Thursday, February 28, 2008

Any room for Alex Escobar?

I've liked him for a long time. He's got the talent to play. Last year was cut short on him.
87 ABS, 31 H, 4 HRS, 18 RBIS, .356 avg., 8 BB, 18 SO....It's nothing that can't make him a major leaguer. I was glad to see him in the lineup last night, but with Dukes and Milledge I'm not sure of his future. But with Trader Jim, competition is King! Being 30 doesn't help him and neither does Justin Maxwell at 25....

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Lopez Return

The Washington Post / Barry Svrluga no less! has an indepth article today describing the travails of Felipe Lopez's life and his .182 June slump last year that he never seemed to overcome put the former MLB All Star into a certified "lost year".

Felipe has the tools to be a damn good middle infielder. Whether it is short or second, his youth and ability make him ripe to take over for Guzie or Ronnie up the middle immediately if not in the very near future. The switch hitter can be the upper level of the lineup producer that we need to win. He has a fight to make, and this blogger is praying for him to succeed.


WP...Lopez begins his Climb...article by Barry Svrluga

VIERA, Fla., Feb. 26 -- It is, throughout Florida and Arizona this time of year, something of a rite of spring. A veteran ballplayer reports to his team's training site, considers his season from a year ago -- when, say, he hit .245 and reached base less than 31 percent of the time, well below what he and others consider his potential -- and pronounces himself a new man. Tales of renewed focus, new energy -- whatever is needed to make the past the past -- spew forth. Miraculously, all is solved.
So it was Tuesday afternoon that, after a long workout that included staying late to run the bases alone, Felipe López sat at his locker and made his pledge.
"I just want to put last year behind me, and I already did," said López, a former all-star who is now fighting for a starting job with the Washington Nationals. "The one thing that hurt last year: I wasn't focused. Obviously, if you watched me, you knew that. I wasn't into baseball like I should be, like I am now."
This could be a simple story about a talented player shoving aside a poor season and moving on. With the Nationals' first spring training game set for Wednesday night in Jupiter against the Florida Marlins, López will board a bus with his teammates in the afternoon. Along for the ride will be Cristian Guzman, listed as the starting shortstop. Back at the Nationals' home base here, Ronnie Belliard -- listed as the starting second baseman -- will work out and wait to make his debut Friday. López will have to earn his way back into the starting lineup by beating out one of the two.
But because of the depths López reached -- both last year and much earlier in his life -- this must be treated more carefully. It is, in fact, a story very few in the Nationals' clubhouse know or understand.
"When I found out the difficult upbringing he had," said Barry Larkin, once a teammate in Cincinnati and now a member of the Nationals' front office, "I could understand why he went through some of the things that he did."
The rough outline of López's upbringing goes something like this: Born in Bayamon, Puerto Rico, he came to the mainland when he was 11 or 12 because his stepmother had leukemia, the disease that would kill her soon thereafter. His real mother? He last saw her when he was 3.
"My family, that stuff, they don't really talk about," he said. "You're curious, but no one really answered me."
Thus, his father, Felipe Sr., pushed his son through Little League in suburban Orlando, seemingly indistinguishable from other eager fathers and sons. Manny Acta, then a coach in the Houston Astros organization and now the Nationals' manager, used to hit ground balls to young Felipe, used to play softball with his father. "It was all baseball," Acta said.
Except behind the scenes. Felipe López Sr. was an abusive parent, both to his oldest son and his two younger siblings, a boy and a girl. Felipe had to move in with relatives. The problems persisted through high school, even as López developed into a star at Lake Brantley High in Altamonte Springs, Fla. There, he hit .521 as a senior and was named the state's player of the year.
