Nationals announce Player Pool, Zimmerman will not join team for 2020 season

Zimmerman and Ross will not join team in 2020 season

By Arthur Cribbs/The Sports Pulse Contributor

Courtesy photo

WASHINGTON – Last October, in what now feels like a millennia ago, the Washington Nationals brought the first World Series trophy back to the nation’s capital since 1924 after defeating the Houston Astros. 

Two hundred forty-five days since that historic Game 7 victory, the Nationals are finally back in town in the Navy Yards neighborhood, although under seemingly unprecedented circumstances. 

As we enter July, in what is typically the midway point of the Major League Baseball (MLB) season, players, coaches and staff throughout the league are reporting to their respective ballclubs. 

In an agreement made last week between MLB and the league’s players association, teams will report to an abbreviated “spring” training at their home facilities by July 1, start workouts on July 3 and begin the 60-game regular season on July 23 and 24. 

Before this hiatus from baseball, major league teams had begun spring training in Florida and Arizona before play came to an abrupt halt in the middle of March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

For the abbreviated training period in July, teams are limited to a 60-player pool competing for 30 spots on the Opening Day roster.

The Nationals unveiled their 60-man pool on Sunday, which featured 36 pitchers, six catchers, 11 infielders and seven outfielders.

While the Nationals will open the regular season with up to 30 players, each team must cut the active roster down to 28 players two weeks into the season. After another two weeks, rosters will be cut again to 26 players for the remainder of the season.

Players who are removed from the active roster may stay in game shape at the Alternate Training Site, which will likely be the closest minor league facility; Fredericksburg (High-A) will likely serve as the Nationals’ alternate site.

Among roster changes and a shortened season, MLB is also adding a universal designated hitter, a player automatically at second base during extra innings during the regular season and an August 31 trade deadline before the regular season concludes on September 27. 

Of the 60 games, 40 will be divisional, and 20 will be interleague. Additionally, to limit any semblance of contact, spitting on the field will be prohibited.

Unlike the NBA, where players will be secluded in a central location, MLB teams are expected to travel. In the event that a player contracts the novel coronavirus, he will be placed on the COVID-19 injured list, which does not have a specific time length. The player must test negative twice and show no fever for 72 hours before returning to the ballclub.

Players can opt-out of the season, but only those who are medically certified as “high risk” can receive full prorated salaries.

Since the announcement of the player pool, at least two notable Nationals players have chosen to forgo commitments to the upcoming season.

Ryan Zimmerman announced on Monday that he would opt out of playing the 2020 season, citing family circumstances as the deciding factors. Zimmerman, 35, will forgo his $6.25 million salary (which would have been about $2.3 million in prorated pay for 60 games) but says he has no plans on retiring from the sport.

Pitcher Joe Ross, who was in line to be the Nationals fifth starter, is also opting out of the 2020 season.

Despite the loss of Zimmerman and Ross for the season, many of the spots on Nationals Opening Day roster are all but certain, barring injury or unforeseen circumstances.

Starting Pitchers

  • Max Scherzer
  • Stephen Strasburg
  • Patrick Corbin
  • Anibal Sanchez

Relief Pitchers

  • Sean Doolittle
  • Will Harris
  • Daniel Hudson
  • Tanner Rainey


  • Kurt Suzuki
  • Yan Gomes


  • Eric Thames
  • Howie Kendrick
  • Trea Turner
  • Starlin Castro
  • Asdrúbal Cabrera 


  • Juan Soto
  • Victor Robles
  • Adam Eaton
  • Michael A. Taylor

Bulk in starting and relief pitching will likely make up more than half of Manager Davey Martinez’s roster. With the addition of the designated hitter to the National League in 2020, the Nationals will also likely add an additional bat or a third catcher to the mix.

A notable invitee for the Nationals is pitching prospect and last year’s first-round pick Jackson Rutledge. He is unlikely to make the final roster but posted a 3.13 ERA in 37.1 minor league innings in his first season as a professional. 

Top prospect and former first-round pick Carter Kieboom will also be a player to watch as he looks to fill the void at third base with the team’s loss of Anthony Rendon to the Los Angeles Angels. He spent parts of 2019 on the Major League club and is expected to begin the season on the active roster.

