September 2011

Strasburg has impressive outing vs. Marlins

Nationals right-hander Stephen Strasburg pitched his best game of the year in a 3-1 victory over the Marlins on Wednesday afternoon.

Strasburg, who was not on a pitch limit, threw six shutout innings, allowed one hit and struck out a season-high 10 batters.

Manager Davey Johnson said Strasburg could have pitched another inning, but the skipper decided against it.

“I was pretty impressed and what I liked more about it was that he just pitched,” Johnson said. “He didn’t overthrow, stayed within himself, made pitches. I could have gotten another inning out of him, but I’m pleased with what I saw. He is now one of the boys. He is back.”

For Strasburg, who missed most of this season rehabbing his arm because of Tommy John surgery, was pleased with his performance, but said there is still a lot of work to be done before next season.

“I felt pretty good out there, just going out there pounding the strike zone,” Strasburg said. “After today, it’s all water under the bridge. I’m going into the offseason [and] I still have a lot of work to do. I’m still not back to where I want to be. I’m going to work as hard as I possibly can again.”

Strasburg was also pleased that he was able to throw his breaking pitches for strikes. He had problems locating the pitches for almost a month.

“It’s something I’ve been searching for this last month,” Strasburg said. “I wasn’t going to be hard on myself just knowing that [they are pitches] I started throwing at the end of July. It’s something that is going to come back with just reps and feel. Today, I have it back. Going into the offseason, I’m going to work hard and I know it’s going to be there come Spring Training.”

Pudge starts, comes up clutch

Nationals catcher Ivan Rodriguez made his first start behind the plate since July 4 and took advantage of the situation in a 4-1 victory over the Braves at Nationals Park on Saturday afternoon.

Rodriguez, 39, went 1-for-2 with a walk and threw out two runners trying to steal second base. His biggest accomplishment of the day occurred in the eighth inning.

With runners on first and third and one out, Rodriguez threw out Braves outfielder Michael Bourn trying to steal second. Rodriguez was surprised that Bourn tried to steal because Atlanta was down by three runs.

“We are ready to throw in any situation,” Rodriguez said. “But at the same time, I didn’t think he was going to run. Good thing I was ready.”

Every time Rodriguez accomplished something on the field, his teammates gave him a standing ovation. And why not? He is one of the best catchers who ever lived. Besides being a great defensive catcher, he is 157 hits away from career hit No. 3,000.

“How many times do you get to play with an icon of the game? He is a first ballot Hall of Famer. He is Pudge,” teammate Jayson Werth said. “I know what that probably means to people who have seen him play over the years. I started as a catcher and I know who Pudge was to me as a fan — just watching him and all those good years that he had.

“You get to know him — the type of guy that he is, the type of person that he is, how much he cares about the game, how hard he works, his preparation — you get a sense of who he is. That makes it even more special. We had five games left at the beginning of the day. He is catching. How many more times are we going to get to see him play? I don’t know what his plans are.”

Rodriguez will become a free agent after the season and he doesn’t have any bitterness even though he has been used for only pinch-hitting duties after he was activated from the disabled list on Sept. 3.

“I’ve got two good years here,” Rodriguez said. “What I see is the improvement that we have. We are getting better each day. … As far as the record we have, I’m very pleased with it. We played hard since day one.

“We play with great teams, we battle the teams and we beat good teams. … When you hear other teams say, ‘Oh, you guys are doing better, you guys have a good team, you guys have good pitching, you are guys are playing hard every day,’ that’s a good sign. I think the way we finish the season this year is very positive. And I think next year, it’s going to be a very special year for the ballclub.”

Wang, Nationals talking extension

Right-hander Chien-Ming Wang and the Nationals are in the “preliminary stages” of trying to get an extension done, according to agent Alan Nero.

Wang, who is a free agent after this season, made it known several weeks ago that he feels loyalty toward the Nationals because they took care of him when he had shoulder problems the last two years. He also said money will not be an issue.

“They have taken care of me a lot the past two years. So I want to come back,” said Wang, who is making $1 million this season. “I want to help them get more wins. I just want to get back, no matter the salary.”

Nero declined to say how much money or the length of the contract Wang was looking for, but Nero reiterated that Wang wants to return to Washington. Manager Davey Johnson also made it known that he wants Wang to be a member of the Nationals in 2012.

General manager Mike Rizzo wasn’t available for comment.

Wang continues to make progress since returning from his shoulder woes. Entering Friday’s action against the Braves, Wang has appeared in 10 games, and is 3-3 with a 4.31 ERA.

In his last start on Sunday against Marlins, Wang pitched 6 2/3 innings, allowing three runs and striking out a season-high five batters in a 4-3 victory.

Ramos will get day off Thursday

Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos will be given the day off on Thursday after hurting his left leg in a 7-5 victory over the Phillies on Wednesday night at Citizens Bank Park.

Ramos said the leg started to hurt when he was running the bases on an infield single in the fifth inning, but he stayed in the game and went 3-for-3 with a homer and three RBIs.

“I felt good to finish the game,” Ramos said. “Now, I put ice on it. I will get the day off tomorrow, but I will be good for the next day.”

Ramos has been swinging a hot bat, going 25-for72 [.347] with four home runs and 13 RBIs in his last 20 games.

“I know I can hit, but it’s more important how you finish than when you start,” Ramos said.

