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.

Mar 082013

Taylor Two Run SingleAfter Michael Taylor’s two-run single in the top of the eighth tied it at 2-2, Ryan Mattheus coughed up the deciding runs in the bottom of the 8th as the Nationals dropped their second straight decision, 4-2 to the Astros.

Gio Gonzalez made his final pre-WBC start, tossing three shutout innings with three hits and one walk allowed while setting down three on strikes.
Ross Ohlendorf followed but was rocked for the second straight appearance, giving up two runs on three hits over three innings. Drew Storen pitched an uneven 7th inning with two hits allowed but two strikeouts.

Ryan Mattheus took the loss by surrendering two runs on three hits. He gave up a pair of singles to lead off the 8th, then struck out Marc Krauss to set up a double play. Former National Rick Ankiel stole second to take it away. Jason Castro then drove in the go-ahead and insurance runs with a single to right.

Corey Brown was the lone minors guy to get the start, going 1-for-2 as the RF. He was replaced by Carlos Rivero, who drew a walk in his lone plate appearance the 8th to load the bases for Taylor (1-for-1), playing CF after pinch-running for Denard Span in the 6th. Matt Skole (1-for-2, R), playing in place of Tyler Moore at 1B, had opened the frame with a ground-rule double and took third on an error that allowed substitute catcher Sandy Leon (0-for-1) to reach.

Here’s how the other notable minor-leaguers fared yesterday:

  • LF Micah Owings, 0-1, K
  • PH-DH Chris Marrero, 0-1, R
  • SS Zach Walters 1-1
  • PR-3B Anthony Rendon 0-2, K

With the loss, the Nationals drop to .500 at 5-5 with two ties. For folks looking to tune in to today’s 1:05 p.m. game against the Cardinals in Viera, you’ll be spared the saucy Mike Shannon and Mike Rooney on KMOX in favor of the sassy Bob Carpenter and F.P. Santangelo on MASN.

Mar 072013

Rendon in ClearwaterThe Nats’ four-game win streak was snapped yesterday afternoon with a 6-3 loss to the Phillies, a game quickly spun by the fans and the media alike as another chapter of the burgeoning DC-Philly rivalry.

Unfortunately, not lost amid the kerfuffle was Anthony Rendon — playing spotless shortstop, no less — homering for the third time in Spring Training. As predicted less than a month ago, a hot start (.400/.429/1.000 in nine games) has gotten some folks bothered.

Thankfully, not all folks are forgetting that this happens every spring. In fact, most of what I wanted (or expected) to write was written in this blog post by Charlie Fliegel at the Nationals Review, especially this:

[P]eople believed he could hit in the majors immediately. When he was drafted, he was considered by many to be the most Major League ready prospect available. So it wouldn’t be crazy for him to be on the team right now. But they don’t NEED him right now, except in a part time role, and that would likely hinder his further development.

Back to the game yesterday…

Strasburg took the loss despite fanning six over three and 2/3rds innings and was followed by Fernando Abad, who got roughed up for the first time this spring with a pair of runs surrendered on three hits over an inning and a 1/3rd. Likewise for Cole Kimball, who gave up two runs on a walk and two hits, including a solo shot in his lone inning of work.

Joining Rendon in the starting lineup were Corey Brown, who started in RF and shifted to CF while going 1-for-4 with a run scored; Chris Marrero, who went 0-for-2 with a strikeout at 1B; Carlos Rivero, who reached base three times with a pair of singles and a walk as the LF; Matt Skole, who went 0-for-3 with a strikeout at 3B; and Jhonatan Solano, who doubled and walked as the starting catcher.

Here’s how the notable minor-leaguers fared:
• RHP Yunesky Maya 1IP, 1H, 0R, 0BB, 2K
• RHP Erik Davis 1IP, 0H, 0R, BB, 3K
• RF Steve Souza went 0-for-2 with two K’s
• SS Zach Walters went 1-for-1 but committed his second error
• DH Carlos Maldonado went 0-for-1 with a K
• 1B Micah Owings went 1-for-2 with an RBI double and a run scored
• PR-LF Billy Burns stole a base but struck out in his lone PA
• 3B Cutter Dykstra went 1-for-1

It’s back to Kissimmee this afternoon for another 1:05 start against the Houston Astros. The game can be heard on MLB Audio (sorry folks, the Charlie & Dave drought still has another four days to go). Tomorrow is the next TV broadcast (MASN).

