Feb 262013

With a starting lineup of just two Washington Nationals bench players, the Nationals reserves were still on the money in a 6-4 win over the Mets on Monday night.

Gio Gonzalez made his spring debut, laying a couple of goose eggs on the bottom of the scoreboard despite a walk and a pair of errors in the first. The Mets could not capitalize on the miscues by Zach Walters and Steve Lombardozzi (though the throw from infielder-in-the-outfield Carlos Rivero was less than stellar) while the Florida-born southpaw struggled with his fastball command.

Instead, Gonzalez went to his bread-and-butter bender to deny Ike Davis a chance to plate either of the two runners he had in scoring position with one out. He struck out two more in the 1-2-3 second frame. He finished with three K’s and no walks, but just 19 of his 35 pitches went for strikes.

Leadoff man Eury Perez keyed the three-run third with second of his three “leg” hits, beating out a chopper to the right side and gliding home on Washington utilityman Steve Lombardozzi’s bloop double to left. After a Corey Brown single sent Lombardozzi to third, Tyler Moore (the second “Big Nat”) delivered the second Nats run with a safety to center. Rivero capped the scoring with a double to left to drive in Brown.

Ross Ohlendorf was the first man out of the ‘pen and set down the first four batters he faced, including a nifty throw after coming off the mound to field a tapper to third. Alas, he was not so fortunate with the next batter (Davis) who turned a fastball into a souvenir for the fans in the outfield berm of Tradition field.

Nathan Karns, looking noticeably slimmer and clean-shaven, impressed with two shutout innings after Ohlendorf. The Nats 2012 Minor-League Pitcher of the Year lived up the title by showing off mid-90s heat and topping out at 97 mph, which ironically, was laced into right by Wright. Karns struck out three over two innings, including a nasty hook to Den Dekker to end the 5th.

Dekker would have his revenge in the 7th as he robbed Anthony Rendon of a home run at the CF wall. The Nats still got one in the inning to extend their lead to 5-1, thanks to a two-out RBI double by Destin Hood.

The Mets would pull within one at 5-4 in the bottom of the 8th as lefty Pat McCoy was roughed up for three runs on three hits, but the Nats got it right back in the top of the 9th on four straight singles by Michael Taylor, Will Rhymes, Rendon, and Adrian Sanchez. Ryan Mattheus closed out the game with a scoreless 9th, allowing a hit and striking out two.

The Nats “scrubs” totaled 17 hits, with the top two spots accounting for six of them as Perez went 3-for-3, Lombardozzi 2-for-3 and substitutes Michael Taylor and Rhymes went 1-for-2 and 2-for-2 respectively. Chris Snyder was the sole starter to go hitless.

It’s back to day play today as the Nats face the Atlanta Braves in Orlando at 1:05 p.m. The game can be heard locally on 1580AM.

Feb 242013

Rain delayed play for 66 minutes in the 4th inning but those that waited it out were rewarded in the 5th by seeing Anthony Rendon smack a two-run, opposite-field home run as the Nats and Marlins played to a 2-2 tie in 10 innings on Sunday afternoon.

The blast took starter Jordan Zimmermann off the hook as the Wisconsin native had given up a run over three innings in his first spring training start. He cruised through the first two frames but gave up a leadoff double then a walk in the third. A sacrifice and an RBI groundout put the first Miami run on the board.

Zach Duke followed Zimmermann with a 1-2-3 fourth while Yunesky Maya tossed three shutout frames after the rain delay, allowing just a hit and a walk while setting down one on strikes. Jeremy Accardo gave up a hit a walk but stranded them both in his first outing.

Drew Storen blew the save in the 9th, giving up a run on two hits and a grounder to the 3/4 hole to the first three batters he faced. Tanner Roark came on in the 10th and gave up a leadoff walk, then set down the next three batters.

The Nationals threatened to win it in the 10th as Eury Perez singled with one out but was thrown out when he tried to take 3rd on Matt Skole’s subsequent single. Corey Brown reached on an error to set up 1st and 3rd for Carlos Rivero, but the game ended when Rivero flew out to center.

