By Tom Schad | Associate Reporter
With the myriad injuries that they’ve had this season, the Nationals have frequently had to ship players to and from the Minor Leagues. The team’s decision to option Tyler Moore to Triple-A Syracuse on Sunday night, however, had nothing to do with health.
The 26-year-old first baseman and outfielder is one of the few guys in Washington who hasn’t had injury problems this year. But his problems at the plate, where the Nationals counted on him to be a key contributor off the bench, have been just as concerning.
Moore batted .158 (15-for-94) in 37 games with the Nationals, including just five doubles and two home runs. He was sent down in favor of first baseman Chris Marrero, another slugger who has simply had a better season so far.
“I’m not up here for my defense. I’m up here for my hitting, and I’m not doing it. There’s no excuses,” Moore said on Sunday night. “Stuff wasn’t falling like it usually does. I was striking out too much. I just had to make some adjustments, and I didn’t make them quick enough.”
Manager Davey Johnson said that his plan is to have Moore get regular at-bats at Syracuse and regain his confidence. And nobody understands Johnson’s thinking better than veteran first baseman Adam LaRoche, who has served as a mentor for the 26-year-old as he tries to find his footing.
“That’s the hardest thing, being a younger guy, getting sent down for the first time, it’s hard to see a positive in that,” LaRoche said. “We’ve all known it since he’s been up here that he’s an everyday player for a lot of people. He’s proved that in the minor leagues, what he can do with 500 or 600 at-bats, and he’s in a bad spot here. He just doesn’t get a lot of at-bats. You can’t expect a guy with not a lot of big-league time to be productive off the bench. It’s just too hard.”
“I hate it for him because I love having him in this clubhouse and I love having his bat and the fact that he can play outfield, play first base,” LaRoche continued. “Selfishly, it’d be nice to have him up here but there’s no doubt it’s the best thing for him.”
Nationals left fielder Bryce Harper was ejected in the first inning after striking out against the Pirates at PNC Park on Sunday afternoon.
With two outs, Harper worked the count to 2-2 against left-hander Wandy Rodriguez, who threw a curveball to Harper. It looked like Harper didn’t swing at the pitch, but third-base umpire John Hirschbeck ruled that he did to end the inning. A few second later, Harper was ejected from the game. Harper then slammed his bat to te ground and left the game without incident. Roger Bernadina replaced Harper in the game.
It marked Harper’s second career ejection. The first one came on Aug. 29, 2012 against the Marlins after he slammed his helmet to the ground while trying to beat out a ground ball.
Denard Span — CF
Ian Desmond — SS,
Bryce Harper — LF
Ryan Zimmerman — 3B
Adam LaRoche — 1B
Tyler Moore — RF
Danny Espinosa — 2b
Kurt Suzuki — C
Ross Detwiler — P
Denard Span – CF
Steve Lombardozzi — 3B
Bryce Harper — lF
Jayson Werth — RF
Adam LaRoche — 1B
Ian Desmond – SS
Danny Espinosa — 2B
Kurt Suzuki — C
Gio Gonzalez — P
After watching his team get swept by the Cardinals, Nationals manager Davey Johnson announced that infielder Steve Lombardozzi will start at third base against the Reds on Thursday.
The Nationals are looking for someone who can spark the offense at the top of the lineup. Lombardozzi will most likely hit second, which means Anthony Rendon will sit on the bench and Jayson Werth will move down in the order and hit fifth.
During the three-game series against the Cardinals, the Nationals scored three runs on 17 hits. Washington is now on a six-game losing streak at home.
“I’m going to have to juggle it up and do a few things tomorrow. Change the mind set,” Johnson said. ‘I’m going to get Lombo in the lineup, get him hitting in the top of the order. Move Werth around. He said some things to me after the ballgame. So just shake some things up a little bit. Little different roles.”
Lombarzozzi has been productive coming off the bench this season, going 10-for-29 [.333] with three RBIs. When second baseman Danny Espinosa was out of the lineup because of a hand injury last week, Lombardozzi went 7-for-21 (.333) with three RBIs.
“Lombo is a great player. He has a little bit of stability. He is not a guy that goes out of his comfort zone,” shortstop Ian Desmond said. “He is a very disciplined player. His routine as far as at-bat to at-bat and defensively, he is that sound [player] that we need.”
Werth, was hitting second, agreed with Johnson about putting Lombardozzi near the top of the order.
“He could help jump-start the offense. That’s fine,” Werth said. “I don’t care where I hit. We need to do something to switch it up and get the offense going. We are not manufacturing runs, not getting timely hits. Like I said, things are not going our way. Hopefully, that will help.”
Rendon has struggled since he was promoted to the big leagues on Sunday. After four games, he is 2-for-15 with an RBI. Rendon replaced Ryan Zimmerman, who is on the disabled list because of a hamstring injury.
“Zimmerman is a big part of our lineup. He is right there in the middle. He could hit three or four either way,” Werth said. “That is a guy you are going to miss no matter what. Even without him, our lineup is pretty tough. We have to get by without him for now. It doesn’t seem like he’s too bad, so he’ll be back soon. In the meantime, guys are going to have to step up.”
Bryce Harper is back in the Nationals’ starting lineup for tonight’s series finale against the Marlins. He said he feels much better today than he did yesterday — and he looked like he felt better, too.
Denard Span, on the other hand, wasn’t quite feeling up to starting. Span seemed to be hit a little worse by whatever stomach flu bug affected him and Harper: He reported to Marlins Park early Tuesday afternoon but couldn’t even build up the strength to get out of bed and come back to meet a doctor around 6 p.m., so he just stayed in bed.
Span did say he was feeling better today, though, and manager Davey Johnson said the outfielder could be an option in the later innings tonight if the right situation presents itself.
Danny Espinosa is still on the mend, although not healthy enough to get back on the field for tonight’s game. Espinosa, who fielded a few grounders at second during BP but has yet to take any swings that we know of, has been saying the past few days that he was optimistic he could return today and that he’ll be back Friday “at the latest.”
Johnson was not as optimistic about Espinosa’s chances of coming back Friday, giving the second baseman a “50-50″ chance to return for the Nationals’ series opener against the Mets.
As for tonight’s lineups…
LHP Ross Detwiler
LF Juan Pierre
2B Donovan Solano
3B Placido Polanco
CF Justin Ruggiano
1B Greg Dobbs
RF Austin Kearns
C Miguel Olivo
SS Chris Valaika
RHP Ricky Nolasco
On Monday, Nationals manager Davey Johnson sat first baseman Adam LaRoche in order to get Tyler Moore some playing time. Bryce Harper and Denard Span won’t be starting Tuesday night, but for a different reason.
Johnson said Harper and Span were both “very sick” with a stomach flu Monday night –they can’t keep any food down, feel dehydrated and were up much of the night.
Both were scheduled to see a doctor at 6 p.m. at Marlins Park. Harper showed up late Tuesday afternoon, and Span was sent back to the hotel to rest after reporting earlier this afternoon.
“They’re going to see the doctor here at 6 but definitely not available to go. I saw Span here earlier, and he looked like he needed to go back to bed,” Johnson said. “Hopefully they’ll have a quick recovery.
“I know it’s been going around DC, same thing. I hope it’s just a 24-hour flu, but with some guys it hangs on for two or three days.”
So, with Harper and Span out and Danny Espinosa still getting treatment for his bruised forearm, the Nats will head into Tuesday night’s game with a two-man bench: Chad Tracy and Jhonathan Solano.
And who’s going to man the outfield if something happens to Tyler Moore, Roger Bernadina or Jayson Werth? Well, let’s just say Davey sparked quite a debate among the relievers in the clubhouse before the game.
“It was just a conversation that didn’t bear a lot of fruit,” the manager said.
As for the starting lineups…
CF Roger Bernadina
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam LaRoche
SS Ian Desmond
LF Tyler Moore
2B Steve Lombardozzi
C Kurt Suzuki
RHP Dan Haren
LF Juan Pierre
3B Placido Polanco
1B Greg Dobbs
CF Justin Ruggiano
C Rob Brantly
SS Adeiny Hechavarria
2B Donovan Solano
RHP Alex Sanabia
After eight years with the Rays, outfielder B.J. Upton signed a five-year, $75 million deal with the Braves this past offseason. So far, Upton is off to a slow start, going 3-for-29 with just an RBI entering Friday’s action. However, his teammate, brother Justin Upton, is red hot, hitting .353 with a league-leading six home runs.
MLB.com caught up with B.J. on Friday to talk about the Braves, Justin and the Nationals.
MLB.com: How good are the Braves this year?
B.J. Upton: We can be very good. We have all the right pieces. We have the pitching, we have the bullpen. We have the lineup to do it. We have the bench players to do it. We have to keep doing what we are doing. The biggest thing for us: we are playing well, but we haven’t clicked on all cylinders yet.
MLB.com: How do you explain the fast start? The Braves lost only one game.
Upton: I don’t know. We are getting timely hits. Our pitching has been keeping us in ballgames. We are just hitting the ball when we need to right now. Obviously, we would like to do it a little bit more consistently, but it’s still early. We have a lot of season left.
MLB.com: How good is it to see your brother, Justin, get off to a hot start?
Upton: It’s something that is pretty cool to watch. Obviously, what happened during the offseason and the rumors that were rumbling around, it could have affected him. [Those rumors] haven’t affected him. For the most part, he has been carrying us. He has been doing pretty well right now.
MLB.com: How much has your presence helped him?
Upton: I don’t know. I can’t say he wouldn’t be doing this without me here. I’ve seen him do it in the past. … He is a strong-minded guy, he works hard and he strives for perfection. Obviously, you are not going to be perfect in this game. If you expect that out of yourself, you are going to get the results that you want.
MLB.com: What do you think of the Nationals? How much of a factor will they be in the National League East race?
Upton: They are a great team. Obviously, they showed it last year. They didn’t lose anybody and they have some guys back healthy. Like I said, they are a great ballclub and we know they are going to be around all season.
MLB.com: I know you are from Virginia. After you became a free agent, did you think about playing for the Nationals?
Upton: That was always a possibility. It didn’t work out that way. I’m an Atlanta Brave. I’m looking forward to playing baseball with these guys.
MLB.com: Did you ever think about playing on the same big-league team as Ryan Zimmerman?
Upton: We would like to do it. But sometimes, things don’t work out. We are always going to support each other. Maybe not as much in the series when we play each other. But we are always going to support each other. I wish him the best. We’ve always been good friends. We get together during the offseason as much as we can. I know he comes to Florida every once in a while. We get out and have some dinner. I’m always supporting him and he is always supporting me.
MLB.com: You spent most of your career with the Rays. Do you miss them?
Upton: Obviously, being with them for 10 years, there are some things that I miss, but it’s baseball. Obviously, there are some guys who stay with one franchise their entire careers. But I think to be at one place for 10 years is pretty good. I will always have a place in my heart for them and I’m always rooting for those guys because they gave me an opportunity to be where I am today. I wish them nothing but the best.
MLB.com: What do you miss about the city of Tampa?
Upton: I still live there during the offseason. I can’t really say I miss it because I’m there all the time. When I’m not in Atlanta, I’ll be in Tampa. The people and the city of Tampa, it’s a great place to live. They are friendly people, it’s a great place to start a family. For me, I like to play golf. It’s a great place to play golf. It such a great place to be. The weather is beautiful all year round. I feel comfortable there. I lived there the last eight years. Obviously home is Virginia, but if there is a home away from home, Tampa is it. I plan on settling there.
Justin Upton — RF
Evan Gattis — 1B
B.J. Upton– CF
Chris Johnson — 3B
Julio Teheran — P
Ryan Zimmerman– 3B
Danny Espinosa– 2B,
Ross Detwiler— P