Washington Nationals Kurt Suzuki waits on the ball as Atlanta Braves Jason Heyward slides in safe in the third inning at their MLB game in Atlanta

It’s early, but the Braves-Nationals series is gonna be a good one

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We’re only nine games into the season, but this weekend we have what you might consider to be the first big series of the season: Braves vs. Nationals at Nats Park.

Atlanta is 8-1, their best start since winning 13 of 14 to begin the 1994 season. It’s hard to get a true gauge on them seeing as their last six games came against the lowly Marlins and Cubs, but they’re certainly hot.  The Nationals, most experts’ pick to win the NL East, are fresh off a sweep of the White Sox and stand at 7-2. They’ve won all six of their home games so far this year.

The matchups shape up like this:

  • Friday: Julio Teheran vs. Ross Detwiler;
  • Saturday: Tim Hudson vs. Stephen Strasburg; and
  • Sunday: Paul Maholm vs. Gio Gonzalez

Of note: Rafael Soriano is likely unavailable to close tonight since he’s pitched in the last three games. In his place will be Drew Storen. So I guess you can say advantage Atlanta, at least for this evening.

It’s too early to worry about the standings and stuff. But it’ll be great fun to see the first round of what should be a season-long dogfight for the NL East.

Yordano Ventura’s remaining contract hinges on the results of his toxicology report

DETROIT, MI - SEPTEMBER 24: Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals pitches against the Detroit Tigers during the first inning at Comerica Park on September 24, 2016 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images)
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Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports provides an interesting window into how teams handle a player’s contract after he has died in an accident. It was reported on Sunday that Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura died in a car accident in the Dominican Republic. He had three guaranteed years at a combined $19.25 million as well as two $12 million club options with a $1 million buyout each for the 2020-21 seasons.

What happens to that money? Well, that depends on the results of a toxicology report, Rosenthal explains. If it is revealed that Ventura was driving under the influence, payment to his estate can be nullified. The Royals may still choose to pay his estate some money as a gesture of good will, but they would be under no obligation to do so. However, if Ventura’s death was accidental and not caused by his driving under the influence, then his contract remains fully guaranteed and the Royals would have to pay it towards his estate. The Royals would be reimbursed by insurance for an as yet unknown portion of that contract.

The results of the toxicology report won’t be known for another three weeks, according to Royals GM Dayton Moore. Dominican Republic authorities said that there was no alcohol found at the scene.

Ventura’s situation is different than that of Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez, who died in a boating accident this past September. Fernandez was not under contract beyond 2016. He was also legally drunk and cocaine was found in his system after the accident. Still, it is unclear whether or not Fernandez was driving the boat. As a result, his estate will receive an accidental death payment of $1.05 million as well as $450,000 through the players’ standard benefits package, Rosenthal points out.

Spring training will be slightly shortened in 2018

SCOTTSDALE, AZ - MARCH 15:  General view of action between the Oakland Athletics and the San Francisco Giants during the spring training game at Scottsdale Stadium on March 15, 2014 in Scottsdale, Arizona. The A's defeated the Giants 8-1. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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The Associated Press is reporting that the spring training schedule will be shortened by two days starting in 2018. That change comes as part of the new collective bargaining agreement, which was agreed to last month.

Specifically, the voluntary reporting date for pitchers, catchers, and injured players has been changed to 43 days before the start of the regular season, down from 45. For the rest of the players, the reporting date is 38 days before the start of the regular season, down from 40.

The change goes hand-in-hand with allowing teams 187 days, rather than 183, to complete their 162-game regular season schedule.

While just about everyone seems to be in agreement that the spring training exhibition schedule is too long, team owners are likely very hesitant to shorten that part of the spring schedule because it would cost them money. So they’re just allowing players to arrive to camp a couple of days later.