September 2009

The Inbox

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Bill Ladson 

Jesus Flores makes plate appearance

Catcher Jesus Flores entered Wednesday’s game against the Phillies as a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the fifth inning. Flores grounded out to third baseman Pedro Feliz for the first out of the inning.

It was Flores’ first appearance since May 9 against the Diamondbacks. Flores had missed three months because of a right shoulder contusion.

Flores hurt the shoulder on May 9, when he was hit by a Chris Young foul tip. Flores was in pain for several minutes, but remained in the game before being taken out in the bottom of the ninth inning.

Flores will remain a pinch-hitter for the rest of  the season.

Tidbits from Nationals Park

Right-hander Shairon Martis wasn’t promoted to the big leagues Tuesday because he reached his innings limit. He threw a combined 160 innings for Washington and Triple-A Syracuse.

General manager Mike Rizzo said Martis will get a chance to compete for a rotation spot  next year.

* I forgot to mention another promotion the Nationals made on Tuesday. They called up athletic trainer Beth Jarrett from Triple-A Syracuse. She is in her eighth season with the organization. 

Prior to joining Syracuse, she spent four consecutive seasons with Double-A Harrisburg as the team’s head athletic trainer. She also spent time with Class A Savannah and Clinton. 

* Marco Estrada will be the Nationals’ fifth starter and will pitch against the Marlins on Saturday. Left-hander Ross Detwiler will work out of the bullpen the rest of the season because he is close to his innings limit.

Drew Storen meets Stephen Strasburg

Right-hander Drew Storen, the Nationals’ first-round-pick in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft, has been hanging out at Nationals Park the last two days.

The highlight, so far, has been meeting right-hander Stephen Strasburg, the team’s first overall pick in the ’09 Draft, on Tuesday. Strasburg has been working out with the Nationals the last few days.

The two were talking almost nothing but baseball that day. For example, Strasburg asked Storen about life in the Minor Leagues, while Storen wanted to know what it’s like to work out with the big-league team.  

The two are expected to be teammates in the Arizona Fall League in October.

“It was awesome meeting Strasburg,” Storen said. “I never met him before. I’ve seen every clip on ESPN and it … was nice to catch up with him. He asked some questions on what Minor League Baseball was like. I don’t think he will ever find out what it’s like. I gave him some stories. I told him about the bus rides and all that. He is a low-key guy. I was really happy I was able to talk to him.”

Storen was almost unhittable in his first professional season, going a combined 2-1 with a 1.95 ERA and 11 saves for Class A Hagerstown, Potomac and Double-A Harrisburg. What he accomplish did not earn him a promotion to the big leagues. No big deal, said Storen.

“I’m happy with the way things have happened,” he said. “I’m happy with the way I have pitched. My goal was not to be a big leaguer for a month. I look at the big picture. The Arizona Fall League is going to be a great experience. I’m really looking toward next year as my big goal.”

Norris, Meyers earn special honors

The Nationals named catcher Derek Norris as their Minor League Player of the Year and right-hander Brad Meyers as their Minor League Pitcher of the Year. 

Norris, 20, hit .286 with 23 home runs, 84 RBI and 78 runs scored in 126 games with Class-A Hagerstown. He paced full-season Washington farmhands in home runs, walks (90), on-base percentage (.413), slugging percentage (.513) and OPS (.926).

For his efforts, the right-handed hitting slugger was named by the South Atlantic League as its Most Outstanding Major League Prospect.  He was recently cited in Baseball America’s annual Best Tools survey voted upon by league managers as the Best Batting Prospect and Best Power Prospect in the SAL.  He was selected by Washington in the fourth round of the 2007 First-Year Player Draft.

Norris credits manager Matt LeCroy, a former big-;league catcher, for his success this season.   

“Our manager  made it easy on us,” Norris said. “He was really fun to be around. He taught me a lot about the game and how to handle different things.”

Norris is still a work in progress behind the plate. To get better, Norris will play in the Instructional League in and then hone his skills in the Arizona Fall League.

“I have to learn to stay focused in every single pitch and not take any pitches off,” Norris said. “When you take a pitch off, it makes it look like you are not trying, makes you look lazy.”        

Meyers, Washington’s fifth-round selection in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft, went a combined 11-3 with a 1.72 ERA in 24 games with Double-A Harrisburg and Class-A Potomac.  Meyers’ 1.72 ERA led all full-season minor league pitchers.  He allowed two earned runs or less 20 of 23 starts this season.

The 24-year-old went 5-1 with a 2.25 ERA and a 3.9/1 strikeout-to-walk ratio (43 K/11 BB) in nine starts with Harrisburg. Prior to his July 7 promotion to Harrisburg, Meyers dominated the Carolina League, going 6-2 with a league-best 1.43 ERA  in 15 games with Potomac.  He was selected as a mid-season Carolina League All-Star. 

The Loyola Marymount (CA) University product twice earned Carolina League Pitcher of the Week honors (May 4-10 and June 29-July 5).