Although much of the scheduling details for the season have yet to be announced, the Nationals are slated to open the season with an interleague matchup against the New York Yankees.

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American’s Elijah Murphy wins ESPY Award but relishes on continuing his mentorship work

By José Umaña/The Sports Pulse Contributor

Photo by Jay Mutchnik

WASHINGTON – American University student-athlete Elijah Murphy recently saw his face on television being honored during the ESPY Awards and was left in awe.

Together with Howard University student-athlete Niah Woods, Murphy was one of seven recipients of the 2020 Billie Jean King Youth Leadership Award. The 157-pound wrestler said he did not know he was nominated until days before the show.

The moment his face flashed on the screen during the broadcast was “surreal,” but confirmed to Murphy that his work mentoring middle-school-aged children in the Washington, D.C. region meant that he was “doing something right.”

“[To] be in the same conversation as all those professional athletes and having people like Billie Jean King say your name and acknowledging the work that you’re putting in and saying that you’re an inspiration and that you give her confidence for the future alone, it really means a lot,” Murphy said.

The Northwestern High School alum was awarded for his work for The Grassroot Project, mentoring middle schoolers in Washington, D.C. in an array of topics, and will direct a grant to the organization to continue its outreach programs in the city.

The Grassroot Project partners with more than 50 D.C. public and charter schools to provide health education programs taught by NCAA student-athletes, which they call “non-traditional health educators.” The program chooses to work with student-athletes to build trusting relationships with the young students to discuss sensitive issues related to their health.

Topics include sexual, mental, and physical health, as well as nutrition. To break the ice, the “educators” are trained to start the conversation with interactive games before splitting into small group sessions.

While several of college friends were mentors, Murphy was unsure that his introverted personality would fit with the program’s objectives. His reservations on public speaking and being “goofy” around middle school students made him feel nervous and apprehensive initially.

“At the beginning, I didn’t see myself doing that because of the person I was, but I saw it as an opportunity for personal growth and also giving back and doing great community work,” Murphy said.

The Eagles athlete recalled the first few visits at a Washington, D.C. middle school where he was caught off-guard by their advanced knowledge levels on sexual health. Students already knew about antiretroviral drugs, the types of other medications needed to manage HIV, and the exchange of different bodily fluids can spread sexually transmitted diseases.

The District of Columbia Department of Health reported 12,322 D.C. residents, or 1.8% of the population, were living with HIV in late 2019. The humbling experience of not having answers, taught to mentors during training, moved Murphy to be a better listener and speak in a conversational tone.

“I talk to them as equals,” Murphy said. “Because I know that when I was that age, I didn’t like people talking down to me as if they were better than me or just because they’re were older than me, so they’re my equals.”

Along with his status as an American University student-athlete and a native of the area, students began to gravitate towards him.

“Being a Black student-athlete from Prince George’s County, you can go into one of the middle schools and impart to someone just basically being someone who looks like them and who is doing something that they want to do, which could potentially be a D-I athlete, or it could be to go to a college,” Murphy said.

Admittedly, having students trust him to share their lives with him can take its toll on Murphy. The discipline instilled in him as a wrestler pushes him to strive for perfection and shoulder their experiences with multiple conversations.

His journey began at Northwestern, where he went 85-30 during his career, leading him to American. The sport’s push for excellence helped him “walk the walk” in becoming a better mentor for his students.

“I wouldn’t be at American University right now if it weren’t for wrestling,” “I would never have met my coach while I was in high school, which allowed me to have that access to American University and had that connection to be able to go to American or be a part of The Grassroot Project.”

Murphy recently received his bachelor’s degree in psychology and has begun working towards his master’s degree. He plans to return to the mat for the 2020-21 season as a redshirt senior wrestler while completing the course work for his advanced degree a year early.

Murphy also plans to continue his work with The Grassroot Project as a paid internship program, while helping the organization revisit the mental health curriculum. He hopes to add listening sessions that tackle topics like systematic racism stemming from the protests fueled by the death of George Floyd.

