Rain Delay Thoughts

Some thoughts on how the first 10 days have gone…

With rain pushing back the start of the afternoon tilt in Viera to 2:00 p.m., the odds are good that today’s action will have to be covered in a two-fer roundup tomorrow. But for the sake of keeping the site fresh, and since it’s more than possible that both games could get rained out, I figure I’d pass along some thoughts about how Spring Training is going so far.

Full disclosure: Once the minors start up, my attention is severely shifted from the parent club, as I would imagine you might guess and I would hope that you’d expect…

For better or worse, it looks like Ivan Rodriguez will remain the incumbent, even if the club is better off shifting him to a backup role. Obviously, this could all be posturing since injuries to catchers make the Nationals a trading partner, given that they have two young catchers that could start (Wilson Ramos, Jesus Flores) and a stud prospect (Derek Norris) that’s on the horizon.

The strong early showing from Chris Marrero has been one of the spring surprises. It’s unlikely that he’ll hit his way onto the roster, even if Adam LaRoche’s shoulder woes worsen, but it’s something that folks have been waiting a long, long time to see.

Danny Espinosa has come into spring training firing on all offensive cylinders while Ian Desmond continues to commit flat-footed errors. The team appears committed to their current alignment (Espinosa at 2B, Desmond at SS) so the real intrigue is who will be their backups between veterans Alex Cora and Jerry Hairston Jr., and journeyman Alberto Gonzalez and Brian Bixler.

Ryan Zimmerman. Rinse, lather, repeat.

Jayson Werth. The $126M man is here until further notice, an .077 ST average or not.

Could Roger Bernadina possibly win the job away from Nyjer Morgan? I’d like to say yes, but it seems more likely that unless the two are wildly apart in three weeks, Morgan will stay and Bernadina will go to…

…where he’s competing with Michael Morse and Rick Ankiel. Morse is having a very strong spring and his versatility should nearly assure himself of making the club outright. Some folks have suggested a platoon, but my gut on Riggleman is that he’s no Davey Johnson when it comes to sticking with that arrangement long-term. The fifth OF spot is anyone’s guess, but I wouldn’t award to Ankiel just yet.

It’s early, but the most intriguing case is that for Ross Detwiler, who looked tremendous his last time out against the Braves on Sunday. The general consensus seems to be that the race is for the #5 spot, with Gorzelanny, Maya, and Detwiler battling it out. Chad Gaudin has been given two turns but my gut says “no.”

The competition here is strong, but the sample sizes are small. It wouldn’t surprise me if only one or two pitchers are among the next round of cuts, which would leave the likes of Luis Atilano, Garrett Mock, Atahualpa Severino, and Josh Wilkie as the most likely victims candidates.

Drew Storen is struggling. Some have suggested that his return to Stanford is to blame, which is mean-spirited and probably not true. Newly acquired Todd Coffey has performed well early, as has Sean Burnett and Tyler Clippard. The Nats have a slew of hard-throwing righthanders in camp, including prospects Cole Kimball and Adam Carr. Henry Rodriguez is another but one has to wonder if his visa delay will equal a stint on the DL with a strained uvula or something like that.

Brian Broderick ought to be listed among the candidates for the #5 man, but his status as a Rule 5 pick hurts him, unless the plan is to make him the long man that can start, putting him in a good spot if he’s competing against Chad Gaudin and Craig Stammen for that role. Elvin Ramirez, the other visa-problem guy, has yet to pitch in a major-league spring game, which increases the odds that he’ll be returned to the Mets.

Espinosa Drives In Four In Nats Fish Fry

Espinosa’s line… 3-2-3-4, 2B, HR, HBP

While perhaps misused on defense, there’s no denying the offense of Danny Espinosa, who reached base four times and drove in four runs in an 8-4 romp of the Nats over the Marlins this afternoon in Jupiter.

The 23-year-old singled, doubled, and smacked a two-run HR to raise his spring batting average to .455 and his RBI total to 10, while also turning a double play. He also scored two runs.

