July 2010

Olsen to pitch Thursday; English out for season

The Nationals have their rotation set until Saturday. The Nationals have decided that left-hander Scott Olsen will come off the disabled list and pitch against the Braves on Thursday. He will replace right-hander J.D. Martin in the rotation. It will be Olsen’s first start since May 21st against the Orioles.

Olsen has missed the last two months of the season because of shoulder tightness. In his last start against Baltimore, Olsen pitched three innings and allowed four runs on six hits.
Olsen has had five rehab starts and allowed nine earned runs in 20 1/3 innings.

After Olsen, right-hander Craig Stammen will pitch against the Phillies on Friday and left-hander Ross Detwiler will pitch the next day. 

In other news, left-hander Jesse English, who started this season as one of the relievers on the 25-man roster, is expected to have bone chips removed from his left elbow Wednesday. He is expected to miss the rest of the season.

Tigers have interest in Adam Dunn

With the injury to outfielder Magglio Ordonez, the Tigers have “great interest” in Nationals first baseman Adam Dunn, according to a baseball source.

The Tigers need a run producer after Ordonez fractured his right ankle in Saturday’s 3-2 loss to the Blue Jays, knocking him out for an estimated six to eight weeks.

If the Tigers were to acquire him, Dunn would be a designated hitter and play in the outfield. They already have a first baseman in Miguel Cabrera.

Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo have said in the past that he would want a lot in return if he were to trade Dunn. Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski also indicated to local beat reporters that he would not trade top prospects for short-term players. 

Dunn, who was hitting .279 with 23 home runs and 62 RBIs entering Sunday’s action, is a free agent after the season. 

Nats score first run in weird fashion vs. Brewers

The Nationals ended up scoring their first run of the game in weird fashion during their 4-3 loss to the Brewers on Saturday night.

Milwaukee was ahead, 2-0, when Washington scored its first run in the fifth inning. With runners on first and third, Ian Desmond hit a long fly ball to Jim Edmonds, who made a great backhanded catch in center field. Edmonds and second baseman Rickie Weeks were able to double off Mike Morse at first base for an inning-ending double play.

“It was a mistake on my part,” Morse said. “I thought there was no way Edmonds was going to get the ball. But he is a great outfielder. I should have kept my head up.” 

However, in the bottom of the fifth inning, the umpires ruled that Josh Willingham scored from third before Morse was doubled off first base. Rule 4:09 in the 2010 edition of Official Baseball Rules states that the lead runner can score before the runner on first is thrown out.

Riggleman found out about the scoring change through umpire Dale Scott in the bottom of the fifth when he went to make a pitching change. 

“This one didn’t have that feel that we would get that run,” Riggleman said. “I saw Dale go over and talk to [Brewers manager] Ken Macha. I thought maybe that was what he was saying, but he didn’t come over to tell me. So when I got up to make a pitching change, he said, ‘You know the score is 2-1.'” 

Balester back with Nats — for a day

The Nationals have recalled right-hander Collin Balester from Triple-A Syracuse on Saturday. He will replace right-hander Luis Atilano for a day and then be sent back to Syracuse. The team will then recall left-hander Ross Detwiler to start Sunday’s game against Milwaukee.

Balester was brought in just in case right-hander J.D. Martin doesn’t have a quality start on Saturday evening against the Brewers. If Martin doesn’t perform well on the mound, Balester could come in and pitch in long relief.

After six years-plus years as a starter, Balester was converted into a reliever this spring. In 26 appearances, Balester is 2-3 with 7.27 ERA for Syracuse. 

Riggleman to manage Nats next season

General manager Mike Rizzo told MLB.com on Friday afternoon that Jim Riggleman will manage the Nationals in 2011.

Last offseason, Riggleman signed a two-year deal, but only 2010 is guaranteed. The team could have bought him out after this season.

