Dr. Anthony Fauci to throw out first pitch on Opening Day for Nationals

Fauci Nationals Opening Day
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The Nationals announced on Monday that Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, will throw out the first pitch on Opening Day at Nationals Park. The Nationals kick off the season on Thursday, July 23, hosting the Yankees with a starting pitching matchup that features Max Scherzer and Gerrit Cole.

Fauci, 79, is an avowed Nationals fan, even donning a mask with the Nationals logo as he testified before a House Committee last month regarding the nation’s COVID-19 response. Fauci has been part of the White House coronavirus task force but has had waning influence with the President. He said last month he went more than two weeks in between speaking with the President.

Needless to say, inviting Fauci to throw out the first pitch will be somewhat controversial for the Nationals. In their statement, the Nationals seem willing to embrace that, describing Fauci as a “true champion for our country.”

The Nationals also drew criticism in November as most members of the championship club visited the White House in November. Those who elected not to attend included Sean Doolittle, Anthony Rendon, Victor Robles, Michael A. Taylor, Joe Ross, Javy Guerra, Wander Suero, and Wilmer Difo. Manager Dave Martinez, catcher, Kurt Suzuki and first baseman Ryan Zimmerman were among those who appeared to enjoy their visit with Trump.

Phillies, RHP Taijuan Walker reportedly agree to 4-year deal

Kyle Ross-USA TODAY Sports
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SAN DIEGO – The active Philadelphia Phillies added Taijuan Walker to their rotation on Tuesday, agreeing to a $72 million, four-year contract with the right-hander.

A person familiar with the negotiations confirmed the move to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because it was pending a physical.

It was the second major free-agent score for the Phillies at the winter meetings after they reeled in shortstop Trea Turner on Monday with a $300 million, 11-year deal. Walker and Turner join a Phillies team that made it to the World Series this year before losing to the Houston Astros.

The 30-year-old Walker went 12-5 with a 3.49 ERA in 29 starts this season for the New York Mets, one of Philadelphia’s biggest NL East rivals. He slots into a rotation fronted by Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola.

The Phillies recently lost pitcher Zach Eflin in free agency to Tampa Bay.

Asked about the market for Walker earlier in the day, agent Scott Boras said it was robust.

“As you can see in the marketplace, there’s a whole number of pitchers that are throwing 60 and 70 innings that have been pursued, probably with the exception of (Jacob) deGrom, at the lower end of threshold around $13-15 million a year because the demand for quality pitching is so great,” Boras said.

“So, Tai … is one of the younger ones, one of the more durable ones and we expect him to be pursued greatly as his market unfolds.”

Walker was selected by Seattle with the No. 43 pick in the 2010 amateur draft. He made his big league debut with the Mariners in 2013.

Walker signed with New York as a free agent in February 2021. He turned down a $7.5 million player option last month in favor of a $3 million buyout, making his deal worth $17 million over two seasons.

The 6-foot-4 Walker made the All-Star team for the first time in 2021, putting together a fast start before fading to a 7-11 record with a 4.47 ERA in 30 games, 29 starts.