Nats Sweep “Doubleheader”

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.

Spring Training Thoughts, Redux

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.

Nats Implode In 6th, Lose 7-2 To Braves

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.

Tigers Edge Nats, 2-1

Davey Johnson got his wish for a fast game, but not the result as Washington dropped a 2-1 decision to Detroit in a brisk two hours and twenty-five minutes this afternoon in Lakeland.

Dan Haren was stretched out to four innings in his third spring start, giving up both Tigers runs on five hits as both LF Tyler Moore and 1B Chris Marrero made defensive misplays that weren’t ruled errors. Haren walked none and struck out two. Four relievers followed, each turning in a scoreless inning, including Yunesky Maya (1H, 1BB, 0K) and Cole Kimball (0H, 0BB, 1K).

Four of “our guys” got the start, which is custom for road games in the Grapefruit League at this point in Spring Training…

…Corey Brown started in RF and finished in CF but struck out twice while going 0-for-4.
…Marrero went 0-for-2 with a groundout and a flyout.
…Matt Skole (1-for-2, RBI) drove in the sole Nats run on a sacrifice fly in the 7th, starting at 3B and replacing Marrero at 1B.
…Anthony Rendon made another start at SS and shifted over to 3B but went hitless at the plate with an 0-for-3 afternoon.

The Nationals were held to four hits total, which all came from the starting lineup. Micah Owings (LF), Sandy Leon (C), Carlos Rivero (LF-RF), and Zach Walters (SS) came off the bench with Rivero and Walters drawing the only two bases-on-balls for Washington.

The loss drops Nationals below .500 at 6-7-2 as they return to Viera for another afternoon game tomorrow against the Braves. Charlie Slowes and Dave Jagler have the call on 1580AM.

Nats Rally In 8th, Hold On In 9th For 8-7 Win

Four times the Nationals put up crooked numbers, including a two-run 8th that featured a Zach Walters solo shot and an RBI single from Carlos Rivero as Washington returned to .500 with an 8-7 win over Miami yesterday afternoon.

The home run was the second in as many days for the 23-year-old Walters, who is now batting .333/.360/.583 in 14 spring-training games. He was acquired in 2011 in a July deadline deal for RHP Jason Marquis and played across three levels in 2012, starting in Potomac in late April and finishing up in Syracuse for 29 games in August and September.

Chris Young got the start and was ineffective, walking three and giving up three runs on three hits over three innings, capped by a two-run homer by former Baltimore farmhand Joe Mahoney in the Marlins’ 3rd. Craig Stammen, celebrating his 29th birthday, gave up three runs on four hits and a walk in just 2/3rds of an inning as the first man out of the ‘pen.

Erik Davis stranded the two runners he inherited from Stammen and pitched a scoreless 5th, allowing a hit but walking none and striking out one. His ERA remains spotless at 0.00. Ryan Perry turned in another quality appearance, turning in two frames without a blemish with one hit surrendered and one strikeout.

Fernando Abad got the benefit of the Nats’ bottom of 8th with his 1-2-3 inning in the top of the inning for the win. Jeremy Accardo was credited with the save despite allowing a run on three hits and no walks while striking out two in the 9th.

A rundown of the notable minor-leaguers…
…CF Corey Brown 0-2, K
…LF Micah Owings 0-1, K
…PH-DH Carlos Maldonado 1-1
…PR-1B Chris Marrero 0-1
…SS Walters 1-1, R, HR, RBI
…3B Rivero 1-2, RBI, K

It’s back on the road for the Nationals as they visit the Tigers in Lakeland at 1:05 p.m. this afternoon. The game can be heard on MLB Audio.
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The party line is that Karns is fine, as team doctors have cleared for him to throw a bullpen today.

Likewise, the news on Christian Garcia is sunny as he’s now one week away possibly throwing after a 4-to-6-week shutdown was ordered following the diagnosis of a partially torn tendon in his right forearm.

Finally, in a move that surprised no one not related to him, the Nationals have granted LHP Will Ohman his unconditional release. Ohman had been among the first cuts of the spring, made a week ago today, with the news delivered before the end of last Sunday’s game.

Nats Drop Another Despite Late Flurry; Karns Hurt?

A seven-run 9th fattened some meaningless spring training stats, but wasn’t enough to overcome the earlier mistakes as the Nats lost 16-10 to the Cards yesterday afternoon.

Jordan Zimmermann was lit up for eight runs on nine hits and two weeks, the bulk of the damage coming in a six-run 3rd inning. The proverbial “dead arm” was cited for his troubles.

More concerning, however, was the beating that Nathan Karns took two innings later. While just one of the seven runs he allowed were earned — thanks to an error by Anthony Rendon to the first batter he faced. In the space of eight batters Karns walked two, gave up a pair of singles, a double, and was lifted after a grand slam to journeyman Shane Robinson. He struck out one and got a flyball out.

