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Ozzie fires more barbs at Bryce

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Ozzie fires more barbs at Bryce

MIAMI -- Ozzie Guillen loves Bryce Harper. He made that point painfully clear during a six-minute diatribe Monday afternoon. While also lambasting Harper for what he believes was a disrespectful act during Sunday's game: Pointing his bat toward Guillen to show he had swapped it out for one with too much pine tar on it, per the Marlins manager's request.

"I like this kid," Guillen said. "I think this kid is good for baseball. He's going to be better. But if this kid continues to do that stuff, he might not make it. Because they're going to fool around with the wrong guy, and that wrong guy will kick his ass. He might not make it."

That was merely one of several verbal shots fired by Guillen at Harper and Nationals manager Davey Johnson one day after the relatively minor pine tar incident between the two clubs.

During the first inning of Sunday's game, Guillen noticed Harper had pine tar well up onto the barrel of his bat. Rule 1.10(c) prohibits the application of it any more than 18 inches from the bat's handle. Guillen says he informed plate umpire Marty Foster and Nationals third base coach Bo Porter and requested Harper use another bat.

When the 19-year-old came to the plate in the third inning, he indeed had a cleaner bat in his hands. He then pointed it toward the Miami dugout, perhaps showing Guillen it was legal. Guillen immediately started yapping at Harper and Johnson, eventually grabbing a bat of his own and pointing it toward the other dugout.

"It's my opinion: I think this kid disrespected myself doing that, and I don't think that was appropriate to do," Guillen said Monday. "I don't think it's right to make a scene, to make a big deal about it. I think he reacted, or acted, the wrong way. I don't care what people say."

Guillen attempted to call Johnson following Sunday's game and explain his side of the story. Johnson didn't care to engage in much of a conversation. According to Guillen, "He told me: 'Get the expletive away from me.'"

"He called me," Johnson said. "I said it wasn't a big deal. Enough said about it. It was an interesting exchange all around. That's Oz."

"I don't think Davey understand why I call him," Guillen said. "Because I was just calling to say: 'I don't want to make a big deal about this. I don't want to make a big scene. I think the kid 100 percent did something he shouldn't.' But I respect Davey. I love Davey. I think Davey's one of the best baseball managers in the game, to be honest with you."

Johnson believes Guillen was trying to "intimidate" Harper when he requested the bat change and later cursed at him from the dugout.

"I just don't like any time an opposing manager talks to my player when he's up at the plate, has any kind of conversation with my hitter," Johnson said. "That's nothing I like to see happen in the ballgame."

Guillen insists he wasn't trying to intimidate Harper.

"He showed me up," the veteran skipper said. "I never showed him up. Not one thing about it. Every time I talk about this kid, I compliment him. Like: 'Wow, he's the best thing. Hopefully people will play like that. People should be playing like him. Whoever teaches this kid, teaches the right way.'

"I wish this happened two years ago. Then I would've told Davey what I feel. And I would've told this kid what I feel. Intimidate? Pfft. I never intimidate people. For what? Do I look like I intimidate anybody? I swear, if we fight, that kid will kick my ass. You think I'm going to intimidate him?"

Harper stayed above the fray when asked after Sunday's game about what happened.

"He battles for his team, and that's the type of manager Ozzie is," the rookie outfielder said. "He's a great manager to play for. He's going to battle for you, no matter what. That's a manager you want to play for."

Do the Nationals expect Marlins starter Carlos Zambrano to retaliate at all during the series finale?

"No," Johnson said. "My guy throws harder than him, anyway."

Right-hander Edwin Jackson, whose fastball averages 94 mph, is starting for the Nationals.

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Nationals players were critical of Dave Martinez's decision-making in the first half

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USA Today Sports Images

Nationals players were critical of Dave Martinez's decision-making in the first half

Baseball fans love the long ball. They love the flashy plays. They love the no-hit bids and the rare perfect game. All of these things dominate headlines and capture our attention. 

The often overlooked bullpen of a club, however, almost always serves as the glue holding everything together. Relief pitching is derived of unsung heroes who are asked to perform on short notice and in sticky, high-pressure situations. 

