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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

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Ivan Rodriguez becomes first former Nationals player to be voted into Hall of Fame

Ivan Rodriguez becomes first former Nationals player to be voted into Hall of Fame

Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez became the first former Nationals player (2005-present) to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame on Wednesday. He was inducted in his first year of eligibility, marking the 52nd first-ballot hall of famer in history. 

Rodriguez, who was the first free agent signed by current Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo, played the final two seasons of his career with Washington in 2010-11. During his time in D.C. he hit .254 six homers and 68 RBI. Pudge's greatest contribution to the Nationals came from his leadership and work ethic. He guided Stephen Strasburg through his rookie season and also helped develop Wilson Ramos so he could pass the torch to him. 

During his 21-year career, Pudge made 14 all-star teams, won 13 gold gloves, won seven silver slugger awards, led his league in caught-steeling percentage nine times, and was named American League MVP in 1999 with the Texas Rangers. He became a World Series champion in 2003 with the Florida Marlins. Pudge's 13 gold gloves are the most ever by a catcher, and his 2,844 career hits are the most ever by a player who appeared in 50 percent or more of their career games as a catcher.  

In addition to Rodriguez, former Montreal Expos great Tim Raines was inducted to the Hall of Fame. Raines is the franchise leader (Expos/Nationals) in walks (793), runs (947), stolen bases (635) and triples (82). Raines was an all-star seven times and he won a silver slugger in 1986 with the Expos. He is the only player in MLB history with at least 100 triples, 150 homers and 600 RBI in a career, and the only player to steal at least 70 bases in six consecutive seasons. 

Related: Bryce Harper wants Nationals to spend money on players, not team store

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Bryce Harper wants Nationals to invest in Matt Wieters, Greg Holland more than facilities

Bryce Harper wants Nationals to invest in Matt Wieters, Greg Holland more than facilities

Bryce Harper isn't one to keep his opinions to himself. The Nationals slugger is outspoken about what he wants, whether that's to "Make Baseball Fun Again" or to make at least $400 million on his next contract

On Wednesday, he gave his take on how the Nats should be investing their money this summer. Here's Harper responding to a tweet from ESPN's Jim Bowden.

Harper's message: Players over everything else. Sorry, gift shop. 

It's plain to see where the 2015 NL MVP is going with this. Obviously, he wants as much talent around him as possible for a chance to win the World Series. 

Matt Wieters, a four-time All-Star catcher, and Greg Holland, a two-time All-Star closer, could be significant additions to Washington's roster. 

Harper is set to become a free agent in 2018, at which point an organization like the New York Yankees will be prepared to offer him both a massive salary and a massive investment in the players around him.

The slugger probably hopes his current team will try to surround him with winning pieces in an effort to keep him. But if a report about the Nationals' reaction to his contract demands proves accurate, they may have another agenda. 

There's Harper drama around the Nationals? Just a regular Wednesday here in Washington.

MORE NATIONALS: Nationals avoid arbitration with Harper, three others