Gio grooves on success in start against Mets

Gio grooves on success in start against Mets

VIERA, Fla. -- Nationals left-hander Gio Gonzalez completed his longest and best outing of the spring, but his performance was matched by Mets right-hander Matt Bowman. Both pitchers completed five scoreless innings in New York's 8-3 victory on Thursday night at Space Coast Stadium.

The Mets scored four runs in the eighth off reliever Craig Stammen, punctuated by a two-run homer from Matt den Dekker, one of three jacks for New York. The Nationals' only offense came in the sixth off reliever Jeurys Familia, who was removed with two outs in the inning after allowing three runs on four hits.

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Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDicomo. Jamal Collier is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Harper misses 2nd straight game with flu bug

Harper misses 2nd straight game with flu bug

VIERA, Fla. -- Bryce Harper missed his second straight game on Thursday while he is dealing with a stomach bug.

Harper arrived at Space Coast Stadium initially on Thursday afternoon expecting to play against the Mets. After taking some light swings in the batting cages, however, he did not feel good and the Nationals sent him home.

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Jamal Collier is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Nationals entertaining plenty of bench options

Nationals entertaining plenty of bench options

VIERA, Fla. -- As the Grapefruit League begins to wind down, the Nationals are starting to focus on who will fill out the final spots on their bench.

They have multiple players in camp who play similar roles at first base and in the outfield in Tyler Moore, Clint Robinson, Kila Ka'aihue and Matt Carp.

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Jamal Collier is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Bryan Harper happy to rub elbows with Nats

Bryan Harper happy to rub elbows with Nats

VIERA, Fla. -- The Nationals were practicing defensive drills prior to the start of Thursday's Grapefruit League game against the Mets, when one fan noticed something unusual.

"Did Bryce Harper change his number?" he asked aloud to no one in particular after noticing a Harper jersey with the No. 33 on the back.

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Jamal Collier is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Scherzer able to work out of jam in dominant start

Nationals Opening Day starter strikes out nine Cardinals, including clutch K's in tricky fifth

Scherzer able to work out of jam in dominant start

JUPITER, Fla. -- Nationals right-hander Max Scherzer was dominating in a 1-0 loss to the Cardinals on Wednesday afternoon.

Scherzer pitched six shutout innings, allowing three hits and striking out nine. The only time he was in trouble was in the fifth inning. After Yadier Molina singled with one out and Jon Jay followed with a double, Scherzer struck out Kolten Wong and Michael Wacha to end the threat.

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Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the Time. He also can be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Knee sprain hurting Rendon's chances for opener

MCL is healing, but not fast enough; Stewart leading candidate to step in if necessary

Knee sprain hurting Rendon's chances for opener

JUPITER, Fla. -- There is a possibility that Nationals third baseman Anthony Rendon may not be ready for Opening Day, according to manager Matt Williams.

Rendon is still dealing with a sprained MCL in his left knee, which he injured making a diving play against the Braves on March 9. Rendon had a second MRI on the knee Monday, and while the results showed improvement, they did not show enough to determine that he will be healthy for the season opener.

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Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the Time. He also can be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Scherzer piles up K's before Nationals edged late

Opening Day starter fans nine in six superb innings; Barrett loses command in relief

Scherzer piles up K's before Nationals edged late

JUPITER, Fla. -- Cardinals right-hander Michael Wacha and Nationals Opening Day starter Max Scherzer were engaged in a terrific pitchers' duel to start Wednesday's matchup at Roger Dean Stadium, before the Cards broke through in the eighth inning for a 1-0 victory.

Nats reliever Aaron Barrett began the inning by hitting Kolten Wong with a pitch, and pinch-runner Charlie Tilson stole second base after Wong was removed. Barrett then uncorked a wild pitch, advancing Tilson to third, and Ty Kelly drove him home with a sacrifice fly. After Barrett exited, Rafael Martin struck out Stephen Piscotty with the bases loaded to end the damage.

