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Porter's head, heart still with Nationals

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Porter's head, heart still with Nationals

PHILADELPHIA -- On the day he was officially named manager of the Houston Astros, Bo Porter found himself in an unusual, yet familiar place: The third base coaching box, wearing a Nationals uniform.

That will remain the case as long as the Nationals are still playing ballgames in 2012. Once their season ends, Porter will head home to Houston and turn his full-time attention to his new job. Until then, he insists his head and his heart will be entirely in Washington.

"Right now," Porter said, "all I really want for Christmas is one thing: a World Series ring."

"My focus is on the Washington Nationals and our quest to win the World Series title," Porter added. "I don't want this to be anything that distracts from what we're doing here. We have a chance to really do something special. The guys in the clubhouse, they know that I'm committed. Davey Johnson, the rest of the coaching staff, Mike Rizzo, the Lerner family, they know that I'm committed to what we have going on here."

In a perfect world, the Astros would have waited until season's end to offer Porter their managerial job. But they had already identified him as their top choice, and perhaps worried other clubs with openings might make a run at the 40-year-old, they decided to make their formal offer on Wednesday.

Owner Jim Crane and general manager Jeff Luhnow flew from Houston to Philadelphia and told Porter in person. His initial reaction was one of joy. It wasn't until he called his wife Stacie, a Houston native, that things turned emotional.

"When I heard her break down on the phone, it really hit me like: 'Wow,'" Porter said. "It was good. It's a good feeling. There's only 30 of these jobs. Whenever you get an opportunity to be named the manager, it's always exciting. With the cherry on top, it's in my hometown. And I'm excited about it."

Because Porter remains under contract with the Nationals through October, the Astros had to get permission from GM Mike Rizzo to make the job offer now. Rizzo didn't hesitate to give his blessing, and he had no problem agreeing to a scenario that will allow Porter to finish out the season here before he leaves the organization after two seasons as third base coach under Jim Riggleman and Davey Johnson.

"It's the fair thing to do," Rizzo said. "I would never stand in anybody's way to get the dream job of their life, in your hometown. It wouldn't be fair for me to say: 'Wait till after the season,' and then them go on their interview process and hire somebody else. That would be selfish of me, and I wouldn't do it."

Nationals execs, coaches and players expressed both excitement for Porter and disappointment they'll lose a popular member of the staff. In addition to his duties at third base, Porter was responsible for coaching the team's outfielders and played a key role in Bryce Harper's development as a rookie.

Porter also was seen as a potential successor to Johnson once the 69-year-old skipper decides to retire. This move obviously takes him out of the mix for that position, and perhaps elevates bench coach Randy Knorr to the role of leading candidate.

"Yeah, we thought of Porter, the plan was that we brought him in here and he was a manager prospect," Rizzo said. "We tried to surround Davey with as many manager prospects as possible, so he could mentor them and so hopefully we have good internal candidates if and when we need to make a decision on that."

The Nationals also will need to hire a new third base coach for 2013. The search won't begin in earnest until the offseason, but both Rizzo and Johnson hinted they would like to promote someone from within the organization.

Tony Beasley, who managed at Class AAA Syracuse this season and served as Frank Robinson's third base coach in 2006, is a likely candidate for that job.

"Whenever I took a new job, I always wanted people in the organization, because they already knew the talent, knew a lot about the makeup because they were in the organization," Johnson said. "This is a fine organization, got a lot of quality coaches and we have a lot of people that I think highly of in our system. I don't think that will be a problem."

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Harper Among 4 Nats' Starters Out Vs. Padres Sunday

Harper Among 4 Nats' Starters Out Vs. Padres Sunday

National League home run leader Bryce Harper is among four starters out of the lineup for the Washington Nationals in their series finale against the San Diego Padres on Sunday.

Daniel Murphy, Jayson Werth and Matt Wieters also did not start for the Nationals, who open a nine-game, 10-day road trip Monday afternoon in San Francisco.

Murphy missed the previous two games due to illness, Chris Speier said Saturday. Speier, serving as acting manager with Dusty Baker away this weekend to attend his son Darren's high school graduation in California, did not meet with the media before Sunday's game.

RELATED: Nationals' Joe Ross to Start Against Team That Drafted Him

Harper is batting .337 with 15 home runs and 41 RBIs.

Washington won the first two matchups in the three-game series.

Joe Ross (2-0, 5.32) faces fellow right-hander Jhoulys Chacin (4-4, 5.74) on Sunday.

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Nationals' Joe Ross to start against team that drafted him

Nationals' Joe Ross to start against team that drafted him

WASHINGTON -- On Dec. 19, 2014, the San Diego Padres traded pitcher Joe Ross and a player to be named later -- it would be Trea Turner -- to the Washington Nationals in a three-team deal that included the Tampa Bay Rays.

Since that trade, the Padres have posted a record of 160-215 while the Nationals are 208-166 after they won 3-0 Saturday as Stephen Strasburg struck out a career-high 15 batters in seven innings and the Washington staff fanned 17.

As a reminder of what could have been, Ross (2-0, 5.32) makes the start Sunday against San Diego right-hander Jhoulys Chacin (4-4, 5.74) in the finale of the three-game series at Nationals Park.

First-place Washington is 30-18 while last-place San Diego is 18-33.

Ross was drafted by the Padres in the first round out of his California high school in 2011. Ross is 2-0 in his career against San Diego with a 2.25 ERA in two starts. Last year, he went six innings and allowed six hits and three earned runs in a win against the Padres.

"I was not around Joe at all," said Andy Green, in his second year as the San Diego manager. "We saw him last year; he is a sinkerballer."

The Padres did acquire All-Star first baseman Wil Myers in the trade.

The Nationals have scored a record 62 runs in the four starts made this year by Ross, more than any other pitcher has received in his first four starts of a season. That included a 23-5 victory at home April 30 against the New York Mets and a 10-1 win Tuesday against the Seattle Mariners.

Ross, who broke into the majors with the Nationals in 2015, was in the rotation last season and made 19 starts before going on the disabled list. He was in line to be the No. 5 starter, but began the season at Triple-A Syracuse.

Chacin is 3-2 in six starts against Washington and has a 3.09 ERA. He has made three career starts at Nationals Park and is 1-1 with a 0.45 ERA while allowing only one run in 20 innings.

The Nationals played their second game in a row Saturday without second baseman Daniel Murphy, who was ill.

Nationals bench coach Chris Speier, filling in for manager Dusty Baker, said before the game that Murphy was ill. Murphy entered the day hitting .316 with nine homers and 33 RBIs.

"He's available. This is Dusty's theory: Usually when somebody comes in and says, 'I'm ready,' then he usually gives him one more day. But he's available," Speier told reporters before the game.

Murphy entered Saturday seventh in the National League in hits with 56, just ahead of teammate Bryce Harper (55). Murphy was also among the league leaders in multi-hit games and road batting average.

Washington shortstop Turner, drafted by the Padres in the first round out of North Carolina State, had two hits, including a homer, Friday and was 1-for-4 Saturday.

Another hot hitter for Washington is center fielder Michael A. Taylor, who hit a homer for the second day in a row Saturday and has four homers in his last 14 games.

"I'm looking for my pitch and staying in my zone," Taylor said. "I'm not trying to do too much."

MORE NATIONALS: Stephen Strasburg has career-high 15 strikeouts in Nationals win over Padres