Mar 202013

Other Shoe DroppedThe other shoe has dropped on the Michael Morse trade, as the Nationals announced that LHP Ian Krol is the infamous “player to be named later.”

Krol was drafted in the 7th round out of Neuqua Valley HS in Naperville, IL in 2009 and put together a 9-4, 2.65 season in 2010 that put him into the Top 10 (#9) of the A’s system, per Baseball America. Unfortunately, elbow problems and issues between the ears effectively turned 2011 into a waste.

Last year wasn’t much better (2-9, 5.20, 1.361 between High-A and AA), but as John Sickels put it:

Krol avoided injury problems and Archie Bunker outbursts last year… but struggled in the unforgiving California League. He pitched better as the season progressed, showing a better changeup in particular. He gave up some runs after moving up to the Texas League, but his K/BB and K/IP ratios were quite good and that’s more important for his future projection.

Krol features a low-90s fastball, but his curve and change have been praised as “plus” in the past, but what’s been missing is consistency on the field, and maturity off the field (he was also suspended in high school). He turns 22 in May, so suffice to write, there’s still time for him overcome this adversity and return to form.

Mar 192013

Shifting-GearsWith six players optioned to Syracuse, two reassigned to minor-league camp, and a veteran given his release so he can pursue a job elsewhere, that’s my cue that it’s time to shift gears away from spring training.

As I wrote last month, I would post about spring training from the minors point of view for long as it seemed reasonable, estimating that would it be about three or four weeks. Well, just like last year, it’s about 23 days.

Unfortunately, it’s more than two weeks until the “other” Opening Day of April 4th (Harrisburg, at home; Hagerstown and Syracuse, on the road), with day after beginning the morning ritual of cherry-picking the boxscores and writing summaries for the “News & Notes.” That Friday is also the opening night for Potomac, which I’ll cover with the first of what I hope to be five dozen or so “Last Night In Woodbridge” (with a few “Sunday Afternoon” editions, too).

A couple weeks after that, I’ll begin the weekly feature of “Good, Bad, and Interesting,” where I pick out the leaders, trailers, and outliers of each affiliate in the spirit of passing along fun facts and things I’ve noticed while doing the daily notes.

Until then, sit tight as we wait out the rest of the spring. Just like the dark months of December, January, and February, I’ll do my best to refresh the site with minors-oriented news, even if the some of next few items that I expect to see may be unpleasant.

Mar 182013

Ross Detwiler pitched well, Ryan Perry did not, but a pair of Tyler Moore home runs plus a two innings in the outfield from Jhonatan “The Onion” Solano were the highlights of an ugly 12-10 win for the Nats over the Tigers on Sunday afternoon.

In his first start since Team USA was bounced from the WBC, Detwiler gave up just a run (albeit a home run to Torii Hunter in the bottom of the first) on three hits over four innings. The 27-year-old southpaw walked one and struck out, showing little signs of rust after the nine-day layoff.

Meanwhile, the regulars built a 7-1 lead thanks to the efforts of the Magnolia Muscle’s solo shot in the 4th and two-run blast in the 5th. Detwiler turned the ball over Perry, who pitched a 1-2-3 fifth but couldn’t retire any of the five batters he faced in the 6th — walking two and hitting a batter before giving a single to Prince Fielder and a double to Victor Martinez.

Jeremy Accardo was only a little more effective, letting in Martinez on sacrifice fly before giving up a run of his own on a single and a double. After he walked a pinch hitter, he got a strikeout and a groundout to keep the game tied at 7-7.

Micah Owings (1-for-4, BB) broke the tie with an RBI groundout in the 7th but left the game with a sore quadriceps after reaching on an error as the Nats overcame a 9-8 deficit (thanks to Ryan Mattheus giving up a two-run shot to Matt Tuiasosopa in the bottom of the 7th) with a four-run top of the 8th.

With a 12-9 lead and a short bench (read: Carlos Maldonado) thanks to the slew of mid-game defensive changes (a.k.a. our guys), manager Davey Johnson opted to put Solano (2-2, R, RBI) into the outfield in place of Owing and have Maldonado (0-1, BB, K), who had pinch hit for DH Chad Tracy, take Solano’s place behind the plate.

One of the truisms of the sport is that the ball finds the weakest defenders, and the out-of-position Solano was put to the test with a flyout in the 8th and four straight balls hit his way in the 9th — double, RBI single (by Rule 5 pick Jeff Kobernus), then two fly balls (both caught). Erik Davis, who had begun the inning, got the last out on a grounder.

