May 2010

Twitter Poll: What should the Nats do with Morgan?

I asked a question to my Twitter followers early Sunday morning: What should the Nats do with center fielder Nyjer Morgan? A) Bench him B) Keep playing him C) Send him down to the Minors for more seasoning? Why?

Of the 100 people who responded, 75 of them said keep playing him, while 15 others said bench him. Ten other people felt Morgan needed to go to the Minor Leagues. Here is what some of the Twitter followers had to say.

@Bobtimist: Move him to the 8th spot and have The Hammer lead off. Morgan is still valuable defensively. This is just a prolonged slump.

@PhillyStanatic: From your choices I’d go with B as the best option. But what about platoon with Justin Maxwell?

@nat_meg: The best way for Nyjer to get out of the slump is to play through it. We’ve all seen what he can do. He’ll find his stride.

@HendoDC: I would pick C. Not for more seasoning, but to give his head some space to get it together, not like it’s a punishment.

@Sultan_of_Stat: I hate to say it but send him down. He needs to get his confidence on the field and at the plate. It’s not happening in the big leagues.

@welovedcsports: I’d say send him down, but who would they bring up in his place to do better? I’m struggling with that part.

@ryan2499: He’s a pro. Let him play through it unless he says he wants to sit out a couple days to get straightend out.

@Natss9: I know he is in a rut, but he is not a head case like Lastings Milledge. Nyjer is an gamer.

@IND_Sports_Cubs: More seasoning? He’s old. If he isn’t seasoned now, then he’ll never be. Bench him for a week.

@tradepolicyguy: Keep playing him. No better option.

@ZaCa14: Move Morgan down to eighth in the order. Lead off with Ian Desmond or Cristian Guzman.

@ieSteveKelly: Give Desmond a shot at leadoff. He should at least be in the 2 hole.

@CDublin: Keep playing Nyjer. He hasn’t been that bad. He still is twice as good as Lastings Milledge. 

@ghue: Team still backs him.

@SodaPop6548: Keep playing him. I think he will be fine once he gets his form back, which he will.

@deleowned: Have to play him. We’ve seen what he’s capable of. Who else are we going to play in CF? Maxwell? Harris? Get serious.

@jenjensn: I’m in the C category because of judgment errors — fielding and base running. Hitting slumps happen, so I am less concerned about that. 

@rickyh17: Bench him and let Willie Harris play. If Morgan still can’t get out of his offensive, defensive and base stealing slumps, then demote or trade him.

@AltaKocker: Keep playing him. Give him an eye exam.

@RoscoeNats: Give Nyjer a few days off in favor of Roger Bernadina and some media coaching.

@federalbaseball: Bring back Marquis Grissom as Morgan’s mentor!

@IBALLZACH: Give him a little more time to get out of it, but not enough to lose the NL East.

@jcj5y: They have to play him. They’re already a bat short in the outfield and there’s no better option right now.

@theFrap: B. Keep playing him. He is valuable to the team.

Morgan to hit second vs. Astros

Nationals manager Jim Riggleman has decided to hit Nyjer Morgan second in the batting order against the Astros on Monday afternoon.

Normally the leadoff hitter, Morgan is moving down a notch because he is in a slump, going 20-for-99 [.202] with a .262 on-base percentage during the month of May.
“The only place I can move him is second,” Riggleman said after Sunday’s 3-2 loss to the Padres. “Nyjer is not going to play for you if he doesn’t hit first or second. It doesn’t make sense to put him anywhere else. I may take a little pressure off him to hit second for a little while. Whether you are hitting first or second, you still have to get on base.”
When told of Riggleman’s decision, Morgan said he could deal with hitting lower in the order.

“It doesn’t bother me,” Morgan said. “You have to be there for the squad. Things are not happening. I’m in a funk right now.” 

Asked if he was healthy, Morgan said, “Everything is fine. I’m having a tough time right now, I just have to battle through it. I just have a little adversity.”

Who will be Washington’s leadof hitter on Monday? It will be either Cristian Guzman or Adam Kennedy. Guzman has been the team’s best hitter thus far. He leads the Nationals in batting average [.321] and hits [51]. Kennedy is hitting .250, but has a .352 on-base percentage.            

