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Michael Bourn likely to test free agency

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Michael Bourn likely to test free agency

The MLB offseason may be a ways away, but one key player that could find his way to Washington over the winter is sending serious signs he may be available for the right price.

Atlanta Braves outfielder Michael Bourn is unlikely to re-sign with his current team because his asking price may be too high. Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe first reported the news citing a pessimistic Braves club who reportedly "aren't holding out much hope" to retain the two-time All-Star.

Bourn is enjoying perhaps his best season and fits a need for the Nats as a leadoff hitting center fielder. He hits for a good average, steals bases, and plays stellar defense. He also happens to be a client of Scott Boras.

The Nationals will have money to spend, but it could come down to simply finding a place for Bourn in the lineup. He fits a logical need, but if he joins the outfield Michael Morse would likely have to move to the infield. Morse to the infield would force a decision between he and Adam LaRoche, who with a team option for 2013, has been the team's most consistent bat this season.

LaRoche has proven invaluable this year for the team and is better defensively than Morse. He is also a left-handed bat, although Bourn hits lefty as well.

All things considered equal, Bourn would fit nicely in the outfield with Bryce Harper and Morse. But Jayson Werth carries the team's biggest contract and because of that likely has a secure place in the lineup. His salary escalates to 16 million in 2013 and goes up to 20 million the following year. Harper is also going nowhere.

If Bourn is signed by Washington dominoes will surely fall, they would likely trade one of their players away or part with LaRoche via free agency. It could come down to money and how long of a deal Bourn wants.

Bourn, 29, is hitting .291 this season with a career-high nine home runs, 50 RBI (second most in career), and a National League-best 30 stolen bases. That sure sounds good placed at the top of the Nationals' lineup, but signing him wouldn't exactly be an easy decision for general manager Mike Rizzo. Signing Bourn would, however, weaken perhaps the Nats' biggest threat in the division for years to come.

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GIF: Nats CF Trea Turner makes amazing diving grab vs. Orioles

GIF: Nats CF Trea Turner makes amazing diving grab vs. Orioles

Trea Turner has made a few plays in center field this year that may have made some forget he's just learning the position. He was drafted as a shortstop and remained an infielder for almost all of his minor league career.

On Wednesday night, though, he made his best play yet in the very first at-bat of the Nats' game against the Orioles. Adam Jones launched a long flyball to the right-center field gap and Turner tracked it down in a full sprint. He dove and made a fantastic grab to rob Jones of a would-be double.

See the amazing play for yourself:

Turner is an absolute blur.

[RELATED: Olympian Katie Ledecky visits Nats Park, players enthralled with medals]

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Olympian Katie Ledecky visits Nats Park, players enthralled with medals

Olympian Katie Ledecky visits Nats Park, players enthralled with medals

Watch Ledecky throw out the first pitch in the video player above, which will begin momentarily.

Before Wednesday's game between the Nats and Orioles, as players, fans and media anticipated the arrival of U.S. Olympic swimming legend - and Bethesda, Md.-native - Katie Ledecky, one National remarked how Ledecky is the 'Bryce Harper of swimming.'

Yeah, in Harper's dreams.

The five-time Olympic gold medalist has accomplished far more in her sport than Harper, or any other Nationals player for that matter, has in theirs. So, in a funny bit to go along with her first pitch, she had Harper escort her to the mound. Ledecky then took off each medal, one-by-one, and handed them to Harper. She then threw a perfect strike to reliever Shawn Kelley.

Yes, it appears there is nothing Ledecky can't do these days. The 19-year-old is now just soaking it all in as she takes just a few weeks off before she begins her preparation for the next Olympics, in Tokyo, Japan in 2020.

"This will probably be the longest break I take in the next four years. It's just nice to be out of the water and recharge," she said.

Ledecky said Harper is one of her favorite players. She spoke with him and his teammates, as well as manager Dusty Baker in the team's clubhouse. A Nationals fan, Ledecky enjoyed seeing them as much as they liked seeing her.