Rendon was lifted after his homer and finished the game with a 1-for-3 mark as the starting third baseman. Following the rain delay, manager Davey Johnson sent in the substitutes. Here’s a look at how they did:

  • CF Eury Perez went 1-for-3 with a strikeout
  • 3B Matt Skole went 1-for-2
  • LF Corey Brown pinch-ran and doubled while going 1-for-3
  • RF Carlos Rivero went 0-for-3 with a strikeout
  • 1B Chris Marrero pinch-hit and turned an unassisted DP but went 0-for-2
  • SS Zach Walters went 0-for-2
  • 2B Will Rhymes pinch-hit and went 0-for-3
  • Sandy Leon went 0-for-3 in his first start at catcher

The Nats return to Port St. Lucie tomorrow night at 6 p.m. for a rematch against the Mets. The game will be televised on MLB Network.

Feb 232013

A two-run sixth by the Mets off non-roster invitee Bill Bray broke a 3-3 tie as the Nationals lost the first game of Spring Training, 5-3.

The first outing for Nats ace Stephen Strasburg was marred by a Ruben Tejada home run in the last of the first with no outs. Strasburg was also touched for a double, but retired five of the last six batters he faced. He finished with two runs allowed on three hits in his two innings, walking none and fanning one.

The Nationals reclaimed the lead in the next half inning. Ian Desmond singled with one out, came around to score on a Chris Marrero double, then Chris Snyder took Mets starer Shane Marcum deep for a brief 3-2 lead.

The Mets tied it up with three singles in the fourth, the last two coming with two outs off the second Nats pitcher, Craig Stammen, who was charged with a blown save. He had pitched a scoreless third, working around an error by Chad Tracy.

There were plenty of minor-leaguers who saw game action. Here’s a rundown of how they did:
• Marrero was 1-for-3 overall as the starting 1B
• Eury Perez went 1-for-3 in CF, taking over for Denard Span
• Corey Brown went 0-for-2 with two strikeouts, following Bryce Harper in LF
• Carlos Rivero made his first appearance in the OF, going 0-for-2 while taking over RF from Tyler Moore
• Matt Skole drew a walk in his sole plate appearance and played 3B after Chad Tracy was done
• Anthony Rendon popped up as a pinch-hitter and left two runners on in the 8th
• Jhonatan Solano went 0-for-2 after Snyder was done catching
• Micah Owings went 1-for-4 as the DH and played 1B after Marrero was done, committing an error
• Fernando Abad walked two and struck out one in his lone inning of work (5th)
• Erik Davis walked one and struck out two in the 7th inning
• Cole Kimball walked one and struck out none in the 8th

The Nationals return to Viera tomorrow afternoon for a game against Miami. The game will be broadcast on the radio with first pitch scheduled for 1:05 p.m. Rendon is expected to get the start at third base while Sandy Leon will be the first catcher off the bench.

Feb 232013

The wait is over. Sure, it’s a week earlier than last year but it sure doesn’t feel that way.

For most folks, that’s because expectations have never been higher for the parent club. As a minors guy, it means I have some semblance of a routine back again — the end of previews and Top 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 or more and the beginning of boxscores.

As mentioned earlier this month, I don’t expect there to be too much drama this year… at least from a minors’ perspective. Perhaps a guy competing for one of the last spots in the ‘pen or at the end of the bench.

The signing of veterans like Will Rhymes, Chris Snyder, and Chris Young seems to suggest that even a significant injury won’t automatically open the door for a minor-leaguer. Sorry to anyone sticking pins in their voodoo dolls in hopes of seeing, say, Anthony Rendon at second base on Opening Day.

In any case, the days without baseball for 2013 are gone. Time for us to peek at the goal for “our guys” for three or four weeks.

Feb 222013

As expected, MLB Network and ESPN will be broadcasting some Nats spring training games — though it’s hardly a shock that three of four involve a New York team. I’ve bolded them below for your reference.

Note: I’ve only added the live games, there are roughly half-a-dozen tape delayed games, which if you’re inclined, can be found here.

