Welcome to the 2014 Minor League Report, a comprehensive collection of notes from the Washington Nationals PR staff that highlights the outstanding performers in the Nationals’ Minor League system through the season’s first few weeks.
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by Amanda Comak
The Washington Nationals recalled right-handed reliever Aaron Barrett from Triple-A Syracuse on Tuesday afternoon and optioned left-handed reliever Xavier Cedeno there.
In two appearances since being optioned to Triple-A on April 12, Barrett, 26, collected two saves and did not allow a run in 2.1 innings pitched. He surrendered just two hits, walked one and struck out two.
Barrett, a rookie who made the Nationals out of Spring Training after a strong performance in Major League camp, has pitched in six Major League games (4.1 IP) this season and has not allowed an earned run.
Of the 16 batters Barrett has faced in the Major Leagues, he’s allowed just one hit, walked only two and struck out six.
Despite his youthful status on the Nationals’ roster, manager Matt Williams rarely hesitated to trust Barrett with getting big outs early in the season. He made his Major League debut in the ninth inning of a tie game on Opening Day, and on another occasion he was summoned to face Giancarlo Stanton, one of the most feared power hitters in the Major Leagues, in a one-run game. He met those challenges head-on.
Cedeno, 27, appeared in one game for the Nationals, tossing 1.1 innings against the Los Angeles Angels on Monday night. He allowed two hits but did not surrender a run.
In three appearances with Triple-A Syracuse this season, Cedeno has tossed 3.2 scoreless innings. For the Chiefs, Cedeno has allowed just one hit, walked one and struck out four while holding opponents to a .077 batting average. Acquired from the Astros in April of 2013, Cedeno has amassed 46.1 innings and worked to a 4.16 ERA in parts of four Major League seasons.
by Mike Feigen
The Washington Nationals welcomed their 20 millionth fan in franchise history Friday night, honoring the lucky guest, Wayne Gonsorcik, with a pregame celebration prior to the team’s contest with the St. Louis Cardinals.
Gonsorcik, a Hospital Corpsman Chief Petty Officer in the United States Navy, attended the game with his wife, Tara, and two young children. The family was awarded with seat upgrades to the Lexus Presidents Club seats behind home plate, a signed Jordan Zimmermann jersey and tickets to a future Nats game of their choice.
“(I was) a little astonished — quite surprised,” Gonsorcik said of the experience. “We’ve been treated like royalty tonight.”
Gonsorcik, originally from Dale City, Va., was vacationing from his home in Pensacola, Fla., where he works as an instructor training Navy recruiters. The active duty officer has been in the Navy for nearly 20 years, serving two tours in Iraq.
Including the Gonsorcik family, the Nationals have welcomed 20,016,672 fans to RFK Stadium and Nationals Park since baseball returned to the nation’s capital in 2005.
by Amanda Comak
The Washington Nationals recalled left-handed reliever Xavier Cedeno from Triple-A Syracuse on Friday afternoon and optioned right-hander Blake Treinen to Syracuse.
In three appearances with Triple-A Syracuse this season, Cedeno has tossed 3.2 scoreless innings. Cedeno has allowed just one hit, walked one and struck out four while holding opponents to a .077 batting average.
Acquired from the Astros in April of 2013, Cedeno, 27, appeared in 11 games and worked to a 1.50 ERA with Washington last season. In parts of three Major League seasons, Cedeno has amassed 45 innings and worked to a 5.40 ERA.
Treinen, 25, made his Major League debut with the Nationals on April 12, pitching two scoreless innings against the Atlanta Braves.
In three Major League appearances, the hard-throwing right-hander who has drawn raves from team officials and scouts since Spring Training, allowed just one earned run in 6.2 innings of work, a 1.35 ERA.
He earned his first Major League strikeout on April 12 when he got Braves third baseman Chris Johnson swinging.
by Amanda Comak
In the final weeks of Spring Training, as the Washington Nationals began to whittle their roster down to the 25 men who would travel north with them to begin the 2014 season, manager Matt Williams had to have several difficult conversations. Rosters constraints are what they are, Williams had to explain, and at that moment there just wasn’t room for everyone.
There was one caveat Williams tried to impress on some of the young talent that made the trek to his office in those final days of camp.
“You need 35 guys during the course of a season – on the low end,” he told them. “We’re going to need you guys at some point. Make sure you’re ready.”
In the first three weeks of the season, the Nationals have already summoned four of those players, and no fewer than five rookies, including right-hander Aaron Barrett who made the team out of camp, have made significant contributions. It’s the first time since 2009 that the Nationals have used as many as five rookies in the month of April.
Early-season injuries, along with a taxed bullpen, have necessitated the promotions of catcher Sandy Leon, right-hander Blake Treinen, outfielder Steven Souza Jr., and infielder Zach Walters. Barrett, who was outstanding in six games (4.1 IP), did not surrender a single earned run and allowed just one hit before a the need for a fresh arm sent him to Syracuse last weekend.
On the Nationals’ most recent road trip, clubhouse manager Mike Wallace was so busy properly inscribing important baseballs for the many “firsts” the rookies racked up, it seemed the Nationals were rolling a ball out of play every night.
“They all proved that they were capable during Spring Training,” Williams said this past week. “Some guys have been up here before, but they were ready to come when they were called. That’s a testament to player development, making sure they’re playing enough and getting at-bats and doing things they need to do to be ready when they’re called.
“We don’t want them called – and by that I mean, because you want your starting guys out there – but it’s a testament to them that they were ready.”
For the players, it has been quite an experience.
“The whole thing is a dream,” Walters said. “Just being here.”
When Barrett entered to make his Major League debut on Opening Day – in a tie game – his adrenaline surged. Before he began his warm-up pitches, shortstop Ian Desmond approached him.
“He just looked at me and said, ‘Hey, just take a second and look around. Just take this all in,’” Barrett said later that day. “I’m just really glad he did that, because I’ll never forget that moment and that he did that for me.”
Treinen made his Major League debut on Saturday, April 12, and registered his first Major League strikeout that night when Atlanta Braves third baseman Chris Johnson swung at strike three.
Leon, who has appeared in the big leagues in each of the past two seasons but retains his rookie status, smashed his first Major League home run over the right field wall on Monday night in Miami. After that game, Leon smiled often and called his first MLB homer “really awesome.”
Walters, who is also in his second big league stint after a September call-up last season, followed suit on Tuesday, crushing his first big league home run to right field. He didn’t wait long for his second, either, with a shot to deep left field that broke a 3-3 tie with the Marlins in an eventual 6-3 victory.
Souza Jr., whose indirect path to the Major Leagues has brought his emotions right to the surface now that he is here, picked up his first big league hit on Tuesday night, a single up the middle. When he got back to the dugout, his teammates were waiting for him.
“It’s so cool, man,” Souza Jr. said. “The love you get around here, the camaraderie. I’m just the new guy up there. Everybody is making me feel so welcome. To get hugs from (Desmond), who I started (in the organization) with, to Tyler (Moore), one of my best friends, it’s just a moment I’ll never forget.”
“I was just glad I was able to get a couple of zeroes and some outs, and do what I was called up here to do: eat some innings and help save our bullpen,” Treinen said after his debut. “It felt good. I’m kind of at a loss for words. It was fun to be up here at this level.”
The baseballs used in those “firsts” become the ultimate keepsakes for the players. They are authenticated by a Major League Baseball authenticator and inscribed by Wallace. Where they go from there is up to each guy. Treinen immediately gave his to his parents, and Souza Jr. said his was likely heading to his parents as well.
“It’s one of those things,” Souza Jr. said. “You’ve come so far, and all the hard work (that’s gone into getting here), and the people who helped me along this way, it’s a moment to kind of share with everyone.”
“These guys have wanted to do this since they were six years old,” said Williams, who still has the baseballs from his “firsts” as a player. “It’s the culmination of your efforts to become a big leaguer. And then there are three stages of that: you want to get there, you want to stay, and then you want to win a championship.
“I’m happy to see them all doing well.”
by Amanda Comak
ATLANTA — Washington Nationals President of Baseball Operations and General Manager Mike Rizzo met with the media before this afternoon’s game at Turner Field to discuss a litany of topics that have arisen in the season’s first two weeks.