Entering Friday’s action, Washington is 42-54, but are on pace to improve from last season, a season in which they went 59-103. It was Riggleman, who brought accountability back into the Nationals’ locker room for the first time since Frank Robinson managed the club from 2002 to 2006. 

“Yes, he will be back next season. He has done a terrific job,” Rizzo said. “We have a great relationship. He is a baseball rat. I can’t beat him to the ballpark. One of these days I’m going to beat him to the ballpark. He runs at 8:00 a.m. and he is at the ballpark by 11.

“He is a terrific baseball manager. He has great respect from his peers in this game. When the games starts, he is as good as anybody in the game. He has the respect in the clubhouse. He is a diligent worker and he is a loyal employee.” 

Said first baseman Adam Dunn, “I think Jim deserves it. I’m glad they made the announcement now instead of waiting until the end. He definitely deserves the opportunity to manage the club when its healthy.”

Riggleman, who was not available to for comment, replaced Manny Acta as manager of the Nationals after the All-Star Break last year. The club went 33-42 and finished the year on a seven-game winning streak.

This is Riggleman’s fourth managerial stint, after leading the Padres, Cubs and Mariners. His best season as a skipper was in 1998, when he guided the Cubs to the playoffs after they won a National League Wild Card tiebreaker over the Giants. The team lost to the Braves in the NL Division Series, 3-0. 

Luis Atilano headed to disabled list

Nationals right-hander Luis Atilano will be placed on the disabled list because of a sore right elbow, according general manager Mike Rizzo.

Atilano had an MRI on the elbow Wednesday and has bone ships in the elbow. He will have a cortisone shot and try to rehab the elbow. Atilano said he has been pitching in pain for several weeks, but didn’t say anything until after his start Tuesday in which he allowed five runs in four innings against the Reds.

Atilano, who was scheduled to pitch Sunday against the Brewers, has a history of elbow problems. He had elbow reconstruction a few months before the Nationals acquired him from the Braves for outfielder Daryle Ward in 2006.

“There is soreness in the back of the elbow. I don’t even know what we are going to do yet,” Atilano said. “I want to pitch obviously. That’s why I took so long to say that my elbow was sore. It has been bothering me for  little while, but it got to the point where I couldn’t go on.”

Atilano acknowledged that he is frustrated by his latest injury because he worked so hard to get over his elbow surgery four years ago.

“I don’t know what it is now. It could be nothing. It could be inflammation, it could be whatever,” Atilano said. “It’s not that bad like when I had Tommy John surgery. That was really bad. I don’t have a bad pain now. It’s soreness.”

Atilano has pitched in 16 games for the  Nats and is 6-7 with a 5.15 ERA.

With Atilano out, Riggleman is not sure who the Nats will bring up. Riggleman didn’t rule out bringing up a reliever for a couple of days before needing a starter for Sunday’s game. It will depend on what happens in Thursday’s game against the Reds. If the Nats use a lot of relievers in the game against Cincinnati, the Nats will bring up a bullpen person.

As far as Sunday goes, the Nationals are considering left-handers John Lannan and Matt Chico to make the start against the Brewers.

Since being sent down to the Minor Leagues last month, Lannan has been up and down, going 1-2 with a 4.11 ERA.

Chico, who led the Nationals in most pitching categories in 2007, is 5-4 with a 3.55 ERA for Triple-A Syracuse.

Left-hander Ross Detwiler is also a candidate, but he pitched seven shutout innings, struck out seven hitters and walked one as Double-A Harrisburg blanked New Britain, 2-0, on Wednesday.

Rizzo would not confirm nor deny report on Maya

General manager Mike Rizzo would not confirm nor deny an ESPN Deportes report that the Nats have agreed to terms with right-hander Yuniesky Maya, who is from Cuba.

However, Rizzo raved about Maya, 28. Rizzo believes Maya could by in a Major League rotation sometime this year. Maya’s fastball has been clocked as high as 94 miles per hour. He also can throw a slider, curveball and changeup.

