Nats Take Grapefruit Opener, 5-4

Kila Ka’aiue’s two-run homer in the 7th capped complete a comeback from a 4-0 deficit as the Nationals edged the Mets, 5-4 in the 2015 Grapefruit League opener.

Max Scherzer made his Washington debut with two innings pitched, with one run allowed on a solo shot in the 2nd and two hits total while fanning two. The win went to Xavier “Carry On” Cedeno, as the optionless southpaw turned in a scoreless 7th. Northpaw Blake Treinen got the save with 1-2-3 ninth.

Here’s a rundown on how the minor-leaguers fared…
• Derrick Robinson took over for CF Denard Span and went 1-for-3 and an RBI
• Matt Skole subsituted for Anthony Rendon at 3B but was 0-for-2 with 2K
• Clint Robinson followed Bryce Harper in RF and singled twice in three ABs
• Ka’aiue also walked to finish 1-for-2 while manning 1B in place Ryan Zimmerman
• Dan Butler took over behind the plate for Wilson Ramos but was 0-for-2 and a whiff
• Pedro Severino caught the 9th but had no defensive chances
• Emmanuel Burriss subbed for SS Ian Desmond and went 0-for-2 with a strikeout
• Mike Carp and his beard were the DH and reached base twice with a single and a HBP
• Ian Stewart walked as a pinch-hitter for Carp and later singled as the DH
• Jeff Kobernus pinch-ran for LF Tyler Moore, who doubled twice, and finished 1-for-2 and a K
• Wilmer Difo pinch-ran for 2B Kevin Frandsen and reached base twice with a single and a walk
• Rafael Martin retired all three batters he faced in the 4th, catching Matt ven Dekker looking to finish the frame
• Heath Bell did his best imitation of Nuke LaLoosh with two walks and three strikeouts in a scoreless 5th

Washington hits the road today to take on Atlanta at the House of Mouse Spring Training Facility in Orlando. Jordan Zimmermann is expected to make the start. The game can be heard on MLB Radio.

Let The Games Begin

The impending snowstorm — which will undoubtedly cancel school tomorrow as well as today — begs to differ, but the 2015 campaign begins tonight as the Nationals host the Mets in Viera.

We’re done with the eyewash that is the first two weeks after pitchers and catchers report. In many ways, social media has made what we do easier, if not possible. It can enhance the experience of being a fan.

But it comes along with stuff like this and this. However, it also enables folks to mock Washington’s current manager (pic to the right), so I guess it’s not all bad 😉

As I wrote last month, spring training coverage this year will be focused on determining what can be done in the time I now have available. If we’re honest and objective, we already know that the odds of a minor-leaguer breaking camp is extremely low, if the slew of non-roster invites wasn’t already a clue.

In the meantime, as the headline says… Let The Games Begin.

Nationals Unveil “Accelerated Camp” Roster

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For the minors fans, the news is sparse this time of year, but thanks to MASN’s Byron Kerr, we can at least discuss the annual list of minor-leaguers who’ve been asked to come to camp early, a.k.a. “accelerated camp.”

This is the analog to the Fall Instrux, as prospects are given extra time for instruction and rehabbing players can be monitored. And, of course, it’s a chance for the coaches to make sure everyone’s moving in the right direction.

As much as you might want to draw inferences from who’s been selected and who hasn’t, you really can’t, beyond what’s usually true: almost all of these guys are on the latest watchlist…

PITCHERS CATCHERS INFIELDERS OUTFIELDERS
Dakota Bacus Cole Leonida Osvaldo Abreu Isaac Ballou
Joan Baez Raudy Read Chris Bostick Rafael Bautista
James Bourque Jakson Reetz Austin Davidson D.K. Carey
Abel de los Santos Jorge Tillero Anderson Franco Jeff Gardner
Robbie Dickey Cody Gunter Derrick Robinson
Ian Dickson Kelvin Gutierrez Victor Robles
Paolo Espino Mario Lisson Drew Vettleson
Erick Fedde Edwin Lora
Lucas Giolito Jose Marmolejos-Diaz
Jake Johansen David Masters
Nick Lee Stephen Perez
Reynaldo Lopez Shawn Pleffner
Anderson Martinez Tony Renda
Ronald Pena Drew Ward
Nick Pivetta
Brian Rauh
Luis Reyes
Jefry Rodriguez
Joe Ross
Hector Silvestre
John Simms
Matthew Spann
Wander Suero
Kylin Turnbull
Austin Voth
Austen Williams


Unlike past years, there aren’t really any unfamiliar names for regulars of this site. Maybe Mario Lisson or Derrick Robinson if you missed when the Nats signed them in December and January respectively.

The presence of some veteran names removes some doubt as to who will be back in 2015, though looking over previous rosters you can always spot one or two names that haven’t been seen much since.

