Luke Erickson

Luke Erickson is a season-ticket holder for the Potomac Nationals, but makes a point of seeing games in Hagerstown and Harrisburg at least once a summer. When the PNats are away on the weekend, Luke finds a minor-league game somewhere to watch, and generally attends 70-80 baseball games a year up across several states. A former sportswriter with newspapers in Massachusetts and Oregon, Luke lives in Western Fairfax County with his wife and two sons.

Mar 282014
 

Offline, it’s been a busy week, which has conveniently coincided with the last lull before the season starts up.

Folks are starting to ask when the rosters will be released, and the answer is… soon. Media Day is Tuesday, April 1 (no, really) for Potomac, Hagerstown, and Syracuse and the player lists are usually a day or two before that. Harrisburg is usually the first affiliate to release its roster, and it could be as soon as tomorrow if history repeats itself.

With the acquisition of Kevin Frandsen, the Nats optioned Jeff Kobernus to Syracuse and Sandy Leon to Harrisburg to whittle the camp down to 26 players. This, of course, was about as surprising as the DC Fox News station mistaking Fairfax County for Frederick County (well, they do both begin with the letter “F”) but reinforces the disturbing trend of position players having an especially hard time making the Opening Day roster.

Yesterday’s news that Doug Fister experienced tightness (don’t go there) pitching yesterday, which was reported as a lat strain. In the short term, no problem — Fister goes on the DL, both Tanner Roark and Taylor Jordan make the rotation. However, if the injury is more severe (like the torn lat muscle suffered by Cameron Selik that ultimately ended his career), we might see Ross Detwiler returned to the rotation, Jordan or Roark optioned, and a reliever from Syracuse (Mike Gonzalez or Xavier Cedeno) recalled to take Detwiler’s place as the second lefty that manager Matt Williams has said he wants.

That is long, roundabout way of saying: Don’t count on that injury possibly opening the door for a prospect (Aaron Barrett vis a vis Ryan Mattheus not withstanding) Let’s hope that it’s merely the Nats being overcautious and that Fister will merely miss April and be ready come May.

For the folks not on the Twitters, Zach Spedden of the Hagerstown Suns Fan Club has begun his series of interviews with the bloggers covering the affiliates, which began with some idiot covering Potomac and continues with Mick Reinhard of Mayflies and Big Flies, who covers the Senators.

Last but not least, for those following the fate of the Suns, you’ll be surprised to learn (no, you will not) that neither ground has been broken nor has land been acquired in Fredericksburg. Considering how long it takes to construct a ballpark properly, this is not a good sign for anyone rooting for a move for the Low-A affiliate from Maryland to Virginia. As previously (repeatedly) noted, the snail-like pace of this could lead to another extension of the Hagerstown PDC, unless, of course, some other facility were to become available and the Sally League would consider realignment (there are also NAPBL-standard facilities open in other cities, like Kinston, NC and Columbia, SC).

Mar 252014
 

Scenes From Scottsdale 6
The best slider in the Nationals organization just found a home in D.C.

Along with today’s cuts (Chris Young, Jamey Carroll) and options (Tyler Moore, Ryan Mattheus, and Xavier Cedeno) the Nationals announced that RHP Aaron Barrett will make the Washington Nationals Opening Day roster. Barrett, who was added to the 40-man last November, was considered a dark horse candidate to make the ‘pen but ultimately ticketed for Syracuse.

Instead, he got a couple of breaks (Mattheus injury, for one) and he simply just kept getting guys out. In nine appearances, the 26-year-old allowed just five hits, no walks, and fanned seven in nine appearances totaling 9⅔ innings.

It’s quite the journey for the 2010 ninth-round pick, who nearly flamed out in his first professional year, as chronicled last month by WaPo’s Adam Kilgore, when he posted 0-5 record with a 9.43 ERA in 10 appearances (four starts) while walking 22 in 21 innings (and striking out 25).