“He is battled tested and is seasoned,” Rizzo said. “We have seen him play in many tournaments over the years, so we feel we know him as well as anybody. He is a guy who has pitched a lot and knows his craft.

“If we get him, we have to see where he is at. We have seen him pitch quite a bit in the Dominican. We had guys monitoring quite closely. It will be like any new pitcher we acquire. He goes to Viera Fla., [the team’s Spring Training complex] and we see where he is at.”

Maya played for the Cuban national baseball team and was a member of Cuban team during the 2006 and ’09 World Baseball Classic. In six Cuban National Series Seasons, Maya was 48-29 with 2.51 ERA.

“We know a lot about Maya. He is a young, poised, Major League-caliber pitcher,” Rizzo said. “He was the No 1 pitcher on a very success Cuban National team. There are a lot of teams that are on him. Some of the successful organizations would like to sign him and put him directly in the rotation and we are one of them.”

Maya left Cuba and is currently living in the Dominican Republic. While living in the Dominican, he has been working out and pitching in simulated games.

Listach interested in Cubs job

With Cubs manager Lou Piniella retiring after this season, Nationals third baseman Pat Listach declined to say if he was interested in the managerial job. But a person close to Listach said he would be interested in managing the Cubs.

Listach has a history of managing in the Cubs’ Minor League system for four season, going 253-221. His best season was in 2008, when he went  guided Triple A Iowa to a 83-59 record. Listach still has respect in the organization.

Listach also managed seven Cubs players in the Minor Leagues, including Geovany Soto and Tyler Colvin and Ryan Theriot.

Piniella is the reason Listach is a coach with the Nationals. Piniella spoke to then-general manager Jim Bowden, who hired Listach because of Piniella’s recommendation.


Maxwell optioned to Syracuse; Atilano recalled

After Monday’s 7-2 loss to the Reds at Great American Ball Park, the Nationals optioned outfielder Justin Maxwell to Triple-A Syracuse and recalled right-hander Luis Atilano, who will start against the Reds on Tuesday night.

It marked the fourth time that Maxwell was optioned this season. Maxwell, 26, was 4-for-38 (.105) with one home run, three RBIs and 14 walks this season.

Asked if he was frustrated about being sent down as much as he has this season, Maxwell said, “The game is not frustrating. The process can be. Like I said before, I have a job to do. I’m not worried about all that other stuff.”

Atliano will make his second stint in the big leagues. He was 6-6 with a 4.85 ERA for Washington before being optioned to Syracuse before the All-Star Break. Atliano last pitched on July 15 against Pawtucket. He lasted 2 1/3 innings and allowed five runs on seven hits. 


Willingham believes he will not be traded

Nationals left fielder Josh Willingham acknowledged Monday that he doesn’t pay attention to trade rumors — even the latest one which has him linked to the Braves.

However, Willingham made it known that he would like to stay with the Nationals because of the people he has met in the organization since he was acquired from the Marlins in November of 2008.

“I have really gotten comfortable with the people in the organization — the ownership all the way down to every employee,” said Willingham, who is hitting .276 with 15 home runs and 49 RBIs entering Monday’s action against the Reds. “That means a lot when you talk about being comfortable in baseball. I feel very comfortable here. I like everybody in the organization.”

Asked if he would be traded after general manager Mike Rizzo said Willingham “is part of the family. We want him around long-term,” the right-handed hitting slugger believes he would remain a member of the Nationals. It’s not a secret that Willingham is one of Rizzo’s favorite players on the team. 

“Rizzo has never told me something that was not true and that started last year in Miami when I wasn’t playing,” Willingham said. “We had breakfast together and laid it out on the table. I told him how I felt and he told me how he felt.

“He told me how it was going to happen and it’s exactly how it happened. He has been as honest with me as anybody. So I absolutely believe [I will not be traded].” 

Willingham ended up being the everyday left fielder by June and hit .260 with 24 home runs and 61 RBIs in 2009.