Mar 252011
 

Jordan Zimmermann rebounded from his poor showing against the Cardinals with a strong outing against the Tigers as the Nationals won 5-2 last night.

Zimmermann went five shutout innings, allowed five hits and walk while striking out six. Brian Broderick, who appears to be closer to making the club after the optioning of Craig Stammen yesterday, continued his spring dominance with another scoreless inning with just a hit and no walks allowed.

Todd Coffey’s poor outing represented both of Detroit’s runs, both scored in the bottom of the ninth on a leadoff single, double, and two groundouts. Could it lead to the Nats releasing him? Probably not, but I’d love to wrong on that one. Not because I have a disdain for Coffey but because it could walk the talk about the Nats releasing a MLB-ready player this year.

Despite the predicted-here-two-weeks-ago announcement that Henry Rodriguez will start the season on the DL, Collin Balester’s remaining option looms as more cuts are expected today and tomorrow.

Danny Espinosa got the start yesterday but went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts. This is something to watch because Espinosa is prone to both cold streaks and strikeouts. One has to worry if Riggleman will have the patience to ride them out.

Wilson Ramos came off the bench and singled in his only at-bat to raise his spring average to .289. Yesterday’s decision to option Jesus Flores now turns most folks’ attention to how Ivan Rodriguez fares, knowing he’s got not one, but two MLB-ready catchers ready to take his place. We, on the other hand, wonder which of these two will still be around if/when Derek Norris is ready.

With the win, the Nationals are now 13-12 in Grapefruit League play with the final MASN broadcast tonight at 6:05 p.m. against the Cardinals.

Mar 242011
 

Baseball America has released its transaction for the period of March 16-22 and unfortunately, all the previously unreported moves are releases…

RHP Tim Dupuis

RHP Mike Gallo

RHP Scott Mueller

RHP Billy Ott

RHP Wanel Vasquez

1B Kevin Barker

Mar 242011
 

One of the most valuable words they teach in you J-School is “allege,” which has been twisted by pop culture such that people think it’s merely a word that defense attorneys use at press conferences.

It means to assert without proof.

Allegedly, the signing of Oliver Perez won’t cost any prospects any innings. Yet he’s reportedly going to start the season at AAA. Both statements cannot be true, so let me explain why. In other words, I’m going to present some proof.

As we discussed yesterday, it appears that option status is going to send a few pitchers to Syracuse. Two of those pitchers are starters. One of them is Yunesky Maya, considered the #11 prospect in the organization according to Baseball America. The other is Ross Detwiler, a former prospect by the definition of him no longer having rookie status, but a promising young pitcher nevertheless.

Would it be unfair to assume those two are in the Syracuse starting rotation? I think not.

1. Detwiler
2. Maya

A favorite here, and the Nationals Minor League pitcher of the year for 2010, is Tom Milone. The 24-year-old lefty is also the #16 man in the Nats org, according to BA. Ten and eleven spots back of him are Ryan Tatusko and Brad Meyers. While both do turn 26 this year, they are still prospects.

1. Detwiler
2. Maya
3. Milone
4. Tatusko
5. Meyers

Thus, before you even cross into AAAA territory, you’ve got a full rotation on Opening Day with four of the Nats Top 30 prospects. And even when you do cross that prospect/4A border, each of these men is younger than Oliver Perez, who turns 30 in August. Here’s a look at them listed from youngest (turning 24 a week from yesterday) to oldest (turning 28 in June)

Shairon Martis
Luis Atilano
Garrett Mock
Matt Chico

And that’s not even including two organizational guys (Erik Arnesen and Jeff Mandel) that could conceivably lose their jobs or go back to Harrisburg, a place that’s expected to host BA-ranked prospects Danny Rosenbaum and Trevor Holder at the outset and Sammy Solis by midseason, joining the #10 man Brad Peacock.

If Perez is assigned to Syracuse, he’s going to cost one of those six men playing time, if not a job.

