April 2013

Thursday’s starting lineup for Nats

Denard Span — CF

Steve Lombardozzi — 3B

Bryce Harper — lF

Jayson Werth — RF

Adam LaRoche — 1B

Ian Desmond — SS

Danny Espinosa — 2B

Kurt Suzuki — C

Gio Gonzalez —  P

Nats’ Johnson plans to make changes to lineup

After watching his team get swept by the Cardinals, Nationals manager Davey  Johnson announced that infielder Steve Lombardozzi will start at third base against the Reds on Thursday.

The Nationals are looking for someone who can spark the offense at the top of the lineup. Lombardozzi will most likely hit second, which means Anthony Rendon will sit on the bench and Jayson Werth will move down in the order and hit fifth.

During the three-game series against the Cardinals, the Nationals scored three runs on 17 hits. Washington is now on a six-game losing streak at home.

“I’m going to have to juggle it up and do a few things tomorrow. Change the mind set,” Johnson said. ‘I’m going to get Lombo in the lineup, get him hitting in the top of the order. Move Werth around. He said some things to me after the ballgame. So just shake some things up a little bit. Little different roles.”

Lombarzozzi has been productive coming off the bench this season, going 10-for-29 [.333]  with three RBIs. When second baseman Danny Espinosa was out of the lineup because of a hand injury last week, Lombardozzi went 7-for-21 (.333) with three RBIs.

“Lombo is a great player. He has a little bit of stability. He is not a guy that goes out of his comfort zone,” shortstop Ian Desmond said. “He is a very disciplined player. His routine as far as at-bat to at-bat and defensively, he is that sound [player] that we need.”

Werth, was hitting second, agreed with Johnson about putting Lombardozzi near the top of the order.

“He could help jump-start the offense. That’s fine,” Werth said. “I don’t care where I hit. We need to do something to switch it up and get the offense going. We are not manufacturing runs, not getting timely hits. Like I said, things are not going our way. Hopefully, that will help.”

Rendon has struggled since he was promoted to the big leagues on Sunday.  After four games, he is 2-for-15 with an RBI. Rendon replaced Ryan Zimmerman, who is on the disabled list because of a hamstring injury.

“Zimmerman is a big part of our lineup. He is right there in the middle. He could hit three or four either way,” Werth said. “That is a guy you are going to miss no matter what. Even without him, our lineup is pretty tough. We have to get by without him for now. It doesn’t seem like he’s too bad, so he’ll be back soon. In the meantime, guys are going to have to step up.”

Game 15: Span, Espinosa out; Harper back in

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

Bryce Harper is back in the Nationals’ starting lineup for tonight’s series finale against the Marlins. He said he feels much better today than he did yesterday — and he looked like he felt better, too.

Denard Span, on the other hand, wasn’t quite feeling up to starting. Span seemed to be hit a little worse by whatever stomach flu bug affected him and Harper: He reported to Marlins Park early Tuesday afternoon but couldn’t even build up the strength to get out of bed and come back to meet a doctor around 6 p.m., so he just stayed in bed.

Span did say he was feeling better today, though, and manager Davey Johnson said the outfielder could be an option in the later innings tonight if the right situation presents itself.

Danny Espinosa is still on the mend, although not healthy enough to get back on the field for tonight’s game. Espinosa, who fielded a few grounders at second during BP but has yet to take any swings that we know of, has been saying the past few days that he was optimistic he could return today and that he’ll be back Friday “at the latest.”

Johnson was not as optimistic about Espinosa’s chances of coming back Friday, giving the second baseman a “50-50″ chance to return for the Nationals’ series opener against the Mets.

As for tonight’s lineups…

Nationals (8-6)

RF Jayson Werth
2B Steve Lombardozzi
LF Bryce Harper
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam LaRoche
SS Ian Desmond
CF Roger Bernadina
C Kurt Suzuki

LHP Ross Detwiler

Marlins (3-11)
LF Juan Pierre
2B Donovan Solano
3B Placido Polanco
CF Justin Ruggiano
1B Greg Dobbs
RF Austin Kearns
C Miguel Olivo
SS Chris Valaika
RHP Ricky Nolasco

More on Game 14: Desmond defends Zim, Haren searching

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

Before we get to tonight’s series finale against the Marlins, let’s take another look back at the Nationals’ 8-2 loss last night. You can read a bit about the frustration Dan Haren and Ryan Zimmerman are feeling, and how they’re both searching for answers, in that game story.
 
