February 2013

Notes from Space Coast Stadium

* Left-hander Zach Duke will pitch against the Marlins on Sunday and then miss a couple of days to attend the funeral of his grandfather, B.J. Duke, who passed away Friday at the age of 87.

“He was a Marine & Battle of Iwo Jima Veteran who I had the pleasure of learning life lessons from. He was my Grandpa,” Zach Duke said on Twitter.

* Right-hander Christian Garcia still doesn’t know what’s wrong with his right forearm. He hopes to get the results sometime Saturday. Garcia is waiting on a second opinion from Baltimore.

In the meantime, Garcia said he will rest for a few days and hopes to be back on the mound soon thereafter.

* Here is the starting lineup for the Nationals on Sunday against the Marlins.

1. Denard Span –CF
2. Anthony Rendon—3B
3. Bryce Harper – LF
4. Tyler Moore – RF
5. Chad Tracy – 1B
6. Ian Desmond—SS
7. Danny Espinosa—2B
8. Kurt Suzuki – C
9. Steve Lombardozzi—DH
Jordan Zimmermann –P

Suzuki wants to stay with Nats past this season

Nationals catcher Kurt Suzuki said he would love to stay with the Nationals past this season. He feels the team will be successful for years to come.

Suzuki said he hasn’t talked to the team about an extension. As of now, he just plans to get ready for the season.

“I love it here. I love the guys in the clubhouse. It’s a fun clubhouse. I got know quite a few of these guys really well,” Suzuki said.  “They are just great guys to be around. The other part that doesn’t hurt, it’s a really good team. It’s going to be a really good team for a long time.”

After joining the Nationals on Aug. 3, Suzuki put up respectable numbers, hitting. 267 with five home runs and 25 RBIs. He also proved to be an above average game caller. Suzuki was acquired from the Athletics because the Nationals were unhappy with Jesus Flores’ game calling behind the plate.

Suzuki said a change of scenery helped him put up respectable numbers in the nation’s capital. When he joined the Nationals, Suzuki was having the worst year of his career, hitting .218 with a home run and eight RBIs.

“A lot of times, a lot of people say a change of scenery helps. In my case, it did,” Suzuki said. “It was nice coming over here. It was a different clubhouse, a different group of guys. They made it easy for me because the transition was so easy. I wasn’t performing up to my standards in Oakland and Rizz [general manager Mike Rizzo] believed in me. When your GM believes in you like that and he brings you over with the best record in baseball, it makes you as a player feel confident.”

Soriano arrives, ready to work with Nats

Nationals closer Rafael Soriano arrived in camp Saturday morning and was greeted in the clubhouse by teammate Gio Gonzalez and general manager Mike Rizzo.  Soriano would later get reacquainted with left-hander Will Ohman. The two played together when they were with the Braves  in 2008.

Soriano had visa issues, but was able to obtain one Friday morning in the Dominican Republic. Pitchers and catchers were scheduled to report this past Wednesday. While waiting to get his visa, Soriano was still able to find time  to work out.  In fact, Soriano was working out at the beach when he received word that he able to obtain his passport.

“I’m so happy to be here. I wanted to be here a little bit early and be with my new team” Soriano said.

Soriano, who joins a bullpen that already includes Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard, has a 2.78 career ERA in 11 seasons spent with the Mariners, Braves, Rays and Yankees. The Nats signed Soriano after their bullpen struggled during last year’s National League Division Series against the Cardinals, allowing 16 earned runs in five games.

Soriano felt he made a good decision by signing a two-year, 28 million contract with the Nationals. It marks the second time in his career that  Soriano goes into a season as the closer. The last time he went into a season as the closer was in 2010 when he was with the Rays. That year, Soriano had his best season, saving 45 games with a 1.73 ERA.

“I think I made a good decision with my [agent] to come here,” Soriano said. “Everybody is young. We have a good team. I come here and see what happens the next two weeks. I want to be comfortable with everybody here and win this year.

“Now I’m given the opportunity to be the closer. I’m happy with that. I want to win. That’s all I’m here for.”

Soriano had one of his best seasons in 2012, posting a 2.26 ERA with 42 saves for the Yankees, taking over closer duties after Mariano Rivera tore his right anterior cruciate ligament in early May. Soriano opted out of his contract with New York after he learned that Rivera was going to come back for the 2013 season. Soriano did not want to be a setup man.

Nats’ Zimmermann avoids arbitration

Right-hander Jordan Zimmermann avoided arbitration Friday evening by agreeing to a one-year, $5.35 million deal with the Nationals.

Zimmermann filed for arbitration at $5.8 million, while the Nationals wanted to pay $4.6 million. The two parties were scheduled to go to arbitration on Tuesday, but Zimmermann hinted early in the week that progress was made regarding a new contract.

“I was happy to get it done. Obviously, if we had to go [to arbitration], we were ready to go. We got the deal we wanted. We are definitely happy it’s over with,” Zimmermann said.

At the moment, Zimmermann and the Nationals are not talking about a contract extension. Since last summer, there has been talk about Zimmermann getting a multi-year deal.

“We are going to take it easy for a few days and just focus on baseball,” Zimmermann said. “As the time comes, we’ll be there to listen. We are just happy that the one-year deal is done and we are going to focus getting ready for the season.”

Zimmermann had his best season to date in 2012, winning 12 games with a 2.94 ERA in 195 2/3 innings. He is considered the third starter in a formidable rotation that includes Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez.