Nats release spring training schedule

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Nats release spring training schedule

The Nationals have announced the exhibition schedule for what likely will be their final spring training in Viera, a 32-game slate that underscores why the franchise hopes to relocate to Florida's Gulf Coast in 2014.

Washington will open the Grapefruit League on Feb. 23 in Port St. Lucie, the first of six spring encounters with the Mets (who train about an hour south of Viera). The Nationals also face the Astros (who train 50 minutes west in Kissimmee) six times. They'll face the Braves (who are an hour west in Lake Buena Vista), Cardinals and Marlins (who train nearly two hours to the south in Jupiter) five times a piece, while facing the Tigers (who are nearly two hours away in Lakeland) four times.

The Nationals also must make a six-hour round trip to Clearwater on March 6 for a single exhibition game against the Phillies.

All told, the Nationals will spend more time on Florida's highways than any other club in the Grapefruit League, the primary reason ownership hopes to relocate to the Gulf Coast in 2014.

The Nationals have been in negotiations with government officials from Fort Myers, seeking funding to renovate the City of Palms complex that was vacated by the Red Sox last year. If they're able to strike a deal and move in 2014, the Nationals would train in a town that also hosts the Red Sox and Twins and is also located a short drive from three other camps on the west coast: the Rays, Orioles and Pirates.

Here is the full exhibition schedule for this spring. Reporting dates for pitchers and catchers and then position players has not been finalized yet, but they will come earlier than usual because the World Baseball Classic will be held in March...

NATIONALS 2013 GRAPEFRUIT LEAGUE SCHEDULE
Game times TBA
Feb. 23 at Mets in Port St. Lucie
Feb. 24 vs Marlins in Viera
Feb. 25 at Mets in Port St. Lucie
Feb. 26 at Braves in Lake Buena Vista
Feb. 27 vs Marlins in Viera
Feb. 28 vs Mets in Viera
Mar. 1 at Braves in Lake Buena Vista
Mar. 2 at Cardinals in Jupiter
Mar. 3 vs Cardinals in Viera
Mar. 4 OFF
Mar. 5 vs Astros in Viera
Mar. 6 at Phillies in Clearwater
Mar. 7 at Astros in Kissimmee
Mar. 8 vs Cardinals in Viera
Mar. 9 vs Marlins (ss) in Viera
Mar. 10 at Tigers in Lakeland
Mar. 11 vs Braves in Viera
Mar. 12 OFF
Mar. 13 (ss) vs Mets in Viera, (ss) at Astros in Kissimmee
Mar. 14 vs Astros in Viera
Mar. 15 at Cardinals in Jupiter
Mar. 16 vs Astros in Viera
Mar. 17 at Tigers in Lakeland
Mar. 18 vs Tigers in Viera
Mar. 19 OFF
Mar. 20 at Marlins in Jupiter
Mar. 21 at Braves in Lake Buena Vista
Mar. 22 vs Tigers in Viera
Mar. 23 at Mets in Port St. Lucie
Mar. 24 vs Braves in Viera
Mar. 25 at Astros in Kissimmee
Mar. 26 at Marlins in Jupiter
Mar. 27 at Cardinals in Jupiter
Mar. 28 vs Mets in Viera

Dusty Baker: Daniel Murphy 'more than I think anybody dreamed that he would be'

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Dusty Baker: Daniel Murphy 'more than I think anybody dreamed that he would be'

Amid a torrid start to his season, Nationals second baseman Daniel Murphy will be given the night off by manager Dusty Baker for Thursday's series opener against the St. Louis Cardinals.

The 31-year-old Murphy — a revelation since he signed with the Nats in January at three years, $37.5 million — leads the majors with a .394 batting average and is second with a 1.043 on-base plus slugging mark. 

"He's been more than I think anybody dreamed that he would be," Baker said before Thursday's game. 

Even more amazing is that Murphy wasn't even the Nats' first option during baseball''s Hot Stove season. Baker mentioned that Washington's original target at that spot was Cincinnati Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips, who was nearly traded to D.C. were it not for the team's reluctance to extend the veteran's contract. The Nats were also reportedly in on Ben Zobrist, who signed with the Chicago Cubs at four years, $56 million.

Given the early returns, suffice it say that Murphy is undoubtedly one of the best bargains of the offseason. 

"I'm glad we got Daniel Murphy," Baker said. "Big time....I don't think we could have done much better with a player [in free agency] than Murphy."

Mostly known as a good-but-not-great hitter throughout most of his seven-year tenure with the New York Mets, Murphy showed signs of a breakout during the latter part of 2015 after he altered his batting stance. Per a suggestion from Mets hitting coach Kevin Long, Murphy went to more of a crouch and crept up on the plate a little more. The tweak allowed him to pull the ball more and leverage his knack for making contact, which created a power stroke that hasn't dissipated since.

The change, while crucial to Murphy's impressive season, is also part of the reason he'll be monitored from time to time. But that's something Baker and the Nats are more than willing to accommodate him on — especially if he keeps putting up these kinds of numbers. 

"We [have] to watch him to keep his legs strong because he's always in a squat," Baker said. "So [the time off] is a day to get his legs worked on and get everything back strong 'till the next day off."

Murphy gets day off as Nationals begin series vs. Cardinals

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Murphy gets day off as Nationals begin series vs. Cardinals

Nats (28-18) vs. Carinals (24-23) at Nationals Park

The Nationals welcome the St. Louis Cardinals to town on Thursday for the first of a four-game series. Joe Ross (3-4, 2.70) will face the Cardinals for the second time this season, having allowed one run through six innings in a Nats win on April 30.

Opposite Ross will be right-hander Mike Leake, whom the Nationals showed interest in during this past winter's free agency. He is 3-3 with a 4.07 ERA this season. Leake faced the Nats on April 29 and fave up five earned runs in seve innings in a Nats' win.

Both teams will be without star infielders in this one. Daniel Murphy is getting the day off to rest, while Cardinals All-Star Matt Carpenter is out for a few days as his wife gives birth.

First pitch: 7:05 p.m.
TV: MASN
Radio: 106.7 The Fan, XM 183
Starting pitchers: Nats - Joe Ross vs. Cardinals - Mike Leake

NATS

CF Ben Revere
LF Jayson Werth
2B Daniel Murphy
1B Ryan Zimmerman
3B Anthony Rendon
C Wilson Ramos
2B Stephen Drew
SS Danny Espinosa
RHP Joe Ross

CARDINALS

CF Jeremy Hazelbaker
SS Aledmys Diaz
1B Matt Adams
RF Stephen Piscotty
LF Brandon Moss
C Yadier Molina
2B Kolten Wong
3B Greg Garcia
RHP Mike Leake

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Podcast - 'Baseball in the District' - Are Nats better than the Mets?

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Podcast - 'Baseball in the District' - Are Nats better than the Mets?

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The Nationals just wrapped up their series against the Mets, making this a good time to discuss where they stand in the NL East and what they still need to work on.

Tim Murray and I went into the Mets series and what we learned. We also gave our thoughts on the Matt Harvey disaster and whether he should have spoken to the media.

Tim and I compared Daniel Murphy's numbers to those of Brandon Phillips and Ben Zobrist, the other two players the Nats targeted this offseason to play second base. We also wondered the best way to use Michael Taylor and whether he should be dangled at the trade deadline.

Feel free to share your opinions with us on Twitter @ChaseHughesCSN and @1TimMurray.

You can listen to the show on ESPN 980's website or download the show on iTunes.