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Vettleson, Rivero come aboard to Nationals

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Vettleson, Rivero come aboard to Nationals

The biggest piece -- literally -- that the Nats got from the Tampa Bay Rays in return for pitching prospect Nate Karns is Jose Lobaton, the 6-foot, 210 lb catcher expected to compete for the backup backstop role with the big club.

But one of the lesser-known commodities that Washington received could end up making a much bigger impact down the road. 

Outfielder Drew Vettleson, 22, and Felipe Rivero, also 22, are likely still years away from from donning a Nationals uniform -- if they ever do. However, an American League source said over the phone that fans in Washington have reason for anticipation.

Vettleson, a plus defender with a cannon in right field, profiles as a strong 4th outfielder on a first-divison team, or as a second-division starter. The 2010 sandwich round pick makes solid contact and flashes gap power.

However, 15 home runs in 2012 became 4 homers last season, as he moved up to High-A Charlotte. Part of the problem may have been contextual: The Florida State League consistently features a dearth of offense, and advanced analytics had Vettleson hitting 12 home runs had he been in an offense-neutral league.

The jury remains out on how far his bat can take him -- but if all breaks right, his doubles power would make him a useful hitter in the lower half of the order.

Vettleson also swiped 20 bags in each of his first two minor league seasons. If he makes it to Washington, he'll make baserunners think twice about stretching singles from his spot in right thanks to an arm that brought a low-90s fastball in high school.

Rivero, a teammate of Vettleson's last year in Charlotte, went 9-7 with 91 strikeouts as a starter -- and, according to the source, "may be better than Karns -- right now."

Still, "his future is probably at the back end of the bullpen."

Capable of hitting 97 with his fastball, the lefty may lack the repertoire and the control for starting. He has experimented with a curve and a slider, but neither has yet developed into a reliable pitch. A fierce competitor who clamors for the ball in big situations, the Nats may find the most success by keeping him engaged in high-leverage, late-inning situations.

All of this is merely hope and conjecture -- but if things turn out the way Mike Rizzo and co. think they could, the Nats may have pulled one over one Tampa Bay, and nabbed a pair of key contributors in the process.  

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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