Until the next time — or the games begin…

2015 Spring Training Thoughts

Pitchers and catchers report next week, but I think it’s safe to say that we’re like Tampa Bay pitcher’s Kirby Yates’s bulldog* — ready to go, but not all that excited.
* Well, maybe not; the guy lives in Lihue, Hawaii.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m talking about the prospect perspective. Fans of the big club have every reason to be thrilled because the Nationals are World Series contenders.

Sure, there are worries about things like health (Jayson Werth), adjusting to a new position (Ryan Zimmerman), fears of regression (Tanner Roark), an uninspiring bench (Kevin Frandsen), etc., but we’ve seen time and time again that the current GM and manager will give preference to the veteran over the younger player.

Of course, I’d love to be wrong. It would be exciting to see Michael Taylor in right field to cover for Werth if he’s not ready by Opening Day or Matt Grace becoming the third lefty out of the ‘pen. But it’s more realistic to expect Nate McLouth or Frandsen in the case of the former and Xavier “Carry On” Cedeno in the case of the latter.

In fact, there’s arguably more drama about where next year’s spring training will be or perhaps how that will affect the GCL in the future (lots of angles there; not surprised no one has written that story yet, given that’s it not a done deal yet).

The lack of a prospect angle does, however, dovetail nicely with my change in direction for the site. For the last three springs, I’ve been writing less and stopping coverage sooner than the year before. That’s obviously going to continue.

I’ll still use it to get back into the rhythm and flow of writing more often than I have been, but the new focus will learning what I can do in the time I now have available, then figuring out how to approach the regular season.

Aaron Barrett Makes The Opening Day Roster

Scenes From Scottsdale 6
The best slider in the Nationals organization just found a home in D.C.

Along with today’s cuts (Chris Young, Jamey Carroll) and options (Tyler Moore, Ryan Mattheus, and Xavier Cedeno) the Nationals announced that RHP Aaron Barrett will make the Washington Nationals Opening Day roster. Barrett, who was added to the 40-man last November, was considered a dark horse candidate to make the ‘pen but ultimately ticketed for Syracuse.

Instead, he got a couple of breaks (Mattheus injury, for one) and he simply just kept getting guys out. In nine appearances, the 26-year-old allowed just five hits, no walks, and fanned seven in nine appearances totaling 9⅔ innings.

It’s quite the journey for the 2010 ninth-round pick, who nearly flamed out in his first professional year, as chronicled last month by WaPo’s Adam Kilgore, when he posted 0-5 record with a 9.43 ERA in 10 appearances (four starts) while walking 22 in 21 innings (and striking out 25).

After repeating the SS-A level in 2011 with better but not stellar numbers, Barrett put together a career year in 2012. He went from Low-A at the beginning of season to the AFL at the end, spending just six weeks at High-A in between. He got another bump in 2013 and finished second in the Eastern League with 26 saves while striking out 69 in 50⅓ innings.

It remains to be seen whether this is a temporary move (i.e. until Mattheus gets more innings and back into form) but that should not diminish the achievement. Since this site has a fan component, I think I’m allowed to write “Congratulations.”

Shifting Gears

Shifting-GearsWith the Nationals optioning of four players to Syracuse and reassigning three more to minor-league camp, that’s my sign that it’s time to shift gears away from spring training coverage.

This is not to state that I won’t be watching with some interest to see if one of “our guys” will buck the odds and make the Opening Day roster for the final spot on the bench or the last reliever out of ‘pen. I just won’t necessarily be writing every day unless there’s a strong minor-league angle to it.

So we’re back to the offseason mode, but instead of months to while away, it’s just a couple of weeks. “Our” opening day is April 3rd, with the Chiefs and Suns opening at home, and the Sens and P-Nats opening on the road. The daily “News & Notes” begin the following day, with the goal of giving you a summary and highlights from the games with a little style and a little snark.

Potomac — where I’m a season-ticket holder — starts on the 8th, and with it, comes game coverage via “Last Night In Woodbridge.”
Later on in April, “Good, Bad, Interesting” returns — the weekly feature that lists the highs and lows and the unexpected for each affiliate.

So hold on, spring has begun (officially today) and the 2014 season is almost here.

Nats Drop To .500 For The Spring With 2-0 Loss To Astros

It’s tough to top perfect, which is what Houston Jared Cosart was for five innings as the Astros blanked the Nationals, 2-0. The loss drops Washington to .500 with mark of 10-10-1.

Taylor Jordan was losing pitcher, giving up a run on three hits and a walk over five innings while striking out five. Tyler Clippard was charged with the second run on a home run in the 8th. Ross Detwiler, Rafael Soriano, and Ross Ohlendorf each turned in a scorless inning in relief.

Anthony Rendon broke up the perfecto with one outs in the 6th and advanced to third after a two-out Denard Span single and an Ian Desmond walk. Ryan Zimmerman left ’em loaded with a flyout to right field.