Day Date Time (ET) Opponent Network
Sat. Feb. 23 12:05 p.m. @ N.Y. Mets MLB Network
Sun. Feb. 24 1:05 p.m. Miami 106.7 FM
Mon. Feb. 25 6:05 p.m. @ N.Y. Mets MLB Network
Tue. Feb. 26 1:05 p.m. @ Atlanta 1580 AM
Wed. Feb. 27 1:05 p.m. Miami 1580 AM
Thu. Feb. 28 6:05 p.m. N.Y. Mets MASN
Fri. Mar. 8 1:05 p.m. St. Louis MASN*
Mon. Mar. 11 1:05 p.m. Atlanta 1580 AM
Wed. Mar. 13 1:05 p.m. N.Y. Mets 1580 AM
Thu. Mar. 14 1:05 p.m. Houston 1580 AM
Sat. Mar. 16 6:05 p.m. Houston MASN*
Thu. Mar. 21 6:05 p.m. @ Atlanta MLB Network
Fri. Mar. 22 1:05 p.m. Detroit MASN*
Sat. Mar. 23 1:10 p.m. @ N.Y. Mets 106.7 FM
Sun. Mar. 24 1:05 p.m. Atlanta MASN
Thu. Mar. 28 1:05 p.m. N.Y. Mets ESPN
Fri. Mar. 29 2:05 p.m. N.Y. Yankees
@ At Nationals Park
Feb 212013

It’s come to my attention that the “improvement” of having a mobile version of this website comes at a cost of making commenting difficult, if not impossible.

Perhaps it’s to my detriment in terms of advertising, but I’m not about to sacrifice community for pageviews.

As the pic suggests, I’ve shut it down. I know some folks liked it, but I’d rather beg for donations than take away the ability of folks to interact. My apologies for any inconvenience.

Feb 212013

accelerated-campWhile the “Big Nats” have been in spring training for more than a week, this week is the early reporting date for the minor-leaguers, a.k.a. accelerated camp.

Basically, it’s a chance for the top-tier prospects to get extra time with the coaches and make sure everyone’s going in the right direction.

All but a handful below are on the 2013 Watchlist, but inferences as to where they will be assigned this year cannot be readily drawn from this. Last year, for example, you might have thought that Jack McGeary’s presence meant a ticket to Hagerstown for 2012 after 2010 surgery and a short stint in the GCL in 2011. Instead, he was assigned to Auburn.

This year, thanks to the reporting of Lacy Lusk we get a little bit more of a clue as to who’s still rehabbing.

Without further ado, here’s the rest of the roster:

Dixon Anderson Jeff Howell Cutter Dykstra Billy Burns
Caleb Clay Craig Manuel Ricky Hague Brian Goodwin
A.J. Cole Justin Miller Kevin Keyes Destin Hood
Paul Demny Raudy Read Jason Martinson Estarlin Martinez
Pedro Encarnacion Pedro Severino Stephen Perez Mike McQuillan
David Fischer Shawn Pleffner Brandon Miller
Taylor Hill Tony Renda Steven Souza Jr.
Taylor Jordan Adrian Sanchez Michael Taylor
Brett Mooneyham
Ronald Pena
Ivan Pineyro
Brian Rauh
Robbie Ray
Blake Schwartz
Matt Swynenberg
Ryan Tatusko
Blake Treinen
Kylin Turnbull
Sean West
Deion Williams

Full camp for the rest of the guys begins next week.

Feb 192013

Some of these names have been mentioned previously over the past few months. I’d like to tell you the latest dispatch from Baseball America on the 2012 international signings gives significant information.

Alas, IFAs are much like a politicians — long on promise, short on details.

Before I editorialize, let me distill what little there is from the BA review for paid subs…

The big sign was Dominican centerfielder Luis Guzman, a 6’1″, 185-lb. left-handed hitter who turned 17 in September and went for $385K on July 2nd. He’s praised for “an advanced approach at the plate, great balance[,] and good bat speed” with plus speed and a plus arm (both 55 on the 20-80 scale).

Venezuelan Aldrem Corredor — also 17, a lefty, and listed at 6’1″, 185 — but with more power and less speed. BA is projecting him as a corner outfielder and noted his price tag at $190K.

Sixteen-year-old third baseman Neivy Pilier warranted a post in December for his youth and $225K bonus. Nothing new in terms of scouting or description.

Finally, another outfielder: Darryl Florentino who was described as a 6’2″, 180-lb speedster and praised for his athleticism. No age was given, but he was reportedly inked for $85K on July 2nd.

Of course, it’s been two years since the Nationals made a big deal about its 2010 signings and just one (Gilberto Mendez) has played north of Florida. The point, of course, is not to complain but to emphasize that despite the hype, it could be a while.

Feb 152013

I hope folks enjoyed this little exercise this week — picking which pitchers will begin where in 2013 — as it finishes today with Low-A Hagerstown.