So does that mean Perez is going to become a reliever? Even if that were true, here’s a peek at some of the names we may see to start the season in Syracuse.

Collin Balester
Craig Stammen
Adam Carr
Cole Kimball
Josh Wilkie

And that’s not including either of the MLB-phase Rule 5 pickups or Harrisburg relievers such as Rafael Martin and Hassan Pena, who was the #30 guy on the BA list and was said to have picked up his fastball in the Puerto Rican winter leagues this past offseason. Not to mention, the likes of Tim Wood, Lee Hyde, Harvey Garcia, or Adam Olbrychowski. While it’s doubtful that at least two of those last three names will be sent down, it could send the third down or out.

And there’s nothing wrong with that, but the point I am trying to make here still remains… signing Oliver Perez and assigning him to a full-season affiliate to start 2011 is going to cost a prospect somehow, some way. It may be merely innings, it may be taking a step back in the chain, or it could mean a release. But to claim otherwise is simply foolish.

Mar 232011
 

With Spring Training winding down, the Nats made a couple of moves this afternoon, adding Oliver Perez via a minor-league deal and claiming LHP Lee Hyde from Atlanta on waivers. To make room for Hyde, Stephen Strasburg was officially placed on the 60-day DL, a move that was widely expected. Hyde was immediately optioned to AAA Syracuse.

Perez will report to minor-league camp to work with his former pitching coach, and current Nationals pitching coordinator “Spin” Williams. There are reports that Perez will be assigned to AAA to start the season, a move that could cost a prospect some playing time or impede his progress or perhaps even cost someone a job.

Hyde is a 26-year-old left-handed reliever that split time between AA and AAA last season but was not listed in either the 2010 or 2011 editions of Baseball America or John Sickels’s books. The lone scouting report that I could locate is from his 2009 AFL stint, in which he was described as having an 88-91 fastball and low-80s slider that was particularly effective against LHBs.

Hyde was originally drafted in 2006 (4th Round) and underwent TJ surgery in 2007. In 2010, he posted a 3.41 ERA overall but struggled with his command at AAA, walking 12 in 21 innings pitched over 22 appearances. All eight saves were earned at AA Mississippi.

Mar 232011
 

With six games to go in Spring Training, it’s rather obvious that the Washington Nationals have some roster decisions to make, many of which will come down to what’s often called “the numbers game.” In this particular case, it’s options — whether and/or how many a player has left.

The No. 5 starter has been considered a battle between Tom Gorzelanny, Yunesky Maya, Ross Detwiler, and sometimes Chad Gaudin. Maya has two option years left, Detwiler has one, Gorzelanny has none. Gaudin was signed to a minor-league contract, however, he would have to clear waivers to be assigned to Syracuse, giving him a leg up.

This brings us to the battle for the long/middle relief spots. Gaudin is also a candidate there, competing against Craig Stammen and Brian Broderick. Stammen has two options left, while as a Rule 5 pick, Broderick has to be kept or offered back to St. Louis. On its face, it seems obvious: send down Stammen and keep Gaudin and Broderick, but much depends on how Rizzo, et al views these pitchers long term. Ironically, Broderick’s value as a starter could result in him going back to the minors via trade or being returned.

While the announcement yesterday that Henry Rodriguez was being shut down to work on his control problems took some of the drama out of the race for the rest of the bullpen, the no-options-left status of Todd Coffey, Sean Burnett, and Tyler Clippard has them in the driver’s seat, leaving the battle between Drew Storen, Doug Slaten, and Collin Balester for the remaining two spots. Storen has two options left while Slaten and Balester have one.
The conventional wisdom is that Balester is the most likely to lose this race, despite outpitching Storen thus far this spring.

It’s become obvious that the Nats do plan to send down Jesus Flores to AAA to catch every day, an unfortunate turn because had Flores hit the way he had been in Winter Leagues, it could have opened up trade possibilities. Flores does have two options left.