In June 1998, the Toronto Blue Jays made López the eighth overall pick in the amateur draft. On Aug. 11, he signed for a $2 million bonus. Three days later, Felipe López Sr. was sentenced to 20 years in prison after pleading no contest to two counts of child abuse -- coercing a child into a sexual act by an adult -- and one count of aggravated assault, according to state records.
Felipe López Sr. remains in jail and is scheduled to be released in November 2009. Felipe López said he has not talked to his father since.
"It was a difficult part of my life," López said Tuesday. "I'm not going to lie: It was tough. But I never brought that situation onto the field. That was something that I can always block [out], because he wasn't important to me."
Suddenly, though, López said he found himself as the man in the family, the one to whom everyone turned. He bought a house for an aunt and uncle who had been particularly helpful during his turbulent childhood. He didn't stop there.
"I bought houses for everybody," he said. He met his future wife in 1999, while playing Class A ball in Hagerstown, Md. By the following year, $2 million had been whittled to $20,000.
"People would say, 'She just married you because of your money,' " L¿pez said. "But they don't know. We went through some tough times. At one point, we didn't have nothing."
Now, López is nearly 10 years removed from the day he was drafted, has spent more than five years in the majors and will earn $4.9 million this season. "I'm saving a lot more, that's for sure," he said. In the fall, he will be a free agent, and how he performs for the Nationals will help determine how much he earns on the open market.
By his own admission, though, López's earning potential will drop drastically if he handles this season as he did last. He has admitted to battling off-field problems in 2007. He declined to address them specifically Tuesday, other than to say that they weren't related to his father or his immediate family, his wife, Jennifer, and his two daughters, 6-year-old Chaydin and 3-year-old Jaysha.
Whatever the issues, López said they chipped away at him in 2007. The man who said he separated his abusive father from his baseball career couldn't separate on- and off-the-field problems any longer. He slumped badly, hitting .182 in June, and never recovered. His body language was poor. Frequently, he sulked in the clubhouse, and even when his mood improved, he wasn't engaged in baseball. Members of the organization wondered if they would ever reach him.
"I always got to the field early before" last year, López said. "I was always working. Last year, I felt like I didn't take advantage of it. I didn't work. There's no excuses. If you don't work, it's going to show. If you work, you're going to be luckier more times."
So this offseason, he worked. Larkin, who tutored López in the waning days of his own career in Cincinnati, owns a baseball facility in Orlando. López worked out there regularly. During a quiet moment by the batting cage Tuesday, Larkin leaned over and reminded López of all that labor -- and what it could mean.
"He worked his tail off," Larkin said. "The days that he said he would be there, he was there. He didn't skip. He came early. He did some stuff on his own in his garage. From what I saw, he did everything he could to make himself better."
The Nationals hope that attitude holds through spring training and into the season. So far, they are pleased.
"He's ready to compete and ready to face whatever comes his way," Acta said. "And there's never been a doubt about his talent."
López knows this story, beginning Wednesday night, could go one of two ways. It could be the kind of trite tale that so often marks spring training. His words of focus could float away and end up being meaningless. Or he could return to the form that made him an all-star in 2005, a form that would earn him millions more as a free agent.
To do that, he will have to win back his old starting job. And for a moment, sitting in front of his locker -- his eyes full of intensity, sweat still on his brow -- it seemed possible.
"I've always had competition in front of me," he said. "It's all about now worrying about the competition and just going out there and doing your job. I didn't do that last year. This year, I have to leave everything on the field."

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Catch by Catching in the Big Leagues

Thom Loverro gives us some real spring training analysis for a change from a good writer!

He sees the deal. Flores is a big league catcher. Ostracizing him to Harrisburg will do him more harm than good. He may not be the everyday MLB Nat Catcher yet, but he is very close. He will get more than enough innings of work, and with a guy named Bob Boone hanging around there is no better knowledge source for Flores. Having John Stearns in Harrisburg is a major plus to send Flores there, but he has already arrived in DC. He's contributed, and he can play. I say we keep him and let him play himself into a major leaguer while contributing in any way he can (catching, PHing, bullpen work, maybe even a little 1st base)


What's the catch for Flores [Thom Loverro]

The Nationals' plan for catcher Jesus Flores is to send him to Class AA Harrisburg so he can play on an everyday basis and get more experience. Before being picked up as a Rule V player last year, Flores, 22, had never played above Class A ball.
As a Rule V draftee, the Nationals had to keep him on the major league roster all year or send him back to the team they plucked him from, the New York Mets. Flores made it easy, having a very solid year for someone with such little experience, batting .244 with four home runs and 25 RBI in 180 at-bats and not hurting them behind the plate.
But the Nationals signed two free agent All-Star catchers in the offseason, Paul Lo Duca and Johnny Estrada, paying them a total of $6 million, and those two are slated to be the one-two major league catchers this year. But both are recovering from surgeries -- Lo Duca a knee and Estrada his elbow and knee -- and neither will be ready to play come the start of exhibition season tomorrow night against Florida, according to manager Manny Acta.
Acta says both will be ready to play come Opening Day. But don't be surprised if one or the other or even both are still on the shelf and Flores stays on the major league roster.
My experience has been that teams and players always downplay injuries and present a more optimistic than realistic picture of when a player will be ready to play -- in other words, things are always worse than they appear to be. This could be an exception, but I would not be surprised if either Lo Duca or Estrada were on the disabled list come the start of the season in Washington.
Flores isn't crazy about the notion of being in the minor leagues. "I am just getting here trying to do my job, preparing myself and try to show them that I can stay in the big leagues," Flores said. "I know Estrada and Lo Duca are All-Star catchers, but everyone is here for that one job, and that is what I want."
It would be a tough adjustment for anybody. He goes from Class A to the majors, where they have people to do everything for you -- take care of your luggage, have your equipment ready, flying from city to city -- all sorts of amenities, back to the minors, where it is bus rides and taking care of yourself, for the most part.
And now Flores, instead of moving into the new ballpark, faces the prospect of going to Harrisburg, where the ballpark, on City Island in the middle of the Susquehanna, is a wonderful place to watch a game, but the clubhouse is so small it could fit inside one of the lockers -- not locker room but lockers -- at the new clubhouse at Nationals Field. It has a hatch door on it, like a submarine, to make sure the clubhouse can be sealed shut so it doesn't get flooded (which happens often along the Susquehanna).

Monday, February 25, 2008

Here's how we win this year......

I want speed, experience and big flys.....who doesn't! But the Nats should go get them this way:

Dmitri, Zim and Wily Mo: Big Fly and extra base hit department w/ Marrero in the near wings

Dukes, Milledge, Lopez and/or a little Belliard for the speed

Guzie, Pick a Boone, Belliard, The Meat Hook: all for experience

In my estimation that means it's time for Nick to be traded as soon as he shows promise and Kearns to be packaged with him. Preferably to the American League. I truly like Nick, but the chances of him not getting hurt are ridiculous. Kearns is never worth waiting on. I'd rather have Wily Mo strike out pathetically until the All Star break and then cut him instead of letting Kearns stick around all year, hit .259 and impede somebody from developing in the outfield.

That's my opinion and I'm sticking with it. How about our sportswriters doing some work in Florida!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Milledge will be hurt in the two spot

A number two hitter is forced to move runners and rarely gets into position to drive in runners as the lineup turns over. Milledge will be hurt in the two spot. He needs to hit in a position that will let him swing freely without the situational demands of the two spot. In the sixth spot he would be afforded a free swinging spot with little demands. he could drive in runs, hit for average and have the table set for him as he grows into...hopefully..a star. he would be protected by a seventh hitter like Estrada or LoDuca (on a regular basis) / or perhaps even Belliard. Ahead of Milledge would be Wily Mo in the five spot or perhaps Nick or Dmitri. In any situation, situational hitting is more a job for Guzie or even Belliard where experience leads the day.

Sheinin: "Milledge looked good also, particularly during the situational-hitting drills at the start of the BP round, in which the hitters are told to simulate certain situations -- like hit-and-run, moving a runner over, getting a runner home from third, etc. Those are essential attributes for a No. 2 hitter, which is where Manny Acta has said he envisions Milledge batting. The kid has power, too. It's just that anyone who hits in the same group as Wily Mo Pena is naturally going to come off looking wimpy."

Friday, February 22, 2008

Phenom Watch

Bill Ladson giving us a look:

They're No. 1: Chris Marrero is considered the Nationals' top prospect after hitting 23 home runs with 88 RBIs last year. The question now is, which position does he play? The team has decided to make him a first baseman. Defense has been a problem for Marrero since he was drafted in the first round of the 2006 First-Year Player Draft. The team tried him out in the outfield, but he doesn't have enough range. So forget Dmitri out there and where this places Josh Whitesell's future with the Nat's is another question. Marrero gets the first shot at 1st in the near future...

Class of '07: Left-hander Josh Smoker, the Nationals' second pick in the 2007 First-Year Player draft, is acting like a kid in a candy store. He can't believe that his locker is near players such as John Patterson, Paul Lo Duca and Johnny Estrada. "I looked up to them. To be in the same clubhouse as these guys, it's a dream come true. It's a great honor," Smoker said. "I'm taking it one step at a time and enjoying it." Last year, after signing his professional contract, Smoker played two games for Class A Vermont and gave up two runs in four innings. Now, he is trying to learn as much as he can from the Major League side before going to Minor League camp. Class A to the Majors takes time, but one can never predict how long. Probably not this year.