Chris Marrero joined Owings in the starting lineup at 1B and went 3-for-5 with three RBI. As aforementioned, most of the reserves hit the game during the 5th. Here’s a rundown on they did:

  • 3B-SS Zach Walters 1-3
  • CF Corey Brown 1-2, R, BB, SB
  • RF Carlos Rivero 0-3, 2K
  • PR-3B Josh Johnson 0-0, 2R, BB

It’s a rematch today in Viera at 1:05 p.m. with Jordan Zimmermann expected to start against Detroit’s Max Scherzer. The game can be heard on MLB Audio with the Tigers radio feed.

Mar 172013

Stephen Strasburg looks ready for April, but Drew Storen seems stuck in October.

Strasburg threw more than 90 pitches in his fifth spring start (93, 64 for strikes to be exact), surrendering a solo HR to former teammate Rick Ankiel to account for the lone run he gave up over five and a 1/3rd innings. He allowed five hits total, walked one and struck out eight.

Storen, on the other hand, continues to struggle this spring. He was touched for three runs on four hits and a walk in the 8th, blowing his second save and taking his first loss. In seven appearances, he’s has just one clean inning and only two where he hasn’t given up a hit.

Perhaps it’s reminiscent of March 2011 (2.294 WHIP in 11&⅓ IP vs. 1.857 in 7), but it’ll be something to watch over the next two weeks. Given manager Davey Johnson’s proclamation that it’s time for the relievers to start working every other day, that leaves Storen roughly five more appearances until Opening Day.

Meanwhile, as I feel like the high school kids playing the 4:30 p.m. game before the 7 p.m. main event, we’re approaching the end of our spring training coverage as the MLB starters and reserves begin to play deeper into the games in favor of the minor-leaguers. Just four notables made it into yesterday’s contest:

  • CF Corey Brown, 0-1
  • RF Carlos Rivero, 0-0, E(1)
  • PR-SS Zach Walters, 0-1, K
  • 1B Chris Marrero, 0-1

For the second straight Sunday, the Nats take a trip to Lakeland to visit the Tigers. Ross Detwiler is expected to pitch in place of Gio Gonzalez this afternoon. The game can be heard on MLB Audio with the Detroit radio feed.

Mar 152013

Steve Lombardozzi grounds out to 3B in the 6th for the sole National run

Lombardozzi grounds out to 3B in the 6th for the sole Nat run

St. Louis had its way with starter Dan Haren, roughing up the veteran for four runs on two home runs in the first and five runs overall to hand Washington a 5-1 defeat this afternoon.

Haren gave up six hits and two walks overall across the five innings he threw in his fourth spring appearance. Yunesky Maya was the first man out of the ‘pen, leading a trio of relievers who each turned in a scoreless inning and limited the Cardinals to just two hits (both given up by Ryan Mattheus in the 7th).

Chris Marrero (1-for-4), Carlos Rivero (0-for-4, 2K), Corey Brown (1-for-3), Micah Owings (2-for-2), and Zach Walters (1-for-3) were the nos. 5-9 batters in the lineup and accounted for all five hits the Nats would register for the game.

Pinch-runner Steve Souza scored the lone run as a pinch-runner for Owings, as Walters pushed him to third with one out and leadoff man Steve Lombardozzi plated him with a groundball to third and reached first safely when Ryan Jackson’s throw was too askew for second baseman Ronny Cedeno to attempt a throw to first.

Ricky Hague (PR-2B), Jhonatan Solano (C), Caleb Ramsey (LF), and Carlos Maldonado (PH-DH) also came off the bench but none got a hit. Ramsey reached on an error with one out in the 9th, followed by Maldonado drawing a pinch walk to set up a first-and-second situation for Marrero, but the rally was quashed with a groundout from the first baseman and popup by Rivero to end the game.

With the loss, the Nationals fall back to .500 at 9-9-2 in the Grapefruit League thus far this spring. It’s an evening tilt tomorrow night at 6:05 p.m. against the Astros in Viera. MASN alone has the broadcast.

Mar 142013

Micah Owings hit a grand slam in the 7th off former White Sox and Dodgers farmhand John Ely as the Nats took their third straight Grapefruit League game, 6-3 over the Houston Astros this afternoon in Viera.

Owings, a former RHP in the Arizona Diamondbacks organization [insert reference to Mike Rizzo’s tenure here], is attempting to return the majors as a position player. In nine games, the 30-year-old has gone 5-for-14 with three doubles, two HR, and eight RBI for a .368 BA and a slugging percentage of .842. He’s expected to start the 2013 campaign in Syracuse, most likely splitting time between 1B and DH with the occasional game in LF.