As noted on Twitter, Karns’s command was noticeably amiss, with pitches sailing up in the zone. He fell behind nearly every batter, enabling them to sit on the get-it-over fastball, which was a bit slower than usual (low-90s/high-80s, when you consider that Zimmermann had similar readings on the MASN telecast and was reportedly hitting 92-94).

After the game, beat writers Nathan Fenno and Dan Kolko reported that Karns had been battling tightness in his right (push-off) leg and will be seeking further medical attention. Coincidentally (or ironically, if you believe in curses), Byron Kerr’s feature story yesterday was on the health of the 25-year-old Texan.

Back to the debacle in Viera… after falling behind 16-3, the Nats struck seven times on six hits in the final frame. Left fielder Micah Owings (1-3, R, RBI) and shortstop Zach Walters (1-3, R, 2RBI) both homered while first baseman Chris Marrero (1-3, R, 2K) had an RBI double and DH Matt Skole (1-1, R, BB) drove in two with a single.

A rundown of the notable minor-leaguers:
• RF Carlos Rivero 0-2, K
• CF Corey Brown 1-3, R
• C Jhonatan Solano 2-3, R
• 3B Anthony Rendon 0-2, R, HBP
• RHP Cole Kimball ⅓ IP, 0H, 0R, 0BB, 0K
• LHP Pat McCoy 2IP, 3H, R, ER, BB, K

The Nats stay on the Space Coast for another tilt today against the Marlins. There is no broadcast, home or away.

Nats Drop 4-2 Decision For 2nd Straight Loss

Taylor Two Run SingleAfter Michael Taylor’s two-run single in the top of the eighth tied it at 2-2, Ryan Mattheus coughed up the deciding runs in the bottom of the 8th as the Nationals dropped their second straight decision, 4-2 to the Astros.

Gio Gonzalez made his final pre-WBC start, tossing three shutout innings with three hits and one walk allowed while setting down three on strikes.
Ross Ohlendorf followed but was rocked for the second straight appearance, giving up two runs on three hits over three innings. Drew Storen pitched an uneven 7th inning with two hits allowed but two strikeouts.

Ryan Mattheus took the loss by surrendering two runs on three hits. He gave up a pair of singles to lead off the 8th, then struck out Marc Krauss to set up a double play. Former National Rick Ankiel stole second to take it away. Jason Castro then drove in the go-ahead and insurance runs with a single to right.

Corey Brown was the lone minors guy to get the start, going 1-for-2 as the RF. He was replaced by Carlos Rivero, who drew a walk in his lone plate appearance the 8th to load the bases for Taylor (1-for-1), playing CF after pinch-running for Denard Span in the 6th. Matt Skole (1-for-2, R), playing in place of Tyler Moore at 1B, had opened the frame with a ground-rule double and took third on an error that allowed substitute catcher Sandy Leon (0-for-1) to reach.

Here’s how the other notable minor-leaguers fared yesterday:

  • LF Micah Owings, 0-1, K
  • PH-DH Chris Marrero, 0-1, R
  • SS Zach Walters 1-1
  • PR-3B Anthony Rendon 0-2, K

With the loss, the Nationals drop to .500 at 5-5 with two ties. For folks looking to tune in to today’s 1:05 p.m. game against the Cardinals in Viera, you’ll be spared the saucy Mike Shannon and Mike Rooney on KMOX in favor of the sassy Bob Carpenter and F.P. Santangelo on MASN.

Rendon Homers Again In 6-3 Nats Loss

Rendon in ClearwaterThe Nats’ four-game win streak was snapped yesterday afternoon with a 6-3 loss to the Phillies, a game quickly spun by the fans and the media alike as another chapter of the burgeoning DC-Philly rivalry.

Unfortunately, not lost amid the kerfuffle was Anthony Rendon — playing spotless shortstop, no less — homering for the third time in Spring Training. As predicted less than a month ago, a hot start (.400/.429/1.000 in nine games) has gotten some folks bothered.

Thankfully, not all folks are forgetting that this happens every spring. In fact, most of what I wanted (or expected) to write was written in this blog post by Charlie Fliegel at the Nationals Review, especially this:

[P]eople believed he could hit in the majors immediately. When he was drafted, he was considered by many to be the most Major League ready prospect available. So it wouldn’t be crazy for him to be on the team right now. But they don’t NEED him right now, except in a part time role, and that would likely hinder his further development.

Back to the game yesterday…

Strasburg took the loss despite fanning six over three and 2/3rds innings and was followed by Fernando Abad, who got roughed up for the first time this spring with a pair of runs surrendered on three hits over an inning and a 1/3rd. Likewise for Cole Kimball, who gave up two runs on a walk and two hits, including a solo shot in his lone inning of work.

