June 2011

Hairston, Werth injured, listed as day to day

Nationals third baseman Jerry Hairston Jr. left Tuesday’s 2-1 victory against the Giants with lower-back spasms. He is listed as day to day.

In the fifth inning, Hairston was in the batter’s box and in pain while swinging the bat. After walking to load the bases, Hairston left the game and was seen walking gingerly into the clubhouse.

Hairston said the back problems occurred when he woke up Tuesday morning. He went to AT&T Park early to get treatment, but his back stiffened up by the middle of the game.

“I must have slept on my back wrong. I woke up pretty stiff. I tried to loosen it. I just couldn’t do it,” Hairston said. “During the game, it got worse and worse.”

Hairston most likely will not play against the Giants on Wednesday afternoon. He hopes to be in the lineup when the Nationals play the Padres on Thursday at Petco Park.

In the other news, right fielder Jayson Werth was a late scratch Tuesday night because of a right ankle injury that he hurt the previous night while chasing a ball near the bullpen mound. He, too, is listed as day to-day.

Werth was able to take batting practice and entered the game as a pinch hitter in the eighth inning. Facing reliever Javier Lopez, Werth grounded out and ran gingerly to first base.

Pudge proud of son on Draft Day

Nationals catcher Ivan Rodriguez was a proud father Tuesday afternoon, for he learned that his son, outfielder Dereck Rodriguez, was drafted by the Twins in the sixth round of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft.

Ivan, affectionately known as Pudge, acknowledged he was choked up when he heard the good news about his son.

“Very proud for him,” Ivan said. “He is a good kid. That was his dream when I start putting the glove and bat in his hands. … He told me that he wanted to be here one day. It’s a big day for him, a big day for me. Now he is getting ready to prepare, go to Spring Training and start working hard.”

When he was a little kid, Dereck tried to be a catcher like his father, but the younger Rodriguez often had problems with his legs while working behind the plate.

“He caught for a little while, but he came to me and told me that catching was too hard for him,” Ivan said. “When he started catching, his joints and knees started hurting him because he was growing. So he was catching, bending down and all that. He was always having knee pains.”

One day, Dereck started shagging fly balls in the outfield and decided he wanted to become a Major League outfielder. Ivan credits Nationals third-base coach Bo Porter and former Tigers coach Andy Van Slyke for teaching his son how to play the outfield the right way. Ivan considers his son a quality outfielder.

“He is going to be a good player,” Ivan said. “He needs to do some things on his swing, but he has a pretty good arm, is a good outfielder, runs very well. He has the perfect size. He is almost 6-3. When he puts some weight on, he is going to be good. That’s what Spring Training is all about — just get used to the everyday grind. But he has all the tools.”

Zimmerman understands Rendon selection

After the Nationals selected third baseman Anthony Rendon with the sixth overall pick in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft, the question was, what position will he play, since the team already have a third baseman for years to come in Ryan Zimmerman?

There is a strong possibility that Rendon could be switched to second or first base, but the Nationals have not determined their plans.

After playing his second rehab game Monday, Zimmerman said he understood why the Nationals selected a player who plays the same position as he does.

“I better shape up, huh?” Zimmerman asked jokingly. “Obviously the point of the draft is to take the best player available. Whether he’s a shortstop and you have Jose Reyes or he’s a first baseman and you have Albert Pujols, if that’s the best guy, you take him. Talent plays in the big leagues. We’ll see, but I’m sure they have a plan.”

Zimmerman, who is on the disabled list because of an abdominal strain, is currently on a rehab assignment. On Monday, he played for Class A Potomac and went 2-for-3 with a double.

The Nationals are hoping that Zimmerman can be activated from the DL when the Nationals play the Cardinals starting June 14th at Nationals Park.

Three Boras clients selected by Nats

What do third baseman Anthony Rendon, right-hander Alex Meyer and outfielder Brian Goodwin have in common besides being selected by the Nationals in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft on Monday? All three are represented by agent Scott Boras.

In fact, since 2009, the Nationals have selected five players represented by Boras during the first day of the Draft. Two of those players are right-hander Stephen Strasburg and outfielder Bryce Harper. Both players didn’t agree to terms with the club until deadline day which is usually in the middle of August.

