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Davey stands behind H-Rod

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Davey stands behind H-Rod

Davey Johnson gave an emphatic vote of confidence for Henry Rodriguez, insisting he has given no consideration to removing the 25-year-old from the closer's role despite three blown saves in his last six chances.

"Is he still my closer? Yes, he's my closer," the Nationals manager said during his pregame media session, even though he wasn't directly asked the question. "He's been very successful at closing, in a job that's not that easy. As far as I'm concerned, he's been great. There's going to be a little growing pains."

Thrust into the ninth-inning role after both Drew Storen and Brad Lidge suffered injuries, Rodriguez was successful in his first five save opportunities this season. But beginning with a meltdown April 28 at Dodger Stadium and culminating with a walk-off grand slam surrendered to Joey Votto yesterday in Cincinnati, Rodriguez now finds himself in a funk.

Perhaps most disturbing about Rodriguez's recent performances has been a consistent pattern in which he looks shaky from the moment he takes the mound and has a tendency to bounce most of his sliders in the dirt.

Johnson, though, pointed to Rodriguez's inexperience in the role -- he was used in the ninth inning of a close game for the first time last September, successfully converting two save opportunities -- and the importance of staying patient with a young reliever.

"Here's a guy that just last year, I think he got his first save in the big leagues," the manager said. "And this year, he's been outstanding. He had an outstanding spring. I'm not going to answer these questions every time there's a little blip on the radar screen. Is he my closer? Yes, he's my closer. I have all the confidence in the world."

The Nationals figure to need Rodriguez for at least another month as both Storen (elbow) and Lidge (hernia) recover. Each right-hander has begun playing catch on flat ground, and Lidge is shooting for a mid-June return.

In the meantime, the veteran reliever is trying to offer as much moral support as he can, even though that wasn't possible Sunday as he watched Rodriguez's implosion from afar.

"It's real tough," Lidge said. "I was watching the game last night, and I was yelling at the TV sometimes. Just because I know how hard it is. Because we've all been there. Anyone who has pitched the ninth inning has been there. You just want to be able to yell out advice on the fly, but you can't do it."

And what did Lidge yell at the TV?

"Get the guys out before Votto gets up," he said with a laugh.

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2017 ballpark foods that are way better than peanuts and Cracker Jack

2017 ballpark foods that are way better than peanuts and Cracker Jack

Back in the olden days, cotton candy or a plate of nachos were considered bold ballpark snacks. Thankfully, the olden days are over, and a new era of ballpark food has begun.

And in this era, a menu item isn't considered complete until it's fried, sandwiched between something else and then finally drizzled with some sort of sauce. 

So, what's on the menu for 2017? Well, peanuts, hot dogs and apple pie nachos, of course.

CLICK HERE TO FEAST YOUR EYES ON THE CRAZIEST BALLPARK FOODS YOU'LL FIND AROUND MLB THIS YEAR

With a new season about to begin, CSNmidatlantic.com has identified 10 of the most eye-popping and artery-clogging foods available around Major League Baseball in 2017. To see them, simply click on the link above or below to open our gallery (no fork and knife necessary).

After all, while peanuts and Cracker Jack are cute, they simply can't match up with a hot dog topped with bacon and a fried egg. 

CLICK HERE TO FEAST YOUR EYES ON THE CRAZIEST BALLPARK FOODS YOU'LL FIND AROUND MLB THIS YEAR

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Nationals Ace Max Scherzer will not be team's opening day starter

Nationals Ace Max Scherzer will not be team's opening day starter

Nationals manager Dusty Baker said that Max Scherzer is not on track to be the team's opening day starter, and will most likely open the season as the third pitcher in the rotation. 

Scherzer has been the team's starter on opening day for the past two seasons, but a stress fracture in the knuckle of his right ring finger caused him to miss the start of spring training, and the World Baseball Classic. 

Scherzer did, however, make his first MLB spring training start of 2017 on Wednesday. The 2016 NL Cy Young award winner allowed two earned runs on five hits over 4.2 innings. He added four strikeouts and one walk, and reportedly looked just like you would expect from Max Scherzer. 

"To be out there competing, throwing all my pitches, throwing them for strikes, that's a great first outing," Scherzer told Eddie Matz of ESPN after the game. "Finger's good. Finger feels like a finger. I'm getting through that injury. It's behind me now."

With Scherzer set to open the season as the third starter in the rotation, that likely means that Stephen Strasburg will start on opening day against the Miami Marlins, and Tanner Roark will slot in behind him. 

While it's nice to have your ace pitcher starting on opening day, it's not a huge deal to have Scherzer start the season third in the rotation, especially because the Nationals starting rotation is the strength of the team

RELATED: Nationals' Tanner Roark pitches four scoreless innings to help Team USA beat Japan in WBC