Nats are scouting Texas’ Wilson

The Nationals have sent a scout to Oakland to watch Rangers left-hander C.J. Wilson pitch against the Athletics on Wednesday, according to two baseball sources.

It more than likely means that the Nationals will have interest in Wilson, who is a free agent after the World Series.

Wilson, 30, is arguably one of the best pitchers in the American League. This season, for example, Wilson is 16-7 with a 2.97 ERA and 198 strikeouts. Once a reliever, Wilson was put in the Rangers’ rotation last year and helped them win the American League pennant.

Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo was not available for comment, but it’s not a secret that Washington is looking to add starting pitching this offseason.

Upton wants to stay with Rays, but wouldn’t mind playing with Zimmerman

Center fielder B.J. Upton told Craig Heist of WTOP in Washington that he would love to stay with the Rays, but would not be surprised if he was traded after the season.

Upton also said that he wouldn’t mind playing close to home and with his childhood friend, Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman. The two grew up together playing Little League Baseball in Virginia.

“I would love to be [in Tampa],” Upton said. “But I can’t sit here and say there is not a possibility that I could be gone. Like I said, I love this organization. They have given me the opportunity to play in the Major Leagues. They are obviously the team that drafted me. I would love to be here.

“If I’m not, playing in Washington would kind of be playing close to home. I just want to play anywhere. … Since you brought up Washington, it would be kind of cool to play close to home and definitely play with the guy in Ryan Zimmerman that I played with growing up. That would be kind of a cool thing. I’ve known him for a long time. … To be on the team with him and playing in the division [against Mets third baseman] David Wright, who I also grew up with, that would be a cool thing, but right now, my heart is with the Rays.”

Zimmerman made it known in late July that he would love to play with his Upton. There has been speculation for weeks that the Nationals have been interested in the right-handed-hitting Upton.

Back in July, Zimmerman said he did not talk to Upton about the possibility of playing close to home. During the offseason, however, Upton sometimes told Zimmerman how lucky he is to play close to home.

“It would be different and I think it would be fun, but when it comes down to it, the most important thing is to get guys who can help us win,” Zimmerman said. “B.J. is a very talented player. I think a lot of people still think he is going to improve a lot. He has all the tools. He is one of those guys who can run, throw and hit for power. He is a very gifted athlete.”

Friday’s lineups for Nats, Astros

Barmes– SS
Quintero – C
Norris – P

Lombardozzi – SS
Ankiel – RF
Zimmerman – 3B
Morse – LF
Werth – CF
Espinosa – 2B
Marrero – 1B
Ramos – C
Milone – P

Storen doesn’t make excuses for subpar outing

Nationals closer Drew Storen pitched the ninth inning on Thursday afternoon and was touched up for three runs in a 7-4 loss to the Dodgers.

Storen pitched two-thirds of an inning and had a tough time throwing strikes. Of the 25 pitches he threw, only 11 went for strikes. Manager Davey Johnson said a lack of action, not the rain, was at the root of Storen’s ineffectiveness. Since Aug. 22, Storen has appeared in just three games.

“He didn’t have good command today,” manager Davey Johnson said. “He has logged a lot of games. He is going to have some rough spots at times. This is his first full year. I can deal with that.”

Storen didn’t have any excuses as to why he didn’t pitch well.

“I just didn’t get it done. … I should be able to go out there and throw strikes,” he said.

Harper will not play for Harrisburg in playoffs

Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper will not play for Double A Harrisburg in the Eastern League playoffs, according to farm director Doug Harris.

While Harper’s right hamstring is getting better, Harris said Harper is not in playing shape to participate in the playoffs. Harper needs to see live pitching before returning to action. Harper is now heading home to Las Vegas and will get ready to play in the Arizona Fall League, which starts in October.

Harper even said farewell to Harrisburg on his Twitter account.

“It’s been real Harrisburg! Had a blast! My teammates and fans have been the best! Get that ring boys! Wish I was playing with you!,” he said.

The first overall pick in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft, Harper had a great first season in professional baseball, hitting .297 with 17 homers and 58 RBIs for Harrisburg and Class A Hagerstown

Teammates impressed with Strasburg

Nationals right-hander Stephen Strasburg pitched five shutout innings in a 7-3 loss to the Dodgers at Nationals Park on Tuesday night. His outing came a year and three days after he had Tommy John surgery.

His teammates came away impressed with what they saw. Wilson Ramos caught Strasburg for the first time and Ramos said they were on the same page throughout the game.

“He was unbelievable — his pitches. Everything was working down in the zone,” Ramos said. “We were on the same page. He shook me off only two or three times. I tried to be on the same page with him and we were.”

Third baseman Ryan Zimmerman noticed that Strasburg wasn’t throwing his curveball as much he did in the past.

“When you have a fastball like him, you can throw just fastballs,” Zimmerman said. “He is a talent. That surgery — it’s not like it’s career threatening anymore. If you put the time in and work hard like him, you have a real good chance to come back.”

The way Strasburg was pitching, shortstop Ian Desmond said he never would have known that Strasburg had Tommy John surgery.

“It looked like he didn’t skip a beat,” Desmond said. “Last year, when he got hurt, he did an interview and he said he was going to come back stronger and smarter. … He looked like he did.

“To be able to comeback with the adrenalin, with the media, with everything else and be able to hone in on the strike zone and do your job with reliability — unbelievable.”