Mar 062013

A five-run 6th opened up a 2-1 lead as the Nationals won their fourth straight spring training game, 7-1 over the Astros. After the game, the Nationals announced that LHP Matt Purke had been optioned to the minors.

Dan Haren made his second appearance and let in the lone Houston run on two hits and a walk while striking out two. Southpaw Zach Duke got the win with three scoreless frames in his third outing. Colorful closer Rafael Soriano made his Nats debut with a scoreless inning following Duke. Jeremy Accardo and Tyler Clippard followed suit with a pair of 1-2-3 innnings to close out the game.

Corey Brown’s two-run, two-out single off former teammate Brad Peacock closed out the scoring in the 6th. An error by former Nats farmhand Justin Maxwell gave the CF reserve just one RBI as he went 1-for-2 off the bench. Here’s how the notable minor-leaguers fared in the late innings:

• Carlos Rivero went 0-for-1 in LF
• Matt Skole went 0-for-1 as the PH-DH
• Chris Marrero scored a run as a PR and went 0-for-1 at 1B
• Zach Walters scored a run as a PR and went 0-for-1 at SS
• Sandy Leon caught the 9th but made no PAs
• Anthony Rendon went 0-for-1 with a strikeout at 3B

With the win, the Nationals improved to 5-3-2 in Grapefruit League action. This afternoon the Nats head to Clearwater to visit the Philadelphia Phillies.

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As anticipated, Purke was optioned to the minors as he recovers from what was finally revealed — after months of silence — an arthroscopic procedure last August, as reported by Mark “No, not the Facebook guy” Zuckerman on Monday.

Officially, he was assigned to the Hagerstown Suns, though he’ll begin the season in purgatory extended Spring Training. He’s expected to begin pitching in competitive games in May for the second straight season.

Best guess for his first start: May 29th in Asheville, a midweek day game on the road in warm weather that would give him roughly 17-18 starts before hitting the 100-inning limit in late August.

Mar 052013

Checkin In On The MLB Rule 5 PicksWith an off day yesterday, I wasn’t sure if I’d have something to write about this morning until one of the regulars asked me about Danny Rosenbaum and Jeff Kobernus.

Truth be told, it was the first time I had checked because I’m not rooting for them to falter so “we can have them back.” For both players, this is their first (and best) chance to make a major-league roster, even if it’s just briefly like Erik Komatsu’s two-team tour in 2012.

Rosenbaum has made just two appearances thus far for a total of four scoreless innings with two hits and one walk allowed and no strikeouts. Thanks to a start last Friday, his opposition quality score is 9.2 (H/T to NatsLady for pointing out this feature on already indispensable

As you can see from the gamer in the Colorodoan, Danny was paying attention to Crash Davis:

“They told me they see me more as a long relief guy. I’ve always been a starter in college and my whole career and coming out of the ‘pen will be different. But it’s pitching and it’s the same game. However they think I can help, I want to do that,” he said.

He’s scheduled to pitch again today in relief as well.

As a position player, Kobernus has gotten a much longer look as noted in this feature from the Detroit Free Press. He’s batting .280/.308/.440 with a lower Opposition Quality score (8.4) because he’s been left in games against the reserves of other teams.

While Rosenbaum can be “hidden” in the ‘pen as a long reliever or a backup LOOGY, Kobernus has no such luxury as a bench player. That’s why the Tigers are trying him in the outfield, where he hasn’t played since his college days at Cal. Kobernus is competing against a pair of 21-year-old prospects — Nick Castellanos and Avisail Garcia — who, of course, can be returned to the minors for more seasoning, even if they are the #1 and #2 prospects per Baseball America.

Mar 042013

First Cuts of Spring TrainingZach Walters’ walkoff single cashed in a 9th-inning leadoff double by Wilson Ramos, sending in PR Sandy Leon from third as the Nats rose above .500 with their fourth Grapefruit League win, 7-6 over the Cards.

After the game, the Nationals announced LHPs Bill Bray, Brandon Mann, and Will Ohman and RHP Tanner Roark were reassigned to minor-league camp.

