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Wire Taps: A.J. Cole is the Nationals’ fifth starter; Jeremy Hellickson debuts with Nats + more...

Catch up on the last 24 hours in Nationals news, the latest on the Nats’ fifth starter battle and more...

MLB: Spring Training-Washington Nationals at Atlanta Braves Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

A.J. Cole was shaky. Jeremy Hellickson impressed. Neither result will alter the Nationals’ plans for the rotation at the start of the 2018 campaign, but will Hellickson end up as Washington’s fifth starter once he’s up to speed after a late start to the Spring while he waited for a new job? Catch up on the latest chatter as you wait for the start of today’s Grapefruit League matchup with the Marlins...

NATS BEAT:

A.J. Cole named Nationals' fifth starter
"It was apparent for much of the spring, but manager Dave Martinez made it official on Friday afternoon, saying that right-hander A.J. Cole will be the team's fifth starter to start the season."

A.J. Cole will be the Nats’ fifth starter, but Jeremy Hellickson looks good in his debut
"But what happened a few miles north was hard to ignore. Hellickson looked strong in his four innings. Scheduled to throw 60 pitches, he threw nearly 70."

Cole will open as No. 5 starter, but Hellickson is strong in debut
"Nothing that happened tonight - barring injury - was going to change the Nationals’ plan to open the season. A.J. Cole will be the No. 5 starter."

Bryce Harper is Nationals' player to watch
"The thing that has stood out the most to new hitting coach Kevin Long about Bryce Harper is the way he takes batting practice."

Nationals likely to leave Murphy behind in Florida
“'He’s coming along,' new manager Dave Martinez said. 'Might see him maybe get some at-bats here in the next week or so down in the minor league camp.'"

Lineups fun: Martinez may bat pitcher eighth, Harper first
"The Nationals have employed the pitcher-hitting-eighth strategy for only one brief stretch in their history."

Nats plan to use Adams in left field at times this season
"So why did the Nationals want to give Matt Adams a start in left field Friday night? Because they think they’ll be using him out there from time to time this year."

NATIONAL(S) BEAT:

Six storylines to watch entering Major League Baseball season
"I’m interested in the final seasons of Bryce Harper and Manny Machado before free agency. Will they have dominant, MVP-caliber seasons leading into free agency?"

Hagerstown's long-simmering debate over new stadium reemerges
"Talk of a new minor league baseball stadium for Hagerstown is alive again."

After Parkland shooting, a prospect finds sanctuary in the arms of bas
“'I went home, but it was a mess. Just chaos all around Parkland,' Luzardo said last week, in an interview at the Athletics’ minor league complex.'"

MLB pitchers still raising questions about juiced balls
"Last season’s all-time-high home run rate — far outpacing even the Steroid Era — sparked speculation that the surge went beyond pitchers throwing harder and some batters preaching the launch-angle gospel."

NL preview: Is this Bryce Harper’s last run with the Nationals?
"Washington goes into the season an urgent team. This could be the Nationals’ last chance to win with outfielder Bryce Harper."

Homer Bailey will start Cincinnati Reds' season opener vs. Washington Nationals
"[Homer] Bailey accomplished his goal, and Reds manager Bryan Price announced that the right-hander will make his first Opening Day start at home on Thursday against the Washington Nationals."

NL EAST UPDATES:

Phillies' manager Gabe Kapler compares Aaron Nola to Zack Greinke after final spring training start - Philly
"He’s starting to look to me a lot like what I saw in [Zack] Greinke … when he was in Kansas City."

Mets’ top prospect impressive in first Grapefruit start
"Andres Gimenez, widely regarded as the top prospect in the Mets organization, stood in the clubhouse fielding questions through an interpreter but answering in English."

Derek Dietrich exits after being hit by pitch
"Derek Dietrich, who has been Miami's most consistent hitter in camp, was plunked in the sixth inning on Friday night against the Nationals at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium."

Braves still deciding No. 5 spot in rotation
"Anibal Sanchez gave the Braves a reason to at least keep him in consideration for the last available rotation spot."