After repeating the SS-A level in 2011 with better but not stellar numbers, Barrett put together a career year in 2012. He went from Low-A at the beginning of season to the AFL at the end, spending just six weeks at High-A in between. He got another bump in 2013 and finished second in the Eastern League with 26 saves while striking out 69 in 50⅓ innings.

It remains to be seen whether this is a temporary move (i.e. until Mattheus gets more innings and back into form) but that should not diminish the achievement. Since this site has a fan component, I think I’m allowed to write “Congratulations.”

Mar 212014
 

So Long
As noted in the comments, the Nationals have released the following minor-leaguers:

• RHP Clay Hensley (offseason pickup)

• 2B Kyle Attl (GCL, Auburn)

• 2B Taylor Wrenn (offseason pickup)

• LHP Casey Selsor (Auburn)

• RHP Greg Holt (Potomac)

• RHP Martires Arias (Rule 5 Draftee, AAA Phase)

As was the case a year ago, there aren’t any real surprises here. Except that I believe there may be more coming because this is the earliest I’ve written this post the past three springs. Baseball America has already done a Transactions post for this week, which covered the week of March 6-12. Most of these releases were dated yesterday.

If not, the standard caveat applies… this is likely the end of the line for most of these guys, so remember that before commenting.

UPDATE: This afternoon Baseball America did indeed have more names in its weekly post, which were as follows:

• RHP Kelvin Rodriguez (GCL)

• C Kevin Flynn (GCL)

• LHP Joel Barrientos (Auburn)

• LHP Elliott Waterman (Auburn)

• OF Jordan Poole (Auburn)

• RHP Silvio Medina (Auburn)

• C Thor Meeks (Hagerstown)

• IF Wes Schill (Hagerstown)

• RHP Cameron Selik (Potomac)

• RHP Rob Wort (Potomac)

Kelvin Rodriguez becomes this year’s GCL surprise — a pitcher that put up decent numbers, which should remind us of the perils of scouting by boxscore. Most of the others, particularly the large contingent from Auburn, which was a major disappointment last summer, should not be considered a shock.

Mar 202014
 

Shifting-GearsWith the Nationals optioning of four players to Syracuse and reassigning three more to minor-league camp, that’s my sign that it’s time to shift gears away from spring training coverage.

This is not to state that I won’t be watching with some interest to see if one of “our guys” will buck the odds and make the Opening Day roster for the final spot on the bench or the last reliever out of ‘pen. I just won’t necessarily be writing every day unless there’s a strong minor-league angle to it.

So we’re back to the offseason mode, but instead of months to while away, it’s just a couple of weeks. “Our” opening day is April 3rd, with the Chiefs and Suns opening at home, and the Sens and P-Nats opening on the road. The daily “News & Notes” begin the following day, with the goal of giving you a summary and highlights from the games with a little style and a little snark.

Potomac — where I’m a season-ticket holder — starts on the 8th, and with it, comes game coverage via “Last Night In Woodbridge.”
Later on in April, “Good, Bad, Interesting” returns — the weekly feature that lists the highs and lows and the unexpected for each affiliate.

So hold on, spring has begun (officially today) and the 2014 season is almost here.

Mar 192014
 

It’s tough to top perfect, which is what Houston Jared Cosart was for five innings as the Astros blanked the Nationals, 2-0. The loss drops Washington to .500 with mark of 10-10-1.

Taylor Jordan was losing pitcher, giving up a run on three hits and a walk over five innings while striking out five. Tyler Clippard was charged with the second run on a home run in the 8th. Ross Detwiler, Rafael Soriano, and Ross Ohlendorf each turned in a scorless inning in relief.

Anthony Rendon broke up the perfecto with one outs in the 6th and advanced to third after a two-out Denard Span single and an Ian Desmond walk. Ryan Zimmerman left ‘em loaded with a flyout to right field.

In the 7th, the Nats were also a safety away from tying the game after singles by Jayson Werth and Wilson Ramos but neither Adam LaRoche nor Rendon get the equalizer.