In the 7th, the Nats were also a safety away from tying the game after singles by Jayson Werth and Wilson Ramos but neither Adam LaRoche nor Rendon get the equalizer.

The offense flailed for five straight K’s from the 8th through the 9th, a streak that included Zach Walters and Jeff Kobernus, who entered the game on defense at 3B and CF respectively.

Brock Peterson notched the fifth and final Washington hit with two out in the 9th before Sandy Leon ended it with foul pop.

Day baseball returns tomorrow with a visit to Jupiter for the Nationals. The Nationals confirmed after the game that tomorrow’s starter — Stephen Strasburg — will indeed be the Opening Day starter in New York, shocking nobody but MASN commenters.

Scenes From Spring Training

Yesterday was the first scheduled off day of the spring and the next game isn’t until tonight. I debated whether or not to pull the plug on ST coverage with the last set of cuts, but have decided to stick around for a little while longer. There’s still some drama as to whether or not a couple of our guys will make the team, as Adam Kilgore aptly noted yesterday with Aaron Barrett, Zach Walters, and Jeff Kobernus.

In the meantime, let me run some photos, courtesy of our intrepid volunteer Springfield Fan to give folks a taste of what Mother Nature can’t quite decide to let us see ’round these parts.

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Nats Rained Out In Lakeland; Next Set Of Cuts; Hill Traded For PTBNL

Rained-Out-2014The Nats got an extra day off (well, kind of) just before the one official off day in spring training with a rainout of the Nationals-Tigers game in Lakeland.

In a related story, the Nationals announced that Ross Detwiler has been dropped from the battle for the 5th starter’s spot and will being the season in the bullpen. As noted on Twitter, the logical deduction is that Sammy Solis will remain a starter.

Sure enough, within an hour or so, the Nats announced that Eury Perez and Steve Souza were optioned to Syracuse, Solis was optioned to Harrisburg, while Brian Goodwin, Mike Fontenot, and Koyie Hill were reassigned to minor-league camp.

While searching for the appropriate bulldog pic this post was being written, MLB.com’s Bill Ladson reported that Hill was subsequently traded to the Phillies for a PTBNL or cash. Two days ago, the Nationals made a similar deal with the Royals for journeyman IF Brandon Laird.

While there may or may not be a relationship between those two trades, one could also infer that Chicago may be edging towards making a decision on Rule 5 pick Adrian Nieto. Yesterday, Tyler Flowers was named the starting catcher for the White Sox, thus, the battle for who will back him up has been whittled down by one and there are rumors that Chicago is interested in Yankee backup Francisco Cervelli. Therefore, the trade of Hill may be a signal that Nieto is returning to the organization, which is not a particularly clairvoyant observation as Rule 5 position players are far less likely to “stick” than Rule 5 pitchers.

Nats Split One-Run Games vs. Tigers, at Astros

Split Doubleheader
The Nationals split their third and final doubleheader of the 2014 spring, losing to the Tigers, 2-1 while edging the Astros, 4-3.

In Viera, Jordan Zimmermann let up a 1st-inning run then turned in three scoreless in his fourth spring outing, allowing four hits total, hitting a batter, walking a batter, and striking out three. Sammy Solis followed with two no-hit innings, ending a two-week hiatus due to back problems. He walked just one while fanning none. The loss went to Michael Gonzalez, who gave up a run in the 8th on two hits and a walk.

At Kissimmee, Gio Gonzalez pitched into the 5th, allowing a run on three hits and a walk while setting down four on strikes, which earned him the win by ST scoring. Rafael Soriano followed with the tying runs on base and stranded them. The save went to Manny Delcarmen, who pitched the final two frames while striking out two (both in the 9th).

Here’s a rundown of how the notable minor-leaguers did this afternoon:

VIERA
• Eury Perez subbed in CF and went 0-for-1
• Justin Bloxom subbed at 1B and went 0-for-1
• Drew Vettleson subbed in RF and went 0-for-1
• Caleb Ramsey subbed in LF and went 0-for-1 with a strikeout
• Jeff Kobernus started at 2B and went 0-for-2 with walk, run, and a stolen base
• Blake Treinen pitched a 1-2-3 ninth with a K

KISSIMMEE
• Cutter Dykstra subbed at 2B and went 0-for-1 with a strikeout
• Stephen Perez subbed at SS and went 0-for-2
• Randolph Oduber pinch-hit for the DH and struck out in his only AB
• Isaac Ballou subbed in LF and went 0-for-2
• Zach Walters started at 3B and went 0-for-5 with three K’s
• Sandy Leon started at C and went 1-for-3
• Steve Souza started in RF and went 3-for-3 with two solo HRs, a triple, and three RBIs
• Brian Goodwin started in CF and went 2-for-3 with a triple and an RBI single

The Nats rematch against the Tigers in Lakeland as a full squad. Tanner Roark is slated to start. The game can be heard on MLB radio.