Results tagged ‘ Matt Williams ’
By Bill Ladson
NEW YORK — Despite the reports that he is going to be dismissed as manager of the Nationals, Matt Williams said nobody in the front office talked to him about his status with the club. He is said he is focusing on the final three games of the season against the Mets.
“Nobody has spoken to me at this point and, frankly, it’s not a concern of mine right now. We have a guy [Bryce Harper] who is a potential MVP on our team and we have three games to play. That’s what I’m concentrating on. That’s what I know right now. As of today I have a job to do a couple of time and we’ll go from there.”
It was a bad month of September for Williams. The Mets swept a crucial three-game series from the Nationals at Nationals Park during the second week of September. By Sept. 26, the Nationals were eliminated from postseason contention as the Mets won the National League East title.
A day later, teammates Bryce Harper and Jonathan Papelbon were involved in a dugout confrontation. It was a fight that Williams claimed he didn’t see until he saw a video of it later that night. Papelbon ended up getting suspended four games because of the fracas.
Then reports surfaced in the Washington Post that Williams lost the club, doesn’t communicate well with his players and players questioning how Williams handled the bullpen, which turned out to be its weakest link.
Asked why he didn’t defend himself after the reports came, Williams said, “I personally feel that it’s my job to be a calming force as opposed to a disruptive one. We have a lot of talented players on this team that I support whole heartedly every single day. I will not stop doing that – ever. Believe me when I tell you this.
“So with that being said, I’m not going to subject this team to any more distractions. There no need for further distractions at this point. What’s important is that we finish this season strong, Beyond that, it noise.”
Williams said he talks to Nationals management every single day, but wouldn’t tell the local media what has been said between the two parties.
By Bill Ladson
ATLANTA — Over the last few days, Nationals manager Matt Williams has been criticized by the press for things like the way he communicates with his players and the way he handles the bullpen.
Asked to respond to the criticism that has been written about him recently, Williams said, “If we are going to talk about, it’s going take longer than a conference like this. I think you have to have all the facts and I mean all of them. That being said, I’ll hold my comments now because all of the facts are not out there. It doesn’t feel good. … It is what it is, and we will move on from today. I would say we have a few games to play. We need to play well. That’s what I’m concentrating on now, and we’ll deal with it at the appropriate time.”
By Bill Ladson
WASHINGTON — Entering Tuesday’s action the Nationals were 6 ½ games behind the Mets in the National League East race with 13 games to go. With Pope Francis arriving in DC on Tuesday, Nationals manager Matt Williams was asked if he wanted the Pope to bless the Nationals. What was Williams’ response?
“I would like for us to win tonight’s game and we go from there,” Williams said.
Williams said he doesn’t expect Pope Francis to visit Nationals Park, “but he is the Pope, so you never know.” he said.
By Bill Ladson
WASHINGTON — By defeating the Marlins, 5-1, on Saturday night, the Nationals are 5 1/2 games behind the Mets, who lost to the Red Sox, 3-1, earlier in the day. It was the first time in 11 days Washington gained ground on New York in the National League East race.
Some of the Nats are denying that they are not paying attention to what the Mets are doing. But first baseman/outfielder Clint Robinson has his eyes on the Mets.
“I don’t know about everybody else, but I do,” Robinson said. “That’s who were chasing in the playoff race. If I see that they lost and it’s a chance for us to gain a game, I want that as badly as I do any other win. We saw it and it was a good opportunity for us to gain a game.”
Manager Matt Williams said the Nationals understand they have to win games, but can’t control anything else.
“If we win, we have an opportunity to [gain ground],” Williams said. “If we don’t, then we don’t. Tomorrow is another opportunity. So if we can win that one, we can have that same chance tomorrow as well.”
By Bill Ladson
WASHINGTON — Before Saturday’s game against the Brewers, Nationals manager Matt Williams had catchers Wilson Ramos and Jose Labaton work on catching throws from right field.
The practice came a day after Lobaton, normally a quality catcher, had a tough time catching a good throw from Bryce Harper in the seventh inning against the Brewers. It allowed two runs to score and Harper was charged with an error on the play.