The offense flailed for five straight K’s from the 8th through the 9th, a streak that included Zach Walters and Jeff Kobernus, who entered the game on defense at 3B and CF respectively.

Brock Peterson notched the fifth and final Washington hit with two out in the 9th before Sandy Leon ended it with foul pop.

Day baseball returns tomorrow with a visit to Jupiter for the Nationals. The Nationals confirmed after the game that tomorrow’s starter — Stephen Strasburg — will indeed be the Opening Day starter in New York, shocking nobody but MASN commenters.

Mar 192014
 

Yesterday was the first scheduled off day of the spring and the next game isn’t until tonight. I debated whether or not to pull the plug on ST coverage with the last set of cuts, but have decided to stick around for a little while longer. There’s still some drama as to whether or not a couple of our guys will make the team, as Adam Kilgore aptly noted yesterday with Aaron Barrett, Zach Walters, and Jeff Kobernus.

In the meantime, let me run some photos, courtesy of our intrepid volunteer Springfield Fan to give folks a taste of what Mother Nature can’t quite decide to let us see ’round these parts.

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Mar 172014
 

Rained-Out-2014The Nats got an extra day off (well, kind of) just before the one official off day in spring training with a rainout of the Nationals-Tigers game in Lakeland.

In a related story, the Nationals announced that Ross Detwiler has been dropped from the battle for the 5th starter’s spot and will being the season in the bullpen. As noted on Twitter, the logical deduction is that Sammy Solis will remain a starter.

Sure enough, within an hour or so, the Nats announced that Eury Perez and Steve Souza were optioned to Syracuse, Solis was optioned to Harrisburg, while Brian Goodwin, Mike Fontenot, and Koyie Hill were reassigned to minor-league camp.

While searching for the appropriate bulldog pic this post was being written, MLB.com’s Bill Ladson reported that Hill was subsequently traded to the Phillies for a PTBNL or cash. Two days ago, the Nationals made a similar deal with the Royals for journeyman IF Brandon Laird.

While there may or may not be a relationship between those two trades, one could also infer that Chicago may be edging towards making a decision on Rule 5 pick Adrian Nieto. Yesterday, Tyler Flowers was named the starting catcher for the White Sox, thus, the battle for who will back him up has been whittled down by one and there are rumors that Chicago is interested in Yankee backup Francisco Cervelli. Therefore, the trade of Hill may be a signal that Nieto is returning to the organization, which is not a particularly clairvoyant observation as Rule 5 position players are far less likely to “stick” than Rule 5 pitchers.

Mar 162014
 

Split Doubleheader
The Nationals split their third and final doubleheader of the 2014 spring, losing to the Tigers, 2-1 while edging the Astros, 4-3.

In Viera, Jordan Zimmermann let up a 1st-inning run then turned in three scoreless in his fourth spring outing, allowing four hits total, hitting a batter, walking a batter, and striking out three. Sammy Solis followed with two no-hit innings, ending a two-week hiatus due to back problems. He walked just one while fanning none. The loss went to Michael Gonzalez, who gave up a run in the 8th on two hits and a walk.

At Kissimmee, Gio Gonzalez pitched into the 5th, allowing a run on three hits and a walk while setting down four on strikes, which earned him the win by ST scoring. Rafael Soriano followed with the tying runs on base and stranded them. The save went to Manny Delcarmen, who pitched the final two frames while striking out two (both in the 9th).

Here’s a rundown of how the notable minor-leaguers did this afternoon:

VIERA
• Eury Perez subbed in CF and went 0-for-1
• Justin Bloxom subbed at 1B and went 0-for-1
• Drew Vettleson subbed in RF and went 0-for-1
• Caleb Ramsey subbed in LF and went 0-for-1 with a strikeout
• Jeff Kobernus started at 2B and went 0-for-2 with walk, run, and a stolen base
• Blake Treinen pitched a 1-2-3 ninth with a K