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Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the Time. He also can be found on Twitter @WashingNats. Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB and like her Facebook page Jenifer Langosch for Cardinals.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Zimmerman remains driven in 10th season with Nats

Veteran serves as consummate teammate a decade deep into career with Washington

Zimmerman remains driven in 10th season with Nats

VIERA, Fla. -- Ryan Zimmerman has been the face of the Washington Nationals' franchise practically since he arrived in the Major Leagues on Sept. 1, 2005. He was the team's first star in Washington and he's still a star.

Zimmerman is a homegrown legend from Virginia Beach, Va., and playing close to home hasn't put any added pressure on him. He is a clean-cut guy who never got into trouble off the field. When things go wrong with the Nats, Zimmerman is always by his locker to field questions.

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Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the Time. He also can be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Stewart playing his way into valuable role

With strong spring backing him up, veteran could step in at third base if Rendon isn't ready

Stewart playing his way into valuable role

JUPITER, Fla. -- Third baseman Ian Stewart signed a Minor League contract with the Nationals last December in hopes of being one of the left-handed hitters off the bench.

But ever since Anthony Rendon went down with his left knee sprain on March 9, Stewart has played almost every day at third base and has taken advantage of the situation, hitting .323 with three home runs and four RBIs in 16 games.

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Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the Time. He also can be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

MLB.com Columnist

Richard Justice

Nationals equipped to survive early injury test

Boasting deep, talented roster, club not likely to have playoff hopes dashed in April or May

Nationals equipped to survive early injury test

The Washington Nationals don't have to get it right in April or even May. That's a handy reminder on a week like this one.

OK, so maybe the Nationals won't open the 2015 season with the team they'd drawn up on paper.

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Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

MLB.com Columnist

Jim Callis

Pipeline Perspectives: Nats' system has had best five-year run

No. 1 Draft picks Strasburg, Harper are just part of Washington's homegrown success

Pipeline Perspectives: Nats' system has had best five-year run

There's a good amount of subjectivity regarding baseball prospects. With the evaluation of talent being in the eye of the beholder, finding consensus is often difficult. Even Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo of MLBPipeline.com don't always see eye to eye. They discuss their viewpoints regularly in a feature called Pipeline Perspectives. Submit a topic for them to debate.

Until the Expos moved from Montreal in 2005, Washington hadn't had a Major League team since the Senators bolted for Texas after the 1971 season. The Nationals did a poor imitation of a big league club in their first five seasons, averaging 93 losses and finishing last in the National League East four times.

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Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com and writes a blog, Callis' Corner. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Scherzer gets Nationals' Opening Day nod

Right-hander honored with start for first time in career

Scherzer gets Nationals' Opening Day nod

VIERA, Fla. -- Nationals manager Matt Williams announced on Monday that right-hander Max Scherzer will be the team's Opening Day starter on April 6 against the Mets at Nationals Park. It will be the first Opening Day start of Scherzer's career. Washington's last three Opening Day starts have gone to right-hander Stephen Strasburg.

"There are lots of reasons [Scherzer is the Opening Day starter]," Williams said. "He is really a good pitcher. We are confident in him. All of our guys have the ability to go out and beat the other team. Max certainly has that ability as well, and we are confident in him."

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Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Fister does part on hill, with lumber vs. Yankees

Right-hander pitches 4 1/3 innings, adds two-run single; Escobar records hit in debut

Fister does part on hill, with lumber vs. Yankees

VIERA, Fla. -- The Nationals scored three runs in the seventh inning off Kyle Davies to edge the Yankees, 7-6, at Space Coast Stadium on Monday afternoon. Doug Fister started the game and pitched into the fifth inning while contributing to a four-run fourth with a two-run single.

Chris Young and Brian McCann did most of the damage for New York, driving in a combined five runs. Young hit two homers, while McCann hit a two-run blast in support of rotation hopeful Bryan Mitchell, who allowed four hits and two earned runs in 3 1/3 innings.

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Jamal Collier is a reporter for MLB.com. Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Escobar notches hit, flashes leather in spring debut

Escobar notches hit, flashes leather in spring debut

VIERA, Fla. -- Yunel Escobar played his first game of the spring on Monday, and the second baseman showed that he is over his Grade 1 oblique strain in the Nationals' 7-6 victory over the Yankees.