Both veterans were extremely honest and reflective about what they’re going through right now — Haren’s inability to keep runners from getting on base and crossing home plate, and Zimmerman’s throwing errors — and were willing to take the blame on themselves for what happened Tuesday night. Their quotes in the game story show you that.
 
-After they both did their best to explain what’s going wrong, Ian Desmond offered up a strong defense of Zimmerman, who obviously is dealing with some criticism about his defense. Zimmerman went to his teammates, including Desmond, to ask what they’re seeing from him. Here’s some of what Desmond had to say in support of Zimmerman:
 
“I think if this is going to be the fall of a superstar, you’ve got it completely wrong. You don’t get to the level he’s at without overcoming some things along the way. You can talk to him about growing up. He was always a little guy, never hit homers in high school or college, and all of a sudden he figured it out. And now he’s a 30-homer, 100-RBI-a-year guy. It’s just when you run into those trials, how do you deal with it?
 
“He’s obviously talking to you [reporters]. And I think him coming to us, he knows something’s going on. But it’s not going to derail his stardom. He’s an unbelievable talent, and he’s got to remember that. He’s got a Gold Glove in his house. He knows how to do it. He needs to get out of his own head, just like we all do. I made 40 errors a year. It’s part of the game. You have to go through that stuff. And there’s nobody I think would be able to bounce back from it more than he would.
 
“In a sense, it’s a confidence thing. He’s never come to me before about how to hit a homer, or how to drive in a runner from second, or how to make a diving play. So I would imagine his confidence is a little down if he’s coming to me. I have some things that I see, but I think he’s to the point now where it’s right there. He’s gotten 100 times better. Everything is already moving in the right direction. He makes one and then he makes five good throws. He’s moving in the right direction.”
 
 
-Desmond also defended Haren, saying the rest of the team can feed off his ability to grind through a game. But Haren was really critical of himself, admitting that something has to change and “it’s not this hard” to get batters out. He pointed out that he used to be capable of throwing 100-pitch complete games, not nearly 100 pitches to battle through five innings. 
 
(For what it’s worth: Haren has thrown 16 complete games in his career. Two of them — one in 2005, the other in ’06 — were nine-inning complete games thrown on 98 and 100 pitches, respectively. So he’s not exaggerating, but it’s been a while.)
 
“I’m searching. My stuff is there. I don’t know velocity-wise, whatever, but I feel like the ball’s coming out all right,” Haren said. “I’ve learned to pitch with a little less velocity. In 2011 I had a great year (16-10, 3.17 ERA, 1.024 WHIP, 5.82 K/BB), and I wasn’t throwing any harder than I’m throwing now in the American League. Probably need to go back and look at that stuff, pitch more like that, whatever I was doing then. But yeah, I’m searching right now. I’m searching for answers. I’m trying in between starts and I’ve got to get better. I do. I feel worse about it than anybody.”
 
-Manager Davey Johnson said he was sure Haren would come around. He said he’s been thinking that Zimmerman wouldn’t feel completely comfortable until June. And Zimmerman might as well have been speaking for himself and Haren when he was asked if his throwing’s going to get better with time.
 
“Well,” Zimmerman said, “it can’t get any worse.”

Nats vs. Marlins: Game 14 lineups, notes

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

On Monday, Nationals manager Davey Johnson sat first baseman Adam LaRoche in order to get Tyler Moore some playing time. Bryce Harper and Denard Span won’t be starting Tuesday night, but for a different reason.

Johnson said Harper and Span were both “very sick” with a stomach flu Monday night –they can’t keep any food down, feel dehydrated and were up much of the night.

Both were scheduled to see a doctor at 6 p.m. at Marlins Park. Harper showed up late Tuesday afternoon, and Span was sent back to the hotel to rest after reporting earlier this afternoon.

“They’re going to see the doctor here at 6 but definitely not available to go. I saw Span here earlier, and he looked like he needed to go back to bed,” Johnson said. “Hopefully they’ll have a quick recovery.

