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Nats' Papelbon apologizes for Harper incident

Closer Jonathan Papelbon apologized Friday to the Washington Nationals for the incident last September in which he choked outfielder Bryce Harper in the dugout for not hustling enough, but the team had to save the veteran pitcher from a fashion f...

Closer Jonathan Papelbon apologized Friday to the Washington Nationals for the incident last September in which he choked outfielder Bryce Harper in the dugout for not hustling enough, but the team had to save the veteran pitcher from a fashion failure.

Papelbon was planning to send a message of another kind Friday.

According to the Washington Post, Papelbon was encouraged to change out of a cut-off T-shirt with arrows pointing to his biceps the words “Obama Can’t Ban These Guns” across the front.

Papelbon was suspended the final four games of the 2015 season for the encounter. The volatile reliever, whose sharp tongue caused friction in previous professional stops with the Boston Red Sox and Philadelphia Phillies, did take responsibility for the problem with Harper.

“I was in the wrong,” he said. “Should have never went down that way, and I understand that. ... I’ve had three months to think about it.”

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Former Twin Span is Giants’ leadoff pick

Given his recent history with back and hamstring problems, you could argue Angel Pagan will be the most inflexible player at spring training for the San Francisco Giants this month.

That said, Giants manager Bruce Bochy is counting upon the veteran’s flexibility when it comes to weighing his lineup options for the 2016 season.

The Giants signed speedy center fielder/leadoff man Denard Span to a three-year, $31 million contract in the offseason.

Speedy and leadoff have been two words pretty much reserved for Pagan in his San Francisco career. But that’s no longer the case.

“The one nice characteristic we’ve had on this club is unselfishness,” Bochy said when asked to describe Pagan’s role this season. “I’m sure his preference is to stay in center field. But I think he’s a good enough athlete where he could go (to left field).”

Bochy said he planned to communicate regularly with Pagan as decision time on a starting lineup -- both at the plate and in the field - approaches.

He is counting upon that aforementioned flexibility.

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Moving Pagan to left field seems like a no-brainer. Span, who was signed away from the Washington Nationals, is strong defensively. And playing left field, where there isn’t as much ground to cover, would seem like a good idea for Pagan, a 34-year-old with hamstring issues.

“He’s healed up,” Giants general manager Bobby Evans said of Pagan. “I know he’s looking at (this season) as a very big one for us (and) for him.”

At his best, Pagan was a .300-hitting, 16-steals guy for just over half a season (96 games) in 2014 before his hamstring started acting up.

Imagine if he could bring those numbers to the seventh or eighth spot in the batting order, which is where Pagan is likely to land now that Span has all but been handed the leadoff spot.

A late-career move out of center field and big-time demotion in the batting order probably wouldn’t be Pagan’s first two choices entering a free agent season.

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