The Nationals and Cardinals found themselves in scuffle in the top of the seventh inning Monday afternoon.
In that inning, with one out and the Nationals leading, 4-2, Cardinals right-hander and former National Miguel Batista hit shortstop Ian Desmond with a pitch. As he was walking toward first base, Desmond was arguing with Albert Pujols. Suddenly, both benches emptied, but no punches were thrown.
The two teams scuffled for about 15 minutes with Nationals manager Jim Riggleman and Cardinals skipper Tony LaRussa having a few words.
It mark third time a hitter was hit by a pitch during the game. Laynce Nix was hit by a Chris Carpenter pitch in the top of the fifth inning, while Colby Rasmus was plunked in the bottom of the inning by Nationals right-hander Livan Hernandez.
A few hours after Nationals right-hander Cole Kimball was sent to Minor League camp, MLB.com asked a baseball source this question: With Kimball sent to the Minors, does this mean Drew Storen will be on the 25-man roster?
The source made it clear that Storen could still be sent to Minor League camp. On Friday, Storen left it open for a possible demotion, pitching one inning and allowing three runs on four hits during a 10-4 loss to the Cardinals.
Storen entered the game in the seventh inning with the Cardinals leading 6-4. He allowed a two-run homer to Daniel Descalso and a solo homer to Mark Hamilton. For the season, Storen has allowed nine earned runs in 6 1/3 innings.
“He must be throwing the ball in the sweet zone — in the middle of the plate — for them to hit the ball the way they did,” Riggleman said about Storen’s outing Friday. “We don’t make excuses, he is just not getting them out.”
The Nationals reassigned catcher Derek Norris to Double A Harrisburg on Thursday afternoon. Norris was 3-for-15 [.200] with four walks and an RBI.
Norris was a long shot to make the Major League team out of Spring Training. Wilson Ramos and Ivan Rodriguez are currently battling to be the Opening Day starter behind the plate. If Ramos wins the job, for example, Rodriguez will be the backup unless general manager Mike Rizzo decides to trade Rodriguez.
If Rodriguez is traded, it most likely means Jesus Flores will be the backup catcher.
Two days after fouling a ball of his right foot, second baseman Danny Espinosa traveled with the Nationals to Lake Buena Vista, Fla., on Thursday and will come off the bench against the Braves.
Espinosa had to leave Tuesday’s 5-2 loss to the Mets in the top of the seventh inning after fouling a ball off the top of his right foot.
Espinosa, who had to be carried off the field and into the trainer’s room, appeared to be seriously hurt initially. The good news was that Espinosa was walking on his own power after the game. X-rays on Espinosa’s foot were negative.
“I will play for a few innings just to see how it is. It was just swelling. That’s all it is,” Espinosa said. “I figured it wasn’t broken. I didn’t have any pain in the actual spot I was hurt. What was hurting was the swelling inside my foot that was making my ankle and toes stiff. They checked everything before I left the clubhouse that night, so I wasn’t too worried.”
Espinosa is one of the Nationals’ best players this spring, hitting .324 with two home runs and a team-leading 12 RBIs.
“I feel good. With runners in scoring position, I try to get that runner from third home, even if it’s a ground ball or whatever it is,” Espinosa said.
The Nationals sent first baseman Chris Marrero to Minor League camp Thursday afternoon. He is expected start the season with Triple A Syracuse.
Marrero wasn’t surprised by his demotion because Washington signed first baseman Adam LaRoche to a two-year deal this past offseason.
Marrero had an impressive Spring Training witgh the big club, going 8-for-21 [.381] with three RBIs. But what caught the eyes of many was Marrero’s dramatic improvement on defense. Manager Jim Riggleman often raved about Marrero’s range around the bag.
Before Spring Training started, Marrero had a reputation of being a below-average defender. Marrero has made 54 errors in 3,124 chances during his Minor League career.
“I knew I wasn’t going to make the team because we have a great guy in LaRoche playing first base,” Marrero said. “But I know wherever I go, I’m going to have that confidence that I can hit in the big leagues. I’m going to take advantage of it, work hard and have it in my head. My goal is to be in the big leagues.”
Said Riggleman, “He is a really good right-handed hitter. He is really looking like a player. I think he is going to have a nice career as a first baseman in the big leagues. So he is in a good place. He will get to Triple A this year and get after it.”
The Nationals sent right-hander Cole Kimball and Corey Brown to Minor League camp Thursday morning. Both players are expected to start the season for Triple A Syracuse.
Of the two players, Kimball’s demotion was the biggest surprise because it appeared he had a serious shot at making the big-league club. In six games, Kimball allowed a run in eight innings and struck out eight batters.
According to a baseball source, Kimball took the news hard and told his superiors that he pitched well enough to be on the 25-man roster. However, Kimball was told that Stephen Strasburg was the Nationals’ best pitcher last Spring Training and had to start the season in the Minor Leagues.
Kimball was also told that the Nationals have a lot of pitchers who are out of options and they couldn’t afford to let them go.
Kimball is considered one of the Nationals’ best prospects and expected to be in the Major Leagues sometime this year.
As for Brown, he appeared in two games and was 1-for-3 with an RBI. He hasn’t played since early in the spring because of a sprained left ankle.