“I know it’s been going around DC, same thing. I hope it’s just a 24-hour flu, but with some guys it hangs on for two or three days.”

So, with Harper and Span out and Danny Espinosa still getting treatment for his bruised forearm, the Nats will head into Tuesday night’s game with a two-man bench: Chad Tracy and Jhonathan Solano.

And who’s going to man the outfield if something happens to Tyler Moore, Roger Bernadina or Jayson Werth? Well, let’s just say Davey sparked quite a debate among the relievers in the clubhouse before the game.

“It was just a conversation that didn’t bear a lot of fruit,” the manager said.

As for the starting lineups…

 
Nationals (8-5)
RF Jayson Werth
CF Roger Bernadina
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam LaRoche
SS Ian Desmond
LF Tyler Moore
2B Steve Lombardozzi
C Kurt Suzuki
RHP Dan Haren
 
Marlins (2-11)
RF Chris Coghlan
LF Juan Pierre
3B Placido Polanco
1B Greg Dobbs
CF Justin Ruggiano
C Rob Brantly
SS Adeiny Hechavarria
2B Donovan Solano
RHP Alex Sanabia

Rival Q&A: Braves Center Fielder B.J. Upton

After eight years with the Rays, outfielder B.J. Upton signed a five-year, $75 million deal with the Braves this past offseason. So far, Upton is off to a slow start, going 3-for-29 with just an RBI entering Friday’s action. However, his teammate, brother Justin Upton, is red hot, hitting .353 with a league-leading six home runs.

MLB.com caught up with B.J. on Friday to talk about the Braves, Justin and the Nationals.

MLB.com: How good are the Braves this year?

B.J. Upton: We can be very good. We have all the right pieces. We have the pitching, we have the bullpen. We have the lineup to do it. We have the bench players to do it. We have to keep doing what we are doing. The biggest thing for us: we are playing well, but we haven’t clicked on all cylinders yet.

MLB.com: How do you explain the fast start? The Braves lost only one game.

Upton: I don’t know. We are getting timely hits. Our pitching has been keeping us in ballgames. We are just hitting the ball when we need to right now. Obviously, we would like to do it a little bit more consistently, but it’s still early. We have a lot of season left.

MLB.com: How good is it to see your brother, Justin, get off to a hot start?

Upton: It’s something that is pretty cool to watch. Obviously, what happened during the offseason and the rumors that were rumbling around, it could have affected him. [Those rumors] haven’t affected him. For the most part, he has been carrying us. He has been doing pretty well right now.

MLB.com: How much has your presence helped him?

Upton: I don’t know. I can’t say he wouldn’t be doing this without me here. I’ve seen him do it in the past. … He is a strong-minded guy, he works hard and he strives for perfection. Obviously, you are not going to be perfect in this game. If you expect that out of yourself, you are going to get the results that you want.

MLB.com: What do you think of the Nationals? How much of a factor will they be in the National League East race?

Upton: They are a great team. Obviously, they showed it last year. They didn’t lose anybody and they have some guys back healthy. Like I said, they are a great ballclub and we know they are going to be around all season.

MLB.com: I know you are from Virginia. After you became a free agent, did you think about playing for the Nationals?

Upton: That was always a possibility. It didn’t work out that way. I’m an Atlanta Brave. I’m looking forward to playing baseball with these guys.

MLB.com: Did you ever think about playing on the same big-league team as Ryan Zimmerman?

Upton: We would like to do it. But sometimes, things don’t work out. We are always going to support each other. Maybe not as much in the series when we play each other. But we are always going to support each other. I wish him the best. We’ve always been good friends. We get together during the offseason as much as we can. I know he comes to Florida every once in a while. We get out and have some dinner. I’m always supporting him and he is always supporting me.

MLB.com: You spent most of your career with the Rays. Do you miss them?

Upton: Obviously, being with them for 10 years, there are some things that I miss, but it’s baseball. Obviously, there are some guys who stay with one franchise their entire careers. But I think to be at one place for 10 years is pretty good. I will always have a place in my heart for them and I’m always rooting for those guys because they gave me an opportunity to be where I am today. I wish them nothing but the best.

MLB.com: What do you miss about the city of Tampa?