Alberto Gonzalez has been the subject of trade rumors, but if that does not come to fruition, his lack of options gives him a slight edge over his competition of Alex Cora and Jerry Hairston Jr.

It also appears that Matt Stairs will be kept for his power potential off the bench and the ability to spell Adam LaRoche at first base from time to time, which brings us to the outfield. Michael Morse has separated himself from the pack of OFs with a spate of HRs and has put a lock on LF. With Jayson Werth the free-agent RF, the battle for CF is all that’s left.

Unfortunately, it’s not exactly The Treasure of the Sierra Madre in center, as it appears DC don’t need no stinkin’ OBP with the likes of Nyjer Morgan (.319 in ’10), Rick Ankiel (.324) and Roger Bernadina (.307) as the contenders. Ankiel has no options left while Morgan and Bernadina each have one. Two of these three are likely to stick, with the loser getting optioned or cut, as one would think that Hairston’s versatility may buy him a spot on the bench to offset Stairs limitations and add some right-handedness to the bench.

Should any transactions occur today, I’ll put ‘em here in this space along any appropriate comments.

UPDATE
Well, I thought a move or two like this might happen yesterday but it turned out to be today…

…Craig Stammen and Jesus Flores were both optioned to AAA Syracuse this afternoon. The former appears to paving the way for Brian Broderick to make the team as the long reliever while Flores will get the chance to play everyday and regain more arm strength as he attempts to recover his 2009 pre-injury form.

Mar 222011
 

A two-run HR by Michael Morse in the bottom of the eighth gave the Nats their second straight win and 3-1 win going into their lone day off this spring.

John Lannan tossed six solid innings, allowing just one run on two hits and a walks while striking out three. He was followed by Collin Balester, Doug Slaten, and Drew Storen, each of whom threw a 1-2-3 inning.

Once again, Danny Espinosa and Wilson Ramos drew starting assignments. Espinosa went 2-for-3 with an RBI double , a walk and strikeout, raising his ST batting average to .327 and his RBI tally to 15 in 16 games. Ramos went 1-for-4 with a run scored and picked off Oswaldo Navarro to end the 3rd inning.

With the win, the Nationals return to .500 and have tomorrow off, their only scheduled day off during the 2011 Grapefruit League season.

Some quick hits…

Bryce Harper‘s injury suffered yesterday has been described as a “medium” left ankle sprain. MASN’s Byron Kerr reports that the injury should keep Harper out of the lineup “four to five days,” according to an unnamed source.

…MLB.com’s Bill Ladson is reporting that Henry Rodriguez has been shut down to “work on his mechanics.” Yours truly is predicting that a minor injury will be discovered shortly.

…Rule 5 pick Elvin Ramirez, reported to have been suffering from shoulder soreness, has begun long toss and will starting throwing bullpens soons, according WaPo’s Adam Kilgore, who also believes that Ramirez is likely to be stashed placed on the DL to begin the season.

More tomorrow, as we examine options and how they may affect the last week of Spring Training.

Mar 212011
 

With another two sold innings of work in a 7-2 win over the St. Louis Cardinals, Brian Broderick continues to make his case for sticking with the club.

The Rule 5 pick allowed two singles in the sixth, but got the key grounders when he needed them (four in total) and tossed a 1-2-3 seventh inning to earn his fourth hold of the spring. His ERA is now 0.77 after seven appearances, totaling 10⅔ innings.

The win broke the Nats’ seven-game losing streak in a game that featured a bit of a beanball war after (guess who?) Nyjer Morgan collided with Albert Pujols. Former National Miguel Batista was ejected after hitting Ian Desmond with one out and nobody on in the top of the 7th, which prompted the benches to clear.

Former Potomac Nationals manager Trent Jewett prevented Morgan from reaching the infield during the scuffle, in which no punches were thrown, though he was pinch-hit for in the top of the 8th.

Danny Espinosa started the game and went 1-for-4 with 2 RBI while Wilson Ramos came off the bench to pinch-run for Ivan Rodriguez and caught the final three innings.