Escobar, who batted leadoff, went 1-for-2 with an infield single in the first inning and made a great diving play in the third inning. Brett Gardner hit a ground ball to Escobar, who dove to his right to throw out Gardner, but Rob Refsnyder scored on the play.

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Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Bell's final toll: Longtime closer elects to retire

All-Star from 2009-11 with Padres, fiery reliever bows out after 11-season career

Bell's final toll: Longtime closer elects to retire

Heath Bell turned down the stereo long enough in his 31-foot Fleetwood RV on Tuesday afternoon to take a few questions about the next chapter in his life, although he didn't take the foot off the gas pedal, as he bombed his way across the Florida Panhandle.

A day after being released by the Nationals, Bell was only a few hours into what he was expecting to be a three-day solo drive back to San Diego, where he will join his wife, Nicole, and their four children for good.

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Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. Keep track of @FollowThePadres on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Frandsen takes part in fantasy mock draft

Frandsen takes part in fantasy mock draft

Here at MLB.com, we have plenty of fantasy baseball expertise. But no one can dispute that the Major League players whom we analyze have their own level of knowledge. Knowing this, we decided to solicit advice from them about how to build the perfect fantasy team. The result is the first ever -- that we know of -- players-only fantasy mock draft.

Ten players with an interest in fantasy baseball agreed to take part in a three-round mock draft with the help of MLB.com reporters, who relayed picks across the Grapefruit and Cactus Leagues.

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Zachary Finkelstein is a fantasy editor for MLB.com. Reporting done by Adam McCalvy, Rhett Bollinger, Alden Gonzalez, Mark Bowman, Jane Lee, Brittany Ghiroli, Steve Gilbert, Brian McTaggart and Joe Frisaro. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Prospect Ward gets brief taste of big leagues

Prospect Ward gets brief taste of big leagues

VIERA, Fla. -- Third baseman Drew Ward, the ninth-ranked prospect in the Nationals' organization according to MLB.com, received quite the shock when he was told Sunday that he was leaving the Minor League side for a day to play with the big league team on Monday. Ward went 1-for-2 with an infield single in a 7-6 victory over the Yankees.

"It's a dream come true, that's for sure," Ward said.

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Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Nats release reliever Bell among roster moves

Nats release reliever Bell among roster moves

VIERA, Fla. -- After beating the Yankees, 7-6, on Monday afternoon, the Nationals released reliever Heath Bell. According to Bell, the Nationals told him they didn't have a roster spot for him.

In seven games this spring, Bell allowed four earned runs in 6 1/3 innings with seven strikeouts. He picked up the save on Monday with a perfect inning of work.

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Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Nats tag Verlander for 3 homers, 2 by Taylor

Stewart also goes deep among 3 hits; Cole solid while stepping in for Strasburg

Nats tag Verlander for 3 homers, 2 by Taylor

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Michael Taylor, the Nationals' No. 2 prospect, hit two home runs as part of a three-homer barrage from Washington batters off Justin Verlander, building an early lead until Joey Pankake's ninth-inning homer forged a 7-7 tie with the Tigers on Sunday at Joker Marchant Stadium.

Three days after the same teams battled to a scoreless tie in Viera, Fla., the two sides combined for seven homers on a summerlike day in Lakeland. Taylor's two-homer day and Ian Stewart's third homer of the spring resulted in a string of three leadoff home runs in as many innings off Verlander, who continued to work on his slider while trying to spot his fastball.

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Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Strasburg successfully tests ankle sprain in 'pen session

Nationals righty says he's feeling better, focusing on keeping swelling down

Strasburg successfully tests ankle sprain in 'pen session

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Two days after spraining his left ankle, Nationals right-hander Stephen Strasburg said Sunday morning he is feeling better and still trying to get the swelling down.

Strasburg even tossed a light bullpen session Sunday, throwing about 20 pitches. He will have another 'pen session before he pitches in a game, according to manager Matt Williams.