Can Washington sign Rendon, Meyer and Goodwin before the deadline, which is Aug. 15th? General manager Mike Rizzo believes he can.

“We are going to try our best to get all three of them signed,” Rizzo said. “These are guys we have identified and I think are going to be a big part of the organization. We are always optimistic that we could get them signed. That’s why we take them. That’s why we do all of this work to evaluate them. We are going to make an attempt to get all three of them signed.”

The last first-round pick not to sign with the Nationals was right-hander Aaron Crow in 2008. He is now a Major League closer with the Royals.

Nationals select Rendon with sixth overall pick

For the second straight year, the Nationals selected a hitter with their first pick in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft. On Monday night, they selected third baseman Anthony Rendon of Rice University with the sixth pick.

The question is what position will he play, since the Nationals already have a third baseman for years to come in Ryan Zimmerman. There is a strong possibility that Rendon could be switched to second or first base, but the Nationals have not determined their plans.

The Nationals feel Rendon is on the fast track to the big leagues.

“Right now, we feel that third base is his position,” general manager Mike Rizzo said about Rendon. “We evaluate him as a Gold Glove-caliber defensive guy at third base. We are going to delay that decision [as far as making a position switch]. We’ll make that decision down the road.

“I think he is a terrifically polished college player. I think he will be a quick-to-the-big-leagues type of guy, as far as the normal course of a drafted player. But we are not going to put any stipulations or timetables like that. We really feel good about this player. This is a guy that we had at the top of our draft board for a long time. We feel good with who we selected.”

It’s obvious that the Nationals were not turned off by Rendon’s history with injuries. He had shoulder and ankle problems in the past.

“We got all the medical reports and films, our doctors have gone over them painstakingly, and we feel good about it,” Rizzo said.

Injuries didn’t appear to slow Rendon’s season in 2011. In 63 games, he hit .327 with six home runs, 27 RBIs and an on-base percentage of .520 for Rice.

“He has a terrific batting eye. He has great pitch recognition, a tough guy to strike out,” Rizzo said. “He uses the whole field. He is very balanced. He has great raw power.

Along with the line-drive stroke, we feel he is a very efficient hitter and capable of hitting for a high average and for power.”

This year marked the first time since 2008 that the Nationals didn’t have the first overall pick in the Draft. The previous two Drafts, the Nationals selected right-hander Stephen Strasburg and outfielder Bryce Harper with the top overall picks, in 2009 and last year, respectively. Rizzo said it wasn’t hard having five teams pick ahead of them this year.

“We lined up our six best players in the order that we thought we liked them,” Rizzo said. “We were really satisfied with the top six players. We knew we were going to get a good player in the Draft, and when it was our turn to pick, we had Anthony’s name at the top of our list and we pulled it and we feel good about it.”

Live coverage of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft resumes at noon ET Tuesday on MLB.com, where fans will receive exclusive coverage of Day 2 and 3, featuring a live pick-by-pick stream, expert commentary and Draft Tracker, a live interactive application that includes a searchable database of every Draft-eligible player. You can also keep up to date at Draft Central and by following @MLBDraft on Twitter. And get into the Draft conversation by tagging your tweets with #mlbdraft.

Nats’ Ramos injured, then angered D-backs

In the top of the second inning of Sunday’s 9-4 victory over the D-Backs, Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos swung at a pitch from right-hander Ian Kennedy and fouled the ball off his left shin.

Ramos was in serious pain and limping for most of the game until the eighth inning, when he hit a three-run homer off right-hander Aaron Heilman to give Washington a 4-0 lead.

Ramos was taking his time running the bases, while D-backs third-base coach Matt Williams was seen yelling at him.

At first, it appeared Ramos was still hurting from the shin injury, but he acknowledged after the game that he was showing up the D-backs for hitting his teammates with pitches during the game.

“I felt like, ‘Ok, I want to see those guy angry,’” he said.

Nats continue to have interest in Upton

The Nationals continue to look for a center fielder, and B.J. Upton of the Rays is one of their targets, according to a baseball source.

Upton, a Virginia native and Ryan Zimmerman’s childhood friend, is considered an excellent defensive center fielder, but is having a down year at the plate, hitting .230 with seven home runs and 28 RBIs.

