Mets Blank Nats, 2-0

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.

Sixteen Days To Go

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 and on tape delay for the MLB Network at 3 a.m. tomorrow.

Scenes From Spring Training

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][/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!

Moore Goes Deep, Next Round Of Cuts Announced

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).

Nats Don’t Lose Again, Tie Marlins 1-1

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.

Lombardozzi Shines Against Yankees… Again

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.

Nats Lock Down Four Affiliates Through 2014

The Nationals announced today that the player development contracts (PDC) for Syracuse, Harrisburg, and Auburn have all been extended two years, aligning four of its top five affiliates through 2014. Potomac’s PDC, which was extended in 2010, is also through 2014.

Hagerstown’s PDC expires at the end of this season. While a bid by Winchester has recently fallen flat, it would appear that the interested parties are still in talks, enough to not join in on this announcement.

As reported earlier this offseason, Kinston N.C. has recently lost its PDC with Cleveland and is currently vacant, while the Atlanta Braves have recently made an agreement to purchase the Lynchburg Hillcats and there has been talk of relocating them to Wilmington, N.C. The deal, however, requires a new facility and for the city of Lynchburg to receive another tenant. Given those two requirements, it’s likely to happen in conjunction for the next affiliate “merry-go-round” in 2014 (most PDCs are for two or four years and are typically negotiated in even years, as we reported in 2010).

Nats, No. 5 Starters Stumble Against The Yankees

If only Ross Detwiler were still a prospect…

The stumbles by Wang (physical) and Lannan (performance) in the Nats’ 8-5 loss would have been given me the peg to hang the hopes of the 2007 1st Rounder, but instead I’ll have to leave that conversation to the beat writers and bloggers for the parent club.

Steve Lombardozzi continues to make his case to make the club on offense, lacing singles from both sides of the plate and scoring on an RBI double by Jhonatan Solano in the bottom of the third. He also stole a base and drove in a run with a sacrifice fly. Defensively, Lombardozzi made no errors but reminded us that his arm isn’t suited to the shortstop position, a potential strike against him, though one would think not a dealbreaker.

Bryce Harper returned to right field, where he made three putouts and no errors in six innings. Harper, however, went 0-for-3 at the plate with two strikeouts and Yankee southpaws Clay Rapada and Juan Cedeno. This could be a trend to watch, as Harper did struggle (relatively speaking) against LHPs in Harrisburg.

As aforementioned, Solano went 1-for-4 as the starting catcher, but was charged with a passed ball and gunned down two of five Yankees attempting to steal against him.

Tyler Moore was the only other prospect to get in the game, ending the game with a popup to second as a pinch-hitter.

The two teams meet again tomorrow in Tampa. Gio Gonzalez is slated to start. The game will be televised on the MLB Network.

UPDATE: Following the game, the Nationals announced the following player moves:

  • RHP Yunesky Maya optioned to AAA Syracuse
  • OF Eury Perez optioned to AA Harrisburg
  • RHP Waldis Joaquin reassigned to minor-league camp
  • RHP Jeff Fulchino reassigned to minor-league camp

Braves Outslug Nats, 6-5

The two teams combined for five home runs, with the Braves hitting three to the Nats two in a 6-5 victory last night in Lake Buena Vista, FL.

Bryce Harper returned from a eight-day layoff and got the start in CF, though he may have forgotten he wasn’t in RF for his first putout, ranging Kelly Leak-style in front of Eury Perez to end the 2nd inning. His second putout came in the 5th and was also a bit of an adventure, as the 19-year-old phenom slipped enough to allow 39-year-old Chipper Jones to advance to third base.

Offensively, Harper went 0-for-2 with a walk and a strikeout.

Perez also pulled an oh-fer at the plate (0-for-4), but lived up the first sentence of his player report (“Defensively, Perez is ready: Takes good routes, makes accurate throws, etc.”) with a nifty 9-5 double play to help quash a Braves rally in the 7th.

Steve Lombardozzi was the third prospect to start, going 1-for-5, though he was victimized by a leaping stab by Andrelton Simmons in his last at-bat. Defensively, the 23-year-old utilityman/bench candidate made a putout and three assists.

Tyler Moore came off the bench to play 1B and struck out in the 8th inning. He was unable to make the scoop on a brilliant stop by Andres Blanco but was otherwise adequate in his three innings of defense.

The Nats return to Viera this afternoon to face the New York Yankees with Chien-Ming Wang taking the hill first, followed by John Lannan.

A Couple Of Updates

First off, the latest transaction post from Baseball America has just one previously unreported item. Justino Cuevas has been released by the Nationals. The 23-year-old batted .281/.304/.432 last season as a reserve for the Hagerstown Suns and Potomac Nationals. No further details are available, but in my opinion, this move may be to his benefit and give him a chance to hook on with another organization while Spring Training is in full swing.

Secondly, the City Council of Winchester bowed to public pressure and unanimously voted down a measure to transfer land to a redevelopment agency, effectively killing the plan to lure the Hagerstown Suns.

This is good news for the folks hoping the Suns will remain in Hagerstown, but as written when this story first surfaced in the dead of winter, this is par for the course in the minors. Ownership groups routinely play one city off another in hopes of a better deal, a better facility, etc. It’s their right because the team is, after all, a business. Municipalities also have the right to say no, because it’s their duty to decide what constitutes a fair use of public monies.

In essence, the situation has returned to where it was before Winchester made its pitch. The question is whether the three players in the game (Hagerstown, the Suns’ owners, and the Nationals) are willing to work towards extending the PDC sooner vs. later, as one of this site’s contributors hopes.