Had the pandemic not occurred, Murphy believes students would have used the program to discuss police brutality and its effects on mental health in their community. The desire to share one’s experiences inspired him to join together with University of Maryland wrestler and Fort Washington native Jahi Jones in a two-part Instagram discussion on race in America.

His overall goal is to spread the importance of mental health in the African American community, and Murphy believes it starts with his work on a mentor. 

When asked about his thoughts of being looked up to, Murphy said his position as a role model goes beyond than his personal exploits as an athlete and relishes the opportunity to continue that path going forward.

“It’s being able to help them in any way, shape, or form, and that’s extremely important to me, as a psychology major, as a human being, and as a Black man,” Murphy said. “That’s extremely valuable to me to help when help is needed or make any type of impact, and I can.”

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Your Sports Fix – Featuring Devon Ashby and Daniel Kucin Jr.

Tune in for Your Sports Fix every week on Sunday at 7 p.m. for engaging and entertaining discussions focusing on professional and college sports topics with Devon Ashby and Daniel Kucin Jr.

Spirit wins opening match of Challenge Cup, 2-1

By José Umaña/The Sports Pulse Contributor 

Photo by Rob Gray/ISI Photos

WASHINGTON – Goals by midfielder Rose Lavelle and striker Ashley Hatch led the Washington Spirit to a 2-1 victory over the Chicago Red Stars Saturday in their opening game in the National Women’s Soccer League’s Challenge Cup.

Under the new tournament format in Utah, a “recalibrated” Washington Spirit looks to continue the upward trajectory it ended the 2019 season. It only took seven minutes into the contest before Lavelle, a U.S. Women’s National Team starter, crushed a loose rebound into the top left corner of the net to give the Spirit a one-goal lead.

Twenty seconds into the second half, Hatch, who led the team in scoring last season, pounced on an extra touch by Chicago goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher to steal the loose ball and score in the open net.

“We have players that can provide magical moments at any time during the game, and they are chopping at the bit to play,” Head Coach Richie Burke said Thursday.

Ashely Sanchez, the No. 4 pick of the 2020 NWSL College Draft and a U.S. Women’s National Team prospect, excelled in her first start in a Spirit uniform. The former UCLA striker joined Lavelle and Hatch in multiple attacks as Washington finished with six of its 10 shots on target.

“That kid is an incredibly talented kid,” Burke said. “Our job is to keep her moving forward because she is a prestigious talent…She is small and slight but tricky and fast. She is going to take her lumps at this level, but she is a very talented kid. She is someone you’re going to enjoy watching because she will run at you and take you on.”

Midfielder Kumi Yokoyama, one of the Spirit’s five new international players, struggled to adjust the play’s speed by both teams. Burke said he expects her to add more flair in the attack once she adjusts to his press-based offense and the league’s pace of play.

Despite Chicago midfielder Morgan Gautrat’s goal in the 51st minute, the Spirit remained in control of the contest. A last-ditch effort by Chicago’s striker Bianca St. Georges in the Spirit’s six-yard box was denied by goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe’s one-handed save to secure the win for Washington.

Before the contest, Burke said this year’s squad is ready to exceed expectations after an eventful offseason. The Spirit began training in Florida in March before being called back home due to the coronavirus pandemic. Washington returned to training in May in Virginia because they had no access to their practice facilities at the Maryland SoccerPlex.

The lack of preseason friendlies meant for the Spirit did not test possible starting lineups outside of practice or acquire intel on their future opponents. Without the usual warm-up games, the team’s endurance was quickly tested against Chicago, with Washington using three of its five substitutions before the 70th minute.

Washington has three more games remaining before the knockout round, two of which are with playoff teams from last season. For Burke, the rest of the Challenge Cup will be like its namesake, challenging but believes the Spirit are up for the task.

“We have had to recalibrate at every single turn,” Burke said. “This is another opportunity to do so, but I believe in the players, and I believe that we have a talented squad.”

The Spirit will face the reigning NWSL Champion North Carolina Courage on Wednesday at 10 p.m., with the game broadcast live on CBS All-Access.

During Saturday’s match, the club unveiled its 2020 new home kit. The navy blue jersey features grey horizontal stripes and paired with red shorts. CVS Health, the team’s latest sponsor, is prominently displayed in the front of the new jersey.

