Results tagged ‘ Nationals ’

Who stays, who goes and who has something to prove?

By Bill Ladson

This past season, many experts expected the Nationals to run away with the National League East title, and then win their first World Series title. But that didn’t happen. Not only didn’t they reach the postseason, the Nationals finished in second place. Here’s a look at the Nats’ 2015 Major League roster: Who stays, who goes and who has something to prove?

They’ll be back
OF Matt den Dekker: The Nationals need another lefty off the bench next to Clint Robinson. Once he returned from Triple-A Syracuse on Aug. 28, den Dekker was more consistent at the plate, hitting .320. It helped that he changed his swing. He now has a right leg kick that allows him to recognize a lot of pitches.

LHP Gio Gonzalez: He will be the first to say that he has to throw less pitches in the games he starts. Next year could be his final year with the Nationals. He has a lot to prove in 2016.

OF Bryce Harper: What more can you say about the man they call Bam-Bam? He slugged his way into the Nationals’ record books. He set season records in on-base percentage, OPS, home runs for a left-handed hitter and slugging percentage.

C Jose Lobaton: His season wasn’t as good as it was last year. At times — like Wilson Ramos — he would have problems catching throws from the outfield. However, pitchers still enjoyed throwing to him.

3B/2B Anthony Rendon: He was the club’s Most Valuable Player in 2014. This past season, he was arguably the most fragile player. He played in only 80 games because of a knee sprain and quad sprain. Rendon spent most of his time at second base. If the Nationals trade Yunel Escobar, Rendon will be back at third.

RHP Tanner Roark: Unlike Ross Detwiler, Roark was a team player after losing his job in the rotation because of the signing of Max Scherzer. If the team needed a long man – no problem, he was the guy. Setup man? No worries. If the Nationals needed an emergency starter, Roark came through. Roark deserves to be back in the rotation.

1B Clint Robinson: This 30-year old was clearly the team’s Rookie of the Year. He always came up with big hits and was a pretty good defensive first baseman.

RHP Stephen Strasburg: He was injury prone for most of the first half of the season. Once Strasburg came back from his oblique injury, it was like watching the rookie who blew away the Pirates during his Major League debut in 2010. It will be interesting to see if the Nationals sign him to a long-term deal. He is a free agent after the 2016 season.

RHP Max Scherzer: He proved that he was worth the seven-year, $210 million contract. Two no-hitters, four complete games, 14 victories and 276 strikeouts made him the ace of the rotation.

RF Jayson Werth: The unofficial captain of the Nationals, Werth had to go on the disabled list twice because of shoulder and wrist injuries. It will be interesting to see where he fits in the lineup. If the Nationals are unable to acquire a leadoff hitter, look for Werth to hit at the top of the lineup.

He’s ready, but …
OF Michael Taylor: No lie, one Major League scout compared Taylor’s defense to Willie Mays. Taylor is a good one out there and will win a Gold Glove soon. What about his bat? There are days he can look awful, especially when he is at the top of the order. Put him near the bottom of the order with runners on base, he has a high batting average.

LHP Felipe Rivero: By the end of the season, he was the only jewel in the bullpen. Former manager Matt Williams used him as a closer after the team suspended Jonathan Papelbon. Will Rivero be the closer next year? It’s anyone’s guess at this point.

RHP Joe Ross: Doug Fister lost his starting job because of Ross. He gave the Nationals quality innings, but he was shut down late in the season because his arm was tired.

SS Trea Turner: Turner looks like a 15-year-old kid, but he plays like a veteran. He is going to be one heck of a hitter and defender when it’s all said and done. Turner will be the starting shortstop in 2016.

Something to prove
RHP A.J. Cole: He wasn’t given much a chance to prove himself. When he did pitch, Cole was hit hard. Hard to tell what his future is with the team at this point. Entering this past season, Cole was the second-best prospect in the Nationals organization, according to Now, he ranks sixth.

