From Comcast SportsNetTEMPE, Ariz. (AP) -- The Arizona Cardinals and inside linebacker Daryl Washington have agreed on a six-year contract.The Cardinals had targeted the third-year pro throughout training camp as the next player to get a new deal. A second-round draft pick -- 47th overall -- out of TCU in 2010, Washington led the team in tackles last season with 111."I feel really good, really good," he said after practice on Thursday. "I'm glad it was able to get done before the season, sooner than later. I feel real good about the decision, about my agent Jordan Woy and the organization. I told them I wanted to be here for a long time and I'm glad it got done."Terms weren't disclosed but the deal contains guaranteed money, a pay raise over the next two seasons with a team option bonus in 2014.Washington, known for his extreme speed at a critical position in Arizona's 3-4 scheme, had 16 tackles for loss last season, the most by an Arizona player since 1995. He was one of five players in the NFL in 2011 with at least five sacks and two interceptions.He had two years left on the contract he signed as a rookie."It just shows they believe in me, they believe in my talent," Washington said. "It shows the kind of person I am, the kind of character that I have. I'm just excited right now, very excited."He joins defensive end Calais Campbell as players who signed long-term deals with Arizona in recent months."It just shows that they've got two potential great players for a long period of time," Washington said. "We're looking to really take over the defense and really show the organization that we're worth the pay."He said the contract does not create more pressure for him to prove he's worth it."It's more of a challenge," Washington said, "to go out there and play as well as they expect me to play. But I expect that of myself."Coach Ken Whisenhunt said "it's great when you have a young player that has made the strides that Daryl has.""We thought highly of him before we drafted him and he certainly hasn't let us down," Whisenhunt said, "so to know that he's going to be here for a number of years was a great thing."Washington has plenty of room for improvement."I think to continue on that upward scale is the next step for him," Whisenhunt said. "He learned the defense, understood what he had to do in the defense. He's been an explosive player, a fast player. When he knows what he's doing he's hard to block with the speed that he's got. He's all over the place and I think that just getting more and more comfortable in this defense and understanding where he has to be, he can get there fast, and that helps."The Cardinals had their eye on Washington throughout his college career "on a very good defense" at TCU, the coach said."For the fit in what we're trying to get done defensively, he has all the things that you like to see," Whisenhunt said. "He's smart, he's fast, he thumps a lot more than you think he would based on his size (6-foot-2, 230 pounds). He can cover, he can get down the field. All those things to play that linebacker position, a three-down linebacker, make him very valuable."Just his work ethic, that's one of the things that you look for in some of these young players, if they're going to be a leader, if they're going to be one of the guys that you count on defensively, they've got to be the right kind of guy, and Daryl is that."He is among five players from Arizona's 2010 draft class who will start in Sunday's season opener against Seattle.Campbell was elated to see Washington get the deal."He deserved it. He's definitely a great player," Campbell said. "I'd love to play with him a lot of years because he's going to make me look good and make all kinds of plays."Campbell said the Cardinals were smart to sign Washington now because he would have been a lot more expensive after this season."Because he's going to have a great year," Campbell said. "I'm predicting him to be All-Pro."
Atop the majors with a 23.4 walk percentage, Bryce Harper is being pitched around more often than anyone this season. Both that approach from opposing teams and his struggles with not getting pitches to hit have been well-documented.
The St. Louis Cardinals, however, have been an outlier this season when it comes to how they've handled Harper. He's only walked twice in 25 plate appearances against them. That's an eight percent walk rate, about a third of his season average. He's struck out in 32 percent of his PAs against the Cardinals (8 SO in 25 PA) - much higher than his 18 percent season average - and is batting just .130 through six games vs. the Cards. Only the Mets have held him to a lower OPS than the .591 mark he has against St. Louis.
The Cardinals have been pitching to Harper and it hasn't hurt them all that much. He has three hits in six games and two are homers, but both were solo shots.
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny spoke about the team's approach to Harper this weekend.
"Typically, a solo home run shouldn't beat you," Matheny said. "We do pitch him carefully. We have in the past and we'll continue to. A lot of it has to do with how he's swinging at the time and what the matchups look like and who's hitting around him. All that goes into the decision."
"We've had a little success against him, not that that's always going to continue because he's a good hitter, but when we had him at home we were pitching him tough and we were able to get outs. When you're able to do that, you try to stick with the approach that's working."
A 13-year MLB veteran before he went into coaching, Matheny was a catcher during the days of Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, and then when Barry Bonds was setting records with the San Francisco Giants.
Matheny knows there comes a time when hitters can get so hot there is just no point in pitching to them.
"Who's a guy we want to stay away from, is there somebody in the lineup you don't want to beat you and is there enough depth to where you can't do that?… Bonds had good players around him, but when he was hot there were just times where he just wasn't going to [allowed to] beat you. I could see Harper being viewed the same way," Matheny said.
"There were times in Barry Bonds' career was the best player on the planet and you couldn't get him out… There were times when Sammy was the hottest hitter in baseball and you just weren't going to let him beat you. I don't care who was hitting behind him. This kid, obviously he can be included in those kinds of conversations."
Ben Standig contributed to this report
Fresh off three rehab appearances with the Single-A Potomac Nationals, the next stop for Nats reliever Matt Belisle is likely to be Double-A Harrisburg. Belisle expects to pitch two innings there on Tuesday before the team can determine his next step.
Belisle pitched two innings on Saturday night with the P-Nats and allowed two earned runs on four hits with three strikeouts. He feels like he could return now if needed, but it's not up to him.
"I'm ready," the 35-year-old said. "I feel great with the calf. I'm doing everything I can. The therapist and everybody have said I'm good to go. I'm ready to rock."
Belisle has been on the disabled list since April 27 with a right calf strain. The two runs he gave up on Saturday are the only ones he's allowed in four innings on his rehab assigment. He allowed six hits and struck out five in those games.
Belisle made seven appearances with the Nationals before injuring himself fielding a groundball against the Phillies on April 27. He says he feels good both physically and in terms of his performance on the mound.
"I never took off. I was pitching off the mound and doing side sessions quite a bit. I guess when you get up you lose a little bit of feel, but it's not like coming in and starting all over again," he explained.
"I've done this a few times before. How you play catch is a big and important factor. The more action you get, the better… You need to step in ready to fire and go."
Nats (29-21) vs. Cardinals (26-24) at Nationals Park
The Nats and Cardinals close out a four-game series on Sunday at Nationals Park with two big name pitchers set to square off. For the Nats, it will be Stephen Strasburg (8-0, 2.79). For the Cardinals, it will be Michael Wacha (2-5, 5.04), who is not off to the greatest start this season.
The Cardinals have taken two straight games after the Nats won the series opener on Thursday. The Nationals aim for the split without Jayson Werth, who is sitting the series finale. Michael Taylor is in to play center field with Ben Revere in left. Taylor is batting in Werth's second spot in the lineup.
First pitch: 1:35 p.m.
TV: CBS-9, MASN
Radio: 106.7 The Fan, XM 183
Starting pitchers: Nats - Stephen Strasburg vs. Cardinals - Michael Wacha
LF Ben Revere
CF Michael Taylor
RF Bryce Harper
2B Daniel Murphy
1B Ryan Zimmerman
3B Anthony Rendon
C Wilson Ramos
SS Danny Espinosa
RHP Stephen Strasburg
3B Matt Carpenter
SS Greg Garcia
LF Matt Holliday
1B Matt Adams
CF Randal Grichuk
RF Brandon Moss
2B Jedd Gyorko
C Eric Fryer
RHP Michael Wacha