June 2009

Scott Olsen will get one more rehab start

Don’t look for Nationals left-hander Scott Olsen to return to the big leagues anytime soon.  On Friday, Olsen was hit hard during a rehab start for Triple-A Syracuse, giving up five runs — four earned — in 3 2/3 innings against Columbus. 

The Nationals said all along that Olsen would not come back to the big leagues unless he pitched at least five innings in a game. He has yet to reach that goal in three rehab starts. While his velocity is fine, Olsen needs to fix his mechanics.

“The ball came out of his hand good and the velocity was good. He was just [all over the place in the strike zone],” acting general manager Mike Rizzo said. “We want to get his mechanics back where they were, so when he comes up here, he can hit the ground running and we don’t have to baby him.”      

Olsen will pitch on June 24 against Scranton Wilkes-Barre. If Olsen pitches well, the Nationals have to decide which pitcher in their rotation will be sent down to Syracuse. Right-hander Craig Stammen and left-hander Ross Detwiler are the leading candidate to do down.
The club’s plan is to be cautious with their arms and shut them down in early September.  

Willingham happy to be back with Nationals

Outfielder Josh Willingham returned to the Nationals on Saturday after spending seven days with his family in Alabama. The Willinghams were mouring the death of Josh’s younger brother, Jon, who passed away in a car accident last week. 

Willingham said he could play right away, but manager Manny Acta is concerned about Willingham’s conditioning after missing seven days. For the next two days, at least, Willingham will come off the bench. Once he is ready, Willingham will be the everyday right fielder, while Austin Kearns becomes a reserve. Entering Saturday’s action, Willingham is hitting .246 with nine home runs and 12 RBIs. 

“As we know, Josh wasn’t doing any baseball activities over there, so he is going to hit and do some baseball activities today,” Acta said. “If there is a chance, we’ll probably pinch-hit him if he feels that he could do it. It’s going to take a day or two before he can be out there playing for us.”

The media wasn’t allowed to ask Willingham about his brother, but he said it’s therapeutic to be back with the team.

“It’s good to have people — familiar faces and friends — you care about and you care about them. They are hurting with you.” Willingham said.              

Saturday's lineup against Blue Jays

Cristian Guzman – SS

Nick Johnson – 1B

Ryan Zimmerman – 3B

Adam Dunn – LF

Elijah Dukes – RF

Alberto Gonzalez – 2B

Willie Harris – CF

Wil Nieves – C

Ross Detwiler – P

 

 

Olsen hit hard in rehab start

Don’t look for Nationals left-hander Scott Olsen to return to the big leagues anytime soon.  On Friday, Olsen was hit hard during a rehab start for Triple-A Syracuse, giving up five runs — four earned — in 3 2/3 innings against Columbus. 

The Nationals said all along that Olsen would not come back to the big leagues unless he pitched five innings in a game. He has yet to reach that goal in three rehab starts.                              

Acta not willing to sacrifice offense for defense right now

The reason the Nationals won two games against the Yankees this week was because manager Manny Acta sacrificed hitting for defense.

For example, instead of playing Adam Dunn and Elijah Dukes in the outfield on Thursday, Acta inserted Willie Harris and Austin Kearns into the lineup. Harris and Kearns made great plays to snuff out Yankee rallies.

Now that Washington is back at Nationals Park, Acta is unwilling to sacrifice offense for defense, so one can expect to see Dunn and Dukes back in the outfield. Acta pointed out that the team needs to score runs to win games.

“We haven’t been scoring runs as of late,” Acta said. “The offense hasn’t been the same offense that we had a month or so ago.”

The Nationals are trying their best to address the problems on defense. They are looking for a center fielder. Is Justin Maxwell the answer? He is great with the glove, but he needs to be more consistent with the bat.

The Nationals may need to look for a shortstop. Cristian Guzman has lost a lot of range at the position. It may be best to trade Guzman while his stock is high.

