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Nationals Counting on Harper, Strasburg Comebacks After Quiet Offseason

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    Nationals Counting on Harper, Strasburg Comebacks After Quiet Offseason
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    Jayson Werth celebrates with Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman after scoring off of a two-run single by Anthony Rendon against the Los Angeles Dodgers during game one of the National League Division Series Oct. 7. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

    Instead of revamping their roster after yet another early playoff exit, the Washington Nationals head to spring training next week counting on a bounce-back year from Bryce Harper and a full season from Stephen Strasburg.

    The team's significant offseason changes were limited to adding outfielder Adam Eaton -- at the cost of two top pitching prospects -- and catcher Derek Norris.

    “We've got a good team that won 95 games last year. I think we're a better team this year that will go into this season better than we did last year. So we feel that we're a confident group with a good team, a deep roster,” general manager Mike Rizzo said.

    “And we plan on having a really successful year this season,” he declared. “Our goal is to defend the National League East title, go to the playoffs -- and then our ultimate goal always is to win the World Series.”

    Going to need to win a playoff series first, though.

    With three division titles in five years, but also three opening-series postseason losses, Washington still has 2015 NL MVP Harper (who slumped significantly last year) and 2016 NL MVP runner-up Daniel Murphy in the heart of the lineup, and 2016 NL Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer at the top of the rotation along with Strasburg, who began last season 13-0 before getting shut down with an elbow injury.

    “We did pretty good to win as many games as we did with guys having down years,” manager Dusty Baker said. “Harp will rebound. He's young enough where I'm not real worried about Harp. Soon, the pride factor will come into it. He don't like seeing those down years on his bubble gum card.”