August 2009

Nationals meet with Strasburg

Trying to get a deal done with pitcher Stephen Strasburg before the midnight deadline on Monday, the Nationals met with Strasburg during the middle of last week in Southern California, according to two club sources. The news was first reported by the Washington Times.

According to one source, managing principal owner Ted Lerner, team president Stan Kasten and acting general manager Mike Rizzo all went to see Strasburg and all three came away impressed with the right-hander.

Strasburg is being advised by Scott Boras, and many believed it will go down to the deadline to get Strasburg signed.

“He has a mind of his own,” one source said about Strasburg.

The Nationals feel strongly that Strasburg can make an immediate impact in their rotation, maybe joining their Major League roster sometime in September. 

If he is promoted to the big leagues this year, Strasburg will become only the third pitcher in baseball history to be drafted No. 1 and play in the Majors in the same season, joining Rangers left-hander David Clyde in 1973 and Orioles right-hander Ben McDonald in ’89.

Strasburg, 20, went 13-1 with a 1.32 ERA in 15 starts this season at San Diego State en route to being named the Golden Spikes Award winner. He struck out 195 batters and issued just 19 walks in 109 innings.

Zimmermann out for season; surgery required

Nationals right-hander Jordan Zimmermann will need elbow reconstruction, according acting general manager Mike Rizzo. Zimmermann is expected to  be out 12 to 18 months.

Zimmermann, who was in his first year in the big leagues, pitched in 16 games and was 3-5 with a 4.63 ERA and team-leading 92 strikeouts with Washington. There is no word on when or where the surgery will take place. 

The Nationals had concerns about Zimmermann’s elbow since last Saturday after an MRI was taken the previous day. But before making an final conclusion, the Nationals took the MRI to Dr. James Andrews in Birmingham, Ala., and he confirmed that Zimmermann has a tear in his ulnar collateral ligament. Washington also is planning to get a third opinion from Dr. Lewis Yocum in Southern California before surgery is done.

“Jordan was very upset. It was one of the toughest calls I had to make,” Rizzo said. “He is one of our crown jewels. He is going to work hard and be in Washington rehabbing his right arm.”

Zimmermann last pitched on July 18th against the Cubs before complaining of tightness in the elbow. 

Zimmermann was not available for comment.

Cristian Guzman cleared waivers, will not be traded

Nationals shortstop Cristian Guzman has cleared waivers and will not be traded to the Red Sox, according to a baseball source.

According to the Boston Globe on Sunday, the Red Sox may have put in the claim for Guzman’s services. Boston is in need of a shortstop, as Jed Lowrie went on the disabled list on Saturday with a left wrist injury.

But the source said the Nationals have no intentions of trading Guzman. In fact, Washington was upset that the story on Guzman even came out.

“Guzman was on eggshells for two days asking [acting general manager Mike Rizzo] whether or not he was going to be traded,” the source said. “That story should have never came out.”

Rizzo was not available for comment. 

Guzman is one of the hottest hitters on the Nationals. He is on a 15-game hitting streak, going 29-for-63 [.547] with two home runs and 16 RBIs. For the season, Guzman is hitting .317 with five home runs and 40 RBIs.  

Early in the season, the Nationals were unhappy with Guzman’s defense, claiming that he had problems going to his left. But interim manager Jim Riggleman considers Guzman the team’s most improved player on defense since the All-Star break.

“I think Guzman has played real well the last month. Defensively, I don’t remember an error he has made,” Riggleman said. 

 

Nationals sign five players from Dominican Republic

The Nationals have agreed to terms on professional contracts with infielder Jean Valdez (16 years old), outfielder Jose Norberto (18) and right-handed pitchers Cleto Brazoban (17), Vidal Paredes (18) and George Rosa (19) from the Dominican Republic.

Amateur scouting director Dana Brown and national crosschecker and special assistant to the general manager Deric Ladnier recently scouted these players at the Rawlings Foundation Complex in Boca Chica, Dominican Republic.

“We are excited to add these five promising players to our player development system,” Brown said. “Valdez is the prized signing of the group. He is an exceptional hitter who projects as a potential middle-of-the-order bat with power and plate discipline. We are grateful to have the support of ownership, giving us the resources to sign international players of this caliber.”

Inbox coming Monday

The Inbox is returning Monday. If you have any questions about the Nationals, please e-mail me at bill.ladson@mlb.com

Thanks.