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Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the Time. He also can be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Tailored approach helps Nats prospect to thrive

Two homers off Verlander with two strikes validates Taylor's preparation

Tailored approach helps Nats prospect to thrive

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Nationals center fielder Michael Taylor continued his productive Spring Training with an impressive two-homer performance against Tigers right-hander Justin Verlander during a 7-7 tie at Joker Marchant Stadium on Sunday afternoon.

After grounding out in the first inning, Taylor came to the plate two innings later and hit a fastball over the right-field wall. In the fifth inning, with Verlander still on the mound, Taylor hit a monster home run over the left-center-field wall.

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Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the Time. He also can be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Williams doesn't feel Nats need to make deal

Williams doesn't feel Nats need to make deal

LAKELAND, Fla. -- The Nationals have had with their share of injuries this spring, from Anthony Rendon spraining his left MCL to Jayson Werth dealing with shoulder issues.

Let's not forget that center fielder Denard Span will miss the start of the season because of surgery to repair his rectus abdominis (abdominal) muscle.

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Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the Time. He also can be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Dykstra showing hustle, making good impression on Nationals

Utility man playing well in first big league camp

Dykstra showing hustle, making good impression on Nationals

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Nationals infielder/outfielder Cutter Dykstra is in his first big league camp, and he has left a good impression with manager Matt Williams.

Entering Monday's action against the Yankees, Dykstra, the son of former Major Leaguer Lenny Dykstra, is 4-for-15 [.267] with two RBIs. Like his father, Dykstra is known for his hustle. For now, Dykstra is considered a speedy utility player.

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Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the Time. He also can be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Uggla's blast leads big inning to boost Zimmermann

Nats score four in third; righty allows a run, gets plunked in first plate appearance

Uggla's blast leads big inning to boost Zimmermann

VIERA, Fla. -- Dan Uggla, who is competing for a spot on the Nationals' roster, continued his hot-hitting spring with a two-run homer in the third inning to propel the Nats to a 4-2 victory over the Marlins at Space Coast Stadium on Saturday. Right-hander Jordan Zimmermann turned in a solid outing as well in his fourth Grapefruit League start.

Henderson Alvarez, likely Miami's Opening Day starter, surrendered four runs on six hits in five innings, while Dee Gordon went 2-for-3 with a triple and a run scored to provide some early offense.

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Jamal Collier is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Zimmermann plunked in strong outing vs. Marlins

Nats righty allows a run over five innings, exchanges words with Alvarez

Zimmermann plunked in strong outing vs. Marlins

VIERA, Fla. -- Jordan Zimmermann was not pleased with the amount of hits he gave up during his fourth Grapefruit League start, but he was even more upset after being hit in the left elbow by a pitch from Henderson Alvarez in the second inning of Nationals 4-2 victory over the Marlins on Saturday.

When Alvarez came to the plate in the fifth, Zimmermann brushed him back with a pitch low and inside. Alvarez laid down a sacrifice bunt later in the at-bat, and on his way back to the dugout, the two exchanged words.

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Jamal Collier is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Nats get strong start from Jordan against Braves

Young right-hander allows one hit over three scoreless innings

Nats get strong start from Jordan against Braves

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Todd Cunningham's RBI single capped the Braves' three-run fourth inning that propelled Atlanta's split squad to a 5-2 victory against the Nationals on Saturday afternoon.

After Nationals starter Taylor Jordan surrendered just one hit through three scoreless innings, the Braves started rolling against Evan Meek, who allowed hits to three of the first four batters he faced. Kelly Johnson's double off the center-field wall set the stage for Jonny Gomes to follow with a game-tying, two-run single. Cunningham's single to right scored Gomes with the go-ahead run.

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Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Espinosa makes first career start at third base

Infielder represents insurance while Rendon recovers from MCL sprain

Espinosa makes first career start at third base

VIERA, Fla -- With uncertainty surrounding the health of third baseman Anthony Rendon's left knee and a split-squad game scheduled for the day, Danny Espinosa started at third base during Saturday's contest against the Marlins.

Espinosa has never started a game at third base during the regular season in either his Major or Minor League career, but Nationals manager Matt Williams approached him on the idea to begin getting acclimated to the position.

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Jamal Collier is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.