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.

Mar 192012
 

Today is the only scheduled day off for the Nationals spring training. I was originally going to run these photos — courtesy of Andrew Lang, a.k.a. @Allstars_S2 on Twitter, and [plug]www.allstarsplus.com[/plug] on the web — last Monday but decided to save them for today, to keep the site “fresh.”

In a perfect world, this would probably be the time I’d be going to Viera: after St. Patrick’s Day, after a couple rounds of cuts, and of course, after the excitement of a new grocery store in town had died down. But as the litany of wails over gambling gone bad the upsets in the NCAA tourney suggest, this ain’t a perfect world.

Enjoy the pics!

Mar 182012
 

Tyler Moore homered and doubled and drove in two runs to highlight an otherwise ugly 11-7 loss by the Nats to Detroit on Sunday afternoon. The 25-year-old, who has hit 62 home runs the past two seasons for Potomac and Harrisburg, respectively, is expected to play everyday for the Syracuse Chiefs, but remains in camp thanks in part to the injuries to Michael Morse and Adam LaRoche. Despite talk of him playing in the outfield during the offseason, he has appeared exclusively at 1B and DH, just as he has for the past four seasons in the minors.

Moore’s double came in the bottom of the ninth after Bryce Harper shook off four straight strikeouts for a two-out double. Harper split time on defense between right field and centerfield, but had no defensive chances. Harper’s whiffs came both looking and swinging, with starter Doug Fister (RHP) getting him twice, and relievers Duane Below (LHP) and Jose Ortega (RHP) getting him once apiece. As the parentheticals hint, it’s not just southpaws that are giving the 19-year-old problems; righthanders are figuring out how to work the offspeed stuff against him, too.

Steve Lombardozzi was the only other notable prospect to see time, going 1-for-2 while filling in at shortstop.

With an off day tomorrow, the Nationals are expected to* announced that Harper, Moore, and Jhonatan Solano have been optioned to AAA Syracuse. Joining them in the minor-league camp will be non-roster invitee Mark Teahen. Earlier today, the Nats signed veteran OF-1B Xavier Nady to a minor-league contract, a move no doubt predicated by the decision to hold Adam LaRoche and Michael Morse from game action for the next week. Outfielder Rick Ankiel, who has been nursing a sore hamstring, is expected to return to game action on Tuesday.*Yes, I was checking my Twitter feed while editing/writing

None of these moves are particularly surprising, including Harper. As noted last month, most of the competition for the Opening Day roster is for the bench, the ‘pen, and the No. 5 starter. It’s encouraging to see how well Lombardozzi is playing, but in my tendency towards pessimism (disclosure: I grew up in New England during the ’70s and ’80s), I still lean towards him going back to Syracuse so he can play everyday (and maintain his trade value).

Mar 172012
 

For the third time this spring, the Nats played to a tie, playing the Marlins even for nine innings. Both teams got a run on six hits, but the Nats committed two errors.

Jordan Zimmermann pitched four shutout innings, but as described by Dave Nichols on Twitter: “JZ really wasn’t hitting his spots despite no runs, no walks in 4 IP. Threw lot of pitches, lots of fouls.” Zimmerman allowed five hits, and per MASN’s Dan Kolk, threw 72 pitches, 50 for strikes.

Rafael Martin surrendered the lone Marlin run with a big fly to Miami’s starting catcher John Buck. It was the only hit he gave up over two innings, as he walked none and struck out three.

Bryce Harper got his first extra-base hit of the spring with a opposite-field double in the bottom of fourth, finishing the game with 1-for-3 while playing CF once again.

Steve Lombardozzi came off the bench and went 0-for-1, collecting two assists and combining with Andres Blanco on key double play to end the top of the 9th inning.

Tyler Moore pinch-hit for Mark DeRosa and flew out to centerfield.

Jhonatan Solano went 0-for-1 while catching the last three innings. No baserunner attempted to steal against him.

The Nats play host to the Tigers tomorrow, with Edwin Jackson taking the hill for Washington and Doug Fister doing the same for Detroit. The game will be broadcast on Nationals radio and can be heard on 106.7 FM.

Mar 162012
 

Going into Spring Training, the feeling was that Steve Lombardozzi was battling for a bench job but would more likely get sent to Syracuse to play everyday. After these two games against the Yankees, Mike Rizzo’s bluster that Davey Johnson could use him for up to 350 ABs is becoming more believable.

Lombardozzi went 3-for-3 this afternoon with a line-drive home run down the left field line and scored two runs. More importantly, he showed again that he can fill in at 3B in a pinch, though he showed both his weakness (arm) in the process of showing his off his fielding range and accuracy during his four innings of work. The home run came off C.C. Sabathia and his third and final hit came off the enigmatic Phil Hughes.

For the spring, Lombardozzi has .333/.367/.481 line in 11 games, appearing at second base, shortstop and third base.

As for the game itself, the Nats blew an early 3-1 lead and ended up losing 4-3 in 10 innings. Atahualpa Severino took the loss, allowing an unearned run on a sacrifice fly.

Bryce Harper got his first hit since returning from a calf injury, going 1-for-4 with two strikeouts on the afternoon while playing CF. He had no defensive chances, but once again strayed too far afield on the game’s final play, and arguably distracting RF Brett Carroll, whose throw was well up the 1B line.

Tyler Moore subbed again at 1B but turned in another 0-for-2 effort, grounding out to SS and flying out to CF. He did save an error by Seth Bynum to close out the 6th, coming off the bag and tagging the runner as he went by.

The loss drops the Nats spring record to 5-7 as they return to Viera to host Miami. Jordan Zimmermann is scheduled to make his third start of the spring, opposed by Tom Koehler for the Marlins. The game will be broadcast on the radio by the Nationals on 106.7 FM.