By Bill Ladson
* Nationals outfielder Jayson Werth was given a scheduled day off Friday against the Padres. According to manager Matt Williams, Werth needed the time off because he woke us Friday morning a little stiff. Werth has been an iron horse for the Nationals this year, playing in all 58 games prior to Friday’s action.
“We thought today would be a good day for him,” Williams said “We are not going to get another off day until we get home. Long road trip.”
In his Werth’s place, Nate McLouth received the start in right.
* Left fielder Ryan Zimmerman hasn’t missed a beat at the plate, going 4-for-11 [.364] with two RBIs since he was activated from the disabled list on Tuesday. Zimmerman said he is fortunate that he has been in the National League since 2005.
“I’ve been fortunate to be up here at a young age” Zimmerman said. “I’ve had a lot of at-bats, a lot of experience. I got to play a lot of games earlier in my career, so I kind of got to know my swing, know what kind of balls to handle.
“More importantly, you see a bunch of pitchers. There aren’t a lot of pitchers I haven’t faced. I think when you first come up, I think that’s the hardest part. You don’t know any guys. … I’ve been in this league a long time. I have a lot of experience.”
By Daniel Popper
With the No. 93 overall pick in the third round of MLB First-Year Player Draft, the Nationals selected catcher Jakson Reetz out of Norris High School in Hickman, Nebraska. The 6-foot-1, 206-pound University of Nebraska commit burst onto the scene last August when he was named MVP of the Perfect Game All American Classic. He went 2-for-4 with an RBI and two stolen bases.
Reetz is considered a quality two-way player who has a strong arm behind the plate and can reach low 90s on the mound. He is largely a line drive hitter with a short swing, but has potential to build power. Baseball America ranked Reetz as the No. 62 overall prospect and top prospect in Nebraska entering the Draft.
The Nationals drafted right-hander Erick Fedde with No. 18 pick of the first round on Thursday night and added three more right-handed pitchers on Friday.
With the No. 124 overall pick in the fourth round, Washington selected Robbie Dickey out of Blinn College in Brenham, Texas. Dickey is committed to Texas State, but will likely forgo that opportunity to play professionally. The 6-foot-3 right-hander touches 97 miles per hour on his fastball and also throws a slider and changeup. He was perhaps the top JuCo prospect after the fall, but struggled with bicep tendonitis in the spring. He still posted a 2.74 ERA with 100 strikeouts over 85 1/3 innings.
With the No. 154 overall pick in the fifth round, the Nationals selected Drew Van Orden, a senior right-hander out of Duke. He had impressive numbers this past season for the Blue Devils, sporting a 3.19 ERA with 91 strikeouts in 87 1/3 innings.
With the No. 184 pick in the sixth round, Washington selected right-hander Austen Williams out of Texas State. Williams started the season throwing a fastball that ranged between 91 and 94 miles per hour, but it tapered off to 87 to 90 miles per hour by the end of 2014. He also throws a hard slider.
The Nationals broke their streak of three straight right-handed pitchers in the seventh round when they selected center fielder Dale Carey out of Miami with the No. 214 overall pick. Known for his defense — he posted a 1.000 fielding percentage in 2014 — Carey raised his offensive production that past season for the Hurricanes and batted .305 with seven home runs, 29 RBIs, 16 stolen bases and a .405 on-base percentage.
The Nationals took three more college position players in the final three rounds: Louisville outfielder Jeff Gardner in the eighth, Nevada first baseman Austin Byler in the ninth and Oklahoma Baptist outfielder Matt Page in the tenth.
By Andrew Simon
WASHINGTON — As a junior at Fresno State in 2005, Doug Fister not only pitched, but also started 26 games at first base.
Those days are long gone, but Fister’s inner infielder has never left him completely, and that showed during Thursday’s win over the Phillies.
Fister exhibited the all-around game that Nats general manager Mike Rizzo touted after he acquired him from the Tigers this winter. The right-hander threw seven solid innings to put his ERA at 2.23 over his past five starts, laid down a pair of sacrifice bunts at the plate and also made three difficult plays in the field.
With runners at first and third and one out in the first inning, Fister nearly helped complete an inning-ending double play. When first baseman Adam LaRoche fielded Ryan Howard’s ground ball and threw to second, Fister hustled to cover first, then used his entire 6-foot-8 frame to stretch for the return throw. He wound up catching the ball in a full split position, but the throw was a tiny bit too late.
And, once more by popular demand, @dougfister58 also did this today (!!!) http://t.co/b2rq7a1iFI—
Washington Nationals (@Nationals) June 05, 2014
“It kind of reverts back to playing first base in college,” Fister said. “Again, it’s part of being a pitcher. You’ve got to get over and cover, and it’s just something that comes natural to me, to get out there and stretch.”