Guzman makes up for Triple Play

Nationals second baseman Cristian Guzman did something he would like to forget in the Nationals’ 5-3 victory over the Mets. He became the first player in Nationals history to hit into a triple play.

With runners on first and second, no outs and Washington up, 2-1, in the fifth inning, Guzman took an 0-1 pitch and hit the ball into shallow center field. The runners, Livan Hernandez and Nyjer Morgan, thought the ball was going to drop in for a base hit, but center fielder Angel Pagan caught the ball and the Mets were able to double up Hernandez and Morgan.

“The play was a good one by Pagan. He played real shallow,” Guzman said. “He caught the ball behind second base, but I thank God we came back.”

After the Mets tied the score at 2 in the sixth, the Nationals scored three runs in the bottom seventh inning. Guzman highlighted the scoring with an RBI triple. Guzman ended up going 2-for-4 in the game.

“Every time you have a good game, you feel good,” Guzman said.

Despite coming off the bench this season, Guzman is now hitting .328 and leads the team in hits with 42. Guzman acknowledged that coming off the bench is not easy.

“I feel good about myself,” Guzman said “This game is real hard. It’s not easy coming off the bench and playing a lot of different positions. But I have the confidence to do my job.”

Storen gets first victory, dons Elvis wig

In only his second game of his Major League career, reliever Drew Storen picked up his first big-league victory as the Nationals defeated the Mets, 5-3, on Tuesday night.  

Storen, the 10th overall pick in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft, entered the game in the top of the seventh inning with the score tied at 2 and Mets catcher Henry Blanco on second base. Storen was able to get the job done as Jose Reyes lined out to shortstop Ian Desmond and Luis Castillo grounded out to Desmond to end the inning. 

“I love [coming in during the middle of an inning],” Storen said. “I started that in college. I did it in the Minor Leagues. I love coming in with guys on base because of the pressure. I’m a big fan.” 

Storen became pitcher of record after the Nationals scored three runs in the bottom of the seventh inning. After the game, Storen received two shaving cream pies in the face and was proud to wear the silver Elvis wig, which goes to the player of the game voted by center fielder Nyjer Morgan.  

“The wig doesn’t look that good on me, but it’s great thing I’m wearing it,” Storen said. “I saw it before I came up here. I was really hoping I would be able to wear it.”

Storen said it was unfair for him to take the victory. He mentioned that right-hander Livan Hernandez gave a great effort after pitching on three days’ rest. Hernandez allowed two runs in 6 1/3 innings.

“He has a solid outing. It’s kind of unfair for me to take that win away from him. Anyway, I’ll take it,” Storen said.  

Is John Lannan OK?

Left-hander John Lannan made his first start since May 2. He missed an outing last Saturday  against the Marlins because of elbow discomfort.

There was good news and bad news when it came to Lannan outing. He cruised through the first four innings. However, after sitting on the bench for a while in the top of the fifth inning, Lannan’s left flexor tendon start to stiffen up. Suddenly he couldn’t get his pitches down in the strike zone. The Rockies would go on to score four runs to make it a two-run game.  

Lannan lasted 4 2/3 innings and gave up four runs on six hits. He walked batters and struck out one. 

“The first four innings felt good and then [flexor tendon] tightened up on me,”  Lannan said. “It’s kind of tough to get out there and extend. The ball was up and I wasn’t able to make the pitches when I needed to. No excuses. It feels now. In that inning, it tightened up on me.”

While Lannan said he will be OK, manager Jim Riggleman isn’t so sure. The skipper is hoping that Lannan arm is feeling OK on Friday. Riggleman declined to say if he will make his next start, which is scheduled for Tuesday against the Cardinals.   

“I thought he looked real good, but he is still not totally himself –[a few walks] mixed in that we are not used to seeing in the past,” Riggleman said. “So I think he is making strides and he is getting closer. But the long fourth inning in the dugout and when he went out there in the fifth inning, I think that affected him. The elbow stiffened up a little bit.”   

Marquis will have elbow surgery Friday [updated]

A day after a rehab start for Class A Potomac, Nationals right-hander Jason Marquis announced that he was not pain-free and will have surgery to remove spurs and bone chips in his right elbow.