Stat machine: Outfielder Roger Bernadina led the Nationals' Minor League system with 40 stolen bases. Can't teach speed. Dukes and Milledge get first shot out there

What they're saying: "I continue to be amazed at this kid -- his makeup, his smarts and how committed he is [to the game]." -- Acta on outfielder Justin Maxwell

Committed???? I want to know if he can HIT IT! We don't get Pena, Milledge and Dukes if he could!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Pitchers, Pitchers everywhere, but not a guy to Catch!

Lawyers are like Pitchers. If they screw up, just fire them and get another. A guy can't get outs, dump him and get another. I view pitchers much like Billy Martin, Earl Weaver and Syd Thrift. They are a dime a dozen and you use them until the drop...and then get another...........

But a catcher, now I'm from the Casey Stengel school. When asked how he won all those years he once stated slyly, "I never went into a big game without my man." His man: Yogi Berra.

As it looks now, if we can put our three catchers together we can get one helluva everyday catcher. Right now, Thank God, it's February 21st!

Sheinin blogs, "The absence of Jesus Flores is particularly distressing because that means none of the Nationals' top three catchers are able to catch an entire day's worth of bullpen sessions. Paul LoDuca is out recovering from knee surgery, and Johnny Estrada is being limited to one or two sessions (and very limited throwing) because he is also recovering from elbow and knee surgeries. However, Flores should be here by the weekend, I'm told."

Last year, injury woes gave us a bad start that we never got away from. Let's light some candles that our catchers heal well, get in shape....AND GET THEIR FREAK'IN PAPERS TOGETHER! On the visa issue, I fully blame Bowden's office. No excuse on paper work Trader Jim.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Cheap Shot at Dmitri, but it's not like he hasn't brushed them off before!

Pathetic grasping for something to say....enter zuckerman

zuckerman makes a lot of sense here????? Rooting for Nick...you zuck!

The zucker talks about being rusty, out of shape and DNA ingrained to hit .300 for Da Meat Hook! Tell me, zuck, when was the last time Nick hit .300. Give it to the Da Meat Hook, he's a battler and he has a stick with leader written all over him. A drop of from .320??? OK, zucker...I'll take .310! Get'um D!

zuck with nothing to say, "Look, Dmitri Young could roll out of bed and hit close to .300. It's just ingrained in his DNA. And obviously he showed up last year out of shape and rusty and wound up hitting .320. But call it a hunch, I just have a feeling he's going to see a steep decline in production this season."

So close to Captiol Hill & yet, Nat Player immigration problems!

From the blogs, at least they aren't hurt and missing.......

"Where are they? Reliever Luis Ayala is expected to be fly to Florida on Wednesday, while catcher Jesus Flores is expected to be in camp on Saturday. Both players have had visa issues.
However, relievers Jesus Colome and Arnie Munoz are having problems getting their visas and it's not known when they will be in camp."

These are players of note, and especially major cogs for the bullpen. Let's get them tossing. Missing significant time for pitchers can never be made up.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Odalis Perez: 850K and maybe an innings eater

Well, he ain't Livan. But he didn't cost as much. A non-garaunteed, minor league contract at 850K for and 8-11, 5.57 era, and 137 inning pitcher for the KC Royals last year isn't spending too much or expecting too much. The worry is for Matt Chico says Sheinin, but I think the worry is a little bit further down on the pitching chart. My belief is that Redding and Hanrahan may be long gone and our favorite battler Bascik might be destine for a quick good bye this spring. Nevertheless, I never think you can have too many arms in the spring, and if Perez turns out to be what Loaiza 05' was for us then he was money well spent. For one year, 850K is not much to spend if our man Odalis is sound and ready to go. We'll see.....Jerome Williams let's hope not!

Too many Boones

Let's be honest, Bret Boone left the game to avoid the scrutiny. I leave it there. His production dropped off like a stone going into a lake. I leave it there. After a year retired and no steriods/hgh allowed in the game, I can't believe that the Nats are taking a chance on him. But then again, Tony Batista was a flier last year too. This is a 757.

I could understand Aaron Boone who put up coming back numbers last year and tried to reclaim a career from his knee injury. A. Boone's numbers from Florida last year were excellent as a backup infielder and pop off the bench. He's worth the roster move.

The chances of Bret Boone sticking are slim, but so were Dmitri's last year. I just don't want the move to embarass the team. The next thing you know Bob Boone will try to take Estrada's or Lo Duca's spot!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Pitchers Toss: Where's Ayala?