Head skipper of the Washington Nationals, Dave Martinez, is being criticized for his handling of the bullpen during the first half of the season. 

By now it's well-documented that the Nats played their first 96 games at .500 leaving the club in third place in a division the team has walked all over back-to-back years. 

Sure, one can chalk it up to injuries, lack of roster changes or an inexperienced first-year manager working through kinks. But, there's a reason this team expects to compete for a pennant year in and year out: depth. The buzz around Martinez's decision-making continues to point toward his inability to dish out relief pitching assignments to the player's liking.  

Brandon Kintzler, Ryan Madson, Sean Doolittle, Sammy Solis and Matt Grace once made up the team's relief staff in May. Between disabled-list periods for Kintzler and Madson, and Sammy Solis being sent down to Class AAA Syracuse, the staff took a beating in the month of June. 

Nats relievers aren't necessarily upset about overuse, but more so because of a lack of communication between player and manager. 

At times during the first half of the season, relief pitchers felt overworked and that their wishes were not being acknowledged nor granted by Martinez. 

Sean Doolittle was quick to point out that the addition of Kelvin Herrera, who joined the team on June 18, sparked a change in Martinez's approach. 

“Over the last maybe month or so, maybe since we got Herrera, he’s gone around to the relievers and been a lot more proactive with that communication,” Doolittle said.

On a more tricky note, trust has also been targeted as an area needing improvement. 

When a starter gets in a jam or doesn't seem like he is 100%, Martinez often calls on reinforcements to begin the warming up process. Guys have noticed a pattern in which relief pitchers who initially warm up are often not the ones who start the following inning. 

From a relief pitcher's perspective, this is a sign of Martinez's distrust. Dramatic or not, there was a glaring disconnect throughout the first half of play. 

“With a veteran group, I think we all expect to come into a team and say we’ve all been there; we just want things to go boom, boom, boom and be a piece of cake. But we also all know it’s not like that,” Shawn Kelley said.

Handling his veteran rotation in the second half of the season should become easier for Martinez as Stephen Strasburg is expected to start Friday. The right-hander was placed on the disabled list June 10 with right shoulder inflammation. 

Strasburg pitched 5 2/3 innings in a rehab start for Class A Potomac on Sunday, allowing three runs while striking out seven and walking one. It was his second rehab start since going on the DL. He allowed one run in 3 1/3 innings for Potomac on July 11. Strasburg is 6-6 with a 3.46 ERA this season, striking out 

95 in 80 2/3 innings.

One thing that hasn't been criticized is Martinez's positive attitude. Players often rave about him as a person and how he brings a source of energy in the clubhouse. 

This was on full display during Monday night's Home Run Derby at Nationals Park. 

Moments after Bryce Harper won the Derby, Martinez was among the first to congratulate his All-Star slugger as he hoisted him in the air. 

As the second half of the season gets underway Friday, expect to see a manager who brings forth an openminded approach to his club while in pursuit of a deep October run. 

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Max Scherzer thoroughly enjoyed the All-Star experience in D.C.

Max Scherzer thoroughly enjoyed the All-Star experience in D.C.

All-Star Weekend is entertaining for fans and provides and much-needed break in the 162-game MLB season.

It’s not all just for fun, though. Following his start Tuesday night, Max Scherzer shared the benefits of being able to spend a few days sharing a locker room with players from across the league.

Being in the clubhouse, talking to veterans, talking to guys who have been here, getting to know everybody, getting the personalities, you can actually learn a lot from the other players in the league. They’re watching you, they’re watching your team and you get these conversations and it’s great. You’re talking about everybody and you find little things in the game that make them successful and what made you successful and see if you can get better.

Scherzer also didn’t hold back when talking about how great a job the city and his team did hosting the rest of the league. This is his sixth season as an All-Star, so he's speaking from quite a bit of experience.

It was awesome, what an atmosphere. I thought we were a great host team, all the other players in here loved the facilities and the treatment they received - D.C. did it right.

So according to Max Scherzer, the All-Star Game is great, but All-Star Weekend in D.C. is as good as it gets.

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