The lowest full-season roster is an estimation as to who did well enough the previous summer in the New York-Penn League to get promoted and who either didn’t do well enough, won’t win the numbers game, or needs more time from last year’s Suns. Jumps from the GCL do happen, but they are rare.

Here’s how I guessed it last February:

Bobby Hansen Chris McKenzie Greg Holt
Wirkin Estevez Taylor Hill Blake Monar
Christian Meza Colin Bates Ben Hawkins
Nathan Karns Kylin Turnbull Aaron Barrett
Matt Purke Tyler Hanks
Luis Chirinos
Jack McGeary

Like Potomac, I was only completely wrong on a handful, getting 12 of 17 right if you’re willing to look the other way on Hawkins and Purke (in purple), who began in Hagerstown, albeit in late April and late May respectively. Where I wasn’t so good was picking who’d be starting and who’d be relieving, but such is the nature with the small sample sizes of short-season ball (e.g. Meza, who relieved in 9 of 11 appearances in 2010, but started in 10 of 13 in 2011).

So as we finish up, here’s my take on who will pitch for Hagerstown to begin this year:

Blake Schwartz Dixon Anderson Leonard Hollins Wirkin Estevez
Brian Rauh David Fischer Cody Davis  
Nick Lee   Derek Self  
Blake Monar   Robert Benincasa  
Pedro Encarnacion   Michael Boyden  
Brett Mooneyham      

If you’re inclined to ask “What about________?” after seeing all four parts, remember that getting information about players’ injuries and health is very difficult. It doesn’t help that the Nats aren’t very forthcoming in this department (though hardly a shock, given how tone-deaf the PR folks can be sometimes).

I will joke about this during the season, so if you’re new here… understand I’m not being callous so much as I’m mocking the farce of being so secretive (this isn’t hockey or football) while simultaneously playing roster games (e.g. that pitcher on the DL warming up the right fielder between innings).

Now, we return to the wait-and-see mode until the Spring Training games begin.

Feb 142013

Since I’m going in order downward from AAA to Low-A, this is part three. In reality, this is the last roster to be finalized of the four full-season affiliates. Consequently, I’ve learned to keep my expectations in check when it comes to seeing marquee prospects in April. In the past seven seasons, it’s been two first-round picks — Ross Detwiler (2007) and Anthony Rendon (2012) and only one of those two was in uniform for the home opener.

Of course, I’m also the guy that roots for the lower-round guys to “figure it out” and make it higher up the ladder than anyone ever expected (e.g. Tommy Milone, Tyler Moore, Brad Peacock) so I’m not complaining. Really.

Still, as you can see from my picks last year, I did a pretty decent job of guessing who’d be in Woodbridge:

Robbie Ray Paul Applebee Neil Holland
Matt Grace Matt Swynenberg Rob Wort
Brian Dupra Ryan Demmin Ben Graham
Alex Meyer Trevor Holder Dean Weaver
Kyle Winters Mitchell Clegg
Cameron Selik
Robert Gilliam
Erik Davis

I picked 10 of 17 correctly, and was wrong on the usage on just one (blue). As with Harrisburg, there were two instances that would inevitably be wrong: Clegg, who was released; Weaver, who was hurt. I was perhaps too hopeful to see Meyer early, and as mentioned previously, misread Davis’s nosedive in 2011 (losing five of six starts after his demotion from AA). Dupra was simply an overreach, the kind of miss I don’t mind making.

We’ll see if I do so well next year with this collection of picks:

A.J. Cole Christian Meza Aaron Barrett Paul Applebee
Robbie Ray Matt Swynenberg Colin Bates  
Taylor Hill   Richie Mirowski  
Taylor Jordan   Greg Holt  
Kylin Turnbull   Ben Hawkins  
Matt Purke      

I wavered over Purke and will probably get that wrong, but I think there are more than few folks that would like to see him start in High-A and start living up to the hype. That’s not his fault, mind you. As mentioned yesterday, Swynenberg’s up and down season is another challenge to guess, not to mention that he’s started only a little more than half of his games as a pro. Barrett is another one I’d like to be wrong about, but history suggests that he’ll have to come back and put in a little more time at Potomac.

Next up: The fourth and final installment in this exercise of looking at the pitching candidates for Hagerstown.