Upton: I still live there during the offseason. I can’t really say I miss it because I’m there all the time. When I’m not in Atlanta, I’ll be in Tampa. The people and the city of Tampa, it’s a great place to live. They are friendly people, it’s a great place to start a family. For me, I like to play golf. It’s a great place to play golf. It such a great place to be. The weather is beautiful all year round. I feel comfortable there. I lived there the last eight years. Obviously home is Virginia, but if there is a home away from home, Tampa is it. I plan on settling there.

Friday’s starting lineups for Braves, Nationals

Braves
Andrelton Simmons–SS
Jason Heyward–RF
Justin Upton — RF
Evan Gattis — 1B
B.J. Upton– CF
Dan Uggla–2B
Chris Johnson — 3B
Gerald Laird–C
Julio Teheran — P

Nationals
Denard Span–CF
Jayson Werth–RF
Bryce Harper–LF
Ryan Zimmerman– 3B
Adam LaRoche–1B
Ian Desmond–SS
Danny Espinosa– 2B,
Kurt Suzuki–C
Ross Detwiler— P

Thursday’s starting lineup for White Sox, Nationals

White Sox
Alejandro De Aza — CF
Jeff Keppinger — 2B
Alex Rios — RF
Adam Dunn — LF
Paul Kornerko — 1B
Alexei Ramirez — SS
Conor Gillaspie — 3B
Tyler Flowers — C
Dylan Alexlrod –P

Nationals
Denard Span — CF
Jayson Werth — RF
Bryce Harper — LF
Ryan Zimmerman — 3B
Adam LaRoche — 1B
Ian Desmond — SS
Danny Espinosa — 2B
Wilson Ramos — C
Dan Haren — P

Nats’ McCatty not worried about bullpen

The Nationals’ relievers are off to a slow start, allowing 20 runs in 21 2/3 innings entering Wednesday action against the White Sox. Ryan Mattheus and Drew Storen are the only pitchers in the bullpen with an ERA of 3.00 or lower. After seven games last year, the relievers allowed just six runs in 20 1/3 innings.

As recently as Tuesday night, the Nats’ bullpen allowed six runs to the White Sox. The big blows came when Paul Konerko hit a three-run homer off Tyler Clippard, while Rafael Soriano allowed a two-run homer to Alex Rios.

But pitching coach Steve McCatty isn’t worried about the bullpen and feels it will get its act together soon. All that matters to McCatty is that the Nationals are winning. The team is 5-2 entering Wednesday’s action.

“Yesterday was two mistakes and we didn’t hit our spots – fastball in and a slider away,” said McCatty who was referring to Clippard and Soriano. “Do I have any concerns? No. Could they do better? Sure. But it’s still early. Clip didn’t give up a run all spring, so something is going to happen. Sori has a little tweak in his leg and that is not an excuse, but it was a pitch we knew you can’t throw that kind of mistake — breaking ball that spins over the plate. He left it in there.

“Everybody is looking at the first seven games that we are playing. Could we be sharper? Sure. Is there a reason to doubt it? No. There is going to be stretches during the season, where everybody is going to have their moments where everything is clicking together. But fortunately, the offense has been good enough that we are still able to get the wins.”

McCatty said he doesn’t have any concerns about anyone in the bullpen, including Henry Rodriguez, who is coming off elbow problems.

“Henry has done better. His arm is feeling fine,” McCatty said. “With him, every once in a while, he has a tendency to overthrow. We know that. But the next time out [against the Reds] he threw nine pitches. So it’s an on-going thing with him. He is still a young kid and learning what he needs to do every time. Am I concern about him? No. He has unbelievable stuff. He has to learn how to harness it.”

Wednesday’s starting lineups for White Sox, Nationals

White Sox
Alejandro De Aza — CF
Jeff Keppinger — 2B
Alex Rios — RF
Adam Dunn –LF
Paul Konerko — 1B
Alexei Ramirez — SS
Conor Gillaspie — 3B
Tyler Flowers — C
Gavin Floyd — P

Nationals
Denard Span — CF
Jayson Werth — RF
Bryce Harper — LF
Ryan Zimmerman — 3B
Adam LaRoche — 1B
Ian Desmond — SS
Danny Espinosa — 2B
Kurt Suzuki — C
Jordan Zimmermann — P

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