Prospects Bryce Harper and Chris Marrero each came off the bench to stroke RBI singles, the fourth and second of the spring respectively, while Steve Lombardozzi popped out in his lone at-bat, the second of the spring. Marrero handled all four defensive chances, while Lombardozzi had none.

Pitchers Ryan Mattheus, Josh Wilkie and Brad Peacock were in the bullpen, but none of them saw game action. Jason Marquis was the starter and threw four scoreless innings, allowing just two hits and one walk while striking out three.

With the win, the Nationals improve to 7-3 for the spring. The squads split tomorrow, with one team returning to Viera to host a split-squad Mets team in the other and another travelling to Kissimmee to visit Houston tomorrow night. There is no radio or TV for the Mets game, while the Astros game will be broadcast by the Houston affiliate KBME and can be accessed via MLB Gameday or XM Radio.

Prospects Prosper In Extras Win

Perez, Carr power 4-3 win vs. Mets

Eury Perez wasted no time making his presence known in his first Spring Training game of 2011, singling in his first at-bat, stealing second, and scoring the go-ahead win as the Nationals defeated the Mets, 4-3 in 10 innings.

Adam Carr got the win, pitching two scoreless innings and allowing just one hit, saving Atahualpa Severino from the loss. Severino surrendered two runs in the bottom of the eighth on two-out, two-run home run by Daniel Murphy and was charged with a blown save.

Chris Marrero got the start at 1B, but went 0-for-3 with a strikeout, lowering his spring average to .400. Marrero committed no errors and participated in a double play. Wilson Ramos was the starting catcher and went 2-for-3 to boost his spring average to .462. The Mets twice stole off him and starting pitcher Jordan Zimmermann, who threw three scoreless innings to start the game.

Other notable prospects…

  • Brian Broderick was the first man out of the bullpen, and allowed one run on two hits over three innings. He walked none and struck out one.
  • Derek Norris came off the bench for Ramos but went 0-for-2 and, as MASN’s Ben Goessling described it: “didn’t completely block the plate, missing a tag on Daniel Murphy after receiving a good throw from Michael Morse.”
  • Steve Lombardozzi went hitless in his lone at-bat, but made four assists and a putout on sac bunt in his four innings on defense.

With the win, the Nats improve to 5-3 and remain on the road to face the Marlins in Jupiter, FL tomorrow afternoon, which will only be covered by the intern working the scoreboard on MLB Gameday.

IFA Update

Tidbits from the Baseball America report on the N.L. East’s International signings

After teasing with a splash last week, Baseball America’s writeup on the 2010 IFAs was, to say the least, underwhelming. As noted in the comments, the 2010 spend was light for a crop that was considered mediocre — an estimated $853,000, which BA ranked as 26th of the 30 teams.
Most of the section focused on Yunesky Maya as well as a rehash of the “Smiley” Gonzalez situation.

Miguel Navarro was listed as the most expensive sign at $120,000 in January 2010, but the 17-year-old floundered with a 8.10 ERA and 21BB in 20 IP in the GCL and is expected to repeat. He’s reported to throw in the low-90s, topping out at 94, and also sports a changeup and curve.

The next player profiled was Narciso Mesa, who signed for $40K and posted a .224/.271/.286 line as a 19-year-old that BA described as “the toolsiest” sign, citing a plus-plus arm and plus-plus speed. His defense is considered improved but still suspect.

Among the players named last month, BA only wrote about two of them:

17-year-old catcher Pedro Severino [signed] for $55,000 in December. A 6-foot-1 righthanded hitter, Severino performed well at the team’s Dominican instructional league, showing the ability to manipulate the bat head and an above-average arm. Arialdo Peguero, a 6-foot-2, 18-year-old Dominican first baseman signed for $70,000 in December, is a good defender with some raw power, though he’s still learning to handle breaking stuff.

As some had noted, it was unusual for Washington to make a big deal of the signings last month, it’s also probable that the move was something of a pre-emptive strike in anticipation of these stores from BA. So kudos to the PR folks because most fans will remember that and not this, but the characterization that the Nationals are lagging behind the pack in terms of an international presence remains a plausible interpretation… if not accusation.

