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 172013
 

Stephen Strasburg looks ready for April, but Drew Storen seems stuck in October.

Strasburg threw more than 90 pitches in his fifth spring start (93, 64 for strikes to be exact), surrendering a solo HR to former teammate Rick Ankiel to account for the lone run he gave up over five and a 1/3rd innings. He allowed five hits total, walked one and struck out eight.

Storen, on the other hand, continues to struggle this spring. He was touched for three runs on four hits and a walk in the 8th, blowing his second save and taking his first loss. In seven appearances, he’s has just one clean inning and only two where he hasn’t given up a hit.

Perhaps it’s reminiscent of March 2011 (2.294 WHIP in 11&⅓ IP vs. 1.857 in 7), but it’ll be something to watch over the next two weeks. Given manager Davey Johnson’s proclamation that it’s time for the relievers to start working every other day, that leaves Storen roughly five more appearances until Opening Day.

Meanwhile, as I feel like the high school kids playing the 4:30 p.m. game before the 7 p.m. main event, we’re approaching the end of our spring training coverage as the MLB starters and reserves begin to play deeper into the games in favor of the minor-leaguers. Just four notables made it into yesterday’s contest:

  • CF Corey Brown, 0-1
  • RF Carlos Rivero, 0-0, E(1)
  • PR-SS Zach Walters, 0-1, K
  • 1B Chris Marrero, 0-1

For the second straight Sunday, the Nats take a trip to Lakeland to visit the Tigers. Ross Detwiler is expected to pitch in place of Gio Gonzalez this afternoon. The game can be heard on MLB Audio with the Detroit radio feed.

Mar 152013
 

Steve Lombardozzi grounds out to 3B in the 6th for the sole National run

Lombardozzi grounds out to 3B in the 6th for the sole Nat run

St. Louis had its way with starter Dan Haren, roughing up the veteran for four runs on two home runs in the first and five runs overall to hand Washington a 5-1 defeat this afternoon.

Haren gave up six hits and two walks overall across the five innings he threw in his fourth spring appearance. Yunesky Maya was the first man out of the ‘pen, leading a trio of relievers who each turned in a scoreless inning and limited the Cardinals to just two hits (both given up by Ryan Mattheus in the 7th).

Chris Marrero (1-for-4), Carlos Rivero (0-for-4, 2K), Corey Brown (1-for-3), Micah Owings (2-for-2), and Zach Walters (1-for-3) were the nos. 5-9 batters in the lineup and accounted for all five hits the Nats would register for the game.

Pinch-runner Steve Souza scored the lone run as a pinch-runner for Owings, as Walters pushed him to third with one out and leadoff man Steve Lombardozzi plated him with a groundball to third and reached first safely when Ryan Jackson’s throw was too askew for second baseman Ronny Cedeno to attempt a throw to first.

Ricky Hague (PR-2B), Jhonatan Solano (C), Caleb Ramsey (LF), and Carlos Maldonado (PH-DH) also came off the bench but none got a hit. Ramsey reached on an error with one out in the 9th, followed by Maldonado drawing a pinch walk to set up a first-and-second situation for Marrero, but the rally was quashed with a groundout from the first baseman and popup by Rivero to end the game.

With the loss, the Nationals fall back to .500 at 9-9-2 in the Grapefruit League thus far this spring. It’s an evening tilt tomorrow night at 6:05 p.m. against the Astros in Viera. MASN alone has the broadcast.

Mar 142013
 

Micah Owings hit a grand slam in the 7th off former White Sox and Dodgers farmhand John Ely as the Nats took their third straight Grapefruit League game, 6-3 over the Houston Astros this afternoon in Viera.

Owings, a former RHP in the Arizona Diamondbacks organization [insert reference to Mike Rizzo’s tenure here], is attempting to return the majors as a position player. In nine games, the 30-year-old has gone 5-for-14 with three doubles, two HR, and eight RBI for a .368 BA and a slugging percentage of .842. He’s expected to start the 2013 campaign in Syracuse, most likely splitting time between 1B and DH with the occasional game in LF.

Chris Young was much sharper in his second spring start, going four innings and allowing two walks and four hits, including a solo HR in the first inning by Marwin* Gonzalez.
* God help him if he’s ever traded to Miami; just sayin’

Rafael Soriano got the dreaded blown-save-win by giving up the go-ahead runs in the top of the 7th on a two-run shot by journeyman Nate Freiman.