LHP Matt Grace Another guy from the farm system, Grace couldn’t keep the ball down during his first stint with the team. When he came back late in year, he was much better. He will be given every chance to make the 2016 team out of Spring Training.

INF Wilmer Difo: He had a nice season in the Minor Leagues, but when he was promoted to the Major Leagues, Difo wasn’t given much of a chance until the second-to-last day of the season against the Mets. In that game, Difo broke his hand and most likely will miss the Arizona Fall League season.

RHP Taylor Jordan: Once a candidate for the rotation, Jordan had several stints with the team. His future seems to be as a reliever.

RHP Rafael Martin: He is hard to figure out. One day, Martin can get hitters out. Other days, he throws batting practice.

C Pedro Severino: He catching skills are as advertised. He even has speed on the bases and behind the dish. One cannot judge his offense on one at-bat. It would not be a surprise if he was given every chance to make the team out of Spring Training.

RHP Blake Treinen: People from the front office to the players have bragged about his 98-mph sinker. That sinker had trouble staying down, and left-handed hitters hit Treinen hard. It will interesting to see what he does to improve his pitching repertoire when Spring Training starts.

Sammy Solis: Read Martin.

Possible trade chips
RHP Drew Storen: He was arguably having his best season of his career until the Nationals traded for Jonathan Papelbon to become the closer. After Papelbon joined the team, Storen had a 6.75 ERA and broke his thumb after he allowed the game-winning homer to Yoenis Cespedes in September. A change of scenery may do Storen some good.

3B Yunel Escobar: He could be a man without a position for the Nationals. The team would like to have Rendon back at third base. While Escobar had a great year with the bat, he was below average with the glove.

2B Danny Espinosa: He had a productive season coming off the bench and still was a solid defender. It was a year where he played all four infield positions and left field. He could become Ben Zobrist of the National League if he wants it. But he’ll respond by saying he’s not a bench player.

OF/1B Tyler Moore: When he plays often, Moore can provide power. He is almost useless when he comes off the bench. He is up for arbitration for the first time.

Wilson Ramos: Give him credit, he has caught three no-hitters during his career and he stayed healthy throughout the season. Privately, some people in the organization worried about his game-calling skills and he had problems catching throws from the outfield. To make matters worse, he had his worst season as a hitter.

All but gone
SS Ian Desmond: The Nationals offered him a lucrative deal last year, but he turned it down and will become a free agent after the World Series. Desmond is coming off his worst season and it will be interesting to see who much he gets in the open market.

RHP Doug Fister: The Nationals gave him a short leash to get his act together on the mound. When he didn’t get the job done as a starter, he was put in the bullpen as a long man. Fister said he would like to become a starter again, but that will not happen with the Nationals.

RHP Casey Janssen: He was supposed to replace Tyler Clippard as the setup man, but he was hit hard during the second half of the season. Janssen has a $7 million option left in his contract, but that is not expected to be picked up.

Jonathan Papelbon He was supposed to make the bullpen even better, but he didn’t get many save opportunities and then was suspended the final four games of the seasons for having a run-in with Harper. General manager Mike Rizzo would be considered a genius if he can acquire anything good for him. Papelbon is past his prime.

LHP Matt Thornton: He is 39 years old and he still has fire in his stomach to play another year. He wasn’t bad with the Nationals, but it’s doubtful he will play another season with them.

2B Dan Uggla: For a guy who wanted to play every day, Uggla wasn’t bad as a reserve. Who can forget the big home run he hit against the Braves on April 28?

RHP Jordan Zimmermann: Both the Nationals and Zimmermann tried to get a deal done, without much success. He is clearly the best starting pitcher in Nationals history, but he will take his services elsewhere.

The injured
RHP Aaron Barrett: He got off to a slow start and then needed Tommy John surgery. He probably will not be a factor in 2017 because he’ll be recovering from the procedure.

RHP David Carpenter It looked like the Nationals have found their eighth-inning setup guy, but he hurt his shoulder before the All-Star break and never returned to action.

