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Wire Taps: Nationals return to Washington; Aníbal Sánchez’s deception; Max Scherzer will start April 3...

Catch up on the last 24 hours in Nationals news before the Nats and Yankees’ exhibition game in the nation’s capital...

MLB: Miami Marlins at Washington Nationals Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Good morning. There’s good news and bad news.

The good news: The Nats will play a baseball game at Nationals Park today at 5:50 PM.
The bad news: With their doubleheader loss yesterday, the Nationals finished third in the Grapefruit League after having the chance to win it. The season, needless to say, is doomed.

Here’s the beat from South Capitol Street:

Nationals mailbag: The regular season is just about here (WaPo)
The Nationals and Anthony Rendon have mutual interest in each other (they both swiped right, in other words), and Scott Boras will work towards a potential extension. Erick Fedde and Spencer Kieboom, the proverbial next men up, will start the year in Harrisburg instead of Fresno — and Jake Noll may get a call-up yet.

After six weeks of fundamentals, Nats ready to see results (MASN)
Davey Martinez wanted to stress the fundamentals all spring, and the team wanted to stay healthy. Both tasks were accomplished by and large, so the (relatively) easy part is over. Now it's time to see how it translates to Nationals Park.

Howie Kendrick nearly ready, but not for opening day (MASN)
“I trust it now, but I know I’m not 100 percent,” the veteran utilityman said. “So there’s no point for me to try to be there for opening day when I know I could risk injuring myself again. I don’t think that’s a good thing for me or the team. When I come back, I want to be back, so I can do my best to help us win ballgames and be a part of the team.”

Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Patrick Corbin to lead Nationals (
The starting rotation, good or bad, will define this Nationals season. If Scherzer, Strasburg, Corbin, and even Sánchez can all go deep into games, the Nats feel confident (perhaps slightly errantly) in their bullpen. When their starters do well—as they did last May, pitching to a 2.26 ERA—the Nats do well—as they did that May, going 20-7.

Deception kept Aníbal Sánchez’s career alive. Then he brought it to the Nationals. (WaPo)
Sánchez is 35. He had the best season of his career at 34, mixing up a number of pitches and deceiving batters at every bend. Now, he's (hopefully) set to repeat it, serving as a leader for the young Latin American players in the Nats’ clubhouse as well.

Jeremy Hellickson will start the season in Nationals’ bullpen. Howie Kendrick will remain in Florida. (WaPo)
Hellickson will be in the bullpen to start the year, meaning Max Scherzer will face off against Bryce on April 3rd, while Howie Kendrick will stay in Florida, leaving the Nats with a short bench as they also bring either Wander Suero or Austen Williams with them to Washington. (And, surprise surprise, Koda Glover will start the year on the IL.)

Hellickson to open season in bullpen (MASN)
The Nats will start their year with divisional play, which is normally boring, but will be exciting this year —and thus, it's exciting to hear most guys will get an extra turn through the rotation in essence as the Nats face the Mets and Phillies.

Jeremy Hellickson to open year in bullpen (
“In reality, to me, with all the days off, he really only misses a start,” Martinez said. “… He’ll be like a long man. He’s had a really good Spring Training. His stuff is really good.”