Results tagged ‘ Matt Williams ’

Fister enjoying good stretch with all-around play

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.

“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.

Williams, Lobaton saddened by Zimmer’s passing

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.”

Williams impressed with Espinosa

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.”

Nats’ Ramos gets five-ball walk

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.”

Extra Nats Notes from Pittsburgh

By Bill Ladson

* Nationals left-hander Ross Detwiler has been having a hard time on the mound lately. In his last eight games, Detwiler has allowed 13 runs in 10 innings. His last appearance was in Thursday’s 3-1 loss to the Pirates. He entered the game in the eighth inning, allowing blooped double to Chris Stewart, which should have been caught, and an RBI single to Josh Harrison.

Nationals manager Matt Williams thought Detwiler had a better outing Thursday than he did in previous appearances.

“The double that hung up there a little while, it was placed perfectly. And then [there was] a ball hit off the end of the bat [for a single],” Williams said. “The results don’t say it. [Detwiler] worked quicker and he had good tempo tonight. But I think, overall, he pitched better tonight than he did in his last couple of outings.”

* Nationals first baseman Adam LaRoche went 0-for-2 in his first rehab game for Class A Potomac on Thursday. He is expected to play another rehab game for Double A Harrisburg on Friday. LaRoche is currently on the 15-day disabled list because of a right quad strain. He could be back with the Major League club on Sunday against the Pirates or Monday against the Marlins.

* The Nationals have been having a tough time scoring runs, so one would think that manager Matt Williams would be aggressive on the bases on Thursday against the Pirates. In the seventh inning, after Nate McLouth reached base on a bunt single, Kevin Frandsen came to the plate. One would have thought that McLouth would have tried to steal second base. But McLouth stayed on first and Frandsen hit into a double play.

“[McLouth] has the green light,” Williams said. “Franny got to 1-1. If we get to a [ceratin] count, I could certainly put it on. [McLouth] has the green light [to steal] if he feels it. But we got a double play out of it.”

* Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen is 46-for-116 [.397] with 13 home runs and 28 RBIs during his career against the Nationals . On Thursday, he drove in two of the three runs in a 3-1 victory over the Nationals.

In the third inning, McCutchen came to the plate and was hit by a pitch, scoring right-hander Edinson Volquez to make it a 1-0 game. Two innings later, Pirates retook the lead as McCutchen singled to center field, scoring Harrison.

In the ninth against closer Mark Melancon, the Nats put runners on first and second with two outs, but Anthony Rendon lined out to McCutchen, who made a sliding catch to end the game.

“[McCutchen] is the MVP for a lot of reasons,” Williams said. “He is a good player, a really good player. I don’t think he is going to go after that ball if he feels like he didn’t have a chance to catch it. It was a good play.”

A big day for Denard Span

By Andrew Simon

WASHINGTON — A few hours after Nationals manager Matt Williams said he would stick with the scuffling Denard Span as his leadoff hitter, Span rewarded that faith with one of the best games of his career on Tuesday.

Span went 5-for-5 with two doubles, two RBIs, a stolen base and two runs scored in a 9-4 win over the Reds. In the process, he lifted his batting average from .239 to .263 and his on-base percentage from .287 to .308.

It was the sixth five-hit game in Nationals history (since 2005) and first since Ian Desmond on Sept. 15, 2011. It also was the seventh five-hit game in the Major Leagues this season and the third of Span’s career — but first since 2009, his first full big league season.

“Those are special,” Williams said of the performance. “Those don’t happen very often, so good for him.”

And good for the Nats, who improved to 13-5 this season when Span reaches base safely at least twice. But that hasn’t happened often enough for Washington, which entered Tuesday last in the Majors in on-base percentage from the leadoff spot, with Span occupying that position in 35 of 44 games.

It’s Span’s second straight season getting off to a slow start. Last year, he hit .258 with a .310 on-base percentage through Aug. 16 before hitting .338 with a .375 OBP the rest of the year to finish within striking distance of his career numbers.

Tuesday showed Span’s full arsenal of offensive skills when he’s clicking. He opened the bottom of the first inning by taking Johnny Cueto the other way for a single on a rare first-pitch swing. In the third, he dropped a bunt toward third base, with his speed helping force a bad throw that scored a run and put Span at third. In the sixth, he singled and stole a base in his first at-bat and ripped a two-run double in his second — the latter hit off lefty Sean Marshall (Span came in hitting .190 against southpaws). Finally, in the eighth, he enjoyed a bit of luck that he might have been due for, hitting a blooper to shallow center field that eluded the Reds’ defense for a double.