“We want to make sure, given the homestand and us playing extended games [at Nationals Park], we want to make sure we have a good feel [for the throws]. That’s all it was today,” Williams said.
Ramos, especially, has had problems catching throws with a short hop from Harper. Ramos tries to tag the runner and catch the ball at the same time, which leads to the ball going past Ramos and allowing the runner to score.
There was pitching machine in right field, shooting missiles to Ramos and Lobaton. While they were making the plays, there is nothing like making the plays during the game.
“It helps us get more comfortable at the plate and practice the position of receiving the ball,” Ramos said. “Receiving balls from the outfield, we have short bounces, so it’s not easy catch that ball. You are thinking about the runner and the ball and you want to catch the ball and tag the runner quickly.
“Sometimes, we miss the ball because we try to be too quick. It’s part of the game. I know we have to catch the ball first and then tag the runner. We were practicing today — just catch the ball and [tag] the runner.
By Bill Ladson
New York – It has been reported the Nationals were looking to strengthen their bench by trying to acquire the versatile Ben Zobrist, but the Nationals already have their version of Zobrist in Danny Espinosa.
Espinosa can play four infield positions and the corner outfield spots. Espinosa hasn’t started a game since Ryan Zimmerman and Jayson Werth were activated from the disabled list on Tuesday. Espinosa is expected to see some time on the field soon when Anthony Rendon is given a day off.
“[Danny] has the ability to play the outfield. He doesn’t have a whole lot of experience out. If we give him the opportunity to put him out there, we can do that,” manager Matt Williams said. “The first two days [in Miami], he has been doing some extra work out there and getting prepared if need be. He is willing to play and able to play anywhere we want him to.”
Espinosa has been arguably the team’s best bench player this season, hitting .253 with 10 home runs and 29 RBIs.
By Bill Ladson
NEW YORK — Nationals catcher Jose Lobaton started Sunday’s game against the Mets. It marked the fourth time in the last eight games that Lobaton was inserted into the starting lineup.
Manager Matt Williams said recently said that he hasn’t ruled out Lobaton getting more playing time behind the plate. He is already Gio Gonzalez’s personal catcher. Wilson Ramos, the team’s starting catcher, is not having a good year defensively and in a 5-for-55 [.091] slump to drop his batting average to .234.
“It depends on where we are at, Williams said about the catching situation. “It depends on matchups, where we are at. The deeper lineup allows us to have more flexibility in that regard, too.”
By Andrew Simon
WASHINGTON — From 2010-14, Tyler Clippard averaged 74 appearances out of the Nationals bullpen. Other than a stint as closer in 2012, he did most of his work as a set-up man, pitching in the eighth inning nearly 50 times per year over that stretch.
On Wednesday night, the Nationals led the Mets, 2-1, heading into the eighth. This would have been Clippard’s spot, but he was traded to the A’s during the offseason, and Drew Storen took over for Rafael Soriano at closer. That left manager Matt Williams without a clear right-handed option for the eighth inning, to use alongside lefty Matt Thornton.
At least on this day, Williams turned to Blake Treinen, a 26-year-old righty with 15 games of Major League experience, including eight relief appearances. The manager said that was his plan coming into the game, and it worked, as Treinen tossed a scoreless inning, and the Nats won, 2-1.
This was a new experience for Treinen, who mostly started in the Minors. Of his eight times working out of the bullpen last year, all but one came in a Nats loss or blowout win. Baseball-Reference.com’s average leverage index, which measures the pressure during a pitcher’s outing, puts Wednesday’s appearance as the highest-leverage of Treinen’s young career.
“Even last year in the bullpen, I didn’t really come in for one-run leads,” Treinen said. “So its still new, but I enjoyed it
“It’s something I’ll get adjusted to. I don’t think it bothers me. I enjoy those moments.”
Treinen tries not to approach things much differently out of the bullpen. But a short stint can allow him to dial up his velocity while focusing on his sinker and slider and pushing aside his third pitch, a changeup.