Fister wasn’t too impressed with the play, even if it sparked some concern in others.
“I thought he blew out,” LaRoche said. “But he hopped up and was like, ‘No, I’m good,’ like nothing happened. I couldn’t do it.”
“That’s not comfortable,” manager Matt Williams said of watching the play.
For Fister or for him?
“For both,” Williams said. “He’s a good athlete though.
“He could play first base if he had to.”
In the third inning, Fister showed off another part of his skillset, one he said he hones by having someone smack fungos back at him to improve his reaction time.
Speedy leadoff man Ben Revere hit a ground ball to the third base side of the mound as Fister finished his delivery to the first base side. Fister was able to reach back and twist himself around to snare it and make the play. Then in the sixth, he pounced on Revere’s bunt to the first base side of the mound, scooped it up and tossed to first.
“For a guy that tall, he’s got great agility,” Williams said.
Fister would be a desirable pitcher if pitching were all he could do. But the six-year veteran has shown an ability to handle the bat, control the running game and field his position, and last year was a finalist for an American League Gold Glove Award.
“It’s something I take a lot of pride in and spend a lot of work on,” he said.
Follow Andrew Simon on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB.
By Bill Ladson
WASHINGTON — The Nationals took a risk on an injured pitcher in the first round of the 2014 First-Year Player Draft, selecting UNLV right-hander Erick Fedde, who had Tommy John surgery this past Tuesday. One baseball source believes Fedde had the best stuff before he went down with the injury.
Before the surgery, Fedde had a great final season for UNLV, going 8-2 with a 1.76 ERA in 11 starts. He also had 82 strikeouts in 76 2/3 innings.
It marks the third consecutive year in which the Nationals have selected a pitcher in the first round of the Draft. The team selected Lucas Giolito and Jake Johansen in 2012 and ’13, respectively.
The Draft continues on Friday with Rounds 3-10. The MLB.com pregame show begins at 12:30p ET, with exclusive coverage of Rounds 3-10 beginning at 1p ET.
The Nationals are known to take a risk on players who are injured. Giolito and third baseman Anthony Rendon are two examples of players who were hurt before they were drafted. Rendon had shoulder and ankle problems before he was taken in 2010, and Giolito tore a ligament in his elbow before he was taken two years later.
Today, Rendon is among the team leaders in runs scored, hits and RBIs, and has a chance to participate in his first All-Star Game. Giolito has recovered from Tommy John surgery and is on an innings limit while pitching for Class A Hagerstown. He recorded a 2.29 ERA in eight starts.
How do the Nats balance the risk/reward when it comes to injured players?
“The upside has to really trump the risk of a player not coming back from an injury,” general manager Mike Rizzo said recently. “We really [consider] elbow injuries a lot more favorable than shoulder injuries. A lot that goes into it is the character of the player, the type of makeup that he has. The rehab process is not an easy one. You have [to have] the right character, right makeup to go through it and to come out the other end better than when you started.”
By Bill Ladson
WASHINGTON – Nationals manager Matt Williams and catcher Jose Lobaton were saddened by the death of Rays senior advisor Don Zimmer, who passed away Wednesday. Zimmer was in the game for 65 years, with roles that included being a player, coach and manager.
Zimmer is best remembered for being the bench coach of those Yankees teams that won four World Series titles in five years from 1996 to 2000.
Zimmer was a coach with the Giants when Williams made his Major League debut with them in 1987. The last time Williams saw Zimmer was last year.
“It’s a sad day for everybody that knows Don and his family,” Williams said. “He taught me a lot about baseball, and he’s taught a lot of people about baseball. Fantastic ambassador, great coach, manager, and we all mourn the loss of him. … Great memories, provided many, many baseball players and fans and organizations with great memories.”
Lobaton met Zimmer a year after the Rays selected him off waivers from the Padres in 2009. During Spring Training, Zimmer gave Lobaton words of encouragement, telling him he would be in the big leagues one day. Lobaton reached the Majors by 2011.
“I’m really sad because I [know] him — great person,” Lobaton said. “We talked a lot. He was one of the guys who would tell me all the time to be patient in baseball. [He would say,] ‘You know what’s going to happen. You are going down. Keep working.’ He would talk to me all the time. … I know all the baseball players know him and everybody is going to be praying for him.”
By Bill Ladson
WASHINGTON — The Nationals collected 15 hits in a 9-2 victory over the Rangers, but Nationals second baseman Danny Espinosa went 0-for -3 in the contest. But talk to manager Matt Williams, and Espinosa had impressive at-bats.
In the third inning, Espinosa hit the ball hard, but grounded out to second base. After he was walked intentionally an inning later, Espinosa flied out to center field in the sixth before grounding out to third baseman Adrian Beltre in the eighth.