KISSIMMEE
• Cutter Dykstra subbed at 2B and went 0-for-1 with a strikeout
• Stephen Perez subbed at SS and went 0-for-2
• Randolph Oduber pinch-hit for the DH and struck out in his only AB
• Isaac Ballou subbed in LF and went 0-for-2
• Zach Walters started at 3B and went 0-for-5 with three K’s
• Sandy Leon started at C and went 1-for-3
• Steve Souza started in RF and went 3-for-3 with two solo HRs, a triple, and three RBIs
• Brian Goodwin started in CF and went 2-for-3 with a triple and an RBI single

The Nats rematch against the Tigers in Lakeland as a full squad. Tanner Roark is slated to start. The game can be heard on MLB radio.

Mar 152014
 

Stephen Strasburg tossed four scoreless innings to lead the Nats to a 2-1 win over the Marlins, ending a four-game skid. The 25-y.o. ace gave up two hits, walked one and struck out four in his third spring appearance.

Bullpen stalwarts Tyler Clippard, Craig Stammen, and Jerry Blevins combined for four innings in relief, the lone Marlins run charged against Stammen. Aaron Barrett whiffed the first and last batters in the ninth, shaking off a two-out error by Zach Walters to earn the save.

Ryan Zimmerman (sac fly) and Wilson Ramos (RBI single) accounted for the two runs in the 3rd and 5th innings as the reserves didn’t begin filtering until the 6th.

Steve Souza was given the start in RF and reached base twice with a walk and a single in three PAs. Here’s a rundown of how the rest of the notable minor-leaguers did:

• Walters replaced Danny Espinosa at SS and was 0-for-1 with a strikeout
• Brian Goodwin subbed for Bryce Harper in LF and also went 0-for-1 with a whiff
• Brandon Miller followed Souza in RF and was 0-for-1
• Jeff Kobernus took over CF from Nate McLouth and collected a single and a stolen base

Tomorrow is the third and final split-squad doubleheader with games against Detroit (home) and Houston (away). Jordan Zimmermann gets the ball in Viera while Gio Gonzalez makes the road start in Kissimmee. Both games are at 1:05 p.m. with MASN broadcasting the Tigers game while the Astros game can be heard via MLB Radio.

Mar 142014
 

The Tigers clawed the Nats pitchers for four in the 3rd and five in the 4th en route to a 12-6 win, the fourth straight defeat for the DC nine.

Taylor Jordan worked around a single in the first and a double in the second but couldn’t escape the, um, teeth of the Detroit lineup the second time through in the 3rd as they bit him for four runs on five hits. It was the third consecutive outing in which Jordan had been scored upon. He walked none and struck out two.

After Tyler Moore answered with a two-run homer in the the top of the 4th, the Tigers picked up where they left off against Luis Ayala, who couldn’t finish the inning, charged with five runs on six hits with no walks and no strikeouts. Journeyman Zach Jackson let in one of two inherited runners to finish the frame.

Blake Treinen was the fourth pitcher out of the ‘pen to start the 6th. He was knocked for a double and two singles but only gave up one run, thanks to Sandy Leon gunning down a runner and a pickoff of his own. He pitched a scoreless 7th to finish with one run allowed on four hits with no walks and no K’s over two innings.

Thanks to the custom of regulars skipping road games, Jeff Kobernus (1-for-3, K) and Zach Walters (2-for-3, R) got the start in LF and SS respectively. As we edge towards the Ides of March, here’s a look at how the rest of the notable minor-leaguers did today:

• Brian Goodwin replaced Denard Span in CF and went 0-for-1
• Steve Souza followed Nate McLouth in RF and struck out in his AB
• Sandy Leon subbed for Jose Lobaton behind the plate and was 0-for-1 at the plate and 1-for-2 gunning down Tigers trying to steal
• Eury Perez took over LF from Kobernus and was 0-for-1

The Nats remain on the road to visit the split-squad Marlins in Jupiter tomorrow afternoon. Stephen Strasbug is scheduled to start. Si puedes leer esto oración, entonces usted entenderá emisora de radio de Miami