On Wednesday, Treinen threw two sliders and 11 sinkers, which averaged a blazing 97.7 mph, according to BrooksBaseball.net. The Mets did hit a couple of balls hard, with David Wright ripping a one-out single to right before Lucas Duda lined into an inning-ending double play.
But for context, of all pitchers who threw at least 200 sinkers last year, PITCHf/x measured only two who topped that average velocity. Treinen’s stuff certainly impressed Williams, who envisions him as a big part of the bullpen.
“He’s running the ball in there at 98 mph with some good sink,” Williams said afterward. “I’m happy with the way he went about it tonight. Certainly be more opportunities for him.”
The Nationals had their first session of live batting practice Sunday and Williams was impressed with what he saw from right-hander A.J. Cole.
“He had a great live session today,” Williams said. “For me, he is growing into body. He is a young player. He is tall. He has great leverage and is getting stronger certainly by the year. This year he came into Spring Training looking great. Of course, we know about his fastball and curveball. Depending on the day, he can touch mid-to-high 90s with his fastball. He is a very promising prospects for us and still very young. … I know he wants to pitch and loves taking the ball that for sure.”
Cole, the Nationals’ No. 2 overall prospect according to MLB.com, had arguably his best season in professional baseball in 2014, going a combined 13-3 with a 3.16 ERA for Double-A Harrisburg and Triple-A Syracuse. He pitched 134 innings and struck out 111 batters. At 22, Cole features a mid-to-upper-90s fastball and front-end-of-the-rotation potential. He owns a career strikeout-to-walk ratio of 4.24 and has struck out 9.1 batters per nine innings over the course of his career.
By Andrew Simon
WASHINGTON — One thing is clear for the Nationals when it comes to filling out their starting rotation for the postseason: There are no bad options.
Right-hander Tanner Roark tossed a solid 6 1/3 innings Tuesday against the Mets, earning his 15th win and lowering his ERA to 2.85, which puts him in the top 20 in the Majors. Yet there is a strong possibility that Roark won’t be among Washington’s four starters for the NL Division Series.
Manager Matt Williams has yet to announce anything regarding the playoff rotation, as each of his pitchers enjoys a strong finish.
“When they go out there, they compete,” he said. “It makes for tough decisions, but those are good tough decisions.”
Stephen Strasburg, treated as the staff ace all year, has a 1.34 ERA and 33-to-2 strikeout-to-walk ratio over his last five outings. Jordan Zimmermann, consistently effective for four straight seasons, has a 2.11 ERA during a streak of 11 straight quality starts. Doug Fister, who has a stellar postseason resume, owns a 2.55 ERA after three straight solid outings. Gio Gonzalez, the rotation’s only lefty, has come on strong with a 2.79 ERA while posting six straight quality starts.
Roark, meanwhile, has done absolutely nothing to lose his spot. Consistently dependable throughout the season, the 27-year-old owns a 2.54 ERA in 14 starts since July 13.
Yet with four more established, experienced options in play, Roark could be the odd man out. He’s also thrown 198 2/3 innings this season, easily his most as a professional, and could be an asset out of the bullpen. As a reliever for the Nats in 2013, he gave up three earned runs on 14 hits and struck out 19 in 22 2/3 innings.
“You’ve got to keep doing your job,” he said of the situation. “You go out there each day, work hard each day in between starts and go out there whenever your name is called. You can’t really think about it.”
The Nats have the luxury of enjoying rare rotation depth, with each of their five starters throwing at least 150 innings with an ERA+ of 100 or better (ERA+ adjusts ERA for league and ballpark, with 100 the average). The last team to do that in a season, according to Baseball-Reference.com’s Play Index, was the 2011 Rangers. Only four clubs have accomplished the feat since 1991.
“All the guys we’ve got deserve that spot,” first baseman Adam LaRoche said. “I’m just glad it’s not my decision.”
Soon, the Nats will have the make the call. No matter what, someone will be rightfully disappointed, but Williams isn’t worried that will cause a problem.
“Of course they’ll understand,” he said. “At this point in the year, not everybody will like it, but everybody will understand. We’re all on the same end of the rope, and everybody must do their part to get where we want to get to.”
Follow Andrew Simon on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB.