July 2011

Riggleman has job interview with Giants next week

Former Nationals manager Jim Riggleman will go to San Francisco next week to interview for a job with the Giants, according to Riggleman’s agent, Burton Rocks.

It’s not known what kind of job Riggleman will interview for. Rocks said general manager Brian Sabean and manager Bruce Bochy have reached out to Riggleman after the latter resigned as skipper of the Nationals on June 23rd.

“They reached out to Jim out of friendship. Bruce is one of Jim’s dearest friends,” Rocks said via phone.

Riggleman managed the Nationals for almost two years, going 140-172.

Friday’s starting lineup for Nats, Rockies

Gonzalez – CF
Herrera – SS
Helton – 1B
Wigginton – LF
Ellis – 2B
Garner – RF
Stewart – 3B
Iannetta – C
Hammel – P

Bernadina – LF
Espinosa – 2B
Zimmerman – 3B
Morse – 1B
Werth – RF
Ankiel – CF
Ramos – C
Desmond – SS
Lannan – P

Sources: Yankees have eyes on Nats’ Burnett

The Yankees have expressed interest in Nationals left-hander Sean Burnett, according to two baseball sources with knowledge of the situation. However, two additional sources said the two clubs haven’t had any discussions about Burnett — yet.

According to one source, Burnett is one of many relievers around the Major Leagues the Yankees are looking at. The club is looking for another lefty to join Boone Logan in the bullpen.

Burnett is having a first half he would like to forget. In 39 games, Burnett has allowed 18 runs in 29 innings. Opponents are hitting .277 against him.

It would seem unlikely that Washington would trade Burnett because manager Davey Johnson said recently to local reporters that he would like to have two left-handers out of the bullpen. Johnson currently has Burnett and Ross Detwiler out of the ‘pen.

If they make a trade, the Nationals have made it known that they are looking for two-way position players and starting pitching.

Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo was not available for comment.

Johnson doesn’t want to overuse Storen

With the Nationals leading, 5-4, over the Cubs in the ninth inning on Wednesday night, manager Davey Johnson wanted to leave reliever Henry Rodriguez in the game. Rodriguez had dominated the eighth inning, allowing a hit and striking out the side.

But according to Johnson, close Drew Storen was expecting to go in and save his 22 game of the season. Johnson had a change of heart and put Storen in the game. Storen ended up retiring the side in order as the Nationals defeated the Cubs by the same score.

“[Bullpen coach] Jimmy Lett said [Storen] wasn’t real happy. I got [Storen’s] blood boiling,” Johnson said.

Johnson didn’t want to use Storen because the later has been used a lot this season. Storen has already pitched 45 1/3 innings in 45 games. Johnson is looking for another reliever who can close games while Storen gets a rest sometimes.

“My closer, he is on pace to be in probably 70-something games,” Johnson said. “This is basically his first-[full] year as a closer. That’s not what I want to do to him. He is probably capable of doing it. He wasn’t the closer all year. He was doing some other things. He has a lot of innings.

“If you are going to be 10, 20, 30 games over .500, you have to have somebody else. Two or three of my closers over the years, when we were on a role, they come to me and say, ‘I need a day off.’ I want to groom that guy that can come in and pick up the slack.”

Storen didn’t deny his displeasure about Johnson original decision on Wednesday, but later understood why Johnson wanted leave Rodriguez in the game.

Storen said he has found ways to make sure that his arm doesn’t get tired. He has cut down on throwing a lot in the bullpen and doesn’t cut corners when it comes to doing exercises and icing his shoulder.

“My favorite thing in the world is to pitch the ninth inning,” Storen said. “But I understand that Henry dominated the eighth inning and didn’t throw a lot of pitches. Competitively, you want to be out there, but I understood. I was fired up any way. I was just standing there. I was ready to go either way. … I appreciate the way he was looking out for us. That was nice.”

Nats’ Johnson concerned about offense

Although the Nationals won their 44 game of the season Tuesday night, manager Davey Johnson is concerned about the offense.

It’s more than just the .233 batting average that bothers Johnson. The team is below average when it comes to runners in scoring position. During Tuesday’s game against the Cubs, for example, Washington went 2-for-11.

However, Johnson remains hopeful that the team will break out of its slump.

“It’s almost like there is a little pressure going through [the players] and they can’t quite get it off them,” Johnson said. “I’m a positive manager. Good things are coming. We are winning games when we are not running on all cylinders. It makes it interesting.”