Below is a nice summary of the pitcher's first workout by Mark Zuckerman of the Wash. Times.
"Hill and Patterson and so go the Nat" is the mantra for this staff as of now. My greatest question is the progress of Luis Ayala. With the gunshot injury, he was a no show yesterday. Plenty of concern here because Ayala is a strong piece of the puzzle for the Nat Bullpen which is the true "ACE" of our entire pitching staff. Will keep an eye out for Luis...anybody heard anything?



Zuckerman Blog Report:

"Shawn Hill was among the pitchers who threw in the bullpen. Hill, coming off surgery on both his left shoulder and his right elbow, pitched smooth and easy, just like the Nats wanted from him. Most everyone threw for a full eight minutes, but Hill was intentionally cut off at the 6-minute mark. Nothing to be concerned about, just another sign of how the Nats would like him to ease his way back.

Others who threw off the mound today: Ross Detwiler (who has improved his herky-jerky delivery over the offseason, at the advice of pitching coach Randy St. Claire), Garrett Mock, Joel Hanrahan, Matt Chico, Chris Schroder, Collin Balester (who's got some pretty impressive "stuff"), Tim Redding, Mike Bacsik, Jason Stanford, Bobby Brownlie, Mike Hinckley, Jim Ed Warden, Rob Bell and Brian Sanches.

Everyone else throws tomorrow, including John Patterson, Jason Bergmann, Chad Cordero and Jon Rauch."

Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Infield Battle: Contracts always motivate

Belliard, Guzman and Lopez. It is agreed that there is talent in the Nats infield up the middle. But as the spring training battle begins, it looks as if the motivation to survive in the MLB and to earn a future contract will both play a predominate role in the battle.

Be assured, Ronnie Belliard is a Nat under contract until 2009. He can play every infield position and I believe he is the emergency catcher (although I could be wrong of that one). Belliard is nothing short of a "pros-pro". He was cast aside uncerimoniously by the Cardinals after a World Championship...which let's you know how they treat players in St. Louis...Curt Flood is smiling somewhere! All he did was come to Washington and put on a display with numbers that rival and surpassed his career bests! He's a Nat, and he brings professionalism on the field to a young team.

The battle I believe is with Guzie and Felipe. It is a damn shame that somebody is going to lose out, and that someone in my book is going to be Felipe. While Guzie gets hurt, he is a MONSTER ball player when he is healthy. Last seasons great start was remarkable. When Guzie went down with the other injuries, the horrible slide cast a dark cloud over the season. Guzie is in the last year of his big deal. Health is the issue. If he is, he's the shortstop. Too many skills will leave Felipe behind.

As for Felipe, he fell off last year due to personal issues that are now clear. He is a great talent with the best upside as Trader Jim acknowledges constantly. But he needs to produce this year, from 1) BOTH sides of the plate, and 2) WITHOUT the high number of errors that can besiege him at times. If Felipe's spring is below average, he's destination is the bench, and he is one step from "Palookaville" as Marlon Brando once said in On the Waterfront.

The future for both Guzie (new contract and age bearing down), and Felipe (one step to a permanent minor league career) is undoubtedly now. Wouldn't it be great to have them both tear up Viera with .400 averages and then discuss role playing with Ronnie?!?!

The battle and bucks for it begins!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Young or Johnson traded? Both could go too!

Let's see, if you trade both now for future arms, you could put Guzie at 1st (6'0" and rangy), Belliard at 2nd and Felipe at Short. Solves the infield glut, and lead off question immediately. Reminds me of the old Chuck Tanner interchangeable parts infield in Pittsburgh circa late 70's.

...If you play it safe, you trade Dmitri and keep Nick because youth is greater than aging beauty. Dmitri's best years are behind him, but Nick is a walking Hospital.

...If you throw dice for a year, you trade Nick after a hot spring or early season good start, but where do you play Nick long enough to shine if Dmitri is the 1st baseman?

Tradewise, Dmitri is the better candidate for shipping out to an American League team (1st / DH) or "bandbox" (Houston, Chicago, Fenway, Baltimore...never Philly).

Trad'um both and you lose a lot of pop in the middle of the lineup. Trader Jim is up to something.


Young or Johnson Could Be Traded
By Dave SheininWashington Post Staff WriterSaturday, February 16, 2008

VIERA, Fla., Feb. 15 -- Washington Nationals General Manager Jim Bowden acknowledged Friday that the presence of two veteran, highly paid first basemen -- Dmitri Young and Nick Johnson -- on the roster this spring could force him to trade one of them, provided both remain healthy.

