September 2009

Elijah Dukes to play winter ball

Nationals right fielder Elijah Dukes has decided to play for the Licey Tigers of the Dominican Winter League.

Dukes said he wants to improve his game while he is over there this offseason. The biggest thing is to recognize breaking balls, which has given Dukes problems this year.

In other news, right-hander Josh Wilkie will pitch in the Arizona Fall League this offseason. Entering Saturday’s action, Wilkie has a combined 2.42 ERA for Double A Harrisburg and Triple A Syracuse. 

Wilkie, 25, was signed by the Nationals as a non-drafted free agent on June 14, 2006.           

Williams, Dickenson relieved of duties

The Nationals have dismissed Bobby Williams, who was the director of player development, and Minor League hitting coordinator Ralph Dickenson.

The team did not give a reason as to why Williams and Dickenson were let go. Both Williams and Dickerson were hired by former general manager Jim Bowden.  

Williams, who is the son of former NBA general manager Pat Williams, was in his third season at his job. He also managed for Class A Vermont and Savannah.

Dickenson was in his third season as the team’s hitting coordinator. He also was in his 33rd season as a coach or instructor in the pro and collegiate levels.

Williams and Dickerson were not available for comment.

The Nationals are expected to make more changes in the coming weeks.      

Stammen, Balester out for season

Nationals right-handers Craig Stammen and Collin Balester are out for the season. Stammen has a bone spur in the back of his right elbow, while Balester has a strain on his left side. Both players are expected to be ready for Spring Training.      

Stammen will have arthroscopic surgery on the elbow Sunday. The surgery will be performed by Dr. Wiemi Douoguih, the team’s medical director. Stammen started 19 games for Washington, going  4-7 with a 5.11 ERA.  

Stammen has been playing in pain the entire season, but he felt he could still pitch through it. Stammen was happy the injury wasn’t much worse.

“It’s a relief. It’s never good to have surgery. I guess it’s one of those things that comes up with pitching,” Stammen said. “I decided not to tell anybody about it for the whole season. I decided to pitch through it. I don’t regret anything for a second. I was lucky to take the opportunity when it was given to me.”

As for Balester, he will be shut down for two weeks before participating in baseball activities. By the time he is ready, however, the season will be over. Balester was 1-4 with a 6.82 ERA in seven big-league starts.

The Nationals don’t need a fifth starter until the Sept. 12 against the Marlins. So the plan is to call up another starter until the season is over for Triple-A Syracuse.  

Nyjer Morgan miss playing baseball

Nationals center fielder Nyjer Morgan was seen in the dugout with his left hand wrapped in bandages on Friday.

It comes a little over a week after Morgan broke the hand sliding headfirst into third base on a stolen-base attempt in the first inning against the Cubs. Morgan left the game after scoring on a double by Cristian Guzman and was replaced by Willie Harris.

Morgan had surgery on the hand since then, and the Nationals clearly miss him, going 0-6. It doesn’t help that Harris and Justin Maxwell were a combined  2-for-23 [.086] from the leadoff spot entering Friday’s action.

“There were a couple of times I had to turn off the TV because I’m playing the game in my head. I was watching the guys when they were on the road trip,” Morgan said. “It’s frustrating. Next year, [I'm] definitely going to bring more fire for what I have to bring on the field.” 

After his stitches are taken out later this month, Morgan hopes to play in the Instructional League to make sure he has his swing back.

“I’ll try to get some at-bats to see how it feels,” Morgan said. “I want to go so I could see with my own eyes the progression with my hand.”       

Morgan will continue to slide headfirst into bases unless he is ordered by the team to do otherwise. He feels it’s faster going into the bag headfirst.    

Stephen Strasburg working out with Nationals

Right-hander Stephen Strasburg, the Nationals first-round draft pick in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft, arrived in Washington and worked out with the team on Friday.

Strasburg worked on his daily pitching and conditioning programs, which was put together by pitching coordinator Spin Williams. Strasburg then participated in pitching drills — such as covering first base and tuning the double play — with the team. 

Strasburg will stay with the Nationals the entire home stand and then travel with them to Miami when they play the Marlins. After that, Strasburg will go back to Viera, Fla., to participate in the Instructional  League.

A team spokesman said Strasburg will not talk to the media during the home stand.               

Jesus Flores activated from disabled list

The Nationals activated catcher Jesus Flores from the 15-day disabled on Friday and will come off a bench as a pinch-hitter.

It was believed Flores would be out for the season, but the shoulder is strong enough to pinch-hit but not strong enough to go behind the plate. Flores, however, is involved in bullpen sessions.

“He is full go to swing the bat. He is an emergency third catcher,” general manager Mike Rizzo said. “He is a guy that [interim manager] Jim Riggleman could use. I’m not sure what the timetable is to get behind the plate and catch a full game in the Major Leagues.”    

Flores hurt the shoulder on May 9 against the Diamondbacks.  In the bottom of the seventh inning of that game, Flores was hit on the shoulder 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 would miss 105 games after going on the DL on May 15, retroactive to May 10. Before injury, Flores, 24,  was batting .311 with four home runs and 15 RBI in 26 games.

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Nats add Victor Garate to big-league roster

The Nationals added left-hander Victor Garate to their Major League roster Friday.

Garate, who will work out of the bullpen, was acquired off waivers from the Dodgers on Wednesday, after posting a 2.04 ERA and .191 batting average against in 47 appearances with Double-A Chattanooga this season.

Garate’s first appearance with the Nationals will mark his big-league debut. He will wear No. 56.

Garate, 24, is 23-7 with 15 saves and a 3.25 ERA in five professional seasons. With 404 strikeouts in 315 1/3 innings pitched, Garate has posted 11.53 strikeouts per nine innings during his career. He was rated among the Dodgers’ Top 25 prospects by Baseball America entering the ’09 season.

Stammen has MRI on right elbow

Nationals right-hander Craig Stammen had an MRI on Thursday to determine the seriousness of his right elbow injury. He hopes to get the results on Friday.

Stammen said via phone that he has had elbow soreness throughout the 2009 season, but that didn’t stop him from making 19 starts and wining four games.

“It has been going on the whole season. It was something I was able to pitch through. It wasn’t bad to where I couldn’t pitch,” Stammen said about the elbow. “When it was time for me to get the ball, I was going to take it, no matter what was going on.

“They have to tear me away from the mound. They did this week by not letting me pitch tomorrow. I could still pitch tomorrow.”

GCL Nationals win it all

The Gulf Coast Nationals captured the league championship on Thursday with a 5-4 win over the GCL Marlins in Game 2 of the best-of-three championship series. 

The GCL crown is the fourth championship for a Washington minor league affiliate since baseball returned to the nation’s capital in 2005. 

The GCL Nationals join the Potomac Nationals (Single-A Carolina League, 2008) and the DSL Nationals (Dominican Summer League, 2007 &’08) as Washington affiliates to win their respective league’s championship series.

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