One of the players who is not running on all cylinders at the plate is right fielder Jayson Werth, who went 0-for4 with two strikeouts and has seen his batting average go down to .221. Johnson acknowledged after the game that Werth has hit rock bottom at the plate.

“I think he has bottomed out,” Johnson said about Werth. “I thought he was in a good frame of mind during the last two to three days. I think he is comfortable. I think earlier in the year, he played mentor a little more than he needed to for some of the young guys. But he is a heck of a ballplayer and I know he is going to start doing things that he is capable of doing.”

Nats recall Detwiler, designated Balester for assignment

The Nationals recalled left-hander Ross Detwiler from Triple A Syracuse and designated right-hander Collin Balester for assignment on Tuesday afternoon.

Detwiler was 6-6 with a 4.53 ERA in 16 starts for Syracuse at the time of his promotion. He made his first Major League start of the season Tuesday against the Cubs.

Manager Davey Johnson is hoping that Detwiler will stay for more than one game. Johnson said he has been looking for a sixth starter, a long man and extra left-hander out of the bullpen. Detwiler could accomplish all three things.

“As far as I’m concern, he’s not called on for one start,” Johnson said. “He is so valuable, if [general manager Mike Rizzo] lets me keep him, I will still use him kind of in a rotation role out of the ‘pen as if he was starting. He will have side work before I bring him back.”

Balester, who was 1-1 with a 4.61 ERA in eight relief appearances with Washington, is expected to remain in the Nationals organization and return to Syracuse by Thursday. In the meantime, Balester was put on optional Major League waivers.

According to Baseball Prospectus, “optional Major League waivers are required when optioning a player who is more than three calendar years removed from his first appearance on a major-league roster. This procedure allows a club to send a player to the Minor Leagues while keeping him on the 40-man roster. Because optional waivers are revocable, players usually clear in this scenario.”

Nats’ Espinosa getting pitches to hit

Danny Espinosa’s batting average continues to climb. Since being put in the second spot in the batting order during the second game of the doubleheader against the Pirates on Saturday, Espinosa is 6-for-15 [.400] and has seen his batting average go up to .247.

According to Espinosa the reason for his success of late is because he is hitting in front of third baseman Ryan Zimmerman. Espinosa said that that he is getting a lot of good pitches to hit.

“Obviously, I have great protection hitting in front of Zim,” Espinosa said “So they probably don’t want me driving the ball. I’m hitting good pitches with me hitting in front of him.”

Morse’s elbow getting better

Nationals first baseman Michael Morse, who has missed the last three games because of a sore left elbow after being hit by a pitch Saturday against the Pirates, is expected to be back in the lineup Wednesday night against the Cubs.

Morse was able to take batting and fielding practice without any problems before Tuesday’s game. He is available to pinch hit that same day.

“When a guy tells me he can play and works out, I usually give them one more day. He wants to play,” Johnson said.

With Morse out of the lineup, outfielder Laynce Nix was able to get his first start at first base. On Monday, Nix played his first Major League at first since he was in high school because Matt Stairs hurt his knee while trying to catch foul ball in the stands.

Harper promoted to Double A Harrisburg

WASHINGTON — Bryce Harper has been promoted from Class A Hagerstown to Double A Harrisburg, MLB.com has learned on Monday morning.

Harper, 18, has lived up to the hype of being the first overall pick in 2010 First-Year Player Draft. In 72 games for Class A Hagerstown, Harper hit .318 with 16 home runs and 46 RBIs.

Harper will be on center stage once again Sunday, for he will play in the 2011 Futures Game for the U.S. in Phoenix on July 10.

Harper recently played in the South Atlantic All-Star Game, a game in which he went 0-for-2 with an RBI. Harper said his first All-Star appearance will not compare to what he will go through in Arizona.

“[Playing in the recent All-Star] game was awesome, but I feel it’s just a miniature game compared to the Futures Game,” Harper said. “I was around a group of guys in the Sally League that are going to be big leaguers one day, but being able to go to the Futures Game and play there, it’s going to be an incredible experience.”

Werth leaves Sunday’s game with wrist injury

Nationals right fielder Jayson Werth had to leave Sunday’s game against the Pirates after being hit by a pitch on the left wrist. He is listed as day-to-day.

With the Nationals losing 9-2, Werth led off the sixth inning and was behind in the count, 1-2, when he struck by the pitch thrown by right-hander Kevin Correia.

Werth slammed his bat to the ground and walked to first base before he was taken out of the game in favor of Brian Bixler.

Werth is having one of the worst seasons of his career, hitting .223 with 10 home runs and 27 RBIs.