"They're both everyday players," Bowden said. "If they're both healthy, logically, it may be possible one of them has to be moved to make that work. It doesn't mean we're going to, but it's something we may have to look at."

Young, 34, is a two-time all-star who in 2007 turned a minor league contract with a spring training invitation from the Nationals into a productive season (.320 average, 13 homers, 74 RBI) that earned him National League comeback player of the year honors. During the season, he signed a two-year, $10 million contract extension through 2009.

Johnson, 29, batted .290 with 23 homers and a .428 on-base percentage in 2006, before breaking the femur in his right leg in a gruesome on-field collision that September, costing him the entire 2007 season. He has pronounced himself healthy, though he still must prove that on the field. He is in the second year of a three-year, $16.5 million contract that pays him $5.5 million in 2008 and 2009, with the last year becoming a player option in the event he is traded.
Young's age and past weight problems and Johnson's lengthy injury history would somewhat limit their trade value, although Johnson, once he proves himself healthy, would undoubtedly bring more in return.

Young is listed as the starting first baseman on the organizational depth chart on the wall of Bowden's office. "He has to be," Bowden said. "He was one of the top seven in the league in hitting [in 2007]. But that doesn't mean by Opening Day, Nick Johnson is not the starting first baseman, either. . . . It's going to be fun to watch that play out."

Friday, February 15, 2008

PLAYBALL! Let's find a Phenom, folks!

Here's a nice little catch-all summary from Brain McNally of theexaminer.com

Brian McNally, The Examiner2008

Pitchers and catchers report to Nationals spring training camp today in Viera, Fla., while the rest of the team arrives by Feb. 21. The Examiner breaks down the competition at each position:

CATCHERS
Starter Brian Schneider was traded to the Mets and the Nats signed veterans Paul Lo Duca, 35, and Johnny Estrada, 31, to plug the hole. Lo Duca, the likely starter, underwent knee surgery last month and will miss at least part of spring training. He and Estrada are both big improvements at the plate. But Lo Duca was prominently featured in the Mitchell Report and Estrada endured knee and elbow surgeries in the offseason. Neither is signed past this year. That leaves the future to Jesus Flores, who showed promise as a rookie in ’07 but will likely start at AAA Columbus.

INFIELD
What’s the status of 1B Nick Johnson, who suffered a gruesome broken leg in September 2006 and hasn’t played since? An on-base machine, no one knows if Johnson will ever be the same player. So Dmitri Young, last year’s NL Comeback Player of the Year, enters as the starter. He was sensational in 2007 (.320, 13 HR, 74 RBI). But was the 34-year-old’s All-Star season a fluke?
The Nats have tabbed Cristian Guzman at SS and Ronnie Belliard (.290, 35 doubles, 11 HR) at 2B. Despite a disappointing 2007, Felipe Lopez (.245, 9 HR, 50 RBI) fights for playing time at both spots.
Ryan Zimmerman (.266, 24 HR, 91 RBI) is the anchor at 3B. The 23-year-old saw his numbers dip in his second full year. But he is an elite defensive player and the franchise face. Free agent Aaron Boone contributes as a reserve corner IF.

OUTFIELD
The Nats rolled the dice on youth and potential in the OF. They traded for CF Lastings Milledge, 22, a top Mets prospect. They acquired tantalizing LF slugger Wily Mo Pena, 26, from the Red Sox last August and he promptly hit eight home runs in 37 games. The most controversial pick up was Elijah Dukes, 23, from Tampa Bay, an immense talent with a litany of arrests. Dukes hit 10 HRs in just 52 games with the Rays before the club suspended him for the season. He is slated as the fourth OF. The stabilizing presence is RF Austin Kearns (.266, 16 HR, 74 RBI), an excellent defensive player who needs more consistent production at the plate. Free agents Rob Mackowiak and Willie Harris join Ryan Langerhans in the fight for a fifth OF spot.

STARTING PITCHERS
Last spring training’s 36-pitcher free-for-all is a distant memory. The rotation is far more stable now. But is it healthy? John Patterson, so good in 2005, has made just 15 starts in two years and needed surgery to repair a nerve problem in his right arm. Shawn Hill (4-5, 3.42 ERA) was the staff’s best pitcher. But he made just 16 starts and had two offseason surgeries (elbow, left shoulder). Jason Bergmann (6-6, 4.45 ERA) showed flashes early and late — he was 4-1 in September — but in between battled elbow and hamstring injuries. Matt Chico (7-9, 4.63) led the staff in innings (167) and fellow rookie John Lannan (2-2, 4.15) capped a rapid rise from A ball with six solid starts in August. That pair must hold off a challenge from veteran Tim Redding (3-6, 3.64 ERA), among others.

