Apr 032012
 

It’s another trip to New England to visit family, but a short one — leaving today, back on Friday.

The plan is to update the site in the evenings, cheap motel WiFi willing. I know this is horrible timing in terms of the “roster rollout,” but I think last night’s missive is a clue that folks will need to adjust their expectations.

It appears that lot of players are going to start ’12 where they left off in ’11, and it would not surprise me if the “Auburn” roster (a.k.a. Extended Spring Training) is going to be nearly full. We’ll know more when the next batch of released players hits the streets.

Enjoy this afternoon’s tuneup against the Red Sox. “News & Notes” returns on Thursday.

Apr 022012
 

The official release is not yet in hand, but with some help (H/T Geoff Morrow of the Patriot News), we’ve cobbled together a preliminary list of the 2012 Harrisburg Senators, which will feature quite a few of our 2012 Watchlist.

There are more than 25 names here, so a couple of them will be on the roster but on the DL, which we’ll learn in the coming days (watchlist players in bold).

PITCHERS
Michael Ballard
Erik Davis
Paul Demny
Marcos Frias
Christian Garcia
Robert Gilliam
Danny Rosenbaum
Pat Lehman
Jeff Mandel
Pat McCoy
Hector Nelo
Kevin Pucetas
Joe Testa

CATCHERS
Jeff Howell
Devin Ivany
Sandy Leon

INFIELDERS
Josh Johnson
Stephen King
Jeff Kobernus
Jose Lozada
Manny Mayorson
Chris McConnell
Tim Pahuta

OUTFIELDERS
Destin Hood
Eury Perez
Chris Rahl
Jesus Valdez

A lot of familiar names, no? By my count, 12 of these 27 played for Harrisburg at some point last season. This roster very much reminds me of the Potomac rosters of a few years ago, where there’s very little in-between — either a prospect or a veteran. But with eight watchlist players, this is going to be one of the most interesting teams to watch this season.

Harrisburg opens up the 2012 campaign on the road in Bowie this Thursday for a four-game set, with night games on Thursday and Friday and day games on Saturday and Sunday.

Apr 022012
 

Word about who’s going where is seeping out slowly.

MASN’s Byron Kerr had an incredible tease interesting post yesterday about some of them.

So far, some of my roster guesses are taking some hits. It appears that neither Potomac CI (Justin Bloxom or Steven Souza) are headed to Harrisburg, which is a bit of a shock, though Souza said via Twitter that his knee is ailing. If indeed Cutter Dykstra and J.P. Ramirez are going backwards, that’s a little odd, too, though both players struggled for long stretches in Woodbridge last season. Especially when you consider the talent from Auburn that they will have to compete for playing time against.

Injuries are always the X factor when projecting rosters. In addition to Souza, and Rick Hague (shoulder), Kerr also reports that Zach Walters (hand) is on the shelf, too. Matt Purke is being held out to build up his shoulder, while Ryan Tatusko is staying back to work on some mechanical issues, which may be the case for Robbie Ray, too (not specified, though it could be simply to limit his IP). Without a doubt, there will be others.

I’ve got the alerts set and am watching the wires. Hoping something breaks before tonight, as tomorrow is a travel day to New England to see my family.

Mar 312012
 

All signs are pointing to Steve Lombardozzi making the big club. So we (continue to) wait.

Despite his release, multiple online sources are indicating that OF Jason Michaels will re-sign and start the season at Syracuse. If so, we’re probably looking at a Chiefs outfield of Brown-Harper-Michaels. As noted in the penultimate post, Andres Blanco has indeed signed a minor-league deal with Philadelphia, where injuries to Chase Utley and former Nat farmhand Michael Martinez have left them in need of infielders.

Rule 5 pick Erik Komatsu has made the St. Louis Cardinals Opening Day roster, but news regarding Brad Meyers remains cryptic. Despite another Yankee pitcher (Michael Pineda) going on the DL today, the odds are that today’s starter for New York (Adam Warren) will get the long-relief role that Rule 5 picks are often used for.

Rosters appear to be set, but haven’t been officially released yet. Byron Kerr is reporting that Matt Purke, Rick Hague, and Robbie Ray will be held back, while Alex Meyer will be starting the season at Hagerstown. I’ve heard some other names, but like player releases, prefer to announce them when the press releases are issued. Unfortunately, I’m out of town for the local media days (Tuesday in Hagerstown, Wednesday in Potomac) but will pass along what I can, when I can.

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.