Nats Triple Up Rays, 6-2 in Grapefruit League Opener

Scott Sizemore’s three-run blast in the 6th broke open a 2-1 game as the Nats tripled up the Rays, 6-2 in the 2016 Grapefruit League opener.

As is custom in spring-training road games, few regulars made the bus trip. Tanner Roark got the start and turned in two scoreless innings, allowing a hit and a walk and while fanning three.

The win went to Rafael Martin for pitching a scoreless 5th while the hold went to Sammy Solis (1-2-3 sixth) and the save went to Erik Davis, who came on in the 9th with two men on base and retired the only batter he faced on a 4-3 groundout.

Here’s a rundown of how the watchlist minor-leaguers fared:

  • Trea Turner went 0-for-2 with a strikeout as he led off and played SS
  • Wilmer Difo singled and scored a run but also committed two errors
  • Christopher Bostick went 1-for-3 with an RBI
  • Likewise for Matt Skole
  • Pedro Severino replaced Jose Lobaton as catcher and went 0-for-2
  • Spencer Kieboom batted 9th as the DH but struck out in both plate appearances
  • Matt Grace let up two hits in the 7th but let in neither
  • Austin Voth followed and allowed two hits and a walk but also struck out three

Washington makes its Viera debut today against the New York Mets with Max Scherzer expected to start. The game can be heard on MLB audio with the away feed (sorry, it’s another week until Charlie and Dave, but it’s still better than FP).

Let the Games Begin

And not a moment too soon.

It’s a certainly a different dynamic than a year ago. Expectations are much lower, but the managerial talent is much, much higher.

Like Matt Williams as a manager, we don’t belong here – spring training is for the big boys and the big club, even if the team’s undisputed No. 1 prospect is in the clubhouse (and he brought treats, too).

But we’ll pretend we do for about three weeks so I can re-establish my routine and have something to write about nearly every morning as opposed to once or twice a week.

It starts this afternoon with a road game against Tampa Bay with audio coverage via MLB.com webcast.

2016 Spring Training Thoughts

Bulldog-Hates-SnowIt’s hard to imagine with the ice and snow we’ve been having lately, but pitchers and catchers do report to Viera on Friday. Allegedly.

And, according to some dispatches, it’s the last one at Space Coast stadium. So we’ve got one more year of beat writers bitching about Panera.

Yesterday, we got the news as to who the non-roster invites will be, though more than a few outlets chose to highlight Lucas Giolito.

While it would be quite a story if Giolito were to break camp with the big club, what may be more likely is top position prospect Trea Turner being handed the starting shortstop job. Of course, the presence of multiple veteran options gives cover to the Nationals if they decide to send one or both back to the minors to delay the arbitration clock for more seasoning.

Aside from those two, it would appear that it’s the usual drama for prospects/minor-leaguers: Who, if anyone, might surprise us and become the 12th man in the ‘pen or the last bat off the bench? Injuries forced an awful lot of promotions last year, but if everyone’s healthy, then could the opposite occur? Could we see Michael Taylor or Matt den Dekker sent down “so they can play everyday?”

I’ll freely admit that spring training coverage on this site is self-serving and specious, at least now that the Nationals are playoff contenders. It’s an excuse to get back into the habit of writing every morning in preparation for the minors’ regular season, which begins in (ugh) seven weeks.

And with that, I have to call it a day and get to work…

Nats Back At .500, Day Off Tomorrow; More Cuts

The Nats rallied for three in the bottom of the 7th to overcome a 6-4 deficit and held on for 7-6 win that brings Washington’s 2015 spring record to .500 at 9-9-3.

Doug Fister was dinged for four runs on seven hits, including two home runs as he pitched four and a 1/3rd innings in his fourth Grapefruit League start.

Drew Ward made his first major-league spring start and singled in his first at-bat to load the bases, pushing along Michael Taylor and Clint Robinson who had drawn one-out walks in the second. Ward would finish 1-for-2 while Taylor singled and scored in the 4th to go 1-for-3 on the day.

Among the notable minor-leaguers to appear off the bench:

  • Tony Renda entered the game in the 6th as the 2B and went 0-for-2 in place of Ward in the lineup.
  • Stephen Perez pinch-ran for SS Ian Desmond, scored in the 7th and took over shortstop duties in the 8th.
  • Likewise for Drew Vettleson for RF Bryce Harper.
  • And the same Matt Skole for 1B Ryan Zimmerman.
  • Cutter Dykstra flew out to RF as a pinch-hitter in the 7th.
  • D.K. Carey replaced Taylor in CF but did not come to bat.