"It was cool. They all wanted to see how heavy [my medals] are and things like that. They are pretty heavy. It was kind of a different feeling for me to have them be a fan of me when I've been a huge fan of theirs for a couple years. I know the Nats played part of my race [on the scoreboard] and that meant a lot to me. To have that support means so much," she said.

Ledecky has some rare free time now and was able to get some practice in before throwing her first pitch.

"I have two neighbors that play baseball and they always get excited when I throw a first pitch, so they always wanted to go down to the park and throw with me. So, I practiced a little bit," she said.

It's still a busy time for Ledecky, who is off to Stanford to begin college later this month. All the while, she's still processing all that she accomplished in Rio.

"Slowly, but surely. I expect it will sink in as we move forward in the next few weeks, once I get back in the pool and start working towards my next goals. You just have to kind of put everything you've done behind you and start working towards the next thing," she said.

[RELATED: Nats fall on wrong side of three challenges by Orioles]

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Nats rotation remains in flux: how Lopez' workload and Giolito fit in

Nats rotation remains in flux: how Lopez' workload and Giolito fit in

The Nationals' starting rotation has been a work in progress ever since Joe Ross went down with right shoulder inflammation on July 3 in a start against the Reds. Since that day, they've tried three different rookies with varying levels of failure and success. Unfortunately for them, it's been much more the former than the latter.

It was already a complicated and precarious situation, and then Stephen Strasburg landed on the disabled list with right elbow soreness on Monday. Even with Ross making progress on Tuesday by throwing a bullpen session, the Nationals starting group is currently a patchwork operation.

This weekend they will yet again have decisions to make as to which rookie starts and when. A.J. Cole is lined up to start Saturday against the Rockies and is likely to do so. Sunday would be Reynaldo Lopez' turn, but Lopez got blasted by the Orioles on Tuesday and lasted just 2 2/3 innings. Like the O's, the Rockies are a tough opponent, no matter the ballpark.

Cole going Saturday and Lopez on Sunday appears to be the plan for now, but Lucas Giolito is another name to watch. The former first round pick tossed just one inning for Triple-A Syracuse on Tuesday night as a plan to set him up for this weekend.

"If necessary," manager Dusty Baker said of the plan for Giolito. "You want him to sharpen up to get some work, but you don't want him to overwork in case we need him. Who knows? We don't think that we will need him right now because of the way [Cole] pitched the other day. That was just in case because you don't know. You don't know until you get to that day and you still don't know what you're going to get come Saturday."

Another factor to keep in mind is the workload of each young pitcher, particularly for Lopez who is already at 127 2/3 innings this season combined between the minor leagues and the majors. His previous career-high for one year was 99 innings, set in 2015. Before that, in 2014, he pitched 83 1/3 innings.

Lopez is already in uncharted territory, but the Nationals aren't close to shutting him down or shifting him to the bullpen.

"That subject really hasn't come up right now, yet," he said. "Do we put too much emphasis in workload, or are we not sometimes overworking them? I think it varies per person. He doesn't look like he's tired to me. Who is to replace these guys? How many replacements do you have if you want to win the pennant? It doesn't work both ways."

Baker, who has been criticized for his handling of young starting pitchers in the past, then explained how the Nats have a lot at stake this season. They will do their best to look out for young pitchers, but also have World Series aspirations in mind.

"It's hard to have it both ways. You try to monitor it, but at the same time you're trying to win. The teams that are in the playoffs a lot, the teams that are in the playoffs a lot in basketball and football, they don't get many breaks. LeBron James and these guys, how many breaks have they gotten from being in consecutive playoff situations? They're playing 20 percent of their season in the playoffs every year. It's hard to have it both ways," he said.

[RELATED: Lopez rocked as Nats suffer lopsided loss to Orioles]

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