BULLPEN
The bullpen ranked ninth in ERA in the majors (3.81) and topped the NL in innings. Closer Chad Cordero has 113 saves over the last three seasons, including 37 in 2007. Jon Rauch (8-4, 3.61 ERA) and Saul Rivera (4-6, 3.68) were No. 1 and No. 2 in MLB in appearances. Luis Ayala (2-2, 3.19) returned from elbow surgery to appear in 44 games and should be fully recovered after a hunting accident left him with shotgun pellets in his left biceps. Jesus Colome (5-1, 3.82) and Chris Schroder (2-3, 3.18) both had their moments in 2007 while Joel Hanrahan moves in from the rotation. The lefties fighting for a spot are Mike Bacsik, Katsuhiko Maekawa and Ray King.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Rocker: "Selig knew of steriod use by players in 2000"

Ok, the old knucklehead is out there on this one. He better be correct and have evidence because major internet publications are flashing it across the world I write to you. I say give the pitcher enough rope to either hang himself or Bud Selig. Both are and were a plague to baseball.

Rocker: I failed drug test; doctors told me, A-Rod how to use 'roids

Feb. 11, 2008CBSSports.com wire reports

ATLANTA -- John Rocker claims he flunked a drug test ordered by Major League Baseball in 2000 and that he, Alex Rodriguez and other Texas Rangers were advised by management and union doctors following a spring training lecture on how to effectively use steroids.
"Bud Selig knew in the year 2000 John Rocker was taking the juice," the former pitcher said Monday of the baseball commissioner on Atlanta radio station 680. "Didn't do anything about it."
Rocker was suspended for the first 14 days of the 2000 season by Selig for making racial and ethnic remarks the commissioner deemed insensitive. The penalty, originally set to cover 28 days, was reduced by an arbitrator following a grievance.
"As part of the disciplinary process, Mr. Rocker was referred to the confidential Employee Assistance Program," Major League Baseball said in a statement. "Any test of Mr. Rocker would have been conducted by professionals who ran the EAP. Those professionals were obligated to maintain the confidentiality of the result and to use it in developing a treatment and education program for Mr. Rocker. Further discipline was not an option legally available to Major League Baseball at that time."
Rocker said that doctors from management and the players association, following a spring training talk with the Texas Rangers about steroids and other topics, pulled himself, A-Rod, Rafael Palmeiro and Ivan Rodriguez aside. Rocker was with the Rangers in 2002.
"Look guys, if you take one kind of steroid, you don't triple stack them and take them 10 months out of the year like Lyle Alzado did," Rocker said the doctors told them. "If you do it responsibly, it's not going to hurt you."
Rocker did not identify the doctors.
Baseball did not have a drug-testing agreement between management and the union until September 2002 and did not have random testing with penalties until 2004.
Gene Orza, the chief operating officer of the players association, declined comment. AP NEWSThe Associated Press News ServiceCopyright 2007-2008, The Associated Press, All Rights Reserved

Monday, February 11, 2008

$566.50 on United to Welcome the Boys to Viera!

Granted. You'll fly to Pittsburgh from Dulles then to Orlando and drive a little, but you'll be their by early afternoon to enjoy the afternoon Sun according to The Weatherunderground and a nice 71 degrees! Coming home you stop in Charlotte on the 17th after boarding at 7 pm and then its back to DC. decent hotels or sleep under the bleachers and cheap beer or all u can eat "Orlando Family Food" Heaven! I'd go, but I can't get to DC for the cheap flight. I'd have to add $200 more to the short 100 mile flight. Maybe I'll take the bus to get to the airport! Anybody got a ride for me!!!!! GO NATS!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Nats Bullpen: Good summary article

Ladson gives a nice summary of what we've known already. He did give us the idea that Detweiler and Lannan will be starters and not bullpeners in this article...but things always change as the season starts. I would still like to see Livan show up if he drops his price. I think that might be the only way we see the big fella in the majors this year at all. As always, our bullpen is our greatest strength.

By Bill Ladson / MLB.com

WASHINGTON -- Last year, Nationals manager Manny Acta put a policy in place to make sure that his relievers would not be overworked by season's end. If a reliever pitched in three straight games, he would not pitch the following day. Even if the pitcher said he could go a fourth consecutive day, Acta stuck to the policy.