OF Reed Johnson He wasn’t given much of a chance to play because of a torn tendon in his foot and a broken rib. Reed plans to play another year and realizes that he may have to sign a Minor League deal in order to join a team.

OF Nate McLouth: He didn’t play an inning because of shoulder problems. He would later have a cleanup procedure in the shoulder. He will become a free agent and will not return to the Nationals.

CF Denard Span: The Nats had to use four people at the leadoff spot because Span missed a lot of time because of back tightness, abdominal and hip problems. Span is a free agent and most likely will not be back with the team.

RHP Craig Stammen: He was the MVPM which means Most Valuable Player Missing. Stammen missed most of the season because of a forearm injury. He can pitch the middle innings and be a valuable setup guy. While he was gone, the Nats had serious problems replacing him.

1B Ryan Zimmerman: He played less than 100 games for the second straight year because of foot and oblique problems. He plans to change his workout routine this offseason. When he’s healthy, he can carry a team for a while.

Nats’ Rizzo: ‘We’ll make decisions sooner rather than later’

By Bill Ladson

NEW YORK — Before the last game of the season against the Mets, Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo talked to the local media, but didn’t say whether he was going to dismiss manager Matt Williams and some of his coaching staff.

Rizzo said the process will begin once the team flies out of New York on Sunday evening. The meetings will start as early as Monday.

“We’ll make decisions sooner rather than later about personnel on the field, off the field and in the front office,” Rizzo said. “We are not going to let people twist in the wind. We want to make out decisions and move on.”

Entering Spring Training, the Nationals were expected to be World Series contenders, especially after they signed right-hander Max Scherzer to a seven-year $210 million contract. But the Nationals will finish in second place behind the Mets and not reach the postseason. It didn’t help the team was hit by injuries and didn’t have a productive bullpen.

“We are going to investigate all those things after the season when we do our postseason analytics on what went wrong,” Rizzo said. “Suffice to say, no one is more disappointed than I am about the way the season transpired.

“But I see a lot of positives that come out of the season. We’re playing extremely hard at the end of season, even with very little on the line. I credit that to a bunch of professional players and a coaching staff that really cares. We’ve seen a lot of good things happen with our young players, who have emerged. We are going to bring some positives out of it. We are not happy about what happened [this season] and we are disappointed in it.”

Two players who most likely will not be back with the Nationals are right-hander Jordan Zimmermann and shortstop Ian Desmond. Both are free agents after the season and not close to re-signing with Washington. Rizzo called them two of his favorite players.

“They mean the world to me,” Rizzo said. “Personally, I was one of the instrumental guys when we drafted Jordan Zimmermann. We signed him, developed him. We had the controversial shutdown to extend his career and he pitched admirably and unbelievably for us. He is close to my heart.

“Ian Desmond is the rock of the organization. When I became the GM, he became the everyday shortstop and blossomed into one of the best players in all of baseball. They are in the last year of their decision making years. It will be difficult both personally and professionally. But that’s baseball. On both sides, we have made attempts to put these guys under contract for extended period of time. It hasn’t worked out to this point. I never shut any doors about any players. If this is the last game both of them play for us, I will remember them fondly as two of my most favorite players I’ve ever been around.”

Williams declines to responds to criticism

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.”

With pope in town, Nats could use blessing

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.

Moore trying to take advantage of playing time

By Bill Ladson

WASHINGTON – Nationals first baseman Tyler Moore doesn’t play often, but he took advantage of the playing time he received the last two games against the Marlins.

Starting because of the oblique injury to Ryan Zimmerman, Moore went 3-for-8, with two home runs and four RBIs.

“It’s great to help these guys a little bit, get a couple of knocks and kind of get things going,” Moore said.

Moore has been in and out of the Major Leagues the last three years. It’s one of the reasons he is out of Minor League options. When he is with the Major League team, playing time is scarce. Don’t look for Moore to complain about that, though.

“There are some things you can’t control,” Moore said. “One thing you can control is the attitude. You just try to come every day and be a light to this locker room, keep my mouth shut and just do my work. That’s what they need from a bench guy.”

