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Nats cut ties with Lannan, Flores, Gorzelanny

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Nats cut ties with Lannan, Flores, Gorzelanny

The Nationals will elect not to tender contracts to left-handers John Lannan and Tom Gorzelanny and catcher Jesus Flores before tonight's midnight deadline, officially cutting ties with two of the organization's longest-tenured players and the only remaining lefty in their bullpen.

The decisions to non-tender Lannan and Flores weren't surprises; neither figured into the club's plans for 2013 or beyond. The removal of Gorzelanny from the roster was more surprising given the lack of any other left-handers in the Nationals' current bullpen.

The moves aren't official yet, but a club source confirmed all are planned before midnight.

Lannan, who was drafted in 2005 out of Siena College and reached the big leagues two years later, is the Nationals' all-time leader in starts (134) and ranks second to Livan Hernandez in wins (42) and innings (783 2/3).

His standing within the organization dropped significantly this year, though, after the Nationals shipped the lefty to Class AAA Syracuse after going 10-13 with a 3.70 ERA and earning a $5 million salary through arbitration. Lannan initially requested a trade, but wound up spending the majority of the season in the minors, ultimately returning to make six starts for Washington down the stretch (he went 4-1 with a 4.13 ERA).

The Nationals could have kept Lannan in the organization for another season. He actually has one more minor-league option and could have again been stashed in Syracuse to serve as an expensive insurance policy in case of injury to another member of the rotation. But general manager Mike Rizzo, out of respect for the 28-year-old, let him instead become a free agent after failing to find a trade partner.

Flores was once thought of as the Nationals' long-term catching solution, but the former Rule 5 draft pick saw his promising career derailed by a major shoulder injury that sidelined him nearly two seasons.

Drafted away from the Mets in Dec. 2006 at the urging of Davey Johnson, who at the time served as an adviser to former GM Jim Bowden, Flores got another chance to play everyday this summer after starter Wilson Ramos suffered a season-ending knee injury. But he struggled at the plate (hitting .213) and behind the plate (throwing out only 15 percent of basestealers) and wound up back on the bench after Rizzo traded for veteran Kurt Suzuki.

With Suzuki and a healthy Ramos back in 2013, plus the emergence of young catchers Sandy Leon and Jhonatan Solano, the Nationals had little need to keep Flores in the organization.

Gorzelanny was let go despite a productive season as a long man in the Nationals' bullpen. The 30-year-old, acquired from the Cubs in 2011 for three minor-leaguers to start for Washington, posted a 2.88 ERA in 45 appearances this season.

Ultimately, Gorzelanny's price tag -- he stood to make as much as $4 million through arbitration -- was too steep for a pitcher in his role.

The decision does leave the Nationals in a predicament, with zero left-handed relievers currently on the roster. They'll have to hope to either re-sign free agents Sean Burnett and/or Michael Gonzalez or acquire another lefty or two this winter.

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Nationals' Bryce Harper mashes monster homer on second pitch of spring training

Nationals' Bryce Harper mashes monster homer on second pitch of spring training

The Nationals played their first game of spring training today against the Mets. They won, but that's not nearly the biggest story of the day. It was Bryce Harper's first at-bat that stole the show. 

On just the second pitch he saw of spring training, from lefty Sean Gilmartin, Harper mashed a ginormous home run to right center field. MLB.com shared video of the bomb. 

According to Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post, Harper smacked the ball at least 400 feet. In his second at-bat, he hit a line-drive single on the first pitch. 

Let's just say it was an exciting start to the year for Harper, who won the 2015 NL MVP only to endure a let-down last season. As Castillo points out, the slugger hit .226 against left-handed pitchers in 2016. 

Harper enters spring training at 230 pounds, up 15 pounds of muscle from last year. 

“I just felt going into the offseason you want to get as strong as you can, try to maintain your weight the best you can and just do everything the right way,” he told the Post. 

MORE NATIONALS: Baker thinks DC sports teams can win a championship this year

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Nationals' Dusty Baker thinks Washington teams are positioned to win a championship this year

Nationals' Dusty Baker thinks Washington teams are positioned to win a championship this year

Nationals manager Dusty Baker is back for a second year and feeling optimistic for his Washington team. Spring training has begun in Florida and it has Baker thinking about how the Nats can create some excitement for local sports fans.

In an interview with American University’s WAMU radio station, Baker said D.C. wants to be a "city of champions.” Furthermore, he thinks it can be pulled off before the year ends.

"I came here to win a championship and you know I would love nothing more than to bring one to Washington. Washington, I didn’t know it before I got there, but it’s had a tough time getting out of the first round in a number of sports."

He projected the Nationals to bring home the next championship for the District, but he knows they have competition of late. 

"Washington Wizards are looking pretty good. I’m pulling for them first because their season ends before ours, so I’ve been really following them. The Capitals have a good thing going. I started watching the Redskins more this year.

"You know once it gets contagious in a city and you get a positive attitude throughout the city, then it transfers to the sports teams. So we want to be known as a city of champions, before the end of the year hopefully."

Baker has a reputation for bringing out the best in his teams, especially managing star players. He managed the San Francisco Giants for ten seasons before moving on to the Chicago Cubs, a team he managed for four seasons.

He's never won a World Series, but has taken a team to Game 7. He also finished third for the 2016 National League Manager of the Year award.

So, what are Baker’s steps for the Nationals to get that ultimate prize? A simple formula, really.

"I think that we’ve got to stay healthy, number one. We’re trying to fill the holes that we need to fill, and we’ve got to play," he said. "You know last year we were very close, we were one hit away or one play away or one pitch away from going to the next round against the Cubs."

While he says he came to win Washington a championship, he's also enjoying his time in the city. 

"I love D.C. Before that, San Francisco was my favorite town; that’s my home. But I tell you, D.C. is definitely in the running," he said. "I thought San Francisco had the best seafood, but man, you guys have the best seafood I think in the world."

Thanks, Dusty!

The Nationals play their first spring training game against the New York mets on Saturday.

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