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 292012
 

The Nationals have reassigned non-roster invitees OF Jason Michaels and IF Andres Blanco to minor-league camp, a strong indication that IF prospect Steve Lombardozzi will make the 25-man roster.

As noted in the comments, the conventional wisdom is that the last IF bench spot was a battle between Lombardozzi and Blanco, and the latter did himself no favors by committing more errors (3) than hits (2). Blanco does have an opt-out in his contract, but there is speculation that both the Texas Rangers and Philadelphia Phillies may have interest in trading for his services, even with the retention bonus that’s due tomorrow.

Obviously, injuries are also playing a huge part in these developments. It should be noted that while Lombardozzi may make the Opening Day roster, when the likes of Michael Morse and Adam LaRoche are fully healthy, it’s certainly possible to see him optioned back to Syracuse to get regular playing time. Doubtful, perhaps, but possible.

As the headline suggests, Atahulapa Severino has been optioned for the third straight spring, a setback for him personally, but not an unexpected move. The 27-year-old Dominican has spent that past two seasons at Syracuse, posting a 7-5 record with two saves and a 1.500 WHIP over 99⅓ IP.

UPDATE: Following this afternoon’s split-squad game, the Nationals announced that Jason Michaels had been released while Ryan Perry was optioned to AAA Syracuse. Multiple online sources are reporting that former Pirates prospect Zach Duke had been signed to a minor-league deal following his release from Houston earlier this week. Yesterday, the Nationals announced the signing of journeyman AAA starter Kevin Pucetas.

The takeaway? Most likely it means that one or more of the offseason FA starters signed (e.g. Atkins, Ballard, Barthmaier, Bibens-Dirkx) has suffered an injury or has been released.

Mar 282012
 

Came across some stuff this morning that deserves to be shared while we await the minors to start up.

…The folks in Winchester are still pursuing their dream of attracting the Suns, and it’s not a one-way street. Of course, details about when the facility would be built or what the franchise would do in the interim are lacking, as it’s highly unlikely that a facility could be built in time for April 2013 and equally improbable that a stadium standards waiver would be granted to a relocated franchise.

…Since you’ve seen my “Road Trips” tab, you know that I love hitting the road for some games — even when it’s not for a Nationals affiliate. So if you’re looking to live vicariously, check out A Minor League Season. Their ambitious plan is to hit 119 cities from April 5 to September 3, focusing on the full-season MLB affiliates.

…In the course of flipping through that site, I came across another, run by an uber-fan Malcolm McMillan, who has done some excellent writeups on MLB and MiLB ballparks. As it so happens, he’s been to all five of the current Nats affiliates so far (like yours truly). So I pass his MLB blog entries for your perusal: Auburn, Hagerstown, Potomac, Harrisburg, and Syracuse. If you’re interested in other ballparks, I’d recommend his personal website, theballparkguide.com.

Mar 262012
 

With the announcement from Davey Johnson that he’ll be playing the regulars full-time the rest of the way, I’ve decided it’s time to shift gears away from spring training.

In terms of the time left in camp, this is roughly a week earlier than a year ago, when I made the similar call. But this is a smaller, more settled camp than a year ago, when there were multiple rookies looking to break camp (Espinosa, Ramos, Broderick).

It was apparent going in, and now it’s obvious it’s time to step back and wait for the minors to start up. I think I might have signaled this last week, too.

Unfortunately, the next true news item that I know is coming is finding out who’s been released. Some of the cuts have already happened; I just don’t know who yet and would prefer for folks to not speculate or comment on what you’ve heard until the news is official. In-season is one thing, but this is a little different because there are no stats, game reports, or any other clues for players’ friends and family to go by.

For the newbies, one of the features that I do in May is to comb the rosters of the independent leagues as they start up and pass along the ex-Nats that I see. It’s a bit of an indulgence since I cut my teeth as a fan/blogger/rabble-rouser on the indy brand of the game, but I know some of you appreciate it because it is a tribute of sorts to “our guys.”

Until then, I’ll be watching and waiting, much like I do in January and February, on the lookout for minors-oriented news. I don’t expect the roster announcements to begin for another week, so things may slow down a bit the next few days. Please be patient and check back.