Following the game, the Nationals optioned RHP Taylor Jordan to AAA while reassigning 1B-3B Matt Skole and RHP Evan Meek to minor-league camp. RHP Heath Bell, who earned a save for closing out the game with a 1-2-3 ninth, was released.

Nats Homer Early, Tigers Homer Last For 7-7 Tie

The Nats used the longball to score in five straight innings to build a 6-2 lead but the ‘pen gave it away with two in the 7th, and solo HRs in the 8th and 9th innings for a 7-7 tie.

A.J. Cole stepped in for Stephen Strasburg and shut down Detroit on the first turn through the lineup but was dinged for his fourth HR in four appearances with the big club, finishing with two runs allowed on the one hit and two walks with five strikeouts over three and 2/3rds.

Tanner Roark turned in his second clean outing in relief of Cole, getting the last out of the 4th and pitching around a pair of singles in the 5th.

Michael Taylor homered twice off Tiger ace Justin Verlander to lead off the 3rd and 5th innings and finished the afternoon at 2-for-3, which raised his spring batting average to .324 (11-for-34).

Out-of-options Sandy Leon also started and went 1-for-3 with an RBI. In ten appearances, he’s 6-for-19 with three RBI.

Coming off the bench were…

…Delta Cleary Jr., who struck out in his lone at-bat as Taylor’s replacement.
…Cutter Dykstra, who subbed for Dan Uggla at 2B and was 0-for-1.
…Randolph Oduber, who pinch-ran for Tyler Moore and scored and later singled and scored a second run.
…Matt Skole, who pinch-ran for Ian Stewart and drove in Oduber with an 8th-inning single. He was later caught stealing to end the 8th.
…Spencer Kieboom, who followed Leon and was 0-for-1.

The Nats return to Viera tomorrow to host the Yankees. The game will be broadcast live on MASN and on the radio at 1580 and 1500 AM.

Nats Split Spring Training Doubleheader

Split Doubleheader
The hometown fans left the park happy today, as the Nats doubled up the Marlins, 4-2 in Viera while the Braves followed the Disney fun mandate with a 5-2 triumph in Orlando.

At Space Coast, the Nats scored all four in the 3rd inning as Wilson Ramos plated two with a one-out single, then Dan Uggla homered to erase an early 1-0 deficit. Jordan Zimmermann went five innings total in his fourth spring start, scattering eight hits while walking none and fanning four.

The Marlins got their final run in the 9th off Rafael Martin, who issued a one-out walk and gave up a two-out double, but was credited with the save.

At Champion Stadium, a 2-0 lead vanished when journeyman reliever Evan Meek allowed the first five runners to reach base in the 4th and three of them came around to score. Taylor Jordan got the start and allowed just a hit and a walk over three innings.

Michael Taylor got the start in CF for the visiting Nats and went 2-for-3 with a run scored.

Here’s a rundown of how the notable minor-leaguers fared in Viera:

  • Kevin Keyes subbed for Bryce Harper in RF and was 0-for-1 with a strikeout.
  • Shawn Pleffner followed Ryan Zimmerman at 1B and struck out in his lone at-bat.
  • Chris Bostick took over at 2B from Uggla and singled in the 8th inning.
  • John Wooten subbed for Danny Espinosa at 3B and was 0-for-1.
  • Cutter Dykstra grounded out to first as a pinch-hitter.

And in Orlando:

  • Rafael Bautista followed Taylor in CF and went 0-for-1 with a whiff.
  • Matt Skole was 0-for-1 in relief of Mike Carp at 1B.
  • Tony Renda went 0-for-1 as the sub for 2B Kevin Frandsen.
  • Sandy Leon was 0-for-1 as the replacement for C Jose Lobaton.
  • Drew Vettleson drew a walk as the second RF, following Clint Robinson.

The Nats make their second trip to Lakeland to visit the Tigers, with A.J. Cole getting the start in place of Stephen Strasburg. The game can be heard locally on 1580AM.

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In the latest transaction report from Baseball America, we learned that RHPs Richie Mirowski and Melvi Salazar joined Jeff Kobernus on the list of released players over the past few days. Mirowski was a 45th Rd. pick in 2011 and came into the 2014 season with much promise after a strong AFL campaign in the fall of 2013, but struggled in his second go ’round in AA, posting a 6.23 ERA in 10 appearances before dropping down to Potomac. Salazar, who turned 20 in December, hit the wall in the GCL with 25 baserunners allowed in 15⅓ innings. In 2013, he had been 4-0 with 13 saves and a 0.98 ERA in his second DSL season.

