August 2012

Nats’ Rodriguez, Giolito go under knife

Nationals right-handers Henry Rodriguez and Lucas Giolito had arm surgeries performed on Friday.

It turns out that Rodriguez had a lose body removed from his right elbow and cannot pick up a ball for at least three months. However, Rodriguez is expected to be ready for Spring Training.

Rodriguez  has been on the disabled list since Aug 2 because of another injury – lower back strain. Rodriguez has been complaining about the elbow injury two weeks before he went on the DL, according to general manager Mike Rizzo.

“Henry’s procedure was similar to the one that Drew Storen had,” Rizzo said. “He had the bone fragment, the bone spur removed from his elbow. So they cleaned it up, and he should rehab and be prepared for the beginning of spring training.”

Rodriguez appeared in 35 games and had a 5.83  ERA with nine saves. He started the season as the closer, but lost the job to Tyler Clippard later in the Spring because he was not productive on the mound.

“He was pitching with a lot of pain,” Johnson said. “He is big and strong. He just kind of hidden [the pain]. He was letter perfect in the spring, he was fresh. … Then he started having some lulls. From what the doctor said, the elbow was in a lot worse shape than he anticipated. .. [The doctors]  had to do more cleanup work than they thought going in.”

As for  Giolito, he had Tommy John surgery performed by Dr. Lewis Yocum in Southern California. His fastball had been clocked as high as 100 mph, and he has a power curveball, but he endured right elbow problems earlier this year, spraining his ulnar collateral ligament.

Giolito would have been a higher pick in this year’s First-Year Player Draft  if not for the injury. Giolito had been pitching for the Gulf Coast League Nationals.  During the Rizzo era, the Nationals have had their share of pitchers — Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann to name two — who have had Tommy John surgery and have come back to become successful pitchers.

Game 131: Cardinals at Nationals

Mike Fiammetta here, helping out Bill Ladson on the blog. The Nationals get the Cardinals’ tough right-hander Adam Wainwright tonight, while Gio Gonzalez takes the mound looking for his 17th win. As always, following along on Nationals.com during the game.

Suddenly, all the bad vibes from last week’s road trip are washed away as the Nationals look to push their winning streak to three games on Friday night. Last night’s 8-1 win over the Cardinals was exceptionally satisfying for the Nats, who received a scoreless one-hit, eight-inning gem from Edwin Jackson and multi-hit games from five different batters.

But with tomorrow being the Sept. 1 date for roster expansion to 40 players, much of the pre-game talk addressed the Nats’ roster. Bill will have all the details in the notebook, but manager Davey Johnson said Sandy Leon, John Lannan and Eury Perez are expected to join the team on Saturday. Mark DeRosa (left abdominal strain) is also expected to be activated from the disabled list tomorrow.

-Henry Rodriguez underwent an operation today to remove a bone fragment from his right elbow. Head Team Physician Dr. Wiemi Douoguih performed the surgery in New York, and the Nats are shooting for Rodriguez to be “full-go” at the beginning of spring training.

“Henry has got great upside,” general manager Mike Rizzo said. “He’s a power pitcher, and if this injury prevented him from performing at his accustomed level, then that’s a good thing because when he gets healthy, he’s going to revert back to the guy that we saw in spring training and the guy we saw in the beginning of the season.”

-Lucas Giolito also went under the knife, but for Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. Dr. Louis Yocum performed the surgery in Los Angeles, though Rizzo didn’t elaborate any further.

-Chien-Ming Wang will make one more minor-league start, while Jhonatan Solano will report to the instructional league in Florida to stay in shape in case of an injury at the Major League level.

Bill will have more in the notebook. Here are tonight’s lineups:

Cardinals (71-60)

  1. Jon Jay CF
  2. Carlos Beltran RF
  3. Matt Holliday LF
  4. Allen Craig 1B
  5. Yadier Molina C
  6. David Freese 3B
  7. Skip Schumaker 2B
  8. Pete Kozma SS
  9. Adam Wainwright RHP

Nationals (79-51)

  1. Jayson Werth RF
  2. Bryce Harper CF
  3. Ryan Zimmerman 3B
  4. Adam LaRoche 1B
  5. Michael Morse LF
  6. Ian Desmond SS
  7. Danny Espinosa 2B
  8. Kurt Suzuki C
  9. Gio Gonzalez LHP

Harper heating up, benefiting from Werth leading off

By Mike Fiammetta / MLB.com

WASHINGTON — All of a sudden, Bryce Harper is heating up.