Playing time for the minor-leaguers hasn’t quite dwindled yet. Here’s a rundown of how the notables did:

  • Corey Brown went 1-for-2 with a run scored while playing CF in place of Denard Span
  • Carlos Maldonado went 1-for-1 pinch-hitting for DH Ryan Zimmerman
  • Chris Marrero went 0-for-1 and took over 1B from Adam LaRoche
  • Zach Walters went 0-for-1 after subbing for SS Ian Desmond
  • Carlos Rivero went 0-for-2 while playing 3B in Danny Espinosa’s slot in the lineup
    (starting 3B Steve Lombardozzi finished the game at 2B)

With the win, the Nationals improve to 9-8 for the spring. It’s back on the road tomorrow for an afternoon game against the Cardinals in Jupiter. Dan Haren is scheduled to make his fourth spring outing, opposed by Adam Wainwright for St. Louis. If it’s 3 a.m. and you’re not lonely, you can catch the game on tape delay early Saturday morning on the MLB Network.

Mar 142013
 

More ST cutsThis morning the Nationals announced the second major cutdown, sending seven guys to the backfields, including top prospects Nathan Karns, Anthony Rendon, and Matt Skole. Also sent packing: Eury Perez, Sandy Leon, Pat McCoy, and Will Rhymes.

Officially, Perez was optioned to AAA Syracuse, Leon and Rendon were optioned to AA Harrisburg, while the rest were reassigned to minor-league camp.

Karns was an unsurprising cut, especially considering his recent leg injury. After an impressive two-inning stint against the Mets on February 25 struggled in his next two appearances — both versus the St. Louis Cardinals — including seven runs in 2/3rds of an inning last Friday.

While perhaps some folks may have thought Rendon’s torrid spring thus far (.375BA, 4HR, 11RBI) may have earned him more time with “the big boys,” manager Davey Johnson has been consistent in his stance that all the 22-year-old Texan needs is “some reps.”

There is, of course, nothing to prevent Washington from reassigning Rendon to Syracuse later this month. Wherever he does end up starting the season, Rendon is expected to split time playing 3B and SS and will occasionally play at 2B, Johnson told reporters this morning.

Finally, Matt Skole, who spent less than a month at a High-A Potomac after obliterating the South Atlantic League for most of 2012, is probably not going back to Woodbridge next month; not after leading the Nationals with seven walks drawn in 14 games for an impressive .406 OBP.

As predicted earlier this week, the trio of Carlos Rivero, Corey Brown, and Chris Marrero were kept in the major-league camp, which now stands at 42 players

Mar 132013
 

In split-squad action, the Nats regulars beat the Mets 8-5 in Viera, while the reserves beat the Astros 9-7 in Kissimmee.

Jordan Zimmermann got the home start and tossed four and 2/3rds innings, giving up three runs (one earned) on four hits and two walks. He struck out six, but was denied the “W” as Craig Stammen blew the save by allowing the third Mets run to score. Jeremy Accardo was the sole minor-leaguer to appear in Viera, giving up a run in the 9th on a leadoff triple to former Washington farmhand Brian Bixler and an RBI groundout.

Ross Ohlendorf’s woes continued with another poor outing as the road starter, charged with four runs on five hits and three walks to balloon his spring ERA to 7.36 after four appearances. He was followed by Ryan Perry, who gave up a run on two hits and no walks over the next two innings.

Erik Davis got the win as one of four relievers to turn in an inning to close out the game. Jeff Mandel got the save despite giving up a run in the 9th in his first “A” game appearance.

Anthony Rendon continues to make the case for making Matt Skole the Harrisburg third baseman and himself the starter in Syracuse with a 4-for-5, 3RBI afternoon, including his fourth HR of the spring — a go-ahead two-run shot in the 8th. Micah Owings (3-for-5) doubled twice and drove in two, while Corey Brown singled and doubled to join Rendon as multi-hit batters as the “baby Nats” spanked the Houston minor-league hurlers for 17 hits total.

Estarlin Martinez (double in the 9th) and Ricky Hague (groundout in the 8th) also drove in runs in the split-squad game, which saw the Nationals overcome deficits of 4-0 and 5-4 with a two-run 8th and three-run 9th.

The next round of cuts are expected to be announced later this afternoon or early this evening.

Mar 122013
 

Viera via NatsnqA little more than a month ago, I wrote a post about the upcoming Nationals 2013 Spring Training, which is de rigeur when it’s cold and/or February; the day after: a post about options (self-referencing is also obligatory).

For the most part, it’s been as expected… Anthony Rendon has had his moments, which have been heavily covered, but has been cool the for the past three games (0-for-7, 3K), which has been largely ignored. Danny Espinosa and Wilson Ramos have proven thus far to be healthy enough, which may have been the best shot for any of the minor-leaguers (notable or otherwise) to sneak onto the 25-man roster.

For us, the fans of the minors and what some casual fans call “the baby Nats,” there’s been a little upheaval. Christian Garcia (wrist) and Nathan Karns (leg) have both suffered injuries, which the more cynical among us would say is probably inevitable for two surgically repaired guys after breakthrough years in 2012. Matt Purke is (once again) going into witness protection extended spring training to begin the season with a plan to join his teammates (probably in Hagerstown) in late May and an innings limit of about 100, which works out to be about 17 or 18 starts.

As you might imagine for the first guys to hit the plane from the I.L. if/when there’s an injury, Corey Brown, Carlos Rivero, and Chris Marrero have been getting quite a bit of playing time. Of the three, as noted this morning in the comments, only Rivero is out of options. This is, of course, why Rivero has been appearing in the outfield, though I get the sense it’s more to showcase his versatility as trade bait. Unfortunately, I also agree with the commenter’s contention that it’s been for naught thus far.

I’d still guess that at least two, if not all three will survive tomorrow’s expected cuts (a bit of a misnomer, since they’re usually reassigned, not released) because they’re older, more experienced players who are on the cusp of the majors and whose presence isn’t needed in the minors camp just yet (OK, so maybe I’m still holding out hope for a late-spring trade, too)

More likely to go: a catcher (e.g. Sandy Leon), a couple of pitchers (e.g. Patrick McCoy, Brandon Mann) and an infielder or two (unfortunately, Matt Skole is candidate as Ryan Zimmerman plays more). We’ll know more this roughly this time tomorrow.

Mar 112013
 

March 13, 2013 Viera, FL

Via @SyracuseChiefs On Twitter

With three weeks to go before Opening Day, the good news is that Stephen Strasburg breezed through the first five innings on slightly more than 50 pitches. The bad news: A six-run sixth inning by the Braves broke the 0-0 tie as the Nationals ultimately fell, 7-2.

Strasburg was charged with four runs on four hits and two walks over five and a 1/3rd innings, though two of the runs were let in by Zach Duke as the first man out of the ‘pen.

The 24-year-old ace struck out five on an unofficial pitch count of 76 pitches, 53 for strikes per Patrick Reddington of Federal Baseball.

Following Duke, who took the brunt of the Atlanta rally with three hits and two runs of his own given up in just 2/3rds of an inning, Rafael Soriano cruised through a scoreless 7th, setting them down in order with a popup, strikeout, and a flyout.

The fight for the final bullpen spot continues to be less like the UFC and more like the Little Rascals as neither Henry Rodriguez nor Fernando Abad were particularly effective in the 8th, with the former putting on two in 2/3rds of an inning (one single, one HBP) and the latter giving up a leadoff hit for the seventh and final Braves run while getting the last out in the 8th.

Tyler Clippard matched Soriano with a three up and three down 9th, also striking out one.

The Nats broke up the shutout bid with a rally from the reserves in the bottom of the 8th. Carlos Maldonado drew a leadoff walk, took second on Steve Lombardozzi’s groundout, waddled to third on a single by Corey Brown and finally came in on an RBI groundout to third by Carlos Rivero.

Tyler Moore’s solo shot into the wind in the last of the 9th completed Washington’s scoring.

A rundown of how the notable minor-leaguers fared:
• CF Brown 1-1
• PR-RF Rivero 0-1, RBI
• LF Owings 0-1
• PH-DH Marrero 0-1
• SS Walters 0-1

Tomorrow is the second of three scheduled off days for the Nats’ 2013 Spring Training. It’s a pair of split-squad games against the Mets in Viera and the Astros in Kissimmee on Wednesday. MLB.com beat writer Bill “The Rocket” Ladson is reporting that the next round of cuts will come after those games.

Mar 102013
 

Davey Johnson got his wish for a fast game, but not the result as Washington dropped a 2-1 decision to Detroit in a brisk two hours and twenty-five minutes this afternoon in Lakeland.

Dan Haren was stretched out to four innings in his third spring start, giving up both Tigers runs on five hits as both LF Tyler Moore and 1B Chris Marrero made defensive misplays that weren’t ruled errors. Haren walked none and struck out two. Four relievers followed, each turning in a scoreless inning, including Yunesky Maya (1H, 1BB, 0K) and Cole Kimball (0H, 0BB, 1K).

Four of “our guys” got the start, which is custom for road games in the Grapefruit League at this point in Spring Training…

…Corey Brown started in RF and finished in CF but struck out twice while going 0-for-4.
…Marrero went 0-for-2 with a groundout and a flyout.
…Matt Skole (1-for-2, RBI) drove in the sole Nats run on a sacrifice fly in the 7th, starting at 3B and replacing Marrero at 1B.
…Anthony Rendon made another start at SS and shifted over to 3B but went hitless at the plate with an 0-for-3 afternoon.

The Nationals were held to four hits total, which all came from the starting lineup. Micah Owings (LF), Sandy Leon (C), Carlos Rivero (LF-RF), and Zach Walters (SS) came off the bench with Rivero and Walters drawing the only two bases-on-balls for Washington.