Nats Ride Four-Run 1st To 7-5 Win

Washington scored four times in the 1st and withstood a pair of late rallies by Houston to win, 7-5. Starting pitcher Max Scherzer was dinged for a solo HR but gave up just three hits total in his five innings of work to earn the win. He struck out six and walked none.

With the 25-man candidates playing longer, the Nats gave most of the veterAAAAn reserves time off the bench in preparation for the second and final split-squad doubleheader tomorrow. Just three watchlist players appeared in this afternoon’s game:

  • Cutter Dykstra, who was 0-for-2 with a strikeout while playing 2B in place of Dan Uggla
  • Sandy Leon singled twice in two ABs while subbing for C Jose Lobaton
  • Matt Skole struck out as a pinch-hitter for Scherzer

As aforementioned, the Nats will host the Marlins while sending a second team to the House of Mouse to visit the Braves. The Viera game will be broadcast locally on 1580 AM while the Orlando contest can be heard on MLB Radio.

Nats, Tigers Play To 0-0 Tie; More Cuts

The Nats managed just five hits over 10 innings on offense while their pitchers gave up just seven to play the visiting Tigers to a ten-inning, 0-0 tie, the second of the spring for Washington.

Gio Gonzalez spun four innings of two-hit ball, walking one and striking out five in his third outing. Matt Grace and Rafael Martin were among the quintet of relievers to combine for the extra-innings shutout, with Grace pitching the 9th and Martin the 10th.

Despite his 0.00 spring ERA, Grace was optioned to Syracuse along with C Dan Butler while IF Wilmer Difo was optioned to Potomac after the game as the Nats continue to make roster cuts in small slices.

Michael Taylor struck out four times in four at-bats to lower his average to .250 and increase his K mark to 11 in 28 AB’s. Meanwhile, Tony Gwynn Jr. went 1-for-2 while playing LF.

Washington visits Houston tomorrow, a game which will be televised on MLB Network.

Marlins Stop Streaking Nats, 5-4

Three in a row was too much to hope for as the Marlins rallied for two in the last of 8th to break a 3-3 tie and held on for a 5-4 win against the Nats.

Blake Treinen was unable to work around Cutter Dykstra’s error, which rendered both runs unearned though Treinen was dinged for three hits to take the loss. Treinen struck out two and walked none.

Doug Fister was strafed for six hits over his four innings of work and allowed two runs, no walks, and struck out one in his third spring outing.

Michael Taylor returned to the starting lineup and was 1-for-3 with a single and a stolen base while playing CF. The notable minor-leaguers to come off the bench included…
• Wilmer Difo, who subbed for Dan Uggla at 2B and was 0-for-1.
• Matt Skole, who homered in the 9th in place of Ryan Zimmerman at 1B.
• Dykstra was 0-for-1 in relief of Ian Stewart at 3B.
• Sandy Leon took over behind the plate for Jose Lobaton and went 0-for-1.

Prior to the game, RHP A.J. Cole was optioned to Syracuse as the Nats continue to make cuts in small drib and drabs, including the release of IF-OF Jeff Kobernus yesterday.

The Nats return to Viera tomorrow to host the Tigers. The game can be heard on MLB Radio and locally on 1580 AM.

Nats Win Again, 6-4

The offense churned out 10 hits and the bullpen survived a late charge as the Nats defeated the Tigers, 6-4 to win consecutive games for just the third time this spring.

Stephen Strasburg struck out five over four scoreless innings to get the “W.” The 26-y.o. gave up three hits and no walks while lowering his spring ERA to 3.18.

A.J. Cole went the next three frames but gave up his third HR in as many appearances. He finished with one run allowed on two hits and no walks and struck out his first two batters of the spring.

Matt Skole was the sole (hey, that rhymes!) prospect to start, going 1-for-3 with an RBI and a strikeout while playing third base. The following players were among the notable minor-leaguers to come off the bench:
• Wilmer Difo subbed for Ian Desmond at SS and drove in a run with a sacrifice fly in the 7th. He was 0-for-1 overall.
• Isaac Ballou followed Bryce Harper in RF but was 0-for-1.
• Cutter Dykstra scored as a PR on Difo’s flyball in the 7th and went 0-for-1 in relief of 2B Kevin Frandsen.

Yesteday, the Nats sent southpaws Felipe Rivero and Sammy Solis and outfielder Brian Goodwin to minor-league camp. The next major cuts will most likely come after Saturday’s split-squad games.

The Nats stay on the road tomorrow with a trip to Jupiter, FL to face the Marlins. The game can be heard on MLB Radio.