August 2012

Game 122: Braves at Nationals

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

As the Nationals get set for arguably their biggest series since baseball returned to D.C., they received a bit of poor news about their top pick in this year’s First-Year Player Draft, right-hander Lucas Giolito.

ESPN.com’s Keith Law first reported this afternoon that Giolito had reinjured his throwing elbow — the same one in which he suffered a sprained ulnar collateral ligament back in the spring. The injury did not require surgery, though the 18-year-old did not pitch for Harvard-Westlake School in Los Angeles after the first week of March.

Prior to tonight’s series opener with the Braves, general manager Mike Rizzo said that Giolito experienced soreness after making his professional debut on Aug. 14 in a two-inning outing for the Nationals’ Gulf Coast League affiliate. Giolito was seen by team physician Wiemi Douogui after he experienced the soreness and is in the process of being scheduled for a second opinion with orthopedic specialist Dr. Lewis Yocum.

“We knew when we drafted him that this was an issue,” Rizzo said. “We were comfortable with the fact that the worst case scenario was Tommy John surgery, and we’ll see if that’s where we’re headed. Going into this with our eyes wide open, we felt that this was a scenario and a possibility.”

Up in the big leagues, the Nationals carry a five-game lead over the Braves into tonight’s series-opener. Coming off an 8-2 road trip, the Nats won two of three games with the Mets over the weekend. The Braves, meanwhile, lost the last two of a three-game set with the Dodgers. Nevertheless, they’ve won six of their last 10 to stay within striking distance of the Nationals.

“It’s the Atlanta Braves, they’ve always been one of the best teams in the league,” manager Davey Johnson said. It would be the same feeling no matter how we were [in the standings]. We know they’re pretty good, and they know now that we’re pretty good. It’s going to be fun.”

Tonight, right-hander Jordan Zimmermann takes his MLB-leading 2.38 ERA into a matchup with fellow righty Tim Hudson, who threw 6 1/3 shutout innings against the Padres last Tuesday. One fun fact: since Hudson lost to the Nats on July 1, the Braves have won all eight of hits starts while the 37-year-old veteran posted a 3.12 ERA.

Tonight’s lineups:

Nationals (75-46)

  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. Jordan Zimmermann RHP

Braves (70-51)

  1. Michael Bourn CF
  2. Martin Prado LF
  3. Jason Heyward RF
  4. Chipper Jones 3B
  5. Freddie Freeman 1B
  6. Dan Uggla 2B
  7. Brian McCann C
  8. Paul Janish SS
  9. Tim Hudson RHP

Morse catches up with media, talks about grand slam

Nationals outfielder Michael Morse caught up with the media Saturday and talked about his grand slam that helped defeat the Mets, 6-4, on Friday at Nationals Park.

The Nationals were behind, 2-0, and without a hit against Mets left-hander Johan Santana after three innings. But that changed by the fourth inning.

Santana allowed three consecutive singles up the middle to Jayson Werth, Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman. Morse came to the plate and hit a 1-1 pitch over the right-field wall for a grand slam, the third of his career. A curtain call was in order, and Morse gave the fans what they wanted. He raised his arms and gave two fist pumps.

“Santana had great control of his fastball and his change up,” Morse said via text message. “He was pounding me in with his fastball and I was looking for something over the plate to drive. I got a fastball up and I got a good swing on it. It was a great inning Jayson started and got us going.”

Considering that he missed the first two months of the season because of a lat strain, Morse has put up some nice numbers, hitting .300 with 12 home runs and 44 RBIs.

Desmond activated from DL; Izturis designated for assignment

The Nationals reinstated shortstop Ian Desmond from the 15-day disabled list and designated infielder Cesar Izturis for assignment.

Desmond hasn’t played in a game since early July because of a torn oblique. On Thursday, Desmond took batting practice and infield drills at Nationals Park and didn’t experience any problems.

“It was another great day,” Desmond said Thursday.

