Results tagged ‘ Matt Williams ’

Defensive miscues haunting Nationals

By Andrew Simon

WASHINGTON — The Nationals’ defense has been an issue all season, but the sloppiness seemed to rise to another level during Thursday night’s 8-0 loss to the Cardinals.

The Nats committed a season-high four errors that helped bring in two unearned runs, and that doesn’t even include some of their other miscues in the field. It was only the 12th game with at least four errors in the franchise’s 10-year Washington history, and the first since July 15, 2011, against the Braves.

“Those happen,” Nats manager Matt Williams said of the mistakes. “ It just seems like it’s happening an extraordinary amount to us.”

Williams isn’t imagining things. Washington now leads the Major Leagues with 20 errors on the season, including seven by shortstop Ian Desmond, who committed two on Thursday. By contrast, the Orioles have an MLB-low three errors, and several other teams remain in single digits.

Of course, errors don’t tell the whole story, but advanced metrics aren’t smiling on the Nats’ gloves either. Even before Thursday’s showing, they ranked 23rd in the Majors in FanGraphs’ defensive value and 26th in Baseball Prospectus’ defensive efficiency.

Friday might have been the low point — or at least the Nats will hope it was.

The Cardinals started a three-run first-inning when Desmond mishandled Matt Carpenter’s grounder and pitcher Taylor Jordan did the same on Kolten Wong’s. In the fourth, Desmond made a bad throw to first, and on the next play, umpires ruled that second baseman Danny Espinosa dropped Desmond’s flip while transferring to his throwing hand. In the sixth, Desmond failed to make a play on Adam Wainwright’s grounder into the hole, although that was ruled a hit. And finally, in the eighth, right fielder Jayson Werth lost Yadier Molina’s line drive in the lights as it sailed past him.

First baseman Adam LaRoche said he doesn’t see any trend in all the miscues.

“Some of it gets magnified, you kick a couple of balls,” he said. “Maybe we’re pressing a little. It’s the same way at the plate. Like tonight, nothing going on, guys trying a little too hard to expand the zone and you end up looking worse. It could be the same way defensively. We have a really good defensive club, is the thing. It’s not showing right now, but I have a feeling that by the end of the year those numbers are going to be our specialty. We are just too good defensively to make the kind of errors we are.”

Williams isn’t prescribing any radical fixes. The team will prepare the way it already was scheduled to on Friday, which means a full session of ground balls.

“We just keep grinding away at it,” he said.

Follow Andrew Simon @AndrewSimonMLB

Nats’ Knorr believes Ramos has wrist injury

By Bill Ladson

NEW YORK — After catcher Wilson Ramos hurt his left wrist in Monday’s Opening Day game against the Mets, Nationals bench coach Randy Knorr went on FM 106.7 The Fan on Tuesday and revealed that Ramos’s left wrist problems date back to Spring Training.

According to Knorr, the injury first occurred in Jupiter, Fla., about a week ago. After a particular at-bat in Spring Training, Ramos went into the dugout and said, “My wrist feels funny.” But Ramos managed to be in the Opening Day lineup on Monday against the Mets and went 0-for-3.

In his final at-bat in the seventh inning, Ramos struck out looking and was immediately taken out of the game. He was replaced by Jose Lobaton, who could be the No. 1 catcher if Ramos goes on the disabled list.

“Yesterday we were watching that last at-bat he had, and he took a swing. It was like the second pitch he took a swing and fouled it off over the first-base dugout,” Knorr told The Sports Junkies. “I saw it and Rick Schu, our hitting coach, comes over and says, ‘Randy, you see that?’ I go, ‘Yeah.’ And then he takes a fastball down the middle.

“Now, Wilson Ramos has never taken a fastball down the middle, ever. So when he came in I said, ‘What’s going on with you, man?’ And he said, ‘I don’t know, it doesn’t feel right.’ So we took him out of the game.

“… For Wilson Ramos to come out of the game, it doesn’t look good. I always try to stay positive and say OK, go to the doctor, maybe it’s not as bad as people think it is, maybe it’s two or three days, and I try to stay that way, but in my mind and seeing guys over my career, it really doesn’t look good. It might be a hamate bone or something.”

Nats manager Matt Williams originally said that Ramos suffered a left hand injury. As of 6:30 p.m. ET, the Nationals have been quiet on the extent of the Ramos’ injury. If Ramos goes on the disabled list, they could call up catcher Sandy Leon, who was less than stellar in the Minors last year. Leon was one of the final players sent to Minor League camp this past Spring Training.