Sandy Spring, the team’s first-ever official banking partner, will on the jersey sleeve. On the back of the jersey, Progressive Insurance will be featured on the yoke while founding sponsor, the Women and Girls in Soccer (WAGS) returns to occupy the space beneath the players’ numbers.

Our favorite photos from the Spring Sports Season

Baseball: Photos by Mike Clark/The Sports Pulse

The Coronavirus pandemic has swept the nation and has taken away sports altogether for us to enjoy.

However, we wanted to showcase the work of our award-winning photographers. Each week we will have them select their Top 10 favorite photos from each sport throughout the spring sports season.

We will run these galleries until every sport that we cover is represented to get you closer to the action until life returns to normal.

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Tune in every week with Brooks Warren and his special guests for The Wizards Junkies Podcast! They go over every detail on what the Washington Wizards are up to on Friday each week at 9 p.m. You don’t want to miss it!

Major League Baseball season is a Go

By Harry Lichtman/The Sports Pulse Contributor

Photo by Michael Smith/The Sports Pulse

WASHINGTON – On June 23, Major League Baseball (MLB) players agreed to report to training camp on July 1, resulting in the MLB season taking place in 2020.

For weeks, it seemed like a baseball season was not going to happen based on owners and players arguing over the number of games played and the amount of pay received in return.

On Monday, June 22, the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) rejected MLB’s offer of a 60-game season, which resulted in league commissioner Rob Manfred taking matters into his own hands and implementing a season himself.

However, MLB officially announced a 60-game regular season that will begin on either July 23 or July 24, with a specialized “spring” training session starting on July 1st.

The shortened season will also include new rules for 2020: 

  • Active rosters will have 30 players for the first two weeks, 28 for the next two weeks, and 26 in week five.
  • A separate injury list for the coronavirus.
  • Teams will play 10 games vs. divisional opponents; four vs. opposite league divisional opponents.
  • Universal designated hitter (DH) for both NL and AL.
  • The trade deadline will be August 31.
  • The runner starts at second base in extra innings

Due to COVID-19 still sweeping the nation, players must follow a lot of safety measures, as they are not allowed to make deliberate contact with any other player aside from making tags. That means don’t expect anything like high-fives or fights between players.

In terms of COVID-19 testing, it will be implemented in three phases: prescreening, intake, and regular monitoring, per The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich.

For prescreening, players and staffers will be tested three or four days before arriving at camp. For intake, they will then undergo a temperature check, a saliva or nose-swab test, and a blood test for antibodies two days before reporting to camp.

Finally, for regular monitoring, players will have their temperature and symptoms checked twice per day.

As for the minors, the MiLB season has been on hold since April, as they are awaiting word from the MLB if the season will be played at all.

But for now, an apparent free agent league is in place, so that MLB players could quickly sign a fill-in player if necessary.

According to The Athletic’s Jayson Stark, MLB has talked with Nashville about having two teams of unsigned players there. Nashville is the home of the Triple-A Nashville Sounds.

The players would serve as an emergency pool and would make $400 per week, as MLB teams would have to pay a fee to Nashville to sign one of those free agents.

According to Ken Rosenthal, Nashville might not be the only location for this free agent league, as Rosenthal stated that “MLB expects other minor league teams to do something similar to Nashville and allow major league teams to sign players for a fee, operating the same way independent leagues do.”

MLB is not the only North American pro sports league planning to return, the NBA and NHL are expected to begin their playoffs in late July/early August, MLS announced a tournament which will kick off in Orlando on July 8, the WNBA plans to tip off their season in late July, and the NFL is expected to start on time in the fall.

Beal, Cloud, lead march against police brutality and social injustice

Washington Wizards and Washington Mystics stand up for equality

By Brooks Warren/The Sports Pulse Contributor

WASHINGTON – The Washington Mystics and Washington Wizards basketball teams banded together for a march that spanned two-miles in protest of racial injustice and police brutality and to celebrate Juneteenth. 

Juneteenth commemorated the emancipation of the remaining enslaved Americans 155 years ago.

The march, organized by the Wizards guard Bradley Beal and the Mystics star Natasha Cloud, joined the group of protesters following the highly publicized deaths of multiple Black Americans, notably George Floyd, at the hands of police officers.