The loss drops Nationals below .500 at 6-7-2 as they return to Viera for another afternoon game tomorrow against the Braves. Charlie Slowes and Dave Jagler have the call on 1580AM.

Mar 102013
 

Four times the Nationals put up crooked numbers, including a two-run 8th that featured a Zach Walters solo shot and an RBI single from Carlos Rivero as Washington returned to .500 with an 8-7 win over Miami yesterday afternoon.

The home run was the second in as many days for the 23-year-old Walters, who is now batting .333/.360/.583 in 14 spring-training games. He was acquired in 2011 in a July deadline deal for RHP Jason Marquis and played across three levels in 2012, starting in Potomac in late April and finishing up in Syracuse for 29 games in August and September.

Chris Young got the start and was ineffective, walking three and giving up three runs on three hits over three innings, capped by a two-run homer by former Baltimore farmhand Joe Mahoney in the Marlins’ 3rd. Craig Stammen, celebrating his 29th birthday, gave up three runs on four hits and a walk in just 2/3rds of an inning as the first man out of the ‘pen.

Erik Davis stranded the two runners he inherited from Stammen and pitched a scoreless 5th, allowing a hit but walking none and striking out one. His ERA remains spotless at 0.00. Ryan Perry turned in another quality appearance, turning in two frames without a blemish with one hit surrendered and one strikeout.

Fernando Abad got the benefit of the Nats’ bottom of 8th with his 1-2-3 inning in the top of the inning for the win. Jeremy Accardo was credited with the save despite allowing a run on three hits and no walks while striking out two in the 9th.

A rundown of the notable minor-leaguers…
…CF Corey Brown 0-2, K
…LF Micah Owings 0-1, K
…PH-DH Carlos Maldonado 1-1
…PR-1B Chris Marrero 0-1
…SS Walters 1-1, R, HR, RBI
…3B Rivero 1-2, RBI, K

It’s back on the road for the Nationals as they visit the Tigers in Lakeland at 1:05 p.m. this afternoon. The game can be heard on MLB Audio.
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The party line is that Karns is fine, as team doctors have cleared for him to throw a bullpen today.

Likewise, the news on Christian Garcia is sunny as he’s now one week away possibly throwing after a 4-to-6-week shutdown was ordered following the diagnosis of a partially torn tendon in his right forearm.

Finally, in a move that surprised no one not related to him, the Nationals have granted LHP Will Ohman his unconditional release. Ohman had been among the first cuts of the spring, made a week ago today, with the news delivered before the end of last Sunday’s game.

Mar 092013
 

A seven-run 9th fattened some meaningless spring training stats, but wasn’t enough to overcome the earlier mistakes as the Nats lost 16-10 to the Cards yesterday afternoon.

Jordan Zimmermann was lit up for eight runs on nine hits and two weeks, the bulk of the damage coming in a six-run 3rd inning. The proverbial “dead arm” was cited for his troubles.

More concerning, however, was the beating that Nathan Karns took two innings later. While just one of the seven runs he allowed were earned — thanks to an error by Anthony Rendon to the first batter he faced. In the space of eight batters Karns walked two, gave up a pair of singles, a double, and was lifted after a grand slam to journeyman Shane Robinson. He struck out one and got a flyball out.

As noted on Twitter, Karns’s command was noticeably amiss, with pitches sailing up in the zone. He fell behind nearly every batter, enabling them to sit on the get-it-over fastball, which was a bit slower than usual (low-90s/high-80s, when you consider that Zimmermann had similar readings on the MASN telecast and was reportedly hitting 92-94).

After the game, beat writers Nathan Fenno and Dan Kolko reported that Karns had been battling tightness in his right (push-off) leg and will be seeking further medical attention. Coincidentally (or ironically, if you believe in curses), Byron Kerr’s feature story yesterday was on the health of the 25-year-old Texan.

Back to the debacle in Viera… after falling behind 16-3, the Nats struck seven times on six hits in the final frame. Left fielder Micah Owings (1-3, R, RBI) and shortstop Zach Walters (1-3, R, 2RBI) both homered while first baseman Chris Marrero (1-3, R, 2K) had an RBI double and DH Matt Skole (1-1, R, BB) drove in two with a single.

A rundown of the notable minor-leaguers:
• RF Carlos Rivero 0-2, K
• CF Corey Brown 1-3, R
• C Jhonatan Solano 2-3, R
• 3B Anthony Rendon 0-2, R, HBP
• RHP Cole Kimball ⅓ IP, 0H, 0R, 0BB, 0K
• LHP Pat McCoy 2IP, 3H, R, ER, BB, K

The Nats stay on the Space Coast for another tilt today against the Marlins. There is no broadcast, home or away.