As for Izturis, he played in five games for Washington and went 2-for-4 with four runs scored before getting his walking papers. He was claimed off waivers from the Brewers on Aug. 6.

Game 118: Nationals at Giants

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

Well, it’d be safe to say that the focus at AT&T Park today is no longer the big pitching matchup between Stephen Strasburg and Tim Lincecum.

-Major League Baseball announced earlier today that Giants outfielder Melky Cabrera, seemingly on his way to a batting title with a .346 average, has been suspended for 50 games without pay after testing positive for Testosterone, a performance-enhancing substance. I’ll leave the analysis and reaction to the Giants reporters, but suffice it to say this is big news.

If the Giants make the playoffs — and they entered the day tied with the Dodgers for the National League West — Cabrera could return. If the Giants have to play the Wild Card game, he would be eligible to return for Game 5 of the NL Division Series. If they win the division, he could return for the NL Championship Series.

-If you would like to read more about this Strasburg-Lincecum matchup, however, go check out this story by myself and my friend and colleague Chris Haft. The players do get excited about matchups like this, even if Lincecum is having a rough season, and Mark DeRosa made some really interesting points when discussing his former and current teammates.

-In other news, Michael Morse is back. Davey Johnson said Morse “miraculously is a lot better,” but Morse figured he’d be in the lineup today.

Here are today’s lineups…

Nationals (72-45)
Steve Lombardozzi 2B
Bryce Harper CF
Ryan Zimmerman 3B
Adam LaRoche 1B
Michael Morse LF
Jayson Werth RF
Danny Espinosa SS
Kurt Suzuki C
Stephen Strasburg RHP

Giants (64-53)
Angel Pagan CF
Ryan Theriot 2B
Pablo Sandoval 3B
Buster Posey C
Hunter Pence RF
Brandon Belt 1B
Gregor Blanco LF
Brandon Crawford SS
Tim Lincecum RHP

Game 117: Nationals at Giants

Adam Berry here on the shores of McCovey Cove, pinch-hitting for Bill Ladson. For more news and notes and in-game updates, check out Nationals.com and follow me on Twitter @adamdberry.

A few quick updates from AT&T Park…

-The Nationals have a potential return date set for shortstop Ian Desmond, and it’s a bit sooner than expected. Washington’s All-Star shortstop will be activated for Friday’s series opener against the Mets, provided he gets through his full pregame workouts Tuesday and Wednesday and a simulated game Thursday without incident.

“I plan on, unless Mike Rizzo ties my hand behind my back, activating him. So I’ll keep my fingers crossed,” Nats manager Davey Johnson said. “He’s a horse. I want him back. We all want him back.”

-Jayson Werth is back in the Nats’ starting lineup. Werth reported to AT&T Park with his right ankle feeling much better than it did yesterday, when he was a late scratch from the lineup.

-Michael Morse, meanwhile, was held out of the lineup with a jammed right thumb, which caused him to leave last night’s game early. Johnson hoped to have him back for Wednesday’s series finale, assuming he’s in full health by then, but mentioned that he might not return until Friday.

-Desmond’s sim game on Thursday will be pitched by Chien-Ming Wang, who was recently pulled off his rehab assignment. If he looks fine there, Wang will “more than likely” restart his rehab assignment, Johnson said.

-Speaking of players who will likely join the Nats roster in September, Johnson said Anthony Rendon, promoted earlier today to Double-A Harrisburg, could be a candidate to be called up once the active rosters expand.

“He might be. We’ll see how he finishes up,” Johnson said. “This is the year of the young guys all around baseball, and he’s another one right in that mold.”