Andrew Simon contributed to this report.

Nats Grapefruit League Notes, 3/1

By Andrew Simon

VIERA, Fla. — Saturday’s Grapefruit League contest between the Nationals and Braves at Space Coast Stadium featured two teams that figure to be fighting each other for the National League East title. But after a brisk first two innings from starters Jordan Zimmermann and Julio Teheran, the game devolved into a sloppy affair that lasted three hours, 59 minutes and featured 31 runs, 37 hits, 14 walks, six errors and numerous misplays.

For what it’s worth, the Nats outlasted the Braves, 16-15. Here are some notes and observations from a long and crazy day at the ballpark:

– Zimmermann was on point, throwing 15 of his 20 pitches for strikes and getting five ground balls in six batters during two scoreless innings. As mentioned in today’s notebook, Zimmermann mixed in some nice changeups, a part of his repertoire that that he has developed very gradually in recent years.

– Bryce Harper played his first game of the spring, going four innings in left field and taking three plate appearances. He lined out sharply to first base, walked twice and stole a base.

– The Nats went 3-for-3 on steals in the third inning, with Denard Span stealing one on his own before pulling off a double steal of third and second with Harper. New manager Matt Williams wants his players to run the bases more aggressively, and they appear to be doing that in the early going.

– Most of the Nats pitchers after Zimmermann had a tough time, but veteran righty Luis Ayala — competing for one the last two bullpen spots — stopped the bleeding. He came in to protect a one-run lead with one out and the bases loaded in the eighth and induced an inning-ending double play, then pitched a scoreless ninth for the save. Ayala is a sinkerball artist who posted an excellent 59 percent groundball rate last season, mostly with Atlanta.

“He’s a guy that can have really quick innings,” Williams said. “An aggressive opposition, ball sinking down and in, a lot of ground balls. So that’s why we’re considering him and that’s why he’s here and it was a perfect situation today for him.”

– Michael Taylor, who is considered a strong defensive prospect in center field, had a rough day after entering the game in right. He made two errors on one play to allow Matt Lipka to circle the bases on a bloop hit down the line and later dropped a line drive into the right-center gap.

“We want to make sure he gets some reps out there,” Williams said. “Today’s a rough day for any right fielder, but he’ll get some more reps out there, too.”

Tomorrow: The Nats are back at Space Coast to take on the Marlins at 1:05 p.m. Doug Fister will start in his Washington debut, and fellow newcomer Jerry Blevins is scheduled to pitch as well. Jayson Werth is supposed to play for the first time this spring.

Looking ahead: Ross Detwiler will start against the Yankees on Monday in Tampa, and Stephen Strasburg will take the ball against the Braves on Tuesday in Lake Buena Vista. That would leave Gio Gonzalez as the one expected member of the rotation yet to pitch.

Worth noting: Although he called Saturday’s defensive sloppiness an “aberration,” Williams said his club will address the issue in a previously scheduled situational defense practice on Sunday.

Worth quoting: While passing a group of reporters in a hallway shortly after the game, Nats coach Mark Weidemaier, who is in charge of the club’s defense, quipped, “Coached the [heck] out of ‘em today!”

Further reading: Today’s notebook on Nationals.com also includes info on how Danny Espinosa will split his time between second base and shortstop this spring, the approach Williams wants prospect Zach Walters to take at the plate, and lefty Tyler Robertson aiming for a bullpen job.

Follow me on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB

Notes from Nats camp, 2/27

By Andrew Simon

VIERA, Fla. — Thursday was a light day at Nationals camp, as the team gears up for the start of the Grapefruit League season, which begins on Friday against the Mets at Port St. Lucie. The main piece of action was batting practice on the field at Space Coast Stadium. Here are some notes and observations:

– As mentioned in today’s notebook on Nationals.com, manager Matt Williams and catcher Wilson Ramos got into a bit of friendly competition during Ramos’ BP rounds. Ramos whiffed on one early offering but got his revenge by crushing a few monstrous home runs, including two off the left-field scoreboard. After Ramos demolished his last pitch over the berm behind deep left-center field, Williams jokingly shouted, “Show-off!”

“He’s just big power. Big power,” Williams said. “He hits the ball the other way really good, too. So that’s why he’s so good at driving runs in because he stays through the middle of the diamond. Today he was letting it eat a little bit though. That’s good.”

– The workout was open to the public, and although only perhaps a few dozen people sat in the stands, one group serenaded center fielder Denard Span with “Happy  Birthday” when he stepped into the cage for his first round of BP. Span turned 30 on Thursday.

– Some managers prefer to take their own cars to away games during Spring Training, but Williams will be taking the bus.

“I don’t think that I have authority to do that right now,” Williams said of going on his own. “One, I don’t know where I’m going. Two, we’re going to have talks on the way back. We’re going to need to put together lineups for the next day and stuff like that.”

Tomorrow: The Nats finally will face someone other than themselves when they square off against the Mets at 1:10 p.m. ET. Taylor Jordan will get the start, while Rafael Montero will go for New York. As Bill Ladson writes, it will be Williams’ first game as a big league manager, even if it’s only Spring Training.

Looking ahead: The club’s first game at Space Coast Stadium will be at 1:05 p.m. on Saturday against the Braves. They also will face the Marlins in Viera on Sunday at 1:05 before heading back on the road.

Worth noting: Williams said he plans to give his starters a couple of at-bats in Friday’s game. That group includes the likes of Ryan Zimmerman and Ian Desmond.

Worth quoting: Williams on if he is nervous about the mechanics of managing a game – “No, it’s fine. That part of it, I’ve done before [in the Arizona Fall League]. Not at this level. The only thing I’m worried about or nervous about is trying to get everyone into the game. I want to look at everybody. So unfortunately that is almost impossible sometimes. But that’s the plan. But going out there and making a change, I’m not worried about that stuff.”

Further reading: In today’s notebook, there are items on Williams’ plan to keep Ramos healthy and fresh this season, the Nats’ catchers preparing for the new home-plate collision rule, and how reliever Erik Davis is progressing in his recovery from an elbow injury.

You can follow me on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB.

Notes from Nats camp, 2/26

By Andrew Simon

VIERA, Fla. — Wednesday was the Nationals’ second-to-last day of workouts before their Grapefruit League schedule begins on Friday against the Mets in Port St. Lucie. Here are some notes, observations and photos from the club’s Spring Training complex:

  • Stephen Strasburg threw live batting practice to a group including Ryan Zimmerman, Tyler Moore and Adam LaRoche and had the catcher’s glove popping with each fastball.

    Stephen Strasburg delivers to the plate during live batting practice.

    Stephen Strasburg delivers to the plate during live batting practice.

  • During batting practice, non-roster right-hander Clay Hensley accidentally drilled second baseman Anthony Rendon in the back with one of his offerings. He apologized profusely, and Rendon was able to laugh it off, even if he’ll likely be sporting a bruise by Thursday.
  • Minor League righty Blake Treinen, coming off a strong season at Double-A Harrisburg, made a good impression while throwing to fellow prospects Steven Souza, Michael Taylor and Brian Goodwin. The 25-year-old’s stuff, which manager Matt Williams called “electric,” prompted veteran catcher Koyie Hill to tell Treinen after his session that he’s going to strike it rich during his career.

    Drew Storen comes to the plate using the traditional leg kick he began using late last season.

    Drew Storen comes to the plate using the traditional leg kick he began using late last season.

  • Williams also was impressed with reliever Drew Storen, especially the way he got good action down in the zone with his changeup, drawing some swings and misses.

Tomorrow: The Nats will have a lighter workout day on Thursday, something more like what they will have once games start. They also will be on the field at Space Coast Stadium instead of the complex’s back fields.

Looking ahead: The Nationals announced their lineup for Friday’s game, which will feature the debut of outfielder Nate McLouth. Taylor Jordan will get the start, with A.J. Cole, Christian Garcia, Xavier Cedeno, Manny Delcarmen, Aaron Barrett, Danny Rosenbaum and Tyler Robertson scheduled to follow.

Worth noting: Williams plans to have his veterans make plenty of road trips, including Friday’s, saying “there’s no getting around it,” considering how often the club must go long distances to face Grapefruit League opponents. Asked if that decision includes outfielder Jayson Werth, Williams answered, “It most certainly does.”

Worth quoting: It’s nerve-racking because I’ve never been on this side of it, but at the same time it’s rewarding that we’ve gotten here and now we’re on the verge of starting games and having it ramp up a little bit and have it get a little bit faster for everyone. I’m looking forward to it.” — Williams, on experiencing his first Spring Training as a manager.