Acta's rule paid off, as the Nationals had one of the best bullpens in baseball. The relief corps posted a solid 3.81 ERA and saved 46 games while leading the National League in innings. The relievers were the No. 1 reason Washington overachieved last season under Acta despite an injury-depleted starting staff.

"Manny did a great job the way he used the 'pen. He wouldn't use a guy after three [consecutive] days," said pitching coach Randy St. Claire. "[He] did not overuse them. The appearances looked high for a couple of guys, but the innings were not high because they were not going out there for two or three innings. They were going to go no more than one inning or 1 1/3."
Washington has the same bullpen it had during second half of the season. Chad Cordero is the closer, while Jon Rauch, Luis Ayala and Saul Rivera are the setup men.
Cordero's 2007 season was filled with ups and downs. He got off to a slow start because he was thinking about his ailing grandmother, who passed away in early May. Cordero was on bereavement leave from May 8-14. Once he came back to the Nationals, however, Cordero saved 33 games in 38 opportunities the rest of the way. But he was displeased with his performance in the last two months of the season, when he posted a 5.08 ERA in 24 games. He finished with nine blown saves.
"I wish it could have been a lot better," Cordero said in December. "I wish I could have cut down on those blown saves. For the most part, I did the best that I could. I still came out with 37 saves, and that was pretty good."

Rauch and Rivera proved to be the staff's true workhorses, appearing in a combined 173 games. Rauch was clearly the team's best pitcher. He won a team-leading eight games, had a 3.61 ERA and great control, walking just 21 batters in 87 1/3 innings (2.2 per nine innings). For his success on the mound, Rauch was recently given a two-year contract with an option. Look for Rauch to close games whenever Cordero needs a break.

Rivera started last season in the Minor Leagues, but he made up for lost time by finishing second behind Rauch in appearances and leading the Nationals relievers in innings pitched (93) while giving up just one home run. Acta was cautious when it came to Luis Ayala, who was coming off right elbow reconstruction surgery in 2006. He never pitched in three consecutive games during the '07 season. Ayala had a setback during the offseason when a shotgun pellet grazed his left biceps during a December hunting trip, but he is expected to be ready for Spring Training.
Chris Schroder, Jesus Colome and a healthy Ryan Wagner are expected fill out the rest of the bullpen, while Ray King, Mike Bacsik and Joel Hanrahan will compete to be on the 25-man roster. "Obviously, with our bullpen, we feel it's one of the better ones in the National League," general manager Jim Bowden. "Chad Cordero has more saves at his age than any other pitcher except for Francisco Rodriguez, and that's an amazing accomplishment. With Jon Rauch, Luis Ayala, Saul Rivera, Jesus Colome, Chris Schroder and a healthy Ryan Wagner, our bullpen will be one that will keep us competitive.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

I'm not staying up to cheer this move. 5.20 ERA between them. Nats sign two pitchers?

Katsuhiko Maekawa last pitched for the Japanese club Orix in 2006. He went 1-7 with a 5.26 ERA. The Nationals picked up Enrique Gonzalez, 25, off waivers from the Arizona Diamondbacks in September. He went 8-10 with a 5.14 ERA for Triple-A Tucson last season.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Rauch Deal easy as a 1-2-3, 8th inning!

The Chief got an BIG WIN earlier this year and Jon Rauch just signed on to an easy setup for him today by inking a two year deal. The big fellas numbers are solid, and he's a scary 6' 11" force the NATs to rely on to be part of the best "four innings" of pitching that any team has to offer in major league baseball. When our starters get us into the 5th inning, it's better than "lights out" with our bullpen providing the finishing touches to put the game into the win column. Nice job to Stan the Man and Trader Jim on this signing. Congratulations Jon!

Nats' Rauch gets raise, two-year deal without arbitration

Feb. 2, 2008CBSSports.com wire reports

WASHINGTON -- Reliever Jon Rauch and the Washington Nationals agreed to a $3.2 million, two-year contract Saturday, avoiding arbitration.
The right-hander will make $1.2 million in 2008 and $2 million in 2009. The deal also includes a club option for $2.9 million in 2010 that must be exercised within five days of the end of the 2008 World Series.
Rauch's arbitration hearing had been scheduled for Wednesday. He had asked for a raise from $455,000 to $1.4 million while the Nationals submitted an arbitration figure of $1.1 million.
Last season, Rauch went 8-4 with four saves and a 3.61 ERA in 87 1/3 innings. He led the major leagues with 88 appearances.