Chris Young was much sharper in his second spring start, going four innings and allowing two walks and four hits, including a solo HR in the first inning by Marwin* Gonzalez.
* God help him if he’s ever traded to Miami; just sayin’

Rafael Soriano got the dreaded blown-save-win by giving up the go-ahead runs in the top of the 7th on a two-run shot by journeyman Nate Freiman.

Playing time for the minor-leaguers hasn’t quite dwindled yet. Here’s a rundown of how the notables did:

  • Corey Brown went 1-for-2 with a run scored while playing CF in place of Denard Span
  • Carlos Maldonado went 1-for-1 pinch-hitting for DH Ryan Zimmerman
  • Chris Marrero went 0-for-1 and took over 1B from Adam LaRoche
  • Zach Walters went 0-for-1 after subbing for SS Ian Desmond
  • Carlos Rivero went 0-for-2 while playing 3B in Danny Espinosa’s slot in the lineup
    (starting 3B Steve Lombardozzi finished the game at 2B)

With the win, the Nationals improve to 9-8 for the spring. It’s back on the road tomorrow for an afternoon game against the Cardinals in Jupiter. Dan Haren is scheduled to make his fourth spring outing, opposed by Adam Wainwright for St. Louis. If it’s 3 a.m. and you’re not lonely, you can catch the game on tape delay early Saturday morning on the MLB Network.

Mar 142013

More ST cutsThis morning the Nationals announced the second major cutdown, sending seven guys to the backfields, including top prospects Nathan Karns, Anthony Rendon, and Matt Skole. Also sent packing: Eury Perez, Sandy Leon, Pat McCoy, and Will Rhymes.

Officially, Perez was optioned to AAA Syracuse, Leon and Rendon were optioned to AA Harrisburg, while the rest were reassigned to minor-league camp.

Karns was an unsurprising cut, especially considering his recent leg injury. After an impressive two-inning stint against the Mets on February 25 struggled in his next two appearances — both versus the St. Louis Cardinals — including seven runs in 2/3rds of an inning last Friday.

While perhaps some folks may have thought Rendon’s torrid spring thus far (.375BA, 4HR, 11RBI) may have earned him more time with “the big boys,” manager Davey Johnson has been consistent in his stance that all the 22-year-old Texan needs is “some reps.”

There is, of course, nothing to prevent Washington from reassigning Rendon to Syracuse later this month. Wherever he does end up starting the season, Rendon is expected to split time playing 3B and SS and will occasionally play at 2B, Johnson told reporters this morning.

Finally, Matt Skole, who spent less than a month at a High-A Potomac after obliterating the South Atlantic League for most of 2012, is probably not going back to Woodbridge next month; not after leading the Nationals with seven walks drawn in 14 games for an impressive .406 OBP.

As predicted earlier this week, the trio of Carlos Rivero, Corey Brown, and Chris Marrero were kept in the major-league camp, which now stands at 42 players

Mar 132013

In split-squad action, the Nats regulars beat the Mets 8-5 in Viera, while the reserves beat the Astros 9-7 in Kissimmee.

Jordan Zimmermann got the home start and tossed four and 2/3rds innings, giving up three runs (one earned) on four hits and two walks. He struck out six, but was denied the “W” as Craig Stammen blew the save by allowing the third Mets run to score. Jeremy Accardo was the sole minor-leaguer to appear in Viera, giving up a run in the 9th on a leadoff triple to former Washington farmhand Brian Bixler and an RBI groundout.

Ross Ohlendorf’s woes continued with another poor outing as the road starter, charged with four runs on five hits and three walks to balloon his spring ERA to 7.36 after four appearances. He was followed by Ryan Perry, who gave up a run on two hits and no walks over the next two innings.

Erik Davis got the win as one of four relievers to turn in an inning to close out the game. Jeff Mandel got the save despite giving up a run in the 9th in his first “A” game appearance.

Anthony Rendon continues to make the case for making Matt Skole the Harrisburg third baseman and himself the starter in Syracuse with a 4-for-5, 3RBI afternoon, including his fourth HR of the spring — a go-ahead two-run shot in the 8th. Micah Owings (3-for-5) doubled twice and drove in two, while Corey Brown singled and doubled to join Rendon as multi-hit batters as the “baby Nats” spanked the Houston minor-league hurlers for 17 hits total.