“Although he didn’t get any hits tonight, he saw the ball really good tonight. He was right on everything. That’s a good sign, too,” Williams said. “He has been making some adjustments and he is working extremely hard the last three days to make those adjustments. I think the fruits of that labor showed up a little bit.”
Espinosa acknowledged that he is trying to shorten his swing from the left side of the plate. Espinosa hasn’t had a hit since May 20th. But Espinosa felt comfortable in the batter’s box Friday.
“I always try to shorten my swing as much as I could,” Espinosa said. “When you close your front side, your swing gets longer, you are fighting with your body, but it felt good today.”
By Bill Ladson
In the sixth inning of Friday’s 9-2 victory, Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos reached base on a five-ball walk. The rules state that a player can reach base on a four-ball walk. It seems almost everyone lost track of the count, except Ramos.
According to Ramos, when the count reached 3-2, Rangers catcher Chris Gimenez asked home plate umpire Scott Barry what the count was and Barry replied, “2-2.” Ramos thought for sure the count was 3-2 and Barry repeated the count as 2-2. Even the Nationals’ scoreboard said the count was 3-2. Barry then put his hands up and reiterated that the count was 2-2. Barry was not available for comment.
“In my mind, I was thinking it was 3-2,” Ramos said. “That’s OK. I received the walk any way.”
Even Nationals manager Matt Williams thought Ramos had walked a pitch earlier, but didn’t argue the count with Barry.
“You always say, ‘Were we right on the count,’ so we looked at each other and went, ‘Huh, I thought that was ball four.’ We have a lot going on over there, talking a lot about different situations, so we missed that one.”
During Ramos’ first at-bat in Saturday’s game, will the umpires make up for Friday and give Ramos a three-ball walk?
“I don’t think they are going to give that one to us,” Williams said. “I’ll ask him when I go up there [Saturday]. We’ll see.”
By Bill Ladson
WASHINGTON –Nationals third base Ryan Zimmerman is close to a rehab assignment. He could start as early as this weekend, according to a baseball source. It’s not known which Minor League affiliate he will play for.
Once he starts, Zimmerman most likely will be a designated hitter for a couple of games. After that, he could play third base, left field or first base. Zimmerman is going to play all three positions once he returns to the big league level, the source confirmed.
During the off day Thursday, Zimmerman worked out at third base without any problems. Two days before that he was working out at first base. As of two weeks ago, Zimmerman was working out in left field.
“I think the most important thing is getting back into the lineup and swinging the bat and hopefully helping us score some runs,” Zimmerman told the local media yesterday. “I feel comfortable whatever makes sense for me to help the team win. I’m not sure if I could pitch or catch, but I feel like I could play pretty much anywhere else on the baseball field and not look out of place. I take pride in being a pretty good athlete.”
Zimmermann missed almost two months of action because of a fractured right thumb he hurt against the Braves on April 12th.
By Bill Ladson
WASHINGTON – Nationals left-hander Gio Gonzalez threw a bullpen at Nationals Park during Thursday’s off day, according to a baseball source, and the session went without a hitch.
Gonzalez next move will be having a simulated game Sunday and then have a rehab assignment five days later. It’s not known which Minor League affiliate he will play for.
The Nationals placed Gonzalez on the 15-day disabled list on May 18th because of left shoulder inflammation. Gonzalez has been dealing with shoulder problems dating back to his April 23 start against the Angels, but he said it was nothing to be concerned about. However, he had one of his roughest starts on May17th in a 5-2 loss against the Mets, allowing five runs in three innings.
After the game, he declined to discuss his shoulder problems, saying he had to gut it out on the mound. Gonzalez was placed on the DL the next day.
By Bill Ladson
WASHINGTON — Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton is having the best year of his career, thus far. Entering Friday’s action, Stanton was hitting .318 with a National League-leading 15 home runs and 49 RBIs.
Nationals infielder Greg Dobbs played with Stanton for three-plus years, and Dobbs is not surprised by the season he is having.
“He is getting better so quickly at his age. He understands the strike zone so much better. His pitch selection has improved dramatically. He is just an athletic phenomenon. I was fortunate to play with him for 3 1/2 years and how he goes about his business. He takes it very seriously. A lot of people think he just shows up to the park and just plays the game. No, he has a very strong work ethic. He takes what he does very seriously.”
Ever since he entered the league in 2010, Stanton has been a nuisance to the Nationals. During his career, Stanton is 70-for-258 (.317) with 21 home runs and 50 RBIs. At Nationals Park, Stanton has a .336 batting average with 14 home runs and 27 RBIs.
Asked why he is having so much success at Nationals Park, Dobbs said, “There are just some places where guys just really love to hit in, and this just happens to be one of those parks for him. He feels comfortable in the box. He sees the ball well here, obviously. I just think it’s one of those things where he feels very comfortable hitting here.”