The Nationals return to Viera tomorrow afternoon to host the Astros. The game can be heard (Houston broadcast) online via MLB.com Gameday Audio.

Mar 202011
 

After winning eight of eleven to start the Spring, the Nats have turned off one faucet in favor of the other, losing their seventh straight today by a 6-1 count to the Detroit Tigers.

Tom Gorzelanny ended the string of poor starts from the starts, turning in a mediocre performance with two runs allowed over five inning, both coming on a third-inning HR on another breezy day in Viera. The bullpen struggled again as none of the three that followed — Todd Coffey, Drew Storen, & Tyler Clippard — were dominant.

None of this mattered much as the Nats offense, which managed to outhit the Tigers 12-10, couldn’t score unless they hit the ball over the wall (Matt Stairs, 7th) and stranded 10 baserunners, while the defense committed four errors, including errors by Danny Espinosa and Wilson Ramos.

Your prospect roundup…

  • Ramos went 1-for-3 with a strikeout
  • Espinosa grounded into a double play in his lone at-bat
  • Tyler Moore followed Adam LaRoche on defense and had an assist

The Nats are now 10-12 and have afternoon games the next two days (at St Louis, vs. Houston) before an off day on Wednesday.

Mar 192011
 

The good news is that the Nats appear to be in midseason form. The bad news is that season appears to be 2008.

Like Jordan Zimmermann yesterday, Jason Marquis came into the game on a string of good outings and had it cut sharply with a four-run first inning. He would be chased with two outs in the fourth, charged with six runs on nine hits and three walks. But also like yesterday, the bullpen was mostly effective after Tyler Clippard teetered out of the fourth with a walk-triple-strikeout sequence.

In terms of prospects…

  • Brian Broderick pitched another solid inning of relief, a 1-2-3 inning with three infield groundouts.
  • Danny Espinosa returned to the starting lineup and went 1-for-4 with a strikeout.
  • Derek Norris followed Pudge Rodriguez behind the plate and went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts.
  • Matt Antonelli went 0-for-1 in the ninth as a pinch hitter, flying out to center.

The loss drops the Nats to 10-11 for the spring. They return to Viera for a MASN-televised game against the Tigers tomorrow afternoon.

Mar 192011
 

For the second time in as many days, the Nats starting pitcher was knocked around as the Nats lost 10-4 to St. Louis.

Jordan Zimmermann, who had come into the contest with a 0.00 ERA in three previous outing, gave up six runs on eight hits and two walks and did not strike out a batter. He also threw two wild pitches.

Zimmermann is still quite likely to make the cut, but Storen’s outing? Well, that’s a horse of a different color. For the fourth time in six appearances this spring, Storen was hit hard, allowing three runs on four hits and two walks. Three of the four hits went for extra bases, with two home runs and triple, and he also did not strike out a batter.

As mentioned in yesterday morning’s post, GM Mike Rizzo is pleased to have players with options. WaPo beat writer Adam Kilgore deftly points out that it’s possible for Storen to be sent down for just that reason.

What’s more likely is that Storen may no longer be the ninth-inning pitcher as the closer-by-committee has been mentioned lately. Strong performances by Sean Burnett and Collin Balester in yesterday’s game are helping to make the case.

Brian Broderick continues to make his case for sticking with the club, pitching another scoreless inning yesterday to lower his spring ERA to 0.93, and is starting to attract notice outside this space.

Other notable prospects…

  • Boomer Whiting made his first appearance, going 0-for-1 and snagging a flyball in the 9th
  • Derek Norris drew a walk and caught the last three innings, but was charged with a passed ball
  • Matt Antonelli went 0-for-1 as a pinch hitter and played the 9th inning at 2B without any defensive chances

The loss drops the Nats to 10-10 for the spring, as they return to Port St. Lucie this afternoon to play the Mets. The game will broadcast on the radio via 106.7FM and can be seen on MLB.tv