After seeing his batting average dip to .250 during the Nationals’ five-game road trip last week, the young center fielder is 5-for-14 (.357) with three home runs and six RBI over his last three games. Harper’s struggles had magnified his recent displays of emotion on the field, most recently his 9th-inning ejection on Wednesday after slamming his helmet into the ground following a double play.

Thursday night in the series-opening 8-1 win over the Cardinals, Harper hit his 15th home run of the season in the first inning of a 2-for-3 day at the plate. He nearly added another dinger in the third, sending Jon Jay leaping into the center-field wall before hauling in a deep fly ball.

“I’m just trying to stay within myself,” Harper said. “I’m just trying to use my hands and work up there, see some pitches and get the pitch I can drive.”

After batting .282 in the first half of the season, Harper has seen an increasing amount of outside and off-speed pitches aimed at forcing the rookie out of his comfort zone. Given his outbursts on the field, common thought suggested that Harper’s struggles at the plate were indeed making him over-extend himself at the plate.

“He’s all in all the time,” manager Davey Johnson said. “But he’s gotten a little calmer with his lower half. He can get real aggressive with his lower half, and he’s calmed down quite a bit. That’s when you get antsy, and that doesn’t help your swing.”

Harper has also benefited from the return of Jayson Werth, who has looked very comfortable batting in the leadoff spot. When batting first in the lineup this season, Werth is batting .350 with a .797 OPS (.350 on-base percentage, .447 slugging.) For the season, Werth is boasting a .825 OPS (.384 on-base percentage, .441 slugging).

“I really like guys that can get on base and also produce runs,” Johnson said of Werth and Harper atop his lineup. “Both can run, both basically make [opposing pitchers] throw it over. It’s great.”

While Harper denied seeing a change in how opposing pitchers have attacked him — both during his recent hot streak and with Werth batting in front of him — he did admit to benefiting from Werth’s patient, productive presence.

“I think having Werth hit in front of me just gets me going and he sets the tone,” Harper said. “It just calms down and just lets me go up and there just swing it.”

Game 130: Cardinals at Nationals

Mike Fiammetta here, helping out Bill Ladson on the blog as the Nationals return home from their eventful — to say the least — road trip for an 11-game homestand. As always, following along at Nationals.com.

After snapping their five-game losing streak last night in Miami, the Nationals begin a four-game set with the Cardinals tonight. Edwin Jackson faces the team he won a World Series ring with last year, which will send left-hander Jaime Garcia to face the Nats. Gio Gonzalez takes the mound for the Nats on Friday, followed by Jordan Zimmermann — carrying his 2.63 ERA into a matchup against Kyle Lohse’s 2.64 — on Saturday and Stephen Strasburg on Sunday.

Sticking to tonight, though, the Nats will trot out their normal lineup — with one exception. Jesus Flores will catch Jackson while Kurt Suzuki gets a day off. Flores last played in the series finale with the Phillies on Aug. 26, a 4-1 loss.

The timing is somewhat odd, considering Suzuki is as hot at the plate as he’s been since coming to the Nats. Suzuki has a three-game hitting streak in which he’s 4-for-10 with a home run, which Johnson credited to the work the veteran catcher has been putting in with hitting coach Rick Eckstein.

“Eck’s been working with him good, he’s in a good place right now,” Johnson said. “I like the way he’s been swinging the last three days. He’s in a good spot.”

-Speaking of Strasburg (as always), manager Davey Johnson said the Nats’ young ace will make two or three more starts before he is shut down for the season. After his horrid outing Tuesday night against the Marlins — seven runs allowed (five earned) on nine hits in five innings — Strasburg has thrown 150 1/3 innings. Of course, Johnson’s comments fall pretty much in line with the 160-180 innings number that’s been thrown around all season.

-Bill will have more on Strasburg, Bryce Harper’s temper and Drew Storen’s hot streak in the notebook. In the meantime, here are tonight’s lineups:

Cardinals (71-59, 2nd NL Central)

  1. Jon Jay CF
  2. Carlos Beltran RF
  3. Matt Holliday LF
  4. Allen Craig 1B
  5. Yadier Molina C
  6. David Freese 3B
  7. Skip Schumaker 2B
  8. Rafael Furcal SS
  9. Jaime Garcia LHP

Nationals (78-51, 1st NL East)

  1. Jayson Werth RF
  2. Bryce Harper CF
  3. Ryan Zimmerman 3B
  4. Michael Morse LF
  5. Adam LaRoche 1B
  6. Ian Desmond SS
  7. Danny Espinosa 2B
  8. Jesus Flores C
  9. Edwin Jackson RHP

Game 129: Nationals at Marlins

Adam Berry here in the shadow of the Marlins Park home-run sculpture, pinch-hitting for Bill Ladson. For more news and notes and in-game updates, check out Nationals.com and follow me on Twitter @adamdberry.