Marquis will have the surgery Friday in Cincinnati. Dr. Tim Kremchek will perform the procedure. 

Once he has the surgery, Marquis is expected  to be back on the mound sometime in August. Marquis said when he woke up Wednesday morning, he realized that his elbow was in pain and had locked up on him.

“We have to see where we go from here and talk it over with the team, my agent and my family — see what the best plan is,” he said. “I let my teammates down, but they are doing a great job. We have a lot of quality guys in here. Hopefully I could come back in August and contribute.”

Marquis signed a two-year, $15 million deal with the Washington this past offseason. He got off to a slow start, allowing 19 earned runs in 8 1/3 innings. The Nats began to believe that something was wrong with Marquis on April 18, when he didn’t record an out and allowed seven earned runs against the Brewers.

A few days later, Marquis had an MRI and it was revealed that he had bone chips and spurs in the elbow. Marquis tried to avoid surgery. He was able to play catch and have bullpen sessions without any problems.

“It was an agreement between the player and us,” general manager Mike Rizzo said. “He felt that he could pitch through it. He felt these things before and has pitch through it. We wanted to do what was best for the player. It was a mutual decision to try to let him pitch through it. It didn’t work, so it set us back for about three weeks.  

Marquis acknowledged that he didn’t feel comfortable in his rehab start for Potomac on Tuesday. He allowed three runs in 3 2/3 innings in an 8-5 loss to Winston-Salem. Marquis threw 54 pitches, 36 for strikes. His fastball was clocked at 88 mph, which concerned the team. 

“It was cold; it was tough to stay loose,” Marquis said. “So I thought it was — maybe more than anything — why the elbow was a little stiff. I tried to stay warm and do everything that I could. Now realizing what my arm feels like this morning, if it was 85 degrees and sunny, I think it would probably be the same thing.”

Twitter Poll: Should Strasburg, Storen be in Majors?

I asked a question to my Twitter followers on Sunday morning: If you were in Mike Rizzo’s shoes, would you promote Nats right-handers Stephen Strasburg and Drew Storen to the Major Leagues now or later? Why?

Of the 50 people who responded, 25 of them said bring them up to the  big leagues, while the rest believe there isn’t a need to rush the prospects. Here is what some of the Twitter followers had to say.
@rickyh17:  I would not promote them yet. Let them get in some more experience at Triple A first.

@Sultan_of_Stat: Bring up Strasburg now if John Lannan is to miss more games, otherwise wait. Bring up Storen now to take some pressure off Tyler Clippard.

@SacksJacked: I’m for Stras now. If he’s ready, he’s ready. Don’t worry about the financial stuff. It seems to be more noise than it really is.

@wynams: The season is long. The Nats are doing well now. Rushing players too fast could be devastating.

@LarryTheSequel: I’d do it now. Both are performing well at Triple-A and they may as well get their MLB bumps and bruises sooner than later.

@Natss9: I would bring them up for the Reds series in June. The Nats have gone this far. I don’t see why they should deviate from the plan.

@JoeBHokie: Wait. The pitching is good now. Jordan Zimmermann, Chien-Ming Wang and Jason Marquis are in the wings. The kids need low stress innings and Nats get an extra contract year.

@rfish15: Bring up Storen now, if Brian Bruney doesn’t come around. Strasburg can wait until June. Less pressure on SS waiting. See where the team is then. 

@SodaPop6548: They are both doing well, but still need some experience. Don’t rush them into the Majors!

@DArkMEATHOOK: I’d promote both after two or more Triple-A appearances. Seem like both can help out the ballclub.

@Michaeljenk: Strasburg for sure and not just because of his potential. His performance in the Minors shows that he’s ready.

@NotRizzo: I would hold Storen back till June to ensure he isn’t a Super 2, since he can pitch all the way to October without an innings limit. 

@Terpsrule: Storen yes, because he’s had a year in the system. Strasburg, not net. A few more games in Syracuse, then come on down Stephen!

@nat_meg: Stras, no. Starting pitching has been pretty solid.

