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Report: Nationals sign Jeremy Hellickson to minors deal

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The Nationals inked right-hander Jeremy Hellickson to a minor-league deal on Friday, according to Jerry Crasnick of ESPN. Hellickson will receive a non-roster invite to camp and is expected to compete for a role in the back end of the rotation. The team has not confirmed the signing.

Hellickson, 30, pitched in back-to-back stints with the Phillies and Orioles in 2017. He compiled a cumulative 8-11 record in 30 starts, with a 5.43 ERA, 2.6 BB/9 and 5.3 SO/9 in 164 innings. The righty failed to impress after coming off of a few career-high totals with the Phillies in 2016; his strikeouts dipped below 100 for the first time since 2014 and he saw an unpleasant uptick in his walk and home run rates as well.

Prior to the signing, fellow right-hander A.J. Cole was the presumed favorite for the fifth starter role. Cole was held back from his third Grapefruit League outing with a stomach bug, but has impressed in his first two starts this spring with three runs, a home run and seven strikeouts scattered over five innings so far. As manager Dave Martinez hasn’t committed to any one starter just yet, Erick Fedde might also make a name for himself in the Nats’ rotation: he carries a 2.84 ERA through five spring outings after allowing four runs and a homer and striking out 10 batters in 12 2/3 innings.

Max Scherzer (hamstring) leaves start vs. Mets after just 1 inning

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WASHINGTON — Three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer left his start for the Nationals against the New York Mets after just 27 pitches Wednesday night due to a hamstring injury.

He was replaced in the top of the second by Erick Fedde.

Scherzer was not as sharp as usual at the outset Wednesday, going 2-0 counts against each of New York’s initial two batters, walking one and giving up a single to the other.

The Mets eventually went ahead in the first on Dominic Smith‘s sacrifice fly.

Scherzer entered the game with an 0-1 record and 2.84 ERA this season.