Mar 252012
 

With the regulars in, the Nats put up crooked number in each of the first three innings en route to a 12-0 win over the Mets this afternoon.

Stephen Strasburg scattered five hits over five shutout innings for the win. He struck out five and walked one, throwing 84 pitches; 47 for strikes.

Offensively, the Nats pounded out 17 hits, including HRs by Jayson Werth, Ian Desmond, Ryan Zimmerman, and the batter of the game Roger Bernadina (3-3, R, BB, 4RBI).

Steve Lombardozzi was the sole prospect to appear in the game, making another start in LF and went 1-for-4 with two strikeouts. He had no putouts, assists or errors over his five innings in the field.

It was the first win for the Nationals since March 12. Tomorrow afternoon, they host the Astros with John Lannan getting the start.

Mar 242012
 

The starter got rocked, the bullpen was so-so, and the offense was sparse. It’s been a familiar theme for the past 11 games for the Nationals, losing today to the Orioles in Sarasota, 12-3.

The new wrinkle is the bugaboo that always shows up in the midst of a losing streak: errors. Four today, with two by Steve Lombardozzi while playing third base (both on throws). Lombardozzi singled once in three ABs to improve his spring average to .302 and notched two assists.

Corey Brown also got a start. He went 0-for-4 with an RBI and snagged two flyballs in LF. Other notable minor-leaguers to get in the game were:

  • Adrian Sanchez took over for Danny Espinosa at second base, going 0-for-1 at the plate and handling all three chances on defense over the last four innings
  • Michael Taylor pinch-ran and scored a run but struck out in his sole AB. He manned CF for the last three innings but had no errors, putouts, or assists.
  • Brett Newsome also scored as pinch-runner and flew out to LF in his lone plate appearance. He took over at 1B and notched three putouts in three innings.
  • Chris Rahl pinch-ran but did not score, going 0-for-1 while taking over RF duties from Brett Carroll. He had one putout.
  • Josh Johnson took over 3B for Lombardozzi, and grounded out to end the game for his 0-for-1 line.

The Nats return to Viera tomorrow afternoon to host the Mets. Stephen Strasburg makes his fifth spring start. The game can be heard locally on 106.7FM and 1500AM.

Mar 232012
 

If you’ve been drinking the Flavor-Aid, the lack of offense and winlessness are merely coincidence. So no need to worry about today’s 5-1 loss to the Astros (losers of 106 games in 2011). If, on the other hand, you’re aware that Opening Day is less than two weeks away, perhaps you may have some cause for concern.

Since Sunday, the Nats have scored a grand total of three (3) runs and collected 20 hits over those four games. While it’s true that stats don’t matter in Spring Training, claiming they’re completely meaningless is both specious and disingenuous. Pitching was this team’s strength in 2011 and while it’s been significantly upgraded, the same cannot be said for the hitting.

Of course, this is minors site, so I’ll stop the fan rant right here.

As you might imagine, a lot of oh-fers in today’s minors guy rundown:

  • Chris McConnell went 0-for-1 while subbing at SS, where he had one assist
  • Josh Johnson had one of the three hits (1-for-1) and had an assist at 2B
  • Stephen King went 0-for-1 and played the last two innings on defense at 3B
  • Randolph Oduber went 0-for-1 and handled his lone defensive chance in RF
  • Tim Pahuta struck out his AB and notched three putouts and an assist in four innings at 1B
  • Steve Lombardozzi pinch-hit (0-for-1) and played the 8th without incident in LF

The Nats next face the O’s tomorrow afternoon in Sarasota with Edwin Jackson taking the hill. The game will be televised on MASN (warning: Orioles broadcast crew) and on the radio on 106.7FM.

Mar 222012
 

With just four hits on offense, albeit with the scrubs, Washington was the narc caught at the St. Louis biker rally for a 9-0 loss this afternoon.

Gio Gonzalez took the brunt of the beatdown, giving up eight runs (all earned) on 10 hits and four walks over three and two-thirds of an inning. He threw 85 pitches, 50 for strikes, but walked four.

Steve Lombardozzi led off once again and went 1-for-3 while playing shortstop. He made three putouts and three assists during his five innings on defense.