Bryce Harper Doubles Twice, Drives In Two

Nationals pound out 14 runs on 14 hits a day after getting shut out

Bryce Harper came to bat twice in the eighth inning and twice he delivered a double to right field as part of a nine-run eighth as the Washington Nationals defeated the Houston Astros 14-9 this afternoon.

The second double of the inning gave Harper his two RBI and extended the Nationals lead from 11-8 to 13-8. He would attempt to steal third with two outs on the very first pitch to the next batter, coming around to score after a wild pitch and Kevin Barker double. Harper is now batting .308 for the spring.

Other notable prospects…

  • Danny Espinosa once again got the start at second base and went 2-for-5 with 3 RBI and a strikeout.
  • Derek Norris struck out in his lone plate appearance.
  • Yunesky Maya started, but struggled in his 2⅔ innings, allowing a run on a home run (five hits total), walking one and striking out one.
  • Cole Kimball went 2 innings and allowed a hit but struck out three
  • Ryan Mattheus allowed a run on two hits while pitching the ninth inning. He struck out one.

With the win, the Nationals improve to 5-3 and travel to Port St. Lucie tomorrow to face a split-squad Mets team. Brian Broderick, Atahualpa Severino & Adam Carr are expected to pitch in relief.

Nats Flat In Viera

Atlanta limits Washington to just three baserunners in a 5-0 shutout

Former prospect Ross Detwiler will be the talk of an otherwise abysmal game for the Nationals, who were shut out by the Atlanta Braves 5-0 on Sunday. Detwiler struck out five in his three innings of work and allowed one unearned run on one hit, all of which make a strong case for the 25-year-old as the #5 man in the rotation.

Just three Nats reached base — Michael Aubrey on a third-inning walk, Laynce Nix on a fifth-inning single, and Brian Bixler on a ninth-inning single. All three are longshots to make the Opening Day roster.

Danny Espinosa got the start again at second base but went 0-for-3 with strikeouts. Wilson Ramos also started at catcher and went 0-for-2 with a strikeout. Defensively, Espinosa was the key cog in an 8-4-2 relay to gun down Jason Heyward.

Bryce Harper came off the bench and struck the ball well, but his sinking liner to left field was snagged by Martin Prado. Harper fielded both singles hit his way but had no official defensive chances.

With the loss, the Nationals drop to 4-3 for the spring and host the Astros tomorrow.

GBI in Tampa Today

Nats win 10-8 in Tampa despite varied bullpen performances

There were some good, bad, and interesting (GBI)* performances from the ‘pen today, surrendering eight runs in the fourth to blow a 7-0 lead, but also throwing five scoreless innings to enable a 10-8 comeback win against the Yankees in Tampa.
* For the new folks, that’s a regular-season feature in which we pick out folks that are doing well, poorly, or something unexpected. It’s named after comedian Demetri Martin’s segment from his show on Comedy Central

GOOD: Adam Carr setting down the side in order for the save, his first of the spring in as many chances.

BAD: Josh Wilkie allowing both runners he inherited to score along with three more of his own on four hits, including a double and a triple.

INTERESTING: Atahualpa Severino throwing another 1-2-3 inning for his second hold.

All three relievers are generally considered longshots to make the club, so every outing is important for them — especially after three relievers were reassigned yesterday. The “bad” for Wilkie is particularly discomforting because (A) he’s a fan favorite (B) he’s not a hard thrower.

Naturally, the day after Chris Marrero get the lead treatment, he goes 0-for-3 with a strikeout and couldn’t scoop a Ryan Zimmerman throw. But he also turned a 3-6-3 double play, which I cannot recall him ever doing at Potomac. Derek Norris got the start at DH and went 0-for-1, but also drew two walks.

And last, but not least, Bryce Harper once again came off the bench and got his second hit of the spring, an RBI single in the eighth that gave the Nationals an insurance run. In the bottom of that inning, he gunned down Austin Romine trying to stretch a leadoff double into a triple (a cardinal sin, making the first out of an inning at third).