Despite all of that, Span said he was already trying to put the game behind him.

“It was just one day. Had a good day. Today was my day,” Span said. “Saw the ball good, and I’ve got to do it again tomorrow. That’s what it’s all about. Whether I go 0-for-5 or 5-for-5, my mindset the next day is yesterday is yesterday and I’ve got to do it again.”

Follow Andrew Simon on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB.

Gio trying to ‘grind through’ recent problems

By Andrew Simon

WASHINGTON — After enduring his second straight short and ineffective start on Saturday, Nationals left-hander Gio Gonzalez didn’t directly answer questions regarding his health. Gonzalez had some trouble with shoulder tightness earlier in the season and was asked how he felt after giving up five runs in three innings to the Mets.

“It’s one of those things you’ve just got to grind through,” Gonzalez said. “I’m just trying to find out what it is, and hopefully something positive comes out of it.”

Asked again if he was dealing with anything health-wise, Gonzalez added, “Realistically, arm was dropping a lot. I guess we’ll see.”

The 28-year-old, who has made at least 32 starts in four straight seasons, came out of his April 23 start against the Angels after five innings due to shoulder tightness. He’s stayed on schedule since then, pitching four more times.

Over his last two outings, Gonzalez has allowed 12 earned runs on 16 hits over 7 1/3 innings, walking five and striking out eight. He’s thrown more than 23 pitches per inning and seen his ERA rise from 2.91 to 4.62.

Gonzalez said his arm slot has been off, with his pitches getting up in the strike zone. Manager Matt Williams has noticed that Gonzalez hasn’t been able to find consistency with his release point like he usually does as a game goes along.

However, Williams said he couldn’t attribute the issues to an injury, as Gonzalez hasn’t lost velocity. On Sunday, he threw his fastball at 90-94 mph.

“He’s had a little tight shoulder earlier this year but he’s continued to pitch and tells us he feels good, so I don’t know,” Williams said. “I don’t see that.”

Follow Andrew Simon on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB.

Nats trying to make Ross Detwiler fit in ‘pen

By Andrew Simon

WASHINGTON — When the Nationals converted Ross Detwiler into a relief pitcher near the end of Spring Training, they didn’t intend to relegate him to mop-up duty.

“He provides something special out of the bullpen,” manager Matt Williams said at the time.

“He is going to be a major part of that out of our bullpen.”

More than a month into the season, it hasn’t turned out that way for the left-hander. Jerry Blevins is the ‘pen’s primary lefty, Craig Stammen is the primary long reliever, and Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen set up closer Rafael Soriano. Detwiler’s job has not been so well defined.

But Friday might have brought a positive step. Leading 5-2, the Nats called upon Detwiler to pitch the sixth inning against three left-handed batters. He retired Curtis Granderson, gave up a single to Bobby Abreu, then induced a double-play grounder from Lucas Duda.

“We keep wanting that spot for him,” Williams said on Saturday.

“We’ve told him that we want to get him more opportunities. It hasn’t worked that way through the first 41 games, but I’d imagine that at some point during this season, it’ll work better that way. So it’s encouraging, yeah.”

At three runs, it was the smallest lead Detwiler has pitched with this season, as most of his appearances have come with the game pretty much decided one way or another.

Baseball-Reference.com calculates a statistic called “leverage index,” a measurement of the pressure a player faces during a game, depending on the score and situation. A number greater than 1.0 indicates above-average pressure, while a number less than 1.0 indicates below-average pressure. Detwiler’s season average of 0.47 is the ninth-lowest among all MLB pitchers with at least 10 appearances this season. His 0.87 score on Friday was his fourth-highest of the year.

“That’s the situation we want to put him in,” Williams said. “It doesn’t work out every day, but yeah. We want to do that. We’ve had the meeting with him and talked to him about it. I’ve personally talked to him about I want to get you more of those opportunities and I’ll do my best to get you in those situations, and last night was one of them. Maybe there’s another opportunity today.”

As Williams pointed out, one obstacle is that as a converted starter, it still takes Detwiler longer to warm up in the bullpen than the team’s other relievers. Therefore, in a quick-developing situation at a key point in the game, he might not be able to get loose fast enough to get an opportunity.

Detwiler also probably hasn’t pitched well enough to demand a greater role. He has a solid 3.79 ERA in 19 innings but has allowed 22 hits, a .297 opponents’ average and nearly as many walks (11) as strikeouts (12).

Then again, if Detwiler finds a solid role and more consistent chances along with it, his performance could benefit.

“The issue is we want to give him more work so his mechanics are good and he feels good about throwing strikes,” Williams said. “It’s like a guy who plays off the bench — the more at-bats he gets, the better timing he gets. It’s the same with pitching.”

Follow Andrew Simon on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB.

 

Nationals notes, 5/16

By Andrew Simon

WASHINGTON — Here are some quick Nationals notes before the start of a three-game series against the Mets on Friday night. More to come soon on Nationals.com.

  • Third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, on the disabled list since April 13 with a right thumb fracture, still has not been cleared to begin strengthening the thumb, according to manager Matt Williams. He will have another X-ray taken Monday, at the five-week mark since the injury. If doctors believe the fracture has healed, Zimmerman then will be cleared to work on regaining strength, at which point he could progress to throwing a ball and swinging a bat. However, Williams said there is no specific timetable for his return. The Nats will continue to proceed with caution, because if Zimmerman were to re-fracture the thumb, it would be another eight-week recovery from that point.
  • Left fielder Bryce Harper has had the stitches removed from his left thumb, which is now in a brace following surgery on a torn ligament. Williams said that Harper is scheduled to make another visit to Cleveland to visit a specialist next week.
  • Right-hander Ross Ohlendorf, on the 60-day DL all season with a lumbar strain, was in the Nats’ clubhouse on Friday, two days after making his first Minor League rehab start, for Class A Advanced Potomac. Ohlendorf was shelled for seven runs in 2 1/3 innings, but Williams said he was able to hit 90-94 mph with his fastball and had no physical issues. Ohlendorf will continue making rehab starts every five days, as the Nats want him to prepare as a starter.
  • With first baseman Adam LaRoche on the disabled list, Williams said Greg Dobbs could see some starts at first base after joining the club on Friday. Dobbs got 13 pinch-hit appearances but never played the field for the Marlins before his release, and after signing with the Nats, he spent a few days at extended Spring Training in Viera, Fla., getting his legs under him and collecting at-bats. Dobbs said he was happy to end up in Washington, as he had wanted to sign with the club as a free agent before the 2012 season, believing it was ready to win.

Steven Souza Jr. returns to Nationals

By Andrew Simon

WASHINGTON — Before Triple-A Syracuse played at Indianapolis on Saturday, Steven Souza Jr. was informed he wouldn’t be in the lineup. Instead, he would be heading back to Washington.

The Nationals officially recalled Souza for his second big league stint on Sunday morning, when they placed Bryce Harper on the 15-day disabled list with a left thumb sprain. Souza was in the Washington clubhouse prior to Sunday afternoon’s game against the Padres.

The 25-year-old outfielder said he feels a little more more at ease this time after his first trip to the Majors, from April 12-18, while Denard Span was on the 7-day disabled list.

“It’s kind of those first-day jitters where you don’t even know anything. You don’t know to put butter on your toast or what,” Souza said. “[Now] it’s more of how are we going to win this game, how can I help this team win, how can I be a part of this and kind of focus on that.”

Ranked by MLB.com as the Nats’ No. 14 prospect, Souza made his Major League debut on April 13 at Atlanta and picked up his first career hit on April 15 in Miami, a single to center field off Marlins lefty Dan Jennings. In all, he played five games and went 1-for-4 with a walk before being optioned back to Syracuse.

Even with Harper out, Souza might not see the field much more this time around. Manager Matt Williams indicated that Nate McLouth will see most of the starts in left field against right-handed pitchers, with Kevin Frandsen and Tyler Moore serving as options against lefties.

The brief demotion to Syracuse did give Souza a chance to log some much-needed swings. In four games there, he went 5-for-11 with a double and three RBI. For the season, Souza is hitting .333/.463/.545 with two homers and 10 RBI in 41 Triple-A plate appearances.

“Those ABs were huge, just to get in the rhythm of playing every day and getting some consistent ABs,” Souza said.

Follow Andrew Simon on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB.

 

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