Joining Rendon in the starting lineup were Corey Brown, who started in RF and shifted to CF while going 1-for-4 with a run scored; Chris Marrero, who went 0-for-2 with a strikeout at 1B; Carlos Rivero, who reached base three times with a pair of singles and a walk as the LF; Matt Skole, who went 0-for-3 with a strikeout at 3B; and Jhonatan Solano, who doubled and walked as the starting catcher.

Here’s how the notable minor-leaguers fared:
• RHP Yunesky Maya 1IP, 1H, 0R, 0BB, 2K
• RHP Erik Davis 1IP, 0H, 0R, BB, 3K
• RF Steve Souza went 0-for-2 with two K’s
• SS Zach Walters went 1-for-1 but committed his second error
• DH Carlos Maldonado went 0-for-1 with a K
• 1B Micah Owings went 1-for-2 with an RBI double and a run scored
• PR-LF Billy Burns stole a base but struck out in his lone PA
• 3B Cutter Dykstra went 1-for-1

It’s back to Kissimmee this afternoon for another 1:05 start against the Houston Astros. The game can be heard on MLB Audio (sorry folks, the Charlie & Dave drought still has another four days to go). Tomorrow is the next TV broadcast (MASN).

Nats Take Fourth Straight, 7-1; Purke Optioned

A five-run 6th opened up a 2-1 lead as the Nationals won their fourth straight spring training game, 7-1 over the Astros. After the game, the Nationals announced that LHP Matt Purke had been optioned to the minors.

Dan Haren made his second appearance and let in the lone Houston run on two hits and a walk while striking out two. Southpaw Zach Duke got the win with three scoreless frames in his third outing. Colorful closer Rafael Soriano made his Nats debut with a scoreless inning following Duke. Jeremy Accardo and Tyler Clippard followed suit with a pair of 1-2-3 innnings to close out the game.

Corey Brown’s two-run, two-out single off former teammate Brad Peacock closed out the scoring in the 6th. An error by former Nats farmhand Justin Maxwell gave the CF reserve just one RBI as he went 1-for-2 off the bench. Here’s how the notable minor-leaguers fared in the late innings:

• Carlos Rivero went 0-for-1 in LF
• Matt Skole went 0-for-1 as the PH-DH
• Chris Marrero scored a run as a PR and went 0-for-1 at 1B
• Zach Walters scored a run as a PR and went 0-for-1 at SS
• Sandy Leon caught the 9th but made no PAs
• Anthony Rendon went 0-for-1 with a strikeout at 3B

With the win, the Nationals improved to 5-3-2 in Grapefruit League action. This afternoon the Nats head to Clearwater to visit the Philadelphia Phillies.

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As anticipated, Purke was optioned to the minors as he recovers from what was finally revealed — after months of silence — an arthroscopic procedure last August, as reported by Mark “No, not the Facebook guy” Zuckerman on Monday.

Officially, he was assigned to the Hagerstown Suns, though he’ll begin the season in purgatory extended Spring Training. He’s expected to begin pitching in competitive games in May for the second straight season.

Best guess for his first start: May 29th in Asheville, a midweek day game on the road in warm weather that would give him roughly 17-18 starts before hitting the 100-inning limit in late August.

Checking In On The Nats MLB Rule 5 Picks

Checkin In On The MLB Rule 5 PicksWith an off day yesterday, I wasn’t sure if I’d have something to write about this morning until one of the regulars asked me about Danny Rosenbaum and Jeff Kobernus.

Truth be told, it was the first time I had checked because I’m not rooting for them to falter so “we can have them back.” For both players, this is their first (and best) chance to make a major-league roster, even if it’s just briefly like Erik Komatsu’s two-team tour in 2012.

Rosenbaum has made just two appearances thus far for a total of four scoreless innings with two hits and one walk allowed and no strikeouts. Thanks to a start last Friday, his opposition quality score is 9.2 (H/T to NatsLady for pointing out this feature on already indispensable

As you can see from the gamer in the Colorodoan, Danny was paying attention to Crash Davis:

“They told me they see me more as a long relief guy. I’ve always been a starter in college and my whole career and coming out of the ‘pen will be different. But it’s pitching and it’s the same game. However they think I can help, I want to do that,” he said.

He’s scheduled to pitch again today in relief as well.

As a position player, Kobernus has gotten a much longer look as noted in this feature from the Detroit Free Press. He’s batting .280/.308/.440 with a lower Opposition Quality score (8.4) because he’s been left in games against the reserves of other teams.

While Rosenbaum can be “hidden” in the ‘pen as a long reliever or a backup LOOGY, Kobernus has no such luxury as a bench player. That’s why the Tigers are trying him in the outfield, where he hasn’t played since his college days at Cal. Kobernus is competing against a pair of 21-year-old prospects — Nick Castellanos and Avisail Garcia — who, of course, can be returned to the minors for more seasoning, even if they are the #1 and #2 prospects per Baseball America.