Results tagged ‘ taylor jordan ’

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

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.

Even in loss, fifth starters show worth

By Tom Schad | Associate Reporter

Nationals starter Ross Ohlendorf should share the blame for Wednesday night’s loss to the Braves, which all but crushed Washington’s slim playoff hopes. However, he also deserves his share of credit for helping keep the Nationals in the race in the first place.

Without the efforts of Ohlendorf, Taylor Jordan and Tanner Roark this season, the Nationals would not be in a last-gasp push for the second Wild Card in the National League.  Together, they have exceeded expectations while filling in for Ross Detwiler, who has been on and off the disabled list with back issues. Ohlendorf, a 31-year-old journeyman, and two rookies have posted a combined 12-4 record and 2.80 ERA this year.

“We knew going in that’s one of the areas we didn’t have a lot of depth,” manager Davey Johnson said. “So hopefully, with Detwiler getting healthy and what these guys have done, and some other arms we’ve got coming, this organization will be in great shape.”

For all their unmet expectations this season, the Nationals’ organizational depth at pitcher has lived up to the hype. First it was Ohlendorf, who debuted an old-school windup in a spot start in Colorado and has provided stability ever since, both as a long reliever and starter. Then it was Jordan, who jumped from Double-A to the Majors in his first season off Tommy John surgery.

Now, Johnson believes that he has found another potential contributor in Roark, who was 6-17 at Triple-A Syracuse last season. On Tuesday night, after Roark’s seventh consecutive win, Johnson compared the right-hander to all-time great Greg Maddux.

“[Minor League pitching coordinator] Spin [Williams] was really high on him this year and all through spring during the year. He certainly has reason to be,” Johnson said of Roark. “Once I saw him pitch up here out of the ‘pen, how he located the ball and used all his pitches, I said, ‘Yeah, he’s going to be good.”

Jordan and Roark both have the potential to earn a long-term role on the Nationals in Spring Training, but they are just two of the many talented arms that will join the rotation in the next couple of years. Stephen Strasburg is only 24. Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann and Detwiler are 27. Lucas Giolito, A.J. Cole, Nathan Karns, Robbie Ray, Sammy Solis and Jake Johansen are among the many talented arms working their way through the farm system.

Not many teams have that kind of depth at pitcher.

“Great arms,” Johnson said. “Pitching comes fast. They’re all going to be pitching in Double-A or up. When you get them to that level, I think you can come from AA to the big leagues just as easy as coming from AAA.”

Who will be the odd man out in the Nats bullpen?

By Tom Schad | Associate Reporter

Lost in the Nationals’ 5-1 defeat against the Pirates on Tuesday night was news that reliever Ryan Mattheus, who has been out since May after breaking his hand while punching a locker, will in all likelihood return to the team on Friday, according to manager Davey Johnson.

The Nationals are allowed to add a 26th man to the roster for their doubleheader against the Mets, and Johnson said that it will be Mattheus. But what the team decides to do after the game will be far more interesting.

Johnson has finally reached a level of comfort with his bullpen. He has regularly praised left-handers Fernando Abad and Ian Krol, as well as long reliever Ross Ohlendorf. But when Mattheus returns, someone will have to go. Here are a few of the possibilities:

Taylor Jordan: After Tuesday night’s start, Johnson said that Jordan had earned a spot in the rotation. The 24-year-old is 0-3, but he has a 3.68 ERA through five starts and has improved every time out. The problem is that after undergoing Tommy John surgery in Sept. 2011, he is also on an innings-limit. General manager Mike Rizzo refused to specify how many innings Jordan has left, but the Nationals might decide to let him reach that limit at Double-A Harrisburg. They could then slide Ohlendorf into Jordan’s spot in the rotation while Ross Detwiler continues to rehab a stiff back.

Krol: Krol, like Jordan, has absolutely earned his spot on the big league club. He has allowed just four earned runs in 16 1/3 innings of work with a 2.20 ERA. But like Jordan, he is young (22 years old) and would not be distraught by a return trip to the Minors. Johnson loves having two lefties out of the ‘pen, but if for whatever reason he decides that he can make do with one, the Nationals might opt to demote Krol rather than risk losing 27-year-old Abad.

Drew Storen: This is the most unlikely option of them all, as 25-year-olds with closer experience are incredibly hard to find. But if Rizzo and Johnson decide that they want to add a left-handed bat off the bench before the July 31 trade deadline, Storen is one of the few movable pieces that could help them make that happen. He’s been rattled for much of this season, but he still has the upside and youth that make him a valuable bargaining chip.

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