@Dwade: This team isn’t quite there yet. The playoffs aren’t in the cards this year, so why start their service clocks?

@Jake_Titleman39: Wait until June. We save money and we hope were still in the playoff race so those guys become even more important. 

@jcj5y: They need Storen more right now. I would be sorely tempted. No on Strasburg until June.

Nationals Minor League report

The Nationals Minor League report is a weekly window into the Nationals farm teams, with updated standings, league leaders, team and individual player stats, and the latest team and player news. 

The report is courtesy of Bill Gluvna

This Week’s Top Headline

ROSENBAUM IS A ROSENBAUM IS A ROSENBAUM IS A ROSENBAUM:  In 5 starts for Hagerstown, LHP Daniel Rosenbaum is 1-0 with a 1.57 ERA (5 ER/28.2 IP)…the 22-year old southpaw has struck out 25 and walked just 5 (5.0/1 strikeout-to-walk ratio)…among Single-A South Atlantic League pitchers, he ranks 5th in ERA and 7th in WHIP (0.94) …Rosenbaum was selected in the 22nd round of the 2009 Draft out of Xavier University (OH)…he is scheduled to make his next start tonight at Rome (Braves).  

Triple-A Syracuse Chiefs

International League North Division

15-11, 3rd Place, 1.0 Game Back

HAIL TO THE NEW CHIEF:  Yesterday, RHP Stephen Strasburg was promoted to Syracuse…Strasburg is scheduled to make his Triple-A debut on Friday vs. Gwinnett (Braves)…Strasburg, the top overall selection in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft,  went 3-1 with a 1.64 ERA (4 ER/22.0 IP) in 5 starts with Harrisburg of the Double-A Eastern League…with 27 strikeouts and just 6 walks in 22.0 innings pitched, Strasburg posted a 4.5/1 strikeout-to-walk ratio and an Eastern-League best 11.05 strikeouts per 9.0 innings.

WHAT A RELIEF:  Since surrendering 3 earned runs in 0.1 inning in his season debut, April 8 vs. Lehigh Valley (Phillies), LHP Atahualpa Severino hasn’t allowed an earned run 13.1 innings…he has tossed 10.0 consecutive scoreless innings over his last 6 appearances beginning April 20…overall, Severino is 1-0 with a 1.98 ERA (3 ER/ 13.2 IP) in 10 appearances…right-handed hitters are just 4-for-28 (.143) against him this season…Severino, 25, signed as a non-drafted free agent, February 13, 2004.

DR. DREW:  In 9 combined appearances with Syracuse and Double-A Harrisburg, RHP Drew Storen has posted a 1.50 ERA (2 ER/ 12.0 IP) while striking out 13 and walking just one…Storen, Washington’s 2nd selection in the first round (10th overall) of the 2009 First-Year Player Draft, went 4-for-4 in save opportunities and recorded a 0.96 ERA (1 ER/9.1 IP) in 7 appearances with Harrisburg before his April 29 promotion to Syracuse.

DOUG E. FRESH:  LHP Doug Slaten has fired 15.0 consecutive scoreless innings in 10 appearances to begin the season…the southpaw has 16 strikeouts against just one walk…Slaten was claimed off waivers from Arizona on November 4, 2009.

THRILL OF THE CHASE:  3B Chase Lambin leads the Chiefs in hits (28), batting (.333), home runs (5), RBI (15), total bases (49), and slugging (.583)…he has hit safely in 19 of 23 games this season…Lambin signed with Washington as a minor-league free agent, January 7, 2010.

Double-A Harrisburg Senators

Eastern League Southern Division

10-15, 5th Place, 7.5 Games Back

THE GARATE KID: LHP Victor Garate has hurled 11.2 consecutive scoreless innings in his last 8 appearances…the 25-year-old owns a 0.71 ERA (1 ER/12.2 IP) and a .140 (6-for-43) batting average against…lefties are just 1-for-10 (.100) against him…Garate was acquired off waivers from Los Angeles-NL on September 2, 2009.

CHICO MEETS WORLD: LHP Matt Chico allowed 2 earned runs in 6.1 innings, but received a no-decision on Monday vs. Bowie (Orioles)…Chico has worked at least 5.0 innings and allowed 2 earned runs or less in 4 of his 5 starts this season.