Here’s some of what Rizzo discussed, from injuries to roster moves and the growing rivalry with the Atlanta Braves.
“We feel as good as we can with the glut of injuries that we’ve had to key players. We’re talking about your middle-of-the-lineup bats. But we prepared for it this offseason with the acquisitions of (catcher Jose Lobaton) and key guys like (Kevin Frandsen) and (Nate McLouth). We still feel good about the roster.”
On if he feels the Nationals are just not catching any breaks early, with regard to injuries:
“No, nobody cares. The rest of the league doesn’t care. We’re just trying to work our way through it. We’ve got a game every day. That’s the one thing about baseball. The everydayness of it is really what separates the sport. That’s why we have 40-man rosters, that’s why we have Minor League systems.
“Injuries happen and you have to prepare for them. We think we’re well-prepared and well-positioned to handle them. We’ve got games to play and games to win.”
On how Denard Span is doing after being placed on the 7-day DL Saturday with a concussion:
“We’re going to have the doctor re-examine him tomorrow in Miami. He’s going to do some physical activities, and then we’ll take it from there.”
On Ryan Zimmerman’s prognosis after fracturing his right thumb on Saturday night:
“It’s a clean fracture. I saw the X-rays and I talked to the doctor. He’s going to see a hand specialist (at the Cleveland Clinic) on Monday. We’ll get a diagnosis and make our plans from there.”
“He’s capable of playing (second base, third base and shortstop). His natural position is shortstop. He’s got the skillset to play shortstop. He’s going to play all the different positions, and being a switch hitter off the bench with power helps us.”
On Doug Fister’s rehab from a strained lat muscle:
“Doug’s involved in his (throwing) program. He’ll progress to another bullpen (on Monday), throwing all this pitches, and he’ll take the next step depending on how it goes.”
On his opinions of the job manager Matt Williams has done in the season’s first 11 games:
“It’s the same game he’s always watched. Putting the lineups together, running the game in his mind (it’s not unfamiliar to him). Besides the newness of instant replay, it’s baseball as usual.
“He’s got a great support system around him with the coaches. It’s baseball 24/7 with Matt and the rest of them. They’re constantly in the clubhouse talking baseball. It’s a great dynamic and it’s enjoyable to see.”
On his evaluations of Danny Espinosa thus far this season as he bounces back from 2013:
“We’re glad we drafted him and developed him. We’ve always valued him as a really good Major League player. It’s time for him and for other players on the team to show (what they can do).”
On how he views the Nationals’ games against the Braves:
“(I’ve seen) great games. They’ve come on the winning side of it more often than we like, but we feel confident against this team. We feel we’re better than this team. We respect them, we respect the organization, but we don’t fear them . We think we’re the better team and we think at the end of the day we’re going to come out on top.”
by Amanda Comak
ATLANTA — The Washington Nationals recalled infielder Zach Walters from Triple-A Syracuse on Sunday morning and placed third baseman Ryan Zimmerman on the 15-day Disabled List with a right thumb fracture.
Walters has worked to a .290 batting average in nine games for Triple-A Syracuse this season, with a .303 on-base percentage and .452 slugging percentage. He’s clubbed three doubles and a triple, and driven in three runs.
This will be the second Major League assignment for Walters, 24, after he hit .375 (3-for-8) in nine Major League games last September. Walters entered the 2014 season ranked as the No. 14 prospect in the Nationals’ organization, according to industry insider Baseball America.
The injury to Zimmerman is another difficult one that the Nationals will have to overcome.
Through his first 10 games of the season, Zimmerman is batting .364 with a .405 on-base percentage and .636 slugging percentage. He’s hit two home runs and three doubles, walked three times and driven in six runs.
“It’s a big (loss) but we don’t have a choice,” Nationals Manager Matt Williams said after Saturday night’s game. “We’ve got to go play and compete and win games. We’ll have to do that starting tomorrow.”
Hitting in the middle of the Nationals’ lineup, Zimmerman has been an integral part of an offense that has helped the Nationals average 5.27 runs per game – the second-highest average of any team in the National League (Colorado leads with 5.50).
