By Andrew Simon
WASHINGTON — Describing last season as a “wakeup call,” Tyler Moore is preparing for Spring Training with the mindset that he will need to win a spot on the Nationals’ 25-man roster.
Moore, who turns 27 on Thursday, burst onto the scene with a strong rookie season in 2012 but struggled throughout much of ‘13, enduring a demotion to the Minor Leagues along the way. He figures to be a part of Washington’s bench again this year but isn’t taking that job for granted.
“I’m not given anything,” Moore said on Saturday at FanFest. “I definitely have to earn what I’m gonna get. I’m just looking forward to it, looking forward to competing.”
Moore knows that playing time could be scarce this season. Adam LaRoche remains as the starter at first base, and while the right-handed Moore could get some starts there against lefties, The Washington Post reported in December that the club plans to have third baseman Ryan Zimmerman work out at first this spring. If Zimmerman takes some starts at first, and with Scott Hairston providing an extra righty bat in the outfield, Moore likely would be relegated mostly to a pinch-hitting role.
That puts the onus on Moore to produce in more limited opportunities.
“I think last year maybe I was a little too lackadaisical in spring, and that’s what I want to kind of correct this year because I know I don’t have an everyday job, obviously,” Moore said. “I have to be ready to come in and hit when I have a chance, and when I have that chance, I have to take the best advantage of it.”
As a rookie, Moore hit .263/.327/.513 in 171 plate appearances, with 10 home runs and 29 RBIs. But in ‘13, he posted a .222/.260/.347 line in 178 plate appearances, seeing his walks drop and his strikeouts rise while collecting four home runs and 21 RBIs.
Then-manager Davey Johnson talked frequently about how difficult it can be for a young player, used to being in the lineup every day in the Minors, to fill a bench role in the Majors. Although he enjoyed some success as a pinch-hitter in ‘12, Moore went 1-for-18 with 12 strikeouts last year.
“Physically, I definitely know how. Mentally it’s still a challenge,” Moore said of coming off the bench. “I think it’s still a challenge, even for the veteran guys, and it’s something you have to figure out every day and your own personal way to do things. The biggest thing for me is just to slow the game down and really just get locked in when I’m watching the game on the bench, to stay in the game and not lose myself.”
Moore spent about a month and a half at Triple-A Syracuse last summer, but when he returned, he was clicking. Making the most of some chances to start, Moore went 21-for-61 (.344) from Aug. 17 on, with four doubles, a homer and seven RBIs.
With that finish as a springboard, Moore intends to come to Nationals camp in Viera, Fla., with a sense of urgency as he looks to put 2013 behind him.
“It was tough. But at the same time, it was kind of a wakeup call, like, look, you can’t just roll in here [to the Majors] and think you’re gonna do good all the time,” Moore said. “This is a tough and humbling game, and it’s an eye-opener, makes you a little bit more hungry, because a lot of people are talking bad and you just want to prove them wrong, but at the same time you want to prove to yourself that you belong here and you want to stay.”
By Bill Ladson
WASHINGTON — During the offseason, Nationals left-hander Gio Gonzalez had bullpen sessions every Tuesday at the University of Miami with former Yankees catcher Jorge Posada.
“I think Jorge is a great mentor, a childhood dream,” Gonzalez said. “I always dreamt about pitching to Jorge Posada. It’s not that often you get a guy that is more than happy to catch a bullpen for you. … He is an inspiration as an idol. He is everything you could possibly think of and more. He is a true definition of an athlete.”
Gonzalez put photos of him and Posada on Twitter and had some people believe that Posada was possibly making a comeback. But Gonzalez wants everybody to know that Posada will remain retired. In the meantime Gonzalez is getting sound advice from Posada, who teaching him about pitching mechanics, patients and hitting his spots in the strike zone.
“You just sit there and listen,” Gonzalez said. “How many times [do] you have a [five-] title guy coming up to you with the information he has.”
By Bill Ladson
WASHINGTON — Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo spoke to the local media at Saturday’s NatsFest and he acknowledged that the team had interest in reliever Grant Balfour, who recently signed a two-year, $12 million deal with the Rays. Rizzo said Balfour wanted to be closer to home .
“We thought there was a value there. I think sleeping in his own bed and being near his home over road what we were trying to get for him,” Rizzo said.
Had the Nationals acquired Balfour, they most likely would have traded reliever Drew Storen, who said he was not bothered by the trade rumors this offseason.
“You don’t take it personally, it part of it. It’s flattering that other teams want you, too,” Storen said. “You look at it from all angles. [The Nationals] are a great team. Obviously, I don’t want to go anywhere. It’s just part of the business. Nothing new.”
Meanwhile Rizzo hasn’t ruled out acquiring a backup catcher. The Nationals are looking for someone who can fill just in case the starter, Wilson Ramos, misses a lot of time because of injury.
“If a backup catcher fits what we are trying to do and becomes available, we would certainly look into it,” Rizzo said.
The Nationals are looking for a guy who can drive in runs. As of now, Sandy Leon, Jhonatan Solano, Chris Snyder are battling for the backup role. All were not impressive in the batter’s box last year.