Sosa designated for assignment; Olsen on 60-day DL

The Nationals designated right-hander Jorge Sosa for assignment Tuesday. The news comes after Washington promoted pitchers Ross Detwiler, Marco Estrada, Logan Kensing and Zack Segovia and shortstop Ian Desmond to the big leagues.

Sosa was used in the late innings, but was often hit hard, going 2-1 with a 6.45 ERA.  

In other news, the Nationals transferred left-hander Scott Olsen from the 15-day disabled list to the 60-day DL. Olsen has not played a game since early July because of left shoulder surgery.

Nationals promote five players to big leagues

The Nationals have decided to promote pitchers Ross Detwiler, Marco Estrada, Logan Kensing and Zach Segovia and shortstop Ian Desmond to the big leagues.

All five players are coming from Triple A Syracuse and will report to Nationals Park on Tuesday.

The Nationals are also bringing up Syracuse manager Tim Foli to be an all-purpose coach.

This will be Detwiler’s second stint with the big club. During the first half of the season, Detwiler started 10 games and went 0-5 with a 6.40 ERA. After the All-Star break, Detwiler, who was the team’s first-round pick in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft, was 4-2 with a 3.10 ERA for Syracuse.

Detwiler most likely will pitch against the Marlins on Saturday.

This also will be Estrada’s second stint with the big club. He made his Major League debut last season, playing in 11 games as a reliever and giving up 11 runs in 12 2/3 innings.  This time, he is expected to be a starter.

Kensing has already had two stints with the Nationals this season, giving up 31 runs in 26 2/3 innings. But he was 2-1 with a 2.97 ERA for Syracuse.

Segovia, a right-handed reliever, was a combined 2-5 with a 3.28 ERA for Double-A Harrisburg and Syracuse.

Desmond had his best season in professional baseball in 2009, hitting a combined .328 with seven home runs and 32 RBIs for Double-A Harrisburg and Syracuse.

Nationals bench coach Pat Corrales has said that Desmond has already shown leadership skills on and off the field.

This may be Desmond’s biggest challenge to date. The Nationals may be looking for a shortstop next season and switch Cristian Guzman from shortstop to second  base.

As for Foli, he is in his fifth season in the Nationals’ farm system and guided the Chiefs to a 76-68 record.            

Nationals plan to revamp bullpen

Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo revamped the bullpen twice this season because the relievers had problems getting hitters out.

The bullpen has improved after the second round of changes, but look for Rizzo to make more changes this offseason.

Entering Tuesday action against the Phillies, the Nationals’ relievers have a combined 5.17 ERA and 25 saves. Washington’s most productive relievers have been Sean Burnett, Tyler Clippard and Mike MacDougal, but it needs more than those three guys to be successful in 2010.

The other five relievers on the 25-man roster — Jason Bergmann, Victor Garate, Jorge Sosa,  Ron Villone and Saul Rivera — will either not be back with the team next year or have to prove once again that they belong on the big club.

“I think it’s a major point of emphasis for the offseason,” Rizzo said. “We have gotten better. We kind of revamped the bullpen and the difficult time to do it is during the season. I think we have done a good job of that. We have many more capable hearts than we did at the beginning of the season. But I’m certainly not satisfied with it.”

Rizzo did not say which relievers he was interested in this offseason, but one person who could help the Nationals is right-hander Drew Storen, the team’s first-round pick in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft.

He had a phenomenal first season in professional baseball, going a combined 2-1 with a 1.95 ERA, eight saves and 49 strikeouts in 37 innings for Class A Hagerstown, Potomac and Double-A Harrisburg. Storen is considered the Nationals’  closer of the future.

“We are starting the building process [in the Minor Leagues]. We have the makings of guys we can rely on,” Rizzo said.                   

Nats thinking about moving Guzman to second base

After the season is over, the Nationals are going to try to improve their middle infield defense. They would love to get second baseman Orlando Hudson if he becomes a free agent.

But the Nationals have a Plan B if they can’t get Hudson. The team is seriously thinking about moving Cristian Guzman from shortstop to second base and then try to find a defensive-oriented shortstop. Prospect Ian Desmond is a possibility to play shortstop in 2010.

Washington has been concerned about Guzman’s defense almost all season. They have been alarmed that Guzman is having a problems going to his left on groundballs.
Interim manager Jim Riggleman believes a foot injury has hampered his ability to go to his left.

“Looking back on it, I think that the problem that he has had with his foot has probably been there longer than [what we thought],” Riggleman said. “I think he has played with some discomfort. … I have to admire him. He has played through it.”        

Craig Stammen has surgery; Foli to be called up

Nationals right-hander Craig Stammen had arthroscopic surgery on his right elbow Sunday morning. Dr. Wiemi Douoguih, the team’s medical director, took bone chips out of the elbow.
Stammen is expected to be ready for Spring Training.

In other news, Triple-A Syracuse manager Tim Foli will be called up to the big leagues after the Minor League season ends on Monday. Entering Sunday’s action, the Chiefs are 75-66 under Foli.