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Rizzo and Span talk about the trade

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Rizzo and Span talk about the trade

Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo and new center fielder Denard Span each held a conference call with reporters this evening to discuss today's trade with the Twins. Here are some highlights from both men...

MIKE RIZZO
Were you surprised this trade came about quickly, and how did it come about?
"I wouldn't say I'm surprised to get it done quickly. We've been in contact with Terry Ryan and the Minnesota Twins for approximately 3-4 weeks when we started discussing the deal. It started gaining momentum last week after the GM meetings and we started really making some progress the past couple of days."

What does this mean for Adam LaRoche and Michael Morse?
"Michael Morse is under contract for us. He's a guy that's a middle of the lineup, productive player for us. And Adam LaRoche was our first baseman last year. We're still discussing with him and in contract negotiations with him. So it gives us some options in dealing with our roster."

What made Span the guy you wanted?
"He fits very well for us. First of all, outstanding character, big-time makeup guy, teammates love him on the field, off the field, community guy. I've known him for a long time. I've seen him since he played at Tampa high school and just watched him develop as a player year in and year out. His skill set is something that we were looking for. It's something we've been looking for for a while now. You talk about a true defensive ballhawk, center-field type of guy with great range. Sabermetrically and with the scout's eye, he's a front-line defensive center fielder. He's a consummate leadoff type of hitter. He appealed greatly to us because of his skill set as an offensive player, high average guy, .350 on base percentage type of guy, doesn't strike out, one of the tougher guys in the league to strike out, and can really, really run from the left side of the plate, which keeps our lineup balanced. And a guy who in the past has stolen a lot of bases and we feel is going to really come into his own as a basestealer with us in the National League."

Is this the first player like this you've had in D.C.?
"The first guy with this kind of skill set that's an established big-league player. We think we've got guys in the system that fulfill this role, but they're years away. They're in the pipeline, and we're looking for big things from them down the road. But as far as an established guy at his age, he's a 28-year-old guy still just reaching the prime of his career, and I really think his game is going to translate to the National League very very well."

How did you settle on Meyer being the other half of the trade?
"We understand the process. To get a good, established major league player at Denard's age with the contract that he has, you're going to have to give up a good quality player. Terry Ryan is one of the best general managers in the game. You're not going to pull the wool over his eyes. You have to give to get, and we feel we have great depth in our minor league system. We continue to call upon our scouts and player development to add to that system each and every year. To give up an Alex Meyer for Denard Span, it's always a difficult decision to make, but one we felt fit our time frame, fit our skill set and was something that the front office and ownership was willing to do."

Does this move knock out a lot of what you hoped to accomplish this offseason?
"It was one of the goals that we had, to fill this spot. We had a lot of options. We could have stayed with Harp in center field. He's a terrific young center fielder. But we feel like for his long-term development and his career path we wanted to move him out of the taxing position of center field, both mentally taxing and physically taxing. We've accomplished that. We also have a lot of other things on our agenda to improve the ballclub. Because as we've seen, the other teams in our league, they're not standing pat. They're trying to do better and we're trying to put the right moves in to compete with them and to stay a competitive ballclub."

How close were you to trading for Span in 2011, and are you concerned about his past issues with concussions?
"We were in talks with the Twins a couple years back and tried to acquire him. The trade didn't work out, the players didn't work out that we were willing to give up for him. As far as the injury history, he had a fairly healthy 2012 after a concussion season in 2011. Our medical people cleared him of being able to sign him. He had an injury-free finish to the season and really had one heck of a season for the Twins. Our scouts saw him play very, very well. Our medical people cleared him, and we're confident that he's ready to roll into spring training. After talking to him just briefly before I came on with you guys here, he's feeling very good about himself, he's happy to be in the Nationals family and he's looking forward to really getting after it this year and starting in spring training and bringing it forward."

Has there been any trade interest in Morse?
"We've had some inquiries about Michael Morse and several other players that are on our roster."

DENARD SPAN
What was your reaction to the trade?

"First of all, my emotions right now are all over the place but definitely excited. I'm very excited to be coming to Washington. I think a year-and-a-half ago when I first heard the rumors, I definitely don't think I was ready for it then. But fast-forward to now I'm definitely ready for it. I'm ready to be coming to a team that already is in place to win. I just hope I can come here and fit in and not get in the way."

How excited are you to play with Jayson Werth and Bryce Harper?
"I'm very excited to be playing alongside both of those guys. Two all-star caliber players. I feel like I need to step my game up and try to get to the All-Star Game, hopefully. I think they're going to elevate my game, just by playing alongside with them."

Are there any lingering concerns about your concussions?
"I'm confident that I'm behind it. I feel like last year was a good sign of that. I don't feel like I played to my 100 percent capability last year, but I was able to go out and prove that I still can be a good player. It was probably one of the hardest things I've had to go through. The reason why I said I wasn't ready for it a year and a half ago was because I was going through the concussions. Hearing trade talks and going through a concussion wasn't easy for me. But fast-forward to today, I'm definitely ready."

How did those earlier trade talks make you feel?
"That's the greatest feeling any ballplayer can have, when you're wanted. When a team does whatever they have to do to trade for you, or try to acquire you through free agency. It's a good feeling, to be wanted. I talked to Mr. Rizzo and I could hear it in his voice, how excited he was to have me. I heard his voice and it kind of brought some energy into me because I'd just gotten off the phone with our GM and it was kind of a sad conversation. And I talked to Mike and it kind of gave me some life. I'm just ready to go."

How would you describe your style of play?
"I'm definitely a grinder, in a sense. I love to have fun. I try to bring my A-game every day and I'm definitely going to bring a lot of range in the outfield. I love to go get it out in center field. I thrive on being one of the best leadoff hitters in the game, or trying to be. I love setting the tone. I love getting up to start the game and taking pitches and trying to give my teammates the best look they can and try to set the tone and try to get on base. Stealing bases for me, I'm still a work in progress. I'm still trying to up that and I'm not going to stop working."

How is that you were actually born in D.C.?
"My mom went to school in D.C. [at the University of the District of Columbia] and my uncle lived there for over 20 years, my mom's older brother. When she went to college, she lived there. At the time, she had moved back to Florida, but when she was pregnant with me she came up to D.C. to visit some family and friends and ended up having me."

So, she wasn't expecting for you to be born here?
"I don't think so. I don't think she planned on having me in Washington, D.C. I think she'd planned on having me in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and I ended up just popping out early."

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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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