The Nationals are looking to end their five-game losing streak tonight. That stretch, with a grand total of six runs scored, means the Nats no longer have the best record in baseball, although they still hold a four-game lead over the Braves in the NL East. If you missed it toward the bottom of last night’s game story, Adam LaRoche had some interesting thoughts about Washington’s recent skid.

There’s not a whole lot of concern inside the Nats’ clubhouse, but manager Davey Johnson called a seven-minute team meeting this afternoon. Johnson, who joked that he was inspired by last night’s speeches at the Republican National Convention, said it was mostly fun and encouraging, and he reminded his players that he likes their effort.

“When you lose, it’s harder on the coaches and the manager. We don’t sleep as well. If they start winning a few games, it’ll make it easier on this old guy,” Johnson said. “We all got a good laugh out of it and everything. It was a nice, fun meeting. I don’t hold a lot of them, as you know. That way, maybe you guys think I’m doing my job.

“I didn’t even have any idea what I was going to say until I got in there. Sometimes it’s nice just to have a fun meeting. Short, sweet, to the point. I know I probably held their attention span since it was only seven minutes. If you go over 10, you might lose it.”

-In other news about meetings: Johnson said Strasburg, catcher Kurt Suzuki, pitching coach Steve McCatty and bench coach Randy Knorr put in extra hours at Marlins Park with “an old-fashioned sitdown” after Strasburg’s rough outing Tuesday night. Johnson said they just wanted to hash out what went wrong for Strasburg as he surrendered a career-high seven runs — five of them earned.

Afterward, Johnson said, McCatty texted Strasburg to check out what happened to Tigers ace Justin Verlander on Tuesday night. In line score form, this is what happened: 5 2/3 IP, 12 H, 8 R, 8 ER. Nobody’s perfect.

-If you missed it, the Arizona Fall League rosters were announced today. INF Anthony Rendon, the No. 6 overall pick in the 2011 Draft, will be playing for the Salt River Rafters. He’ll be joined by OF Brian Goodwin, INF Jason Martinson, right-handed pitchers Paul Demney, Christian Garcia, Ryan Perry and a pitcher and infielder TBA.

As for tonight’s lineups…

Marlins (59-71)
Gorkys Hernandez CF
Donovan Solano 2B
Jose Reyes SS
Carlos Lee 1B
Giancarlo Stanton RF
Justin Ruggiano CF
John Buck C
Donnie Murphy 3B
Jacob Turner RHP

Nationals (77-51)
Jayson Werth RF
Bryce Harper CF
Ryan Zimmerman 3B
Adam LaRoche 1B
Michael Morse LF
Ian Desmond SS
Danny Espinosa 2B
Kurt Suzuki C
Ross Detwiler LHP

Game 128: Nationals at Marlins

Adam Berry here in Miami, once again pinch-hitting for Bill Ladson. For more news and notes and in-game updates, check out Nationals.com and follow me on Twitter @adamdberry.

Some quick news and notes before the first pitch from Marlins Park…

-GM Mike Rizzo and manager Davey Johnson set the record straight about their vocal postgame meeting following Sunday’s 4-1 loss in Philadelphia. In short: It wasn’t a big deal, and there are no hard feelings.

Johnson proved that as soon as the two sat down in the visiting dugout at Marlins Park. Rizzo sat beside Johnson during his usual pregame meeting with the media, and Johnson immediately put his boss in a headlock and laughed. This came two days after Johnson was overheard shouting, “You come down and manage the team,” at Rizzo inside his office.

“It’s normal business as usual,” Johnson said.

-The full lineups are below, but you’ll notice Michael Morse and Ian Desmond are both starting. If you missed it after the Nats’ fourth straight loss Sunday, there was some talk about how playing short-handed contributed to their recent offensive struggles. They’ve scored all of six runs during their current losing streak.

“We’ve been down a man or two, mostly a man, most of the year,” Johnson said. “But down two, that’s affecting what you can do.”

-Johnson said to only expect three call-ups on Sept. 1: Mark DeRosa, who will be activated from the disabled list; a third catcher; and someone who can pinch run.

-Speaking of call-ups, Johnson said John Lannan, recently named International League Pitcher of the Week, will make one more start for Triple-A Syracuse on Sept. 3 then join the Nats. Of greater interest, considering all the national attention on Stephen Strasburg’s shutdown, is what Johnson had to say about the timing of Lannan’s promotion.