As for tonight’s lineups…

Nationals (72-44)
Danny Espinosa SS
Bryce Harper CF
Ryan Zimmerman 3B
Jayson Werth RF
Adam LaRoche 1B
Tyler Moore LF
Jesus Flores C
Steve Lombardozzi 2B
Jordan Zimmermann RHP

Giants (63-53)
Angel Pagan CF
Marco Scutaro 2B
Melky Cabrera LF
Buster Posey C
Pablo Sandoval 3B
Hunter Pence RF
Brandon Belt 1B
Brandon Crawford SS
Madison Bumgarner LHP

Nats Inbox: Beat reporter Bill Ladson answers Nationals fans’ questions

Are you finally on the Roger Bernadina bandwagon? He is having his best year offensively and we all saw his awesome catch against the Astros. Do you see him settling in as the Nats’ fourth outfielder during the foreseeable future or do you think he’ll be swimming in different waters next season?
— Tyler and Terry, Washington DC

I’ve always been on the Bernadina bandwagon. I’m simply not fond of the nickname, “The Shark,” because he doesn’t put up Albert Pujols numbers. I prefer the name, “Speed Racer,” because of the way he runs the bases.

There is no question that Bernadina is having a great year. I love the way he outplayed Rick Ankiel, who was released last month. Bernadina is having great at-bats — it helps that he shortened his swing — and playing great defense. He could be a fourth outfielder for years to come. I don’t see him playing every day for the Nationals. He could be trade bait during the offseason.

The Nats bullpen has been great this year. But they have been used a lot. Manager Davey Johnson seems reluctant to have his starters pitch the last three innings of a game — even if the pitch count is low. If this is going to be a postseason team, won’t they need a fresh bullpen? Is this just part of Davey’s managing personality?
— Chris, Marlborough, CT

I spoke to Johnson recently and he doesn’t want to over use his pitchers before the postseason begins. During the month of September, I expect the Nationals to call up extra relievers such as Christian Garcia, so I expect the Nationals’ bullpen to be rested by the postseason.

When Ian Desmond returns, I would assume that Jayson Werth will lead off and Ian Desmond will hit sixth. Is this what you think also?
— Jamie, New Brunswick, Canada

It’s hard to say. If both players can stay healthy, I could see both players leading off from time to time. I can also see Danny Espinosa leading off once in a while. During the offseason, it would not surprise me if the Nationals were looking for a leadoff hitter.

With the development of Bryce Harper, I do not see the urgency to acquire a center fielder for next season. They are overloaded in the outfield already. Do you agree?
— Rich R., Washington DC.

I disagree. They have almost nothing but corner outfielders. I think Harper is a better as a right or left fielder. While Bernadina is having a great year defensively in center field, the Nationals consider him a corner outfielder. They center fielder could come from the Minor League system [Eury Perez] or free agency [Michael Bourn].

With Adam LaRoche having a mutual option for next season, do you think he will decline his option due to such a great season? I was thinking that if LaRoche picks up the option as well as the Nats, the team could decide to deal either LaRoche or Michael Morse, get good value in return and then go after a center fielder in a trade.
— Alex H., London, England

It’s too early to answer the question about LaRoche and the mutual option. I think both sides will deal with the option after the season. I don’t think Morse will be traded because he has one more year left on his contract and could be put at first base for next year.

There is possibility they could wait for Perez and Brian Goodwin, but I’m expecting the Nationals to trade for a center fielder or sign one during the free agency period.

Although John Lannan has struggled this season at Triple A Syracuse, with his success with the Major League team, do you see a long-term future with him in the rotation again?
— Ben S. Concord. N.C.

The answer is no. It would not surprise me if he was non-tendered after the season. Provided that everybody is healthy or re-signed for next year, I see the rotation like this: Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann, Edwin Jackson and Ross Detwiler.

– Bill Ladson

Game 116: Nationals at Giants

Adam Berry here in The City by the Bay, pinch-hitting for Bill Ladson. For more news and notes and in-game updates, check out Nationals.com and follow me on Twitter @adamdberry.

UPDATE, 6:45 p.m.: The Nationals just announced that Jayson Werth was scratched from tonight’s game due to right ankle soreness. Werth, who was slated to bat sixth and play right field, didn’t come up in manager Davey Johnson’s pregame briefing with the media.

With Werth out, Michael Morse moved from left to right field, shortstop Danny Espinosa was bumped up from seventh to sixth and Roger Bernadina was slotted into the lineup, batting seventh and manning left field.

So, your new Nationals lineup:

Steve Lombardozzi 2B
Bryce Harper CF
Ryan Zimmerman 3B
Adam LaRoche 1B
Michael Morse RF
Danny Espinosa SS
Roger Bernadina LF
Kurt Suzuki C
Gio Gonzalez LHP

-The biggest news from manager Davey Johnson’s pregame scrum with reporters was that shortstop Ian Desmond would go through a full, normal pregame workout today at AT&T Park. In fact, he’s doing so on the field as I type this. Desmond, on the disabled list since July 22 with an oblique injury, seems to be ramping up his rehab rather quickly.

He started fielding grounders in Houston, began hitting in the cage in Arizona, and now, he’s going through a full workout on the field in San Francisco.

-The only other bit of news from Johnson was that the Nats might reshuffle their rotation a bit after Thursday’s rare, much-needed, insert-your-adjective-of-choice-here off-day, which will end a stretch of 35 games in 34 days.

Washington would obviously benefit from splitting up the two lefties in its rotation, Ross Detwiler and Gio Gonzalez, but Johnson mentioned the club might also want to line up its rotation for a particularly big series. Like, say, three games against the Braves next week at Nationals Park.

The move would likely allow Jordan Zimmermann, still dealing with some right shoulder soreness, to get some extra rest.

In other news, tonight’s lineups…

Nationals (71-44)
Steve Lombardozzi 2B
Bryce Harper CF
Ryan Zimmerman 3B
Adam LaRoche 1B
Michael Morse LF
Jayson Werth RF
Danny Espinosa SS
Kurt Suzuki C
Gio Gonzalez LHP

Giants (63-52)
Angel Pagan CF
Marco Scutaro 3B
Melky Cabrera LF
Buster Posey C
Hunter Pence RF
Ryan Theriot 2B
Brandon Belt 1B
Joaquin Arias SS
Ryan Vogelsong RHP

Plans for Strasburg; Garcia to be called up by Nats; Bourn mum on free agency

NEW YORK — The Nationals are expected to have right-hander Stephen Strasburg miss two or three regular-season starts, according to a baseball source.

Strasburg, who is on an innings limit after having Tommy John surgery in late 2010, more than likely will pitch no more than 180 innings this season. There was talk of Strasburg pitching 160 innings this year, but the source said those amount of innings are not set in stone.

The same source went so far as to say Strasburg will not pitch in the postseason once he is shut down.

Strasburg, who is expected to pitch against the Giants on Wednesday, is the ace of the Nationals’ pitching staff, going 13-5 with a 2.90 ERA and is tied for National League lead in strikeouts with 166. He also has a 2.12 ERA during day games, which is third in the National League. He already has pitched 133 1/3 innings.

If Strasburg doesn’t pitch in the postseason, the Nationals could go with four starters in a short series. That fifth starter could work out of the bullpen.

Garcia to be called up soon
NEW YORK — The Nationals are expected to call up reliever Christian Garcia to the big leagues during September call ups, according to a baseball source.

Garcia, a former Yankees prospect, is a combined 2-0 with a 0.79 ERA and 16 saves in 38 games for Double A Harrisburg and Triple A Syracuse.

“He deserves to be the big leagues,” the source said. “He would be a big help to the bullpen.”

Nats looking for a center fielder
NEW YORK — Once the offseason starts, the Nationals are expected to look for a center fielder/leadoff hitter, and Braves outfielder Michael Bourn is person who is always mentioned as a possible target for Washington. He is a free agent after this season and represented by agent Scott Boras.