Zim has setback; Kearns has tissue removed from thumb

Right-hander Jordan Zimmermann did not have his scheduled bullpen session on Friday because he continues to have tightness in his right elbow. He will have an MRI soon to determine the seriousness of the injury.

The Nationals were hoping that Zimmermann could pitch on Tuesday against the Braves, but that plan has been put on hold.  

“He just came in and he feels a little something there. We are concerned [enough] to not let him throw in the bullpen,” interim manager Jim Riggleman said. “He wants to pitch. But with where we are at, we are going to get him looked at again, get some pictures taken. Hopefully, he will be pitching.”       

In other news, outfielder Austin Kearns had tissue removed from his injured right thumb in Baltimore. He will be re-evaluated on Monday to determined how long he will be out for.   

Outfielder Roger Bernadina, who is on the DL because of a fractured right ankle, will not play in a big league game anytime soon. Although the bone in the ankle has healed, Bernadina feels a lot of soreness. There’s no timetable on when he will play in a Major League game again. 

Nationals acquire Ward, Hopper

The Nationals added players to their Triple A Syracuse roster on Thursday, acquiring first baseman Daryle Ward and outfielder Norris Hopper from Triple A Charlotte, a White Sox affiliate.

This is Ward’s second stint in the Nationals organization. He played for the Major League club in 2006, hitting .308 with six home runs and 19 RBIs before being traded to the Braves on Aug. 31 of that year. Ward was hitting .255 with eight home runs and 36 RBIs for Charlotte.

In stints with Triple A Louisville and Charlotte, Hopper was hitting a combined .293 with 25 RBIs.   

Drew Storen in press box

Right-hander Drew Storen, the Nationals’ first round pick in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft, is in the house. I hope to talk to him shortly.  

Anderson Hernandez traded to Mets [update]

The Nationals have traded second baseman Anderson Hernandez to the Mets for second baseman Greg Veloz on Thursday.

The switch-hitting Hernandez started the season as the everyday second baseman, but he slumped badly and hit .255 during the first half. He was then told before the All-Star break by then-manager Manny Acta and current manager Jim Riggleman that he would lose playing time to Alberto Gonzalez, who was swinging a hot hitter at the time.

“I wanted to play like everybody else,” Hernandez said. “Like I say, the situation happened. I know they wanted to see Gonzalez play at second base, so I just have to take it. There’s nothing I could do.”

Hernandez did not take the news well. According to baseball sources, he pouted for most of the second half because Riggleman used Gonzalez and Ronnie Belliard at second base. 

The final straw came on July 30th against the Brewers. Hernandez was taken out of the game on a double switch. Hernandez was taking groundballs when he received the news that he was out of the game. He was upset, threw his glove in the dugout and was yelling at no one in particular. The Nationals’ “think tank” then decided he had to leave the team.

“I was a little upset because I just went on the field. Nobody told me anything before,” Hernandez said. “But that’s all right. It happens. 

Veloz, who will report to Class A Potomac, is a career .249 hitter with 19 home runs, 145 RBI and 108 stolen bases in three-plus professional seasons.

In his three complete pro campaigns, Veloz has averaged 30 stolen bases. He entered the season rated among the Mets’ top 25 prospects as listed in Baseball America’s 2009 Prospect Handbook.

A 6-foot-1 switch hitter, Veloz currently paces the Mets’ Minor League system with 18 stolen bases. In 2007, he led the Rookie-level Appalachian League with nine triples and ranked fourth in stolen bases, swiping 18 in just 66 contests. Veloz originally signed with the Mets as a non-drafted free agent in March of 2006.   

To replace Hernandez on the roster, the Nationals recalled reliever Saul Rivera from Triple-A Syracuse. 

Rivera, 31, rejoins the Nationals after going 2-5 with two saves and a 3.55 ERA with Syracuse. A member of the Nationals’ Opening Day roster, Rivera went 0-1 with an 8.49 ERA in 10 appearances with Washington before being optioned to Syracuse on April 20. 

 

Anderson Hernandez traded to Mets

The Nationals have traded second baseman Anderson Hernandez to the Mets on Thursday. It’s not known who the Nationals would get in return.

The switch-hitting Hernandez started the season as the everyday second baseman, but he slumped badly and hit .255 during the first half. He was then told before the All-Star break by then-manager Manny Acta and current manager Jim Riggleman that he would lose playing time to Alberto Gonzalez, who was a hot hitter at the time.

More details to come on Nationals.com.    

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