However, according to the source, Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo believes a change of scenery would help Upton’s career.

Upton, 26, hasn’t had a good season with the bat since 2008, when he hit .273 with nine home runs and 67 RBIs for the Rays. It’s not known if the Nationals and Rays are having serious discussions about Upton.

It was reported last April that the Nationals had been scouting Upton, but the club didn’t have interest in acquiring him at that time. It was pointed out that it was routine scouting that is normally done during the season.

The Nationals haven’t received any production from their center fielders this season. Entering Sunday’s action, their center fielders are a combined 52-for-230 [.226] with two home runs, 16 RBIs and an on-base percentage of .291.

Washington has been looking for a center fielder for quite some time. The team had interest in other center fielders such as Michael Bourn of the Astros and Matt Kemp of the Dodgers. But the Nationals were never in serious discussions with those clubs.

Hairston: Nats need Zimmerman

The Nationals’ offense has been missing in action all season. Entering Sunday’s game against the D-backs, Washington has a .231 batting average, which ranks 28th in the Major Leagues and is the No. 1 reason its in fifth place, nine games behind the Phillies in the National League East.

Infielder Jerry Hairston Jr. doesn’t have to think twice as to why the Nationals haven’t been able to hit on a consistent basis. They miss third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, who has not played in a Major League game since April 9 because of an abdominal strain.

The Nationals are hoping Zimmerman can be activated from the disabled list during the next homestand, which starts June 14th against the Cardinals at Nationals Park.

With Zimmerman back, it would mean Jayson Werth would have protection in the lineup. Manager Jim Riggleman plans to hit Werth second and Zimmerman third.

“When you are missing your best player, that can kind of hurt you a little bit,’ Hairston said. “[Zimmerman] definitely takes the pressure off the hitters. Having that big guy in the lineup really makes a difference. … At the same time, we don’t have him. We just have to find a way to keep scrapping.”

Once Zimmerman returns to the lineup, Hairston will be back on the bench. Hairston has been the primary third baseman during Zimmerman’s absence.

It remains to be seen if Hairston returns to the outfield. Hairston originally signed with the Nationals to platoon with Rick Ankiel in center field.

Nats’ Cora OK after bout with food poisoning

Nationals infielder Alex Cora entered Friday’s 4-0 loss to the D-backs as a pinch-hitter in the sixth inning. It was his first appearance since Wednesday, when he left the game in the fourth inning against the Phillies.

As it turned out, Cora had a bout with food poisoning after eating “bad oysters,” which caused Cora to have stomach problems.

Cora did not travel with the Nationals to Phoenix after the game, for he was still recovering from his stomach ailment. Cora joined the team right before Thursday’s game started against the D-backs, but was not available to play.

By Friday afternoon, Cora took batting practice and then came in as a pinch hitter against right-hander Josh Collmenter and popped up to second baseman Kelly Johnson.

Elbow injury forces Werth sit out Friday’s game

Nationals right fielder Jayson Werth sat out Friday’s game against D-backs after being hit on his left elbow by a pitch during Washington’s’ 6-1 victory over Arizona the previous day.

In the ninth inning, with Roger Bernadina on third and right-hander Aaron Heilman the mound, Werth was hit on a 2-0 pitch. In pain, Werth walked slowly to first as manager Jim Riggleman and head athletic trainer Lee Kuntz came to Werth’s aid.

Werth stayed in the ballgame, but he was not ready to play Friday because the elbow was stiff. It didn’t help that the ball hit the ulnar nerve. The team is hoping Werth will be playing on Saturday.

“I really made the decision not to play him. He is pretty stiff,” Riggleman said. ‘That was my call. I didn’t want him to be vulnerable to another shot like that. He was hit in a bad area. He will get treatment now.”

Werth said there wasn’t a need to have an MRI on the elbow because the injury is not considered serious.

“It’s just a contusion,” Werth said. “The issue last night was that it hit the ulnar nerve, so it was like hitting your funny bone really hard. Today we are dealing with just the swelling of the impact, which doesn’t always come down so quickly. … It makes you think a little bit how remarkable Cal Ripken streak actually was.”