Other notable minor-leaguers to see game action:

Blake Kelso pinch-ran and played third base, executing on his only defensive chance for a 5-4 play to end the 8th. He went 0-for-1 at the plate with a groundout.

Chris Rahl also pinch-ran and subbed in RF, where he had no defensive plays in two innings. He went 0-for-1 with a flyout.

Destin Hood pinch-hit in the 8th and struck out, he played the 8th inning in RF but nothing was hit his way.

Tomorrow afternoon the Nats head for Kissimmeee to visit the Astros. Jordan Zimmermann gets the start, opposed by Bud Norris for Houston. The game can be heard on MLB Audio.

Mar 212012
 

A leadoff walk in the 9th and an Danny Espinosa error in the 10th helped the Nats snatch defeat from the jaws of victory for a 3-2 loss in Grapefruit League action this afternoon.

John Lannan threw four scoreless innings to bolster his case for the No. 5 starter, while Ian Desmond went 3-for-4 with a walk and a double in his return to the leadoff slot. He also made an error. The No. 2 batter Espinosa stranded six runners in an 0-for-5 effort, striking out once and grounding into a double play.

Of course, we’re now at that point in the spring where the posts get shorter, as just two notable minor-leaguers saw game action.

Steve Lombardozzi made his first appearance in the outfield, playing left field and making three putouts over six innings. Offensively, he went 1-for-3.

Atahualpa Severino had his first 1-2-3 appearance of the spring, inducing a groundout and two flyballs for his second hold.

The loss drops the Nats to 5-10 in Grapefruit League play. Gio Gonzalez makes his third start as the Nationals hop the bus for an afternoon game at Roger Dean Stadium vs. the St. Louis Cardinals. The game can be heard or seen live on MLB.com and on tape delay on the MLB Network tomorrow night at 10:00 p.m.

Mar 202012
 

On the first actual day of spring, the Nats were shut out by the Mets on five hits for a 2-0 loss in Port St. Lucie.

Stephen Strasburg took the loss but turned a solid five innings of work, allowing a run (home run) on two hits while walking one and striking out three. He threw 85 pitches, 54 for strikes, and was consistently between 93 and 97 according to the beat writers on Twitter.

Steven Lombardozzi got the start at 3B and led off, but was hitless in three at-bats. He had one putout and one assist.

Other minor-leaguers that saw game action:

  • Stephen King went 0-for-1 with a strikeout while subbing at 3B, where he had one assist
  • Josh Johnson went 0-for-1 and had two assists, starting a double play as the 2B
  • David Freitas went 0-for-1 with a strikeout and caught one inning
  • Corey Brown went 0-for-1 while pinch-running and playing CF

The loss drops the Nats record to 5-9 for the 2012 Grapefruit League. They host the Atlanta Braves tomorrow afternoon. John Lannan gets the start, opposed by Tommy Hanson. The game will be broadcast live on MASN.

Mar 202012
 

Like a lot of you, I’m itching for the season to start. It’s 16 days until Opening Day, both minors and majors. I’ve put my trips and plans into spreadsheets, created color-coded calendars (above), but the waiting isn’t over yet.

I’m thankful for Steve Lombardozzi still being in camp with the big boys, because it gives me a semblance of a premise to write something from day-to-day and keep the site from going stale. But it’s not quite the daily ritual of cherry-picking the box scores for the “News & Notes,” the fun of writing up “Last Night In,” (mostly Woodbridge, but as it says in the footer I try to see the guys on the road [insert cleat-chaser joke here] in Hagerstown, Harriburg, and elsewhere when I can), and once we get a couple weeks in, the weekly feature of “Good, Bad, and Interesting.”

With Bryce Harper’s departure, and the semi-surprising announcement that the club plans to groom him for CF, most of the focus is going to be on what I thought it would be going a month ago: the bench, the #5 starter, the fringes of the bullpen. Injuries are a factor, too, but mostly it means that some of “our guys” are going to get the pleasure of riding the bus to road games as a “just in case” pitcher or to play a couple of innings on defense, perhaps getting an at-bat or two.

It all starts back up tonight against the Mets, the penultimate night game of the 14 left on the schedule. The game is broadcast on MLB.tv and on tape delay for the MLB Network at 3 a.m. tomorrow.