Estarlin Martinez (double in the 9th) and Ricky Hague (groundout in the 8th) also drove in runs in the split-squad game, which saw the Nationals overcome deficits of 4-0 and 5-4 with a two-run 8th and three-run 9th.

The next round of cuts are expected to be announced later this afternoon or early this evening.

Mar 122013

Viera via NatsnqA little more than a month ago, I wrote a post about the upcoming Nationals 2013 Spring Training, which is de rigeur when it’s cold and/or February; the day after: a post about options (self-referencing is also obligatory).

For the most part, it’s been as expected… Anthony Rendon has had his moments, which have been heavily covered, but has been cool the for the past three games (0-for-7, 3K), which has been largely ignored. Danny Espinosa and Wilson Ramos have proven thus far to be healthy enough, which may have been the best shot for any of the minor-leaguers (notable or otherwise) to sneak onto the 25-man roster.

For us, the fans of the minors and what some casual fans call “the baby Nats,” there’s been a little upheaval. Christian Garcia (wrist) and Nathan Karns (leg) have both suffered injuries, which the more cynical among us would say is probably inevitable for two surgically repaired guys after breakthrough years in 2012. Matt Purke is (once again) going into witness protection extended spring training to begin the season with a plan to join his teammates (probably in Hagerstown) in late May and an innings limit of about 100, which works out to be about 17 or 18 starts.

As you might imagine for the first guys to hit the plane from the I.L. if/when there’s an injury, Corey Brown, Carlos Rivero, and Chris Marrero have been getting quite a bit of playing time. Of the three, as noted this morning in the comments, only Rivero is out of options. This is, of course, why Rivero has been appearing in the outfield, though I get the sense it’s more to showcase his versatility as trade bait. Unfortunately, I also agree with the commenter’s contention that it’s been for naught thus far.

I’d still guess that at least two, if not all three will survive tomorrow’s expected cuts (a bit of a misnomer, since they’re usually reassigned, not released) because they’re older, more experienced players who are on the cusp of the majors and whose presence isn’t needed in the minors camp just yet (OK, so maybe I’m still holding out hope for a late-spring trade, too)

More likely to go: a catcher (e.g. Sandy Leon), a couple of pitchers (e.g. Patrick McCoy, Brandon Mann) and an infielder or two (unfortunately, Matt Skole is candidate as Ryan Zimmerman plays more). We’ll know more this roughly this time tomorrow.

Mar 112013

March 13, 2013 Viera, FL

Via @SyracuseChiefs On Twitter

With three weeks to go before Opening Day, the good news is that Stephen Strasburg breezed through the first five innings on slightly more than 50 pitches. The bad news: A six-run sixth inning by the Braves broke the 0-0 tie as the Nationals ultimately fell, 7-2.

Strasburg was charged with four runs on four hits and two walks over five and a 1/3rd innings, though two of the runs were let in by Zach Duke as the first man out of the ‘pen.

The 24-year-old ace struck out five on an unofficial pitch count of 76 pitches, 53 for strikes per Patrick Reddington of Federal Baseball.

Following Duke, who took the brunt of the Atlanta rally with three hits and two runs of his own given up in just 2/3rds of an inning, Rafael Soriano cruised through a scoreless 7th, setting them down in order with a popup, strikeout, and a flyout.

The fight for the final bullpen spot continues to be less like the UFC and more like the Little Rascals as neither Henry Rodriguez nor Fernando Abad were particularly effective in the 8th, with the former putting on two in 2/3rds of an inning (one single, one HBP) and the latter giving up a leadoff hit for the seventh and final Braves run while getting the last out in the 8th.

Tyler Clippard matched Soriano with a three up and three down 9th, also striking out one.

The Nats broke up the shutout bid with a rally from the reserves in the bottom of the 8th. Carlos Maldonado drew a leadoff walk, took second on Steve Lombardozzi’s groundout, waddled to third on a single by Corey Brown and finally came in on an RBI groundout to third by Carlos Rivero.

Tyler Moore’s solo shot into the wind in the last of the 9th completed Washington’s scoring.

A rundown of how the notable minor-leaguers fared:
• CF Brown 1-1
• PR-RF Rivero 0-1, RBI
• LF Owings 0-1
• PH-DH Marrero 0-1
• SS Walters 0-1

Tomorrow is the second of three scheduled off days for the Nats’ 2013 Spring Training. It’s a pair of split-squad games against the Mets in Viera and the Astros in Kissimmee on Wednesday. beat writer Bill “The Rocket” Ladson is reporting that the next round of cuts will come after those games.