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Clippard gets his chance to close


Clippard gets his chance to close

PHILADELPHIA -- Rarely does Tyler Clippard get the opportunity to watch the Nationals celebrate a victory in person, let alone be at the center of such a celebration on the field. Such is life for a setup man, who upon handing over the game to his closer heads down the dugout tunnel to ice his arm and watch the ninth inning on TV.

"Usually when I pitch the eighth, I just come to the clubhouse and we just do this," Clippard said, making a high-five motion to no one in particular. "It's a lot more fun out on the field."

Something the Nationals reliever finally got to experience last night. Summoned by manager Davey Johnson to pitch the ninth inning with a three-run lead, Clippard made quick work of the Phillies and then got to receive high-fives from everyone on the Nationals' roster following the 5-2 victory.

Might we see this scene play out more moving forward? Earlier in the day, Clippard made an impassioned case for himself as the Nationals' new fill-in closer, now that Henry Rodriguez flamed out and Drew Storen and Brad Lidge continue to recover from injuries.

"I want it bad," he said. "I've been fighting for the opportunity for three years now. I feel like I've been over-stepped a few times along the way for the opportunity to get those saves, for whatever reason. I don't really know. But they have a plan, and I trust their plan. We've had a good year this year and we've been winning. You can't really go against the grain as far that stuff is concerned. But, yeah, I would love an opportunity."

Clippard is hardly a selfish player. He's been the consummate team-first guy over the last three seasons, throwing more innings than any other reliever in the majors, many of them coming at critical points in a game with runners in scoring position and the opponent's best hitters at the plate.

And he'll be the first to tell you that Storen (his good friend and roommate) deserves to reassume his closer's job once he returns from elbow surgery in early July.

But after putting in his time over multiple seasons, and pitching as well as any reliever in baseball, you can't fault Clippard for wanting to ascend to the highest-profile role there is out of the bullpen.

"If you're a bullpen guy in the big leagues, in my opinion, you want to be a closer," he said. "That's the premier job as a bullpen guy. If you're not going to be a starter, you might as well want to do that. There's no secret. It's the kind of natural progression of anybody's career. You want to be the best at what you do. In my opinion, the guys who are the best at what they do in the bullpen usually get closer's jobs. That's what you want to do."

So, is Clippard the Nationals' new closer? The way Johnson describes the situation, it doesn't sound that way. The veteran manager said he plans to use a closer-by-committee for now, picking the right pitcher for the situation on each given night.

That could be Sean Burnett. That could be Craig Stammen. That could be Clippard.

For at least one night, though, Clippard got to savor the experience of pitching the ninth inning on the road with his team holding a slim lead. It felt different than what he's become accustomed to the last three years. And it felt good.

"A lot more adrenaline, a lot more nervousness," he said. "But it was a good feeling. I havent had that for a while, so it was a lot of fun tonight.

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Nationals avoid arbitration, reach deal with Bryce Harper and three others

Nationals avoid arbitration, reach deal with Bryce Harper and three others

The Washington Nationals avoided arbitration and agreed to one-year deals today with Bryce Harper, Anthony Rendon, Tanner Roark and newly acquired catcher Derek Norris.

If team's and players didn't agree to contracts by today's 1 p.m. ET deadline, an independent arbitrator will rule on the contract at a later date and decide how much the player will play for in 2017. 

Harper and the Nationals agreed to a $13.625 million deal, which was significantly more than the $9.3 million contract that was projected by MLB Trade Rumors. Last season, coming off his 2015 MVP campaign, Harper made $5 million. The 24-year-old will be a free agent after the 2018 season. 

Harper is coming off a disappointing season by his standards, in which he hit just .243 with 24 homers, which was way down from his total of 42 dingers in 2015. 

According to multiple reports, Rendon signed for $5.8 million, Roark signed for $4.315 million and Norris' deal was for $4.2 million.

Roark made just $543,400 last season, which he vastly out-performed. Roark was one of the most consistent pitchers in the National League last year as he won 16 games and posted a 2.83 ERA in 210 innings of work. 

With today's signings, all of the Nationals' arbitration-eligible players are under contract for 2017. 

Related: Tanner Roark to replace Max Scherzer on World Baseball Classic roster

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LOOK: Bryce Harper got married in suit jacket lined with pictures of wife

LOOK: Bryce Harper got married in suit jacket lined with pictures of wife

Nationals star Bryce Harper has a bold fashion sense, that's for sure. Just take a look at that hair. But he a more romantic fashion risk for his own wedding with a custom suit jacket. 

He opted for a navy blue tuxedo with black piping. It was the lining that really stood out as special. 

If you look closely, you'll see photos of Harper and his wife, Kayla, decorating the lining of the jacket. 

There's also the date of wedding and script reading "Mr. and Mrs. Harper." 

He credited the makers of his tuxedo, Stitched, in the tweet. 

MORE NATIONALS: Nationals’ Bryce Harper ecstatic to see bride on wedding day