Clint Robinson doesn’t mind facing aces

By Andrew Simon

WASHINGTON — In the bottom of the second inning of Friday’s 5-4 win over the Marlins, the Nationals’ Clint Robinson walloped a Jose Fernandez fastball into the second deck of the right-field seats at Nats Park.

The solo shot continued an amazing trend for Robinson, who continually has risen to the challenge when facing the toughest competition this season. Entering 2015, the 30-year-old had tallied a total of 14 Major League plate appearances, three hits and no home runs, but after making the Nats’ roster as a longshot, check out his success against some of the top starting pitchers in the league:

  • Madison Bumgarner* (SF) …. 2-for-3, 2B
  • Gerrit Cole (PIT) ……………. 1-for-3, 2B
  • Jacob deGrom (NYM) ……… 1-for-5, RBI
  • Zack Greinke (LAD) ………… 3-for-6
  • Matt Harvey (NYM) ………… 3-for-8, 2B, BB, 3 RBI
  • Jose Fernandez (MIA) …….. 2-for-3, HR, RBI
  • Clayton Kershaw* (LAD) …… 1-for-3
  • Francisco Liriano* (PIT) ……. 1-for-2, 2B, BB
  • Masahiro Tanaka (NYY) …….1-for-3

*Left-handed pitcher (Robinson bats lefty)

Totals: 15-for-36 (.417) with 2 BB, 4 2B, 1 HR, 5 RBI

Opponents have hit .241 against Cole, which ranked 48th in the Majors among starters with at least 45 innings, entering Friday. The other eight pitchers all had opponents averages of .227 or below, ranking in the top 21.

Obviously, Robinson’s numbers here are a small sample size, though they include most of his encounters with upper-level starters. But while it doesn’t mean that Robinson has some special talent for hitting aces, it’s still impressive what he has accomplished against them, given his limited big league experience.

“I do the same thing I do no matter who’s on the mound,” he said. “Most of the time those top-of-the rotation guys, they’re strike throwers, so that’s always good when you get them in the strike zone and do something with it. Just try to approach every at-bat the same, go up there and not do too much and let whatever happens once you hit the ball happen. There’s nothing really special about it.”

Nats manager Matt Williams pointed to Friday’s home run, which came on a 94-mph fastball, as an example of how Robinson has succeeded in those spots.

“I just think it’s a short swing,” Williams said. “So somebody like Jose, if he throws you a fastball, he’s going to provide all the power you need, and a short, level, compact swing will do the trick. He didn’t swing hard at that ball, and it went in the upper deck.”

And it’s not like Robinson has only hit against top-of-the-rotation starters. He’s been a surprisingly solid contributor for the Nats all season, especially since Ryan Zimmerman’s first disabled-list stint in June opened up some regular playing time.

While Robinson’s numbers as a pinch-hitter are modest, he is batting .299/.386/.457 with seven homers and 28 RBIs in 64 starts.

Not bad for a 30-year-old rookie.

Follow Andrew Simon on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB.

Werth: ‘It’s not over ‘til it’s over’

By Bill Ladson

WASHINGTON — With 24 games to go in the regular season, the Nationals find themselves six games behind the Mets in the National League East race.

On Tuesday, Washington blew a six-run lead and lost a heartbreaker to New York, 8-7, and Jayson Werth realizes that time is running out. He knows his team has to win almost every game if it wants to win the division crown for the second year in a row.

“Well, it’s going to be tough,” Werth said. “We have to win tomorrow. I come from the school of never say die. It’s not over ‘til it’s over. We’re not out ‘til we’re out. But this one is tough to swallow.”

To keep that postseason dream alive, the Nationals must win Wednesday’s game against the Mets.

“I mean, you know the guys at this point really well,” Werth said. “You’ve spent a lot of time with them. It’s a resilient group, resilient bunch. Obviously this is a tough one. This is probably the toughest loss … I’m not going to say in my career, but it’s right up there. So we’re going to have to find a way. We’re going to have to fight back. It’s going to be a long, hard road for us. There’s a lot of games left in the season and like I said It’s not over ‘til it’s over.”