“Juneteenth is a day of celebration,” Cloud said. “It’s a day of liberation. It’s a day that we were finally freed from our bondage. We couldn’t think of a better day than today to come out here and come together, collectively, and unified in solidarity with one another for a greater cause.”

The march also followed up on sparked interest by Americans to learn about the history of Juneteenth. 

On June 19, 1865, the last American slaves living in Texas were given their independence and freedom two years after signing the Emancipation Proclamation. 

For Beal, not only is Juneteenth a day of celebration, but it’s a day to reflect on one’s actual freedoms.

“By definition, it is the ability to act and speak whenever you want, (about) whatever you want without any restraint,” Beal said. “Prejudices are normalized and condoned, where these things are taught and passed down generation to generation, encouraged and oftentimes celebrated? How does the black community grow when lives are taken from them without justice and without any consequences?”

Cloud said it’s vital for players on both teams to embrace the city during this moment. While Beal has been the face for the Wizards during the protests, leading his teammates posted a collective statement following Floyd’s death, Friday’s match was Cloud and the Mystics’ idea. 

“She actually hit me up a couple of weeks ago, wanting to march, and I was all in,” Beal said. “We pitched it to the rest of our teams, and we all agreed that it was something that was going to be powerful and meaningful to us.” 

Using her platform to speak up as an activist, Cloud recently penned an essay to The Players Tribune addressing systemic racism and calling for an end of the silence from all individuals, especially professional athletes. Cloud announced that she would not compete in the upcoming WNBA season to dedicate more time for social reform

“We can’t ignore this anymore,” Cloud said to the crowd of protesters. “That’s been our message to everyone in America. You can’t ignore this anymore. Your silence is a knee on our neck.” 

Before the march started, Cloud and Beal, wearing “Black Lives Matter” shirts, spoke about the movement and how meaningful and recent emotional protests made them feel. When asked about any past run-ins with police, both players flashed pained grins before speaking on past experiences. 

Beal, the Wizards leading scorer, first recounted being profiled by police while driving with four basketball players in a predominantly white neighborhood. He then recalled being stopped on Interstate 495, the main highway that circles across the metropolitan region, with his fiance and a friend. 

“It happened here, two years ago,” Beal said, “The officer asked me to step out of the vehicle, I’m literally on the side of the highway-the median of the highway on the side, and he comes up to me and says, ‘What if I f*** you up Monday and put you on a headline and arrest you right now?’”

The experience did not lead to an arrest but still affects Beal to this day, causing him to hang his hat below his eyes and change his voice tone. The star guard said he is aware that his tale is not an outlier and that it is time for Americans not to be ignorant about racism. 

Following more than two weeks of protests, which included looting and peaceful gatherings in downtown Washington, D.C., it was their turn as athletes to join the cause. Some players spoke about their experiences dealing with police, while others said it was time to hold everybody accountable, including those who had yet to talk about the topic. 

“Your neutrality is taking the side of the oppressor,” Cloud said. “With Black Lives Matter Plaza, you have to see it. You have to wake up to it every single day. You have to go by it every day. It’s a subtle reminder that we’re here, and we still matter. Our lives have always mattered, and until black lives matter, not all lives matter.”

Monumental Sports & Entertainment, the ownership group who controls the Wizards and Mystics, said it would continue building momentum from the march with several initiatives. It includes selecting two nonprofits each season, one dedicated to addressing police brutality and the other to voting, and organizing specialized programming with players and fans.

As he listened to his peers, read off a list of names who dealt with police brutality at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, Beal said he felt that with the support of the people and his teammates, meaningful change is coming in the future. 

“This march was just a stepping stone,” Beal said. “Now our real action and our real trials begin. Together we stand.”

The Bad Hombres FC – Episode 10: D.C. United and Washington Spirit Tournament Previews

Featuring  José Umaña and Mario Amaya

Tune in for The Bad Hombres Podcast every week on Thursdays at 8 p.m. as soccer journalists José Umaña and Mario Amaya talk on the main topics dealing with D.C. United, Washington Spirit and any soccer news in the DMV.