PITCHING IN: Harrisburg pitching ranks 2nd in the league in both ERA (3.12) and strikeouts (189)…Senators hurlers have allowed the fewest home runs (6) and fewest walks (69) among EL pitching staffs.

Class A Potomac Nationals

Carolina League Northern Division

11-14, 3rd Place, 4.0 Games Back

MORRIS CODE:  In 4 starting assignments, RHP A.J. Morris boasts a 1.53 ERA (3 ER/17.2 IP) and a .197 (13-for-66) batting average against…on Monday vs. Myrtle Beach (Braves), Morris pitched 5.2 shutout innings while allowing just 2 hits and striking out 5 to earn his first win of the year…Morris, 23, was selected in the 4th round of the 2009 First-Year Player Draft.

DETECTIVE KIMBALL:  RHP Cole Kimball leads the club with 3 wins and is a perfect 3-for-3 in save opportunities…in 10 appearances, Kimball is 3-0 with a 2.93 ERA (5 ER/15.1 IP)…left-handed hitters are just 2-for-21 (.095) against him…the 24-year-old was Washington’s 12th-round pick in the 2006 First-Year Player Draft.

Class A Hagerstown Suns

South Atlantic League Northern Division

15-10, 2nd Place, 0.5 Game Back

BUILDING BLOX(OM):  1B Justin Bloxom, 22, ranks among the South Atlantic League leaders in batting average (t-2nd, .351), hits (t-3rd, 34), doubles (5th, 11), on-base percentage (6th, .413) and runs, (7th, 20)…he has hit safely in 20 of 24 games, recording a multi-hit effort in 10 of those contests…the Kansas State University product was selected in the 11th round of the 2009 First-Year Player Draft.

EVEN STEVEN:  20-year-old 3B Steven Souza is tied for tops in the SAL with 23 runs, and ranks 2nd in RBI (25)…he has posted 3 straight multi-hit efforts, collecting 7 RBI in those games…Souza was Washington’s 3rd-round selection in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft. 

DESTIN-ED TO SUCCEED:  OF Destin Hood is hitting .340 with 5 doubles, one triple, one homer and 15 RBI…the 20-year-old has hit safely in 19 of 25 games this season…Hood, selected in the 2nd round of the 2008 First-Year Player Draft, opened the 2010 campaign rated as the No. 10 prospect in the Nationals chain according to Baseball America.

Twitter Poll: Should Nats be concerned about Lannan

After the Nationals’ 9-3 loss to the Marlins, I asked a question to my Twitter followers: Should the Nats be concerned about LHP John Lannan? Yes or No. Why?

Of the 40 people who responded, 35 said the Nationals should be concerned about Lannan, while five others felt Lannan will be OK. 

Here’s what some of the Twitter followers had to say:

@Natss9: I am concerned about Lannen, but not worried. He has shown in the past he can bounce back.

@grlong85: The Nats should be concerned. The inability to go deep in games is already starting to hurt the team.

@szul: The Nats should be concerned that he might not be healthy.  

@Tdappel: Yes. Still, it is tough to ever ask him to be the ace. He has no margin for error.

@Davewordnerd: Yes. Lannan’s ERA is 6.34. He doesn’t get people out this year. Where’s last year’s ground-ball guy?

@PhillyStanatic: Yes, because he’s pitching poorly and left-handed hitters are killing him.

@LMurphyDC: I don’t believe the fans have confidence in him, and for your No. 1, that’s a problem. He’s not providing reliability.

@HendoDC: Eighty percent, yes (only one really good outing out of 6). Twenty percent, No: Men in blue were squeezing him silly today.

@deleowned: He hsn’t been good with Livo taking the “ace” pressure off his shoulders. Maybe the league is finally catching up to him.

@ScottGPoole: He is throwing strikes, but after starting well, he loses focus. That can be fixed relatively easily.

@ThisManDrew: Give John Lannan another start. It’s only May.

@Neuman85: I would say no. Hopefully in a month or two, Lannan will be the team’s No. 3 or 4 pitcher, which is where he belongs.