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Werth surprised with smooth return

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Werth surprised with smooth return

Though he felt like he was ready to face big-league pitching again after a three-month recovery from a broken left wrist and a nine-game rehab assignment in the minors, Jayson Werth figured there might be a bit of a transition phase once the Nationals activated him off the disabled list last week.As it turns out, Werth's only transition has been from cautious optimism to downright giddiness after a fantastic re-debut weekend at Nationals Park. In his first four games back, the veteran outfielder is 5-for-12 with five walks, all but erasing whatever doubts there were about his ability to make a smooth return from a devastating injury."I'm surprised," Werth admitted after yesterday's 4-1 win over the Marlins. "The whole thing's very surprising."Not that he didn't expect to ever get his swing back. He just figured it would take a little more time before he felt comfortable facing big-league pitchers again.Werth pointed out he was cleared to swing a bat only about three weeks ago."I kept trying to swing, kept trying to swing, and just wasn't ready," he said. "And then one day I was like: 'Oh, I can swing.' And then two days later I was like: 'I can really swing!'"Werth began his rehab assignment at Class A Potomac on July 21. He wound up playing a total of nine games over 12 days, most of that time spent at Class AAA Syracuse, and about halfway through the process began to feel like his timing at the plate had returned.Even so, Werth figured he would still need more time to get his body (especially his legs) back into full baseball shape."Sometimes that takes a while," he said. "You go to spring training for six weeks, and usually the last week your legs show up. So that's five weeks waiting for it to happen. I think I was out on rehab for two weeks, not even. So my legs are still a little behind. But everything else feels good."It's hard to dispute the on-field results since Werth was activated off the DL. Splitting time between center and right fields, he's recorded at least one hit in all four games he's played. His keen eye at the plate is as sharp as ever, leading to five walks. Perhaps most impressively, he has only struck out once."His every at-bat is good," manager Davey Johnson said. "He's making contact. He's getting the head out. He's always a great defensive player and baserunner."Werth has essentially picked up where he left off upon getting hurt on May 6. In 31 total games this season, he's now hitting .291 with a .400 on-base percentage and .836 OPS.On top of all that, Werth seems as comfortable and relaxed as he's been since signing with the Nationals 19 months ago. Having long since moved past his disappointing 2011, he's become less of a focal point inside a clubhouse that features plenty more prominent names and faces, allowing Werth to be just another member of a first-place club."He's playing the way I always thought he was going to play," Johnson said. "I didn't see that last year. He was trying to be the leader on the ballclub. He had all kinds of different responsibilities. Now he's just being himself."

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Bryce Harper's contract demand reportedly forcing Nationals to move on after 2018

Bryce Harper's contract demand reportedly forcing Nationals to move on after 2018

It is no secret that Bryce Harper's next contract could very well be the largest contract in baseball history.

The 2015 N.L. MVP has reprotedly been looking for something in the realm of 10 years, $400 million.

The Nationals would love to keep the cornerstone of their franchise, but with Harper garnering such a monumental price tag, the team may have no other choice but to move on when his contract expires in 2018.

With the MLB winter meetings taking place at the National Harbor in Oxen Hill, Md. this week, talks of Harper's contract situation have arisen again, and according to USA Today's Bob Nightengale, the news might not be good for Nationals fans. 

The Washington Nationals, balking at Bryce Harper’s demands in early talks about a long-term contract extension, now are preparing themselves to be without their All-Star outfielder after 2018, a high-ranking Nationals executive told USA TODAY Sports.

The executive spoke to USA TODAY Sports on Monday only on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly about the negotiations.

Agent Scott Boras says the only active negotiations of late have involved a one-year deal in 2017. Harper, who made $5 million last season, is eligible for salary arbitration.

RELATED: NATIONALS DECLINE TO TENDER CONTRACT ON SPEEDY OUTFIELDER

Harper is one of Major League Baseball's top stars but with the Nationals already investing $84.7 million in 2019 salaries to Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Ryan Zimmerman, the money just might not be there for the Nationals to spend. 

The Nationals, who had begun preliminary negotiations this year to retain Harper beyond 2018, believe the chasm in their talks now have become too great to overcome. While no specific dollar amount has been broached by high-powered agent Scott Boras, the executive says Harper is seeking a deal more than 10 years in length, believing it would exceed $400 million.

The Nationals' reported mood toward moving on from Harper after 2018 could explain why the Nationals are aggressively pursuing former N.L. MVP Andrew McCutchen and former A.L. Cy Young award winner Chris Sale. 

In the grand scheme, not much has changed. Harper was always expected to command the largest cotnract on the market. But the latest news shines a light on the possible direction of the Nationals' front office. 

2018 is still a long ways away, but this could be an early sign of things to come, one Nationals fans have been hoping they would never have to see. 

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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. 

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