The left-handed-hitting Brown is considered to be a year away from the Majors. He hit a combined .283 with 15 home runs, 69 RBIs and 22 stolen bases in 131 games last season with Double-A Midland and Triple-A Sacramento.
After a slow start with Sacramento, Brown was a Texas League All-Star and Topps Double-A All-Star in 90 games with Midland, hitting .320 with 10 homers, 49 RBIs, 19 stolen bases and a .415 on-base percentage.
Brown can bat anywhere from the two hole to the seventh spot in the order. If he gets to play in the Major Leagues, he could find himself in left or center field.
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — Nationals second baseman Danny Espinosa had to leave Tuesday’s game in the top of the seventh inning against the Mets after fouling a ball off his right foot.
It looked like Espinosa was seriously hurt. He had to be carried off the field and into the trainer’s room. There is no official word on how serious the injury is.
Espinosa is expected to be Washington’s everyday second baseman this season. Entering Tuesday’s action, Espinosa was having a solid spring, going 11-for-33 [.333] with two home runs and a team leading 11 RBIs.
The Nationals made their second round of roster cuts Friday.
They optioned pitchers Adam Carr and Garrett Mock to Triple-A Syracuse and reassigned first basemen Michael Aubrey and Kevin Barker, outfielders Jeff Frazier and Jonathan Van Every, catchers Carlos Maldonado and Jhonatan Solano and pitchers Luis Atilano, J.D. Martin & Josh Wilkie to Minor League camp.
The team also released reliever Cla Meredith, who had Tommy John surgery this spring. Meredith’s elbow started to hurt during his first bullpen session of Spring Training. He was hoping it was scar tissue breaking up inside his elbow. He already had bone chips removed from the elbow this offseason. However, about a week later, Meredith needed elbow construction.
The Nationals’ Spring Training roster is currently at 46 players.
Of the players cut, Carr was the biggest surprise because he pitched well, throwing four shutout innings and striking out two batters.
Last season, Carr was one of the best relievers in the team’s farm system, going a combined 6-2 with a 2.75 ERA for Double-A Harrisburg and Triple-A Syracuse. That success carried over into the Arizona Fall League. He posted a 2.08 ERA in 10 appearances for the Scottsdale Scorpions.
“Obviously, coming into my first big-league camp, you want to impressed people,” Carr said. “I felt that I came in and made a strong showing. I just worked hard and lived by what I wanted to do – just take it one day at a time. I felt good.”
Manager Jim Riggleman said Carr wouldn’t have seen a lot of time had he survived the cuts.
“[Pitching coach] Steve [McCatty] puts the pitching together and lines it up as to how many innings the starters are going to go or how many innings there are left for the relievers,” Riggleman said. “The opportunities for Adam to pitch and show what he could do were going to be minimized. He was going to sit too many days. So he needs to get into Minor League camp and get on a regular schedule.”
Manager Jim Riggleman raved about catcher Derek Norris on Monday morning, calling him one of the most impressive players in camp and comparing him to outfielder Josh Willingham in terms of knowing the strike zone. After all, Norris has an on-base percentage of .414 during his four years in professional baseball.
Not only is Norris an above average hitter, he has made strides behind the plate, according to Riggleman.
“He really looks good at the plate. His catching is coming along,” Riggleman said. “We really think he is going to be a big-league catcher. You like to give respect to the guys who have done it. He kind of gives you that Willingham feeling up there as a hitter. He is kind of built like Willingham, knows the strike zone like Willingham and we think he is going to have similar power like Willingham.”
The Nationals are loaded with quality catchers, which include Ivan Rodriguez, Wilson Ramos, Jesus Flores and Jhonatan Solano. Is there any talk of Norris switching positions? The answer is no.
“Right now, he is a catcher, period” Riggleman said about Norris. “He really got his game together in the [Arizona Fall League]. He was more aggressive in the Fall League and here in Spring Training. We feel like he is going to catch period. The strides he has made with our instructors throughout the system and [assistant general manager] Bob Boone, we are really seeing that he can catch. That’s where it’s at.”
Last season, Norris played for Class A Hagerstown and Potomac and hit a combined .235 with 12 home runs and 49 RBIs, but he had a .419 on-base percentage. He missed time in 2010 because of a wrist injury and concussion suffered after being hit by a pitch.
Free agent infielder Cristian Guzman is planning to sit out the first half of the 2011 season because of family issues, according to his agent, Stanley King, who would not say what those issues were.
King also said if the issues are not resolved in a timely manner, Guzman will not play at all this season. Guzman will attempt to make a comeback next year.
King insisted that two National League teams made offers to Guzman during Spring Training, but Guzman decided a couple of days ago not to play. King declined to name the two teams.
“Hopefully, Cristian will have the family issues sorted out in the next couple of months,” King said via phone.
Last season, Guzman played with the Nationals and Rangers and hit a combined .266 with two home runs and 26 RBIs. On July 31st, the Nationals traded Guzman and cash to the Rangers for pitchers Ryan Tatusko and Tanner Roark.
Guzman, 32, played 11 seasons in the big leagues, mostly with the Twins and Nationals. He is a .271 career hitter with 62 home runs and 467 RBIs.