The starting lineup was the closest to what we’ll see next month, with the exception of Steve Lombardozzi at 3B and Ryan Zimmerman as the DH. They accounted for eight of the 14 Washington hits, with Denard Span drawing two of the Nats’ five walks.

Ross Detwiler made his second appearance, the last before leaving the team to take park in the World Baseball Classic. The 26-year-old gave up a run on four hits in his two innings of work but struck out four and walked none. He was followed by Craig Stammen, who turned in three innings and allowed the second St. Louis run.

The regulars built a 3-2 lead before turning the game over to the reserves, who had to overcome the shoddy work of southpaws Mann and Pat McCoy, as the two combined to cough up four runs on five hits and two walks in the three-run 7th (Mann) and the one-run 8th (McCoy).

Chad Tracy’s two-run HR in the 6th extended the Nats lead to 5-2. The veteran doubled with one out in the 8th and scored two batters later on Carlos Rivero’s two-out RBI single, with Corey Brown, who had walked after Tracy, committing the, um, cardinal baserunning sin of making the third out at third base to end the inning.

Ryan Mattheus pitched a 1-2-3 top of the ninth and got the “W” as Ramos, who had entered the game as a pinch-hitter for Zimmerman, justmissed a HR with a double off the fence in right-center. He was replaced by the not-speedy Leon at second with Chris Marrero grounding out to the right side to move Leon to third to set up Walters’ gamewinner.

A quick rundown of the notable minor-leaguers’ lines:
• PR-RF Brown 1-1, BB
• PR-LF Rivero 1-2, RBI
• PR-DH Leon 0-0, R
• 1B Marrero 0-1, BB
• SS Walters, 1-1, BB, RBI
• C Jhonatan Solano 0-2, R
• Mann 1IP, 3H, 3R, 3ER, BB, K
• McCoy 1IP, 2H, R, ER, 0BB, 0K

As reported yesterday, today is the first of three scheduled off days during 2013 Spring Training for Washington. The Nationals return to action tomorrow, with the Houston Astros visiting for a 1:05 p.m. start. The game can be heard online with the newly hired tandem of Robert Ford and former knuckleballer Steve Sparks making the call.

Mar 032013

Photo by Jennifer Shiffman (@jtshiffman)

Photo by Jennifer Shiffman (@jtshiffman)

Three Nationals hit home runs, including prospects Anthony Rendon and Chris Marrero, as the Washington nine tripled up the St. Louis Cardinals, 6-2 yesterday afternoon.

The big fly was the first for Marrero and Ian Desmond, both solo shots smacked into the left-to-right wind that was officially listed at 9 m.p.h., but described as gusting by Jeff Bridges after three glasses of bourbon KMOX radio man Mike Shannon and beat reporters on Twitter.

Rendon’s two-run circle clout came in the Nats four-run second that put the game away early and gave Gio Gonzalez the “win” for his three innings of work, in which he gave up two runs on five hits and a walk but struck out none.

Nathan Karns made his second appearance for an inning as the first man out of the ‘pen, but against major-leaguers (as opposed to the Mets, natch) loaded the bases on a hit and two walks but stranded them after a visit to the mound by pitching coach Steve McCatty. No word on whether McCatty reminded him about the death of Babe Ruth and the efficacy putting the ball over the plate.

More encouraging, however, was the three innings by Ryan Perry that followed against the Cardinals reserves: three innings pitched, two hits allowed, seven of nine outs on the ground. Drew Storen and Erik Davis closed out the game with scoreless inning apiece, though Storen loaded the bases on two hits and a walk while Davis set ’em down in order.

Rendon and Marrero both went 2-for-3 with two RBI as the starting corner infielders. Notable minor-leaguers coming off the bench…

…DH Sandy Leon pinch-hit and went 0-for-1
…SS Zach Walters went 0-for-1
…LF Carlos Rivero went 0-for-1
…1B Matt Skole drew a walk
…RF Destin Hood went 0-for-1 with a K
…3B Mike “Don’t Call Me George” Costanzo pinch-ran and went 0-for-1
…CF Michael Taylor went 0-for-1

After the game, CF Eury Perez was named as a replacement for Yankees OF Melky Mesa on the Dominican Republic’s entry in the World Baseball Classic. With LF Jimmy Van Ostrand also leaving to represent Team Canada, one has to wonder if CF Brian Goodwin will make an appearance soon despite previous stories noting that the Nats are (again) having him focus on small-ball skills.

