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Wire Taps: Washington Nationals’ Hitting Coach Kevin Long returns; Davey Martinez hopes others return soon + more Nats links...

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Catch up on the last 24 hours in Nationals news while we wait for Howie Kendrick, Juan Soto, and Victor Robles to return to action...

They don’t have all their players back from quarantine yet, but the Washington Nationals got their hitting coach back on Tuesday, with Kevin Long returning after coming in contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19. Long, as you could probably guess, was excited to be reunited with his hitters in Spring Training 2.0.

“Kevin Long was back,” Manager Davey Martinez said. “His first day he’s been back in camp. I know he had a mask on, but he was smiling from ear to ear. He’s been dying to come back and he’s back now, so that’s one guy we got back, now hopefully we get the rest of the guys back soon.”

As for the players who’ve thus far been unable to participate in the so-called Summer Camp in the nation’s capital?

Martinez still doesn’t know when he’ll have Howie Kendrick, Juan Soto, Victor Robles, Joan Adon, or Luis Garcia back.

“Honestly, I don’t know that answer. Every morning I wake up and all I can do is ask our medical staff, ‘Are they coming? And they gave me a, ‘No.’

“Hopefully one of these days I wake up and they give me a, ‘Yes.’ That’s all I can say about it.

“I do know we can’t wait to get all these guys back and be a full force, hopefully it will be soon.”

Go read your links... Also, extend Mike Rizzo, Lerner family!:

NATS BEAT:

Nationals scene and heard: Max Scherzer grunting through his work - (NBC Sports Washington)
"The Nationals began intrasquad games Monday night. They played five innings, the park was empty, and the whole thing remains odd."

With Joe Ross opting out, Erick Fedde has an imperfect opportunity - (WaPost)
“Without Ross, once the front-runner to fill out the Nationals’ rotation, the fifth starter would be Fedde or Austin Voth. This was an opportunity.”

Nationals' 'four horses' key to potential World Series title repeat - (Washington Times)
'Washington Nationals manager Dave Martinez figures his team's bid for a rare repeat World Series championship during this pandemic-affected season might very well come down to what gave the franchise its first title a year ago."

Nats try out new extra-inning rule, get hitting coach back - (MASN)
"Tonight’s workout at Nationals Park featured a parade of relief pitchers, a trial run of baseball’s new extra-inning rule and the return of a key member of the coaching staff."

Catcher-umpire relationship faces new tests this season - (MASN)
"But there’s no way around the inevitable need for catchers and umpires to be close to each other a lot during a ballgame. How much concern do they have about that fact?"

No match for Max: Scherzer K's 9 teammates - (MLB.com)
"Max Scherzer isn’t holding back on the mound as he ramps up for Opening Day on July 23 against the Yankees. The Nationals ace struck out nine over four frames in Monday’s intrasquad game."

Nationals' Yan Gomes hopes MLB umpires have their own section of the plane when flying with teams - (NBC Sports Washington)
"According to Los Angeles Angels Joe Maddon, one of the measures MLB is considering is allowing umpires to fly with teams in order to limit the amount of travel and therefore possible exposure to the virus."

NATIONAL(S) BEAT:

Mike Rizzo: Nationals GM enters 2020 season as a lame duck - (USA TODAY)
"Rizzo refuses to even talk about his contract situation. You ask about it, the interview is over. Still, he undeniably wants to stay. This is his home. This is his town. This is his team."

Yahoo Sports' Launch Pad - Biggest Nationals blasts from the statcast era - (Yahoo!Sports)
"Yahoo! Sports compiles the three longest and most impressive home runs for the Washington Nationals since 2015."

Starting pitcher tiers: Industry insiders rank MLB’s arms, from aces to ‘guys’ – (The Athletic)
"Scherzer built himself into an elite pitcher. He won his first Cy Young in 2013. He captured two more after signing a mega-deal with the Nationals."

MLB experts predict: Answering biggest questions ahead of 2020 season - (ESPN)
"Which 2019 playoff team is set up for a 2020 fall? - Alden Gonzalez: 'The Washington Nationals for two simple reasons: They lost Anthony Rendon and didn't necessarily replace him, and they won the World Series last year in spite of a historically bad bullpen.'"

NL EAST UPDATES:

Report: Braves to sign outfielder Yasiel Puig - (AJC.com)
"Puig, 29, was considered the best free agent available. He’ll replace Nick Markakis, who decided against playing this season, adding another bat to the outfield mix."

Alcantara tabbed for Opening Day start - (MLB.com)
"[Sandy] Alcantara was an All-Star in 2019, when he posted a 3.88 ERA in 197 1/3 innings over 32 starts with a 6-14 record."

Mets fans can pay $86 for cardboard cutout to be in seats at Citi Field - (Newsday)
"You can’t buy tickets to Mets home games, but you can pay to be kinda, sorta present."

How a Phillies game sounded without fans - (Philadelphia Inquirer)
"No spectators will be allowed this season at Citizens Bank Park, so the Phillies debuted their artificial crowd noise on Tuesday night."