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Nats going with closer-by-committee

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Nats going with closer-by-committee

PHILADELPHIA -- One night after another near-meltdown in the ninth inning, Henry Rodriguez is being moved out of the Nationals' closer role, with manager Davey Johnson saying he'll instead use a committee of relievers in that spot.

"Henry has been great, he's been not-so-great," Johnson said before tonight's game against the Phillies. "I think he might be trying too hard. Probably change his role, put him in a little less-demanding role, try to get him back on track."

Thrust into the closer's role after both Drew Storen and Brad Lidge succumbed to injuries, Rodriguez opened the season with five consecutive saves converted and zero earned runs allowed. But in 12 appearances since, his ERA sits at 8.38 and he's blown three save opportunities.

That doesn't include two games in the last week in which Rodriguez has gotten himself into a jam and had to be bailed out by teammate Sean Burnett, including last night's 2-1 victory at Citizens Bank Park.

Having already gone through three closers, and without another experienced ninth-inning arm in his bullpen, Johnson said he'll mix-and-match moving forward, choosing his relievers based on the situation.

"It's just going to be when I get into a ballgame, see who's fresh, which I like the matchups better," the manager said. "That's the way I'll go."

The most likely choices for such duties include Burnett (who owns 10 career saves), Tyler Clippard (one career save) and Craig Stammen (zero career saves), though Johnson today reiterated the important role Clippard already holds as his top setup man.

"I'd kind of like to keep him where I've got him," Johnson said. "But he's pitched the ninth inning in ballgames for me. I'm not necessarily eliminating anybody."

One other strong candidate to close would have been Ryan Mattheus, but the right-hander was placed on the disabled list today with plantar fasciitis in his left foot and will miss at least the next two weeks.

"That's a big blow," Johnson said. "And at the same time, having Henry have another hiccup, that didn't help either. We've been kind of devastated. It's been kind of making us regroup, revamp. But it's not like something we're not used to."

Mattheus' injury opened a spot in the bullpen for Chien-Ming Wang, who was activated off the DL and is available in relief tonight. The Nationals, though, prefer not to use Wang (who a career starter who pitched 5 23 innings Saturday for Class AAA Syraucse) until he's had a full four days of rest.

Wang was already scheduled to be in Philadelphia today to throw a bullpen session in front of coaches. Now, he'll remain with the club as a long reliever for the foreseeable future, even though he's made only five relief appearances in his career.

"I'm just glad the team still gives me this opportunity," the Taiwanese right-hander said through interpreter John Hsu. "I'm going to try my best to get the job done and try to help the team win the game."

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New York Daily News puts Bryce Harper and Manny Machado in Yankees uniforms

New York Daily News puts Bryce Harper and Manny Machado in Yankees uniforms

You can always count on the New York Daily News to run an audacious cover. The tabloid delivered again Friday with an image edited to show two of the league's best young hitters in Yankees pinstripes: Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper and Orioles short stop Manny Machado. 

"Bats to the Future" is exactly the headline you'd expect, too.  

It's hard to tell what's more odious to Washington and Baltimore fans: the image itself or the suggestion that baseball's new collective bargaining agreement makes it easier for the Yankees to poach their stars. 

The premise of that argument comes from sources who say the new CBA contains two changes beneficial to New York: reduced revenue sharing burden (due to tweaks in how sharing is calculated, plus a deduction for the cost of building and running Yankee Stadium) and an increased luxury tax threshold. 

Without going into number crunching detail, the Daily News explains how the club could afford Harper and/or Machado when they become free agents after the 2018 season. 

The article's tone of inevitability, despite its many assumptions, will rankle fans of all 29 other teams. After all, the Yankees aren't the only franchise interested in Harper and Machado. 

The Nationals and Orioles will presumably try to keep their stars. But to do that, they may have to fend off potentially historic money from the Bronx. 

MORE BASEBALL: Nats let Ben Revere walk

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Nationals decline to tender the contract of Ben Revere

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USA Today Sports

Nationals decline to tender the contract of Ben Revere

Ben Revere was brought to Washington in the hopes he could solve the centerfield and lead-off issue that plagued them the previous year. After just one year, the Nationals have decided to move on from Revere as they declined to tender him.

The move makes Revere a free agent after a .217/.260/.300 season that fell way below expectations. Revere tied his career-high with two home runs and added 24 RBI while scoring 44 runs. 

Stay tuned for more information!