Further reading: Brock Peterson, in camp on a Minor League deal, is trying to author a better second chapter to his big league career after struggling following a long-awaited call-up with the Cardinals in 2013. Jordan is excited to make the first start of the spring.

 

Espinosa expects to win job back, says he shouldn’t have played with broken wrist

By Andrew Simon
NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — In talking to Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo and manager Matt Williams this winter, Danny Espinosa has come away with one clear message.
“Matt and Mike Rizzo both called me in the offseason and told me I’m going to get a fair opportunity to win my job back, and that’s all I can ask for,” Espinosa said on Saturday at NatsFest. “I’ve never asked for anything to be handed to me. But if I get a fair opportunity to win my job back, I feel like I can do it.”
 
Espinosa began last season the same way he spent the previous two, as the Nats’ everyday second baseman. He finished the injury-marred campaign in Triple-A Syracuse, unable to make it back to Washington to try to lift his .158 batting average, and with his future role in the organization seemingly uncertain.
 
After rookie Anthony Rendon grabbed hold of the second-base job in Espinosa’s stead last season, Espinosa will enter Spring Training with a shot to at least make the club as a utility man. But according to Espinosa, Rizzo has talked to him only about winning back his job, not filling a backup role.
 
Williams indicated Espinosa will have every opportunity to earn playing time.
 
“I just think there’s great potential there. I’m not alone,” Williams said. “There were multiple calls, as I understand it, from teams across baseball this offseason [interested in a trade]. So the Nationals aren’t the only ones who are thinking that. Now, he’s got to put it together and he’s got to play and play well and be effectively, so that’s the objective going in.”
 
Better health figures to play a significant role in Espinosa’s comeback.
 
The 26-year-old spent last offseason unable to lift weights because of a torn rotator cuff in his left shoulder that he suffered late the previous year. Then, on April 14, he was hit by a pitch that caused a small fracture in his right wrist. Espinosa played through what originally was diagnosed as a bone bruise and didn’t go on the disabled list until early June. After less than two weeks off, he began a rehab assignment at Syracuse and spent the rest of the season there, hitting only .216 with a .566 OPS in 75 games.
“There was times I couldn’t pick my bat up with one hand,” said Espinosa, who believes his rotator cuff wasn’t a problem. “So my wrist was just in a bad place, and I shouldn’t have been playing on it, but I made the choice to try to play on it.
 
“I shouldn’t have been playing. But at the same time, I’m not the doctor reading the film. So I shouldn’t have been playing on a broken wrist the whole year. But you’re told you have a bruise, you have to play through a bruise. Everyone plays through bumps and bruises. I’m not gonna play through a broken wrist. If I’d have known it was a broken wrist, I wouldn’t have been playing.”
 
The Nationals and team physician, Dr. Wiemi Douoguih, were not available for comment.
 
Espinosa had worked with a trainer for the past five five years, but this offseason hired him to be his personal trainer. He’s back lifting weights, and his shoulder and wrist both feel good.
 
“I’m probably stronger at this point in my career than I’ve ever been in my life,” he said. “My trainer has done an unbelievable job, he’s put me in a really good place. I feel physically I’m at the top of where I could ever be, almost. He’s done everything for me to get back to where I was and get beyond that, strength-wise. So I feel great.”
 
But even if Espinosa comes to camp in great shape and performs well, he may have a tough time winning an everyday job. Rendon, a top prospect, capably handled a shift from third base as a rookie and showed promise with the bat, hitting .265/.329/.396 with 23 doubles and seven home runs in about 400 plate appearances.
 
A utility role could prove to be a good fit for Espinosa, even if he is aiming higher. Williams believes his defense at both second and shortstop is “Gold Glove-caliber” and that he could handle third base as well, while also having 20-home-run power.
 
Williams also said he can empathize with Espinosa, having gone from leading the league in RBIs with the Giants in 1990 to batting .227 in ‘92.
 
“Sometimes it starts going that way, and you can’t stop it, so I understand that,” Williams said. “What got me out of it, or what gets most guys out of it, is the ability to relax and play. That’s what I want him to do. We’re going to get him a lot of reps at short, a lot of reps at second base, he’s gonna get a lot of at-bats and get his stroke feeling good and if he can do all those things, then he’s got a chance to be a really integral part of the team.”
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