Dunn is a great hitter, but it appears he is a better first baseman than an outfielder. That’s why Washington needs to trade Nick Johnson for some prospects.

For different reasons, the Nationals are going to look for a second baseman this offseason.  Members of the “Think Tank” don’t believe Anderson Hernandez is the answer at the position because of his bat.

If Orlando Hudson becomes a free agent after this season, look for the Nationals to go after him.      

 

Willingham returning Saturday; Patterson sent down

Outfielder Josh Willingham will return to the Nationals on Saturday. He has been on the bereavement list since late last week because of his brother, Jon, who passed away in a car accident.

With Willingham returning, the Nationals have optioned Corey Patterson to Triple-A Syracuse. He played great defense, but had problems with the bat, going 2-for-15 with six strikeouts this season. Patterson said he most likely will accept the assignment to Syracuse. 

Willingham will return to his role as the everyday right fielder.

 

Nats' starting rotation doing well under McCatty

Since the Nationals hired Steve McCatty to be their new pitching coach on June 2, the Nationals’ starting rotation has performed well, going 5-10 with a 3.11 ERA.

Two of the starters in the rotation — John Lannan and Craig Stammen — declined to compare McCatty to former pitching coach Randy St. Claire, who was dismissed that same day.

Lannan and Stammen said there are a combination of reasons the starters have pitched well recently. It helps that the rotation is familiar with McCatty, who coached them in Triple-A. All of the starters, which also includes Ross Detwiler, Shairon Martis and Jordan Zimmermann, love McCatty’s old school ways of getting hitter’s out. Just throw strikes.  

“He brings a different kind of attitude — maybe one that we needed, kind of a hardball attitude,” Stammen said. “I think we have a bunch of old school guys [in the rotation] who are willing to listen to him and buy in to what he says.

“When you coach, you have to buy into it. It’s not that we didn’t buy into Randy. We just didn’t pitch very well. Cat has done a great job so far.”

Lannan said the rotation turned the page after St. Claire left the team and rely heavily on catchers Josh Bard and Wil Nieves. McCatty also told them to hold themselves accountable, whenever they throw a bad pitch.

“Saint is gone and that is sad, but we have to stop talking about it. His ways are gone,” Lannan said. “It’s kind of a new thought process. It’s kind of sad to say that, but we have to move on. I think a big part of our success is Josh Bard and Wil Nieves. They taught us as a staff that we need to communicate and feed off each other.

“McCatty told us if we make a bad pitch, hey, it’s on us. We are the ones who is throwing the ball. It’s not the catcher who called it, it’s us. You executed the pitch.”
                             

Friday's lineup against Blue Jays

Cristian Guzman – SS

Nick Johnson – 1B

Ryan Zimmerman – 3B

Adam Dunn – LF

Elijah Dukes – RF

Josh Bard – C

Willie Harris – CF

Anderson Hernandez – 2B

Jordan Zimmermann – P

 

Thursday's lineup against Yankees

Cristian Guzman, SS
Nick Johnson, 1B
Ryan Zimmerman, 3B
Adam Dunn, DH
Austin Kearns, RF
Corey Patterson, CF
Willie Harris, LF
Wil Nieves, C
Anderson Hernandez, 2B

Dukes sitting out Thursday's game

Nationals manager Manny Acta decided to give outfielder Elijah Dukes the day off on Thursday afternoon against the Yankees because Dukes is 0-for-7 in his last two games.

Dukes is usually a patient hitter, but he has been swinging at pitches on the outside part of the plate for outs.

“He has been scuffling the last couple of games,” Acta said. “It would be a good day to take the day off. He is a patient guy and pretty knowledgeable of the strikes zone. Right now, he is going after pitches that he is not used to. Obviously, this is the big leagues When he chases, the pitchers are not going to make it easy for him to hit.”

In Wednesday’s game, it looked like Dukes hurt his leg in the sixth inning. He had a tough time chasing a double hit by Johnny Damon, but Acta said Dukes is fine and had a tough time picking up the ball off the carom near the right-field foul line.

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