“I think it’s going to pretty much coincide fairly close with Stephen, when he’s shut down,” Johnson said. “I think the timing, he’s lined up almost the same day, so he may have to miss a start.”

As for tonight’s lineups…

Marlins (58-71)
Bryan Petersen LF
Justin Ruggiano CF
Jose Reyes SS
Carlos Lee 1B
Giancarlo Stanton RF
Greg Dobbs 3B
Donovan Solano 2B
Rob Brantly C
Ricky Nolasco RHP

Nationals (77-50)
Jayson Werth RF
Bryce Harper CF
Ryan Zimmerman 3B
Adam LaRoche 1B
Michael Morse LF
Ian Desmond SS
Danny Espinosa 2B
Kurt Suzuki C
Stephen Strasburg RHP

Nats’ Harper has temper tantrum

Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper had a temper tantrum during Sunday’s 4-1 loss to the Phillies. Harper was upset after being taken out in a double switch in the sixth inning.

Manager Davey Johnson wanted bench coach Randy Knorr to tell Harper right away that he was being taken out of the game. But before Knorr could do anything, Harper was seen “destroying helmets on the runway,” according to Johnson.

“I said, ‘Randy, will you get to him. Please get to him.’” Johnson said. “I really didn’t have a choice. I didn’t care if it was Babe Ruth.”

Harper, who is never happy when he is not playing, is 18-for-85 [.212] with three home runs and eight RBIs during the month of August.

Desmond, Suzuki survive injury scares in loss to Braves

By Mike Fiammetta / MLB.com

WASHINGTON — The Nationals received a pair of injury scares during their 5-1 loss to the Braves on Wednesday night.

In the fourth inning Kurt Suzuki took a foul tip by Chipper Jones directly off the back of his right hand and was in immediate, obvious pain. After a brief injury delay in which Nats trainers checked out his hand, Suzuki stayed in the game after a few warm-up tosses back to Ross Detwiler — a few of which were slightly errant. Nevertheless, x-rays taken after the game were clear.

“It’s OK,” Suzuki said. “It’s swollen, just a little sore. Just the normal stuff after you get hit.

“I don’t really get these all the time. You get bumps and bruises, but any time it has anything to do with your hands, that’s a different story.”

Suzuki ultimately finished 0-for-4 with one strikeout and three groundouts.

“I was really worried about Suzuki,” manager Davey Johnson said. “I mean, he got it right between those two knuckles on the right hand.”

Desmond, meanwhile, appeared to tweak his knee while running out a double-play ball that ended the eighth inning. About halfway to first base, Desmond came up limp and ended up hopping much of the way to first. After being thrown out, he was also checked on, but like Suzuki, he stayed in the game.

“I’m not really exactly sure [what happened],” Desmond said. “I think it was maybe I hyperextended my knee or something like that. I think it was just one of those things where I was running down the line and felt something. My first reaction was just to jump off of it before something bad happened.

“I was able to stay in the game. I could’ve done anything, I wouldn’t have taken myself out to hit. If my at-bat came up, I would’ve hit, no doubt. I think it just scared me more than anything.”

Desmond did not have any tests taken on his knee, though he did say he had trainers check it out. He finished 1-for-4 with a single to right field in the second inning.

“Desi, it scared me to death, I thought he pulled a hamstring,” Johnson said.

The Nats have a day off on Thursday before beginning a six-day, five-game road trip with three games against the Phillies and two against the Marlins.

“We played great baseball,” Desmond said. “Great series; played well against the Mets, played well against the Braves. Nice little homestand. We’ll have a day off and then go to Philadelphia on Thursday.”

Game 124: Braves at Nationals

Mike Fiammetta here, helping out Bill Ladson on the blog. As always, check out Nationals.com for in-game updates.

Outside of some pregame rain showers that forced the players off the field and the tarp on, not much going on before tonight’s series finale with the Braves. At this point, with three rain delays in as many days, the weather isn’t even much of a surprise.

In his pregame session with the media, Davey Johnson said that once Stephen Strasburg is shut down, the team will probably face two or three starts without him. That figure comes after Johnson’s discussions with general manager Mike Rizzo, and it falls in line with what’s been widely expected.

“I don’t think the innings number is cut in stone,” Johnson said. “The science is not that exact.”

–Johnson said the Nationals expect add five or six players when rosters expand to 40 players on Sept. 1. The majority of the players, Johnson said, will have spent time with the Nats in the big league this season, with the exception of perhaps one — who was with the team in the spring.

