

Despite both players not being there, Papelbon in particular still had a presence at the event. Several off his teammates were asked about the veteran closer and if the altercation he had with Harper would cause any trouble next season, if Papelbon happens to still be on the roster come 2016.

The consensus on that question seems to be an emphatic 'no.' In their eyes, the dust-up between Harper and Papelbon was not nearly as bad as it looked, at least when put in the context of other disagreements common for a baseball clubhouse.

"I think it would have been weird if nothing like that happened. We should have been upset and should have been frustrated," Ryan Zimmerman said.

"Not that I would condone some of the stuff that happened, but I think it would have been weird if everyone was in a good mood, happy and high-fiveing each other. It's just one of those things where all of us were frustrated. We were trying as hard as we could to win and we weren't winning. A lot of us were battling through injuries. There were a lot of variables going on. People get upset. I think that kind of shows you what kind of team we have. I don't think we need to fight each other all the time. Sometimes that happens. But I didn't have a problem with anything that happened."

"It happens. I'm not worried. It doesn't bother me at all," Danny Espinosa said. "If you took your 24 other best friends and put them in a clubhouse, you guys will fight each other. If you guys had siblings growing up, you love your siblings to death but you guys fought. It happens. It's part of it. The unfortunate part of it is that it happened in front of the cameras. To me, that doesn't bother me. It's part of it. If you work a regular job, you don't get along with every single person you work with. That doesn't mean you won't work together. You're going to have disagreements. Even the guys that you love, you're going to have disagreements with. You have the highest level of baseball player with huge egos throughout baseball, like all professional athletes are. You have guys that have separate opinions. Now, clash those together. What are you going to get? You're going to get arguments and you're going to get fights. We're grown men."

"I think what people don't see is all the things that go on behind close doors," Jayson Werth explained. "I think that the cameras were on and everybody got to see it so that's why it's a bigger deal. Those things happen. People have disagreements and arguments. We're a big group of men that have pretty much been by each other's sides for months. There are going to be some disagreements. Fights happen. Even brothers fight. I don't think it's as big of a deal as everybody thinks it is. It will be fine. The bottom line is that we've got games to win. Petty little fights, they happen. But they don't last long in our minds. For fans and and the media, that's all they got so they run with it. But to us, I think that was over not long after it happened."

The Nationals still remain intent on shopping Papelbon, but at this point there is no guarantee they can get a worthy return in any deal. They will likely have to wait until the free agent and trade markets for relievers play out for his value to start rising again.

But even if they can't end up trading Papelbon, it sounds like many in the organization have prepared themselves for the possibility he will return to the team in 2016, if that's how the chips fall.

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Soto, Harper homer in Nats' win over Padres

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USA TODAY Sports Images

Soto, Harper homer in Nats' win over Padres

WASHINGTON -- Juan Soto, the youngest player in the majors at 19, hit a three-run homer in his first career start as the Washington Nationals defeated the San Diego Padres 10-2 on Monday.

Mark Reynolds had two solo home runs for the Nationals, who snapped a three-game losing streak. Bryce Harper had a homer and an RBI double.

Soto's drive highlighted a five-run second inning for Washington. The promising outfielder, who played for three minor league teams this season, hit the first pitch from Robbie Erlin (1-3) over the Nationals bullpen in left-center field. Soto also singled.

Soto's homer traveled an estimated 442 feet at Nationals Park. He earned a standing ovation from the crowd and the teenager responded by taking a curtain call. Per Baseball-Reference.com, Soto became the first teenager to hit a home run in a major league game since Harper on Sept. 30, 2012.

Called up to Washington on Sunday, Soto became the first 19-year-old to make his major league debut since Dodgers pitcher Julio Urias in 2016. He entered that game in the eighth inning as a pinch-hitter and struck out.

Washington's starting left fielder began the season at Class A Hagerstown. He hit a combined .362 with 14 homers and 52 RBIs in his three minor league stops.

Gio Gonzalez (5-2) allowed two runs and two hits in seven innings.

San Diego's Franmil Reyes, playing in his seventh career game, also hit his first career home run.

Trea Turner hit a pair of RBI doubles for Washington. Reynolds had three hits.

Erlin surrendered six runs and seven hits over four innings in his third start of the season. San Diego had won three in a row.

Reyes connected for a two-run homer in the fourth inning, but the Padres' lineup generated little else against Gonzalez, who allowed one run over six innings in a no-decision at San Diego on May 9.

2018 MLB POWER RANKINGS AND OTHER NATS NEWS:

- Rankings Update: Where does your team fall?
- Cause For Concern?: How worried should Nats fans be?
- Very Persuasive: How Rizzo convinced Reynolds to come to D.C.

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Juan Soto crushes a homer in the first at-bat of his first-ever start

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@MLB

Juan Soto crushes a homer in the first at-bat of his first-ever start

Juan Soto, the highly-regarded 19-year-old Nationals' prospect, got his first major league start of his career tonight. 

How did it go, you ask? Surely it would take Soto - who was in Single-A less than two weeks ago - some time to adjust? 

What were you doing at 19??

2018 MLB POWER RANKINGS AND OTHER NATS NEWS:

- Rankings Update: Where does your team fall?
- Cause For Concern?: How worried should Nats fans be?
- Very Persuasive: How Rizzo convinced Reynolds to come to D.C.