The Nats and Cards rematch this afternoon at 1 p.m. in Viera before the first of three scheduled off days tomorrow.

Mar 022013

Highlighted by a three-run double from Carlos Rivero, the Nationals rallied for five runs in the top of the 8th and held off the Braves in 9th for a 6-5 win on Friday night.

Five straight batters reached base, starting with a Jhonatan Solano single, a Eury Perez single, a walk from Anthony Rendon, an RBI single by Will Rhymes, and an RBI walk from Steve Souza. After a Zach Walters popup, Rivero emptied the bases with a shot off the fence in left-center. [Insert out of options mention here]

The outburst made a winner out of Fernando Abad, who pitched the seventh and gave up a hit but no runs while striking out two. Cole Kimball tossed his third shutout inning of the spring for the “H,” giving up a walk but setting down two on strikes. Jeremy Accardo was knocked around for four hits in the 9th but allowed just a run, thanks in no small part to a great stop from Rhymes with two out that kept the tying run on third.

Jordan Zimmermann made his second start and gave up two runs on five hits over three innings. Working on his changeup, Zimmerman threw 29 of 35 pitches for strikes and walked none. Bryce Harper went deep for the first time this pring, while Jason Heyward swatted his third big fly to give the AP copy editor the easy headline.

Back to “our guys.” Four of ’em got the start — Eury Perez (1-for-4, R, K) in right field , Chris Marrero (1-for-3) at first base, Cory Brown (0-for-2, K) in left field, and Sandy Leon (0-for-2, K) at catcher. Here’s a rundown of how the notable minor-leaguers did:

  • Rendon 0-for-1, R, BB at SS
  • Souza 0-for-0, BB, RBI as PR-RF
  • Walters 0-for-1 as PH-DH
  • Rivero 1-for-1, 2B, 3RBI as PH-3B
  • Skole 0-for-1, K as PR-1B
  • Jimmy Van Ostrand 0-for-2 at LF
  • Solano 1-for-2, R at C

It’s back to day play for the Nats as they visit the Cardinals this afternoon at 1 p.m.

Mar 012013

Photo Credit: Luis Albisu via Twitter @ItsLuisF

The Nats posted a picket fence in the second, third, and fourth innings but couldn’t hold the 3-1 lead over the Mets last night in Viera, settling for another extra-inning tie at 4-4.

Like Gio Gonzalez on Monday, Nats starter Stephen Strasburg struggled some with the heat but was stone-cold killer with his offspeed offerings, striking out six primarily with the curve and change over three innings. The Nats ace gave up a run in the first on a pair of singles and a sacrifice fly but finished with just three hits and two walks allowed while tossing 53 pitches, 31 for strikes.

As the headline teases, Anthony Rendon continues to impress this spring. The 22-year-old doubled to right with two outs to tie the game in the second, then tapped into a 6-4 putout with one out in the 4th to bring in the run that put the Nats up 3-1 in the 4th. In five games, Rendon is now 5-for-12 with a HR, two doubles, and five RBI and living up to hype that comes with being the team’s #1 prospect.

Zach Duke followed Strasburg on the mound and let in an unearned run in his two innings to “earn” a blown save while Yunesky Maya coughed up two earned runs in his two for his “BS.” Both gave up three hits. Pat McCoy rebounded from his previous outing to turn in a 1-2-3 frame. Ryan Mattheus closed out the game with two goose eggs. Nats pitchers combined for 14 K’s over the 10 innings.

Here’s a rundown of how the notable minor-league subs did:
• Eury Perez beat out an IF hit while going 1-for-3 in RF
• Corey Brown singled up the middle in a 1-for-3 effort as the CF
• Chris Marrero walked, doubled, struck out, and scored a run for his 1-for-2 at 1B
• Zach Walters singled and struck out twice while going 1-for-3 at SS
• Carlos Rivero pinch-ran and went 0-for-2 with a K while playing LF
• Matt Skole drew a bases-loaded walk for an RBI and struck out in an 0-for-2 effort at 3B

It’s a week off from local TV & radio for the Nats, who head back to the House of Mouse Orlando to take on the Atlanta Braves tonight at 6:05 p.m.