–After Jesus Flores’ big fifth-inning home run last night, Johnson said the Nats’ catcher is benefiting from a relaxed mental approach at the plate.

“No doubt about it, but that’s a work in progress,” Johnson said. “He’s tried just about a different stance a day, different thought a day, different approach a day. [Hitting coach Rick Eckstein’s] just trying to get him to not keep trying so many different things.”

As always, Bill will have more in the notebook. Here are tonight’s lineups:

Nationals (77-46)

  1. Jayson Werth RF
  2. Bryce Harper CF
  3. Ryan Zimmerman 3B
  4. Michael Morse LF
  5. Adam LaRoche 1B
  6. Ian Desmond SS
  7. Danny Espinosa 2B
  8. Kurt Suzuki C
  9. Ross Detwiler LHP

Braves (70-53)

  1. Martin Prado LF
  2. Reed Johnson CF
  3. Jason Heyward RF
  4. Chipper Jones 3B
  5. Freddie Freeman 1B
  6. David Ross C
  7. Tyler Pastornicky 2B
  8. Paul Janish SS
  9. Kris Medlen RHP

Game 123: Braves at Nationals

Mike Fiammetta here, helping out Bill Ladson on the blog. As always, check out Nationals.com for in-game updates.

After last night’s 13-inning marathon, it appeared everyone — at least on the Nationals’ side — was in fairly good spirits today. Davey Johnson took some time to yet again discuss Stephen Strasburg’s shutdown situation, though nothing’s really changed.

“I never really get that far out and think about those things, guys that have been here,” he said. “I get questions asked about next week that hack me off. So I’m not really thinking about next spring or this time next year.”

The next spring reference, of course, was a reference to the notion of how the Nats’ innings cap is preserving Strasburg for the future. Strasburg’s going against Braves left-hander Paul Maholm tonight, so it will be interesting to see how far he goes. He enters the day with 139 1/3 innings pitched.

“I won’t be thinking about limiting him in his last few starts,” Johnson said. “I’ll go with what I think I can get out of him. That’s it.”

As so much of the Internet blogosphere and Twittersphere gears up for relentless Strasburg debate down the stretch, Johnson also addressed the team’s reasons for not playing around with Strasburg’s schedule by having him take starts off or get extra days off in between.

“I have a little experience in dealing with pitchers and their workload and their scheduling,” Johnson said. “The one thing that would’ve been the most detrimental to his health — to any pitcher’s health — is if you vary from what starts from day one of spring training. You can’t put somebody, like, as a fifth starter and then skip time. That’s more dangerous for a young pitcher, not having regular work. Some of these guys don’t handle even extra days off; they’re too strong, they start jumping.

“So you want to make sure that’s consistent. And if there’s a shutdown date, there’s a shutdown date. There’s no way to solve that problem making sure that you don’t take further risks.”

–Steve Lombardozzi knocked a pinch-hit single on the first hit he saw with one out in the bottom of the 11th inning. He was ultimately stranded there, but given how much adjusting Lombardozzi’s been forced into this year — from left fielder to second baseman and now a utility player — Johnson was impressed.

It’s really tough for a young player to know how take an approach to pinch-hitting. I’ve talked to a lot of the young guys about when you pinch-hit, you’re a little more aggressive, you look for a ball in the zone. You know that the pitcher’s in trouble, he doesn’t know you. A lot of times, it’s a tough situation, so you live for a ball in the zone and you try to hit it hard enough to hit a double. But you’re aggressive, and if you miss it, at least it’ll help your timing.”

“Lombo’s been impressive because he’s been adjusting to a very difficult role this year. Left fielder, second baseman, now he’s back to kind of a utility role.”

–Bill will have more on Strasburg in the notebook, as well as an update on Henry Rodriguez and more. Tonight’s lineups (Chipper Jones is out of the Braves’ starting lineup, though he is available off their bench):

Nationals (76-46)

  1. Jayson Werth RF
  2. Bryce Harper CF
  3. Ryan Zimmerman 3B
  4. Michael Morse LF
  5. Adam LaRoche 1B
  6. Ian Desmond SS
  7. Danny Espinosa 2B
  8. Jesus Flores C
  9. Stephen Strasburg RHP

Braves (70-52)

  1. Michael Bourn CF
  2. Martin Prado LF
  3. Jason Heyward RF
  4. Freddie Freeman 1B
  5. Dan Uggla 2B
  6. Brian McCann C
  7. Juan Francisco 3B
  8. Paul Janish SS
  9. Paul Maholm LHP
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