Nats’ Scherzer has rough outing vs. Mets

By Bill Ladson

WASHINGTON — After Monday’s 8-5 loss to the Mets, Nationals right-hander Max Scherzer said he was going to have a sleepless night trying to figure out why he has allowed so many home runs lately.

“I think it’s frustrating because everybody thinks they could have done something better today. It starts with me,” Scherzer said. “I know I can pitch better. I give [the Mets] credit for what they were able to accomplish. I’m not taking anything away from them. … When I’m up, they were able to punish me. I accept that. I’m not here to shy away from that.”

The Mets were able to get to Scherzer early by taking a 3-0 lead after 3 1/2 innings. All three runs came on solo home runs by Michael Conforto, Kelly Johnson and Yoenis Cespedes. In fact, Scherzer has allowed 14 home runs and three homers in a game three times during the second half of the season.

Scherzer then was given a 5-3 lead in the fourth inning, thanks to the grand slam by Wilson Ramos and RBI double by Jayson Werth. But Scherzer couldn’t hold on to the lead.

Curtis Granderson had an RBI double an inning later to make it a one-run game in favor of the Nationals. After Cespedes led off the sixth inning with a double, Scherzer balked Cepedes to third and that allowed Travis d’Arnaud to tie the score with a sacrifice fly.

Scherzer acknowledged he was disappointed that he couldn’t hold on to the lead.

“I was making mistakes in the zone,” Scherzer said. “I’m leaving the ball thigh-high instead of getting the ball down in the knees. That’s something that has been systematic in the second half. That’s something I have to get better at. I have to get the ball down in the zone, getting it back at knee level. That’s what is going to keep me up late tonight. I have to figure out how to do that.”

Nats’ Zimmerman scratched with sore foot

By Bill Ladson

WASHINGTON — Nationals manager Matt Williams told team broadcaster Dave Jageler that first baseman Ryan Zimmerman was scratched from Sunday’s lineup against the Braves because of a sore left foot.

Zimmerman has been dealing with a sore foot since June. In fact, he spent almost a month on the disabled list because of plantar fasciitis.

Williams is hoping that Zimmerman can return to the lineup Monday afternoon against the Mets, who are in first place in the N.L. East by five games entering Sunday’s action.

Zimmerman has been the Nationals’ hottest hitter. Since August 23, Zimmerman is 20-for-51 [.392] with seven home runs, 25 RBIs.

With Zimmerman out of the lineup, Tyler Moore received the start at first base and is hitting eighth in the lineup.

Gio has quality outing against Braves

WASHINGTON — Nationals left-hander Gio Gonzalez had his best outing in over a month in an 8-2 victory over the Braves on Saturday night.

Gonzalez had a no-hitter until the sixth inning, when Nick Markakis singled to right-center field to start the inning. Gonzalez left the game after throwing 106 pitches in six innings. Thirty of those pitches came in his last inning, during which the Braves had the bases loaded with two outs, but Andrelton Simmons grounded into a force play to end the threat.

“I thought he commanded the strike zone well today,” Nationals manager Matt Williams said. “He threw some good breaking balls to strike guys out. … He managed pitched counts in innings two through four. He was able to get through six for us.”

As usual, Gonzalez gave credit to the people who played a role in his 10th victory of the season.

“Defense, offense and definitely our catcher. Wilson [Ramos] did a great job back there mixing it up, trying to pound the strike zone,” Gonzalez said. “It’s just being on the same page with your catcher. It helps out a lot, especially with Willie just wanting to be aggressive today. You can hear him, he was telling me yesterday and he was telling me today, ‘Let’s go, let’s pound the strike zone.’

“Before the game I also told Cat [pitching coach Steve McCatty] I trust Willie’s game and I’m going to follow his program, and it worked. He knows what he’s doing back there, and he’s caught some great games.”


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