Asked on Sunday if he thought about playing for the Nationals one day, Bourn said, “Not really. As far as the free agency goes, I just wait until the end of the season and we’ll see what happens. I know my name has come up on different occasions with different teams. But, right now, I play with the Atlanta Braves and I enjoy where I’m at right now. I’m having fun. I’m on a good team, thankfully. It’s a blessing to be over here, I’m just going to ride all this all out for right now and see what happens at the end of the season.”

The Nationals are currently using Bryce Harper, Roger Bernadina and Jayson Werth in center field. Werth is normally a right fielder, while most believe Harper and Bernadina are corner outfielders.

– Bill Ladson

Game 115: Nationals at D-backs

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

Not a whole lot going on before today’s series finale against the D-backs at Chase Field, where the Nationals will try for their ninth straight win.

-You can check out the story from last night’s game here. Saturday’s Nats notebook also got a late-night update on Ian Desmond’s first swings.

-And, in case you missed it, Bill Ladson is still churning out stories from back on the east coast. You can read his Q&A with manager Davey Johnson here.

-One point that may have slipped under the radar last night: The Nats can play .500 baseball the rest of the way and win 95 games. Obviously they have higher aspirations, especially with the Braves still right behind them, but their skipper had that number in mind. Davey’s math wasn’t exactly on the mark, but his point is no less valid.

“I’m very aware of that,” Johnson said, smiling. “Not that I expect that to happen, but it’s kind of a mathematical equation. When you can play .500 ball, other clubs have to win around 80 percent of their games. … We don’t need anybody keeping us honest.”

Here are today’s lineups, with Jayson Werth getting the day off:

Nationals (71-43)
Danny Espinosa SS
Bryce Harper CF
Ryan Zimmerman 3B
Michael Morse RF
Adam LaRoche 1B
Tyler Moore LF
Kurt Suzuki C
Steve Lombardozzi 2B
Ross Detwiler LHP

D-backs (57-57)
Chris Young CF
Aaron Hill 2B
Jason Kubel LF
Paul Goldschmidt 1B
Justin Upton RF
Miguel Montero C
Chris Johnson 3B
John McDonald SS
Patrick Corbin LHP

Game 114: Nationals at D-backs

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

-Nats manager Davey Johnson told us last night that Bryce Harper would be out of tonight’s lineup, and indeed he has the day off. Johnson wanted to get Tyler Moore a start against Arizona lefty Wade Miley, so the outfield will be Moore-Werth-Morse tonight. Harper will be back in the lineup Sunday.

-Werth is leading off tonight. He’s batting .400/.500/.500 in nine games since coming off the disabled list, and the Nats haven’t lost a game he’s played in. His overall batting line this season is .305/.403/.453, and Johnson said the biggest change in his approach is that he’s willing to use every part of the field after trying too hard to always go to the opposite field last season.

“He’s attacking the ball. He’s much more of a threat. I like his swing better this year. Everything about him has been great,” Johnson said. “Everybody in the lineup now is swinging like I know they’re capable of doing. That’s why it’s fun to watch this team now. We’ve got a chance to score some runs.”

-In other news, Ian Desmond was scheduled to take his first swings in the cage since hitting the DL with a torn left oblique. He’s still scheduled to come back in late August or early September. Johnson wants the Nats’ medical staff to play it as safe as possible with Desmond, but he’s certainly eager to have him back in the lineup.

“When that man’s ready, I want him back,” Johnson said. “Arguably he’s been the most dynamic player this year.”

Here are tonight’s lineups…

Nationals (70-43)
Jayson Werth CF
Danny Espinosa SS
Ryan Zimmerman 3B
Michael Morse RF
Adam LaRoche 1B
Tyler Moore LF
Jesus Flores C
Steve Lombardozzi 2B
Edwin Jackson RHP

D-backs (57-56)
Stephen Drew SS
Aaron Hill 2B
Jason Kubel LF
Paul Goldschmidt 1B
Justin Upton RF
Miguel Montero C
Chris Johnson 3B
Gerardo Parra CF
Wade Miley LHP

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