Tomorrow, the Nationals return to Viera to host the Atlanta Braves and the game will be telecast live on MASN. It will also mark the first radio broadcast of the year and a return to FM, as the game will be simulcast on WJFK 106.7FM and WFED 1500AM. For the rest of the spring radio broadcast schedule, click here.

Marrero Making An Impression

The ’06 1st Rounder Is Making Some Noise In Viera

Thanks to NatsNQ, we get a little vicarious visual while the rest of us are peering at the MLB.com GameDay app and our Twitter Feeds to follow the game today, which was a good one until the 9th inning when Atlanta broke open a 3-3 tie with three runs off Drew Storen to go up 6-3, eventually winning 6-4 over the Nationals.

As the headline suggests, what struck me today was the number of tweets mentioning Chris Marrero, who went 2-for-2 with a double to LF and an RBI single to RF, and praising him for more than just his bat. Put down your beverage before you spray your monitor…

Chris Marrero doesn’t look half bad at first base. He’s made a couple nice plays on unassisted grounders.

That’s MASN’s Ben Goessling, who also noted Marrero’s leaner/meaner physique by virtue of seeing a nutritionist this offseason. For the spring, Marrero is a perfect 4-for-4. Sure, it’s early, and it’s just a couple of games, but it’s good news nevertheless.

Other notable prospects…

  • Wilson Ramos got the start at catcher and went 0-for-2 with a strikeout.
  • Danny Espinosa started again at 2B and went 2-for-4 with a double and an RBI. He also helped turn a 4-6-3 DP.
  • Bryce Harper came off the bench and went 0-for-1 with a strikeout. Defensively, he threw out a runner at 2B but also misplayed a ball during the 9th.
  • Brian Broderick was the first man out of the bullpen, throwing two scoreless innings and striking out two while allowing one hit.

With the loss, the Nats fall to 3-2 for the Grapefruit campaign and travel tomorrow to Tampa to face the New York Yankees.

Three Pitchers Reassigned To Minor-League Camp

Martis, Bisenius and Chico sent packing for the minors

A day sooner than expected, the Nationals announced that three pitchers have been sent to minor-league camp…

  • Shairon Martis
  • Matt Chico
  • Joe Bisenius

While Martis and Chico each pitched an inning this week, Bisenius was sent down without any appearances. All three had been removed from the 40-man roster this past offseason. Now they will be presumably battling for a position on the Syracuse staff, which is not necessarily a given with the influx of talent from Harrisburg (e.g. Tom Milone, Ryan Tatusko) and contending relievers such as Adam Carr and Cole Kimball.

Norris Knock Takes A Little Sting Off Mock Getting Rocked

Nats suffer first ST loss

OK, so maybe I’m a day late on the Dr. Seuss peg, but the Nationals were most definitely a dollar short on Thursday, falling to the St. Louis Cardinals 7-5 for their first Spring Training loss in 2011.

Derek Norris’s solo HR in the top of the 8th was the highlight on the prospect front, taking a bit of the sting off an ugly fourth inning that saw Garrett Mock serve give up five runs in two-thirds of an inning on two hits and three walks.

Danny Espinosa’s error helped prolong the five-run fourth, as he started again at 2B and went 1-for-3 with a stolen base. Wilson Ramos was the DH and went 2-for-3 with a runs scored and an RBI.

Other notable prospects…

  • Bryce Harper went 0-for-2, lowering his batting average to .143
  • Jhonatan Solano went 0-for-1 as a pinch-hitter for Ramos.

With the loss, the Nats drop to 3-1 for the spring. They return to Viera for a split-squad game against the Braves tomorrow. Over the weekend, the Nats travel to Tampa to visit the Yankees and then rematch against the Braves on Sunday, which will also be the first MASN telecast. The first round of cuts is expected after Saturday’s game, setting up the possibility for Harper to be sent to minor-league camp.

Speaking of which, minor-league pitchers and catchers are due to report tomorrow while position players are scheduled to report on Tuesday.