Bryce Harper back in lineup for Nationals after aggravating knee

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Good news for the Nationals. Chase Hughes of CSNWashington.com passes along word that Bryce Harper is back in the starting lineup this afternoon against the Mets.

Harper left the first game of yesterday’s doubleheader after he aggravated his left knee while making a diving catch of a liner off the bat of Daniel Murphy in the fifth inning. He wasn’t in the starting lineup for the nightcap, but grounded out as a pinch-hitter in the eighth inning. Fortunately for the Nationals, the knee issue appears to be nothing more than a minor scare.

Harper, 20, is batting .270/.371/.517 with 14 home runs and 31 RBI in 66 games this season. The Nationals enter play this afternoon at 50-54, 8.5 games behind the Braves in the National League East and nine back for a Wild Card spot.

Royals sign Drew Storen to minor league deal

Drew Storen
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The Royals are in agreement with right-handed reliever Drew Storen on a minor league deal, the team announced Friday. Per Jon Heyman of MLB Network, the deal is worth $1.25 million if the veteran righty breaks camp with the club this spring. Additional, albeit unspecified incentives will be included in the contract as well.

Storen, 31, is coming off of a protracted absence from any MLB duties. After inking a one-year deal with the Reds in 2017, he sustained a right elbow sprain toward the end of the year and underwent Tommy John surgery that October. He was effectively decommissioned for the club’s entire 2018 run and generated little interest around the league this winter, perhaps due in part to the uninspired 4.45 ERA, 3.8 BB/9, 7.9 SO/9, and career-low -0.2 fWAR he posted across 54 2/3 innings during his last healthy season.

While it’s not immediately clear what kind of performance the Royals can expect from Storen in spring training, they’re not exactly in a position to be choosy. Their bullpen ranked dead last among all MLB teams with a collective 5.04 ERA, 4.85 FIP, and -2.2 fWAR last year, and still appears to be in a state of flux as they approach Opening Day. Skipper Ned Yost told reporters Wednesday that he intends to eschew the traditional closer appointment in 2019 and will instead utilize a combination of right-handers Wily Peralta and Brad Boxberger, lefty Tim Hill, and various others as he tackles high-leverage situations in the future.