Zimmerman suffered the injury on Saturday night against the Atlanta Braves when he dove into the second base bag.
“You feel bad for him,” right fielder Jayson Werth told reporters after Saturday’s game. “It’s such a freak injury on a play like that. But we’ll be all right. We’ve got some good players. We’ll manage. Any time you lose a guy in the middle of your lineup it hurts. But we’ve got guys who can play here, and I think we’re bringing up a kid who can play. We’ll have to figure out a way.”
Williams indicated that the Nationals will likely go with Anthony Rendon at his natural position, third base, in the interim with Danny Espinosa shouldering the primary load at second base. Walters will certainly be an additional infield option for Williams to utilize.
“It’s not our first choice, certainly, but the fact that they can play multiple positions is good in times like this,” Williams said. “Certainly never want to miss somebody like Zim for that amount of time, but it is what it is. There’s nothing we can do about it now except play.”
Nationals select RHP Blake Treinen, recall OF Steven Souza Jr., option RHP Aaron Barrett and place OF Denard Span on 7-day DL
by Amanda Comak
ATLANTA – In need of bullpen reinforcements after a taxing few games, the Washington Nationals selected the contract of right-hander Blake Treinen from Triple-A Syracuse and optioned right-handed reliever Aaron Barrett there on Saturday.
Additionally, the team recalled outfielder Steven Souza Jr. and placed outfielder Denard Span on the 7-day Disabled List with a concussion.
A power right-hander, Treinen has a 3.73 career ERA in 69 Minor League games (38 starts). This will be his first Major League assignment.
A seventh-round draft pick of the Oakland Athletics in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft (No. 226 overall), Treinen was acquired by the Nationals, along with right-hander A.J. Cole and left-handed reliever Ian Krol, from the Athletics in the three-team trade in Jan., 2013, that sent outfielder Michael Morse to the Seattle Mariners.
Treinen drew raves this spring as he participated in his first Major League camp. His fastball was routinely clocked in the mid-upper 90s and evaluators inside the Nationals’ organization, and out, were impressed by his performance.
A starter for the majority of his career, Treinen provides the Nationals with the luxury of being able to pitch multiple innings out of the bullpen. The team is currently in a stretch where they will play 20 consecutive games without an off day.
Souza Jr., one of the Nationals’ top 10 prospects as ranked by Baseball America, is hitting .273 with a .429 on-base percentage and a .545 slugging percentage in seven games for Triple-A Syracuse this season. Souza has clubbed two home runs, walked six times and struck out on just four occasions.
A third-round selection of the Nationals in the 2007 First Year Player Draft (No. 100 overall), Souza Jr., 24, has hit .247 in 629 Minor League games with 209 extra-base hits (117 doubles, 15 triples and 77 home runs) and 351 RBI. Since the start of the 2012 season, Souza Jr. has posted a .296 batting average. This will also be his first Major League assignment.
Barrett, a rookie who made the Nationals out of Spring Training after a strong performance in Major League camp, pitched in six games (4.1 IP) and did not allow an earned run. Of the 16 batters Barrett faced, he allowed just one hit, walked only two and struck out six.
Despite his youthful status on the Nationals’ roster, manager Matt Williams rarely hesitated to trust Barrett with getting big outs. He made his Major League debut in the ninth inning of a tie game on Opening Day, and was summoned to face Giancarlo Stanton, one of the most feared power hitters in the Major Leagues, on Thursday in a one-run game.
Span, the Nationals’ starting center fielder, is hitting .222 this season with a .300 on-base percentage, three doubles, a triple, four walks and four RBI. He suffered the injury in a collision with Braves second baseman Dan Uggla on the basepaths on Friday night.
Additionally, infielder/outfielder Jeff Kobernus was recalled from Triple-A and placed on the 60-day Disabled List with a left hand fracture. Kobernus underwent surgery on his hand this week.
by Amanda Comak
“I don’t need to go out there and trick guys, and I don’t need to go out there and be perfect. I’ve just got to attack the strike zone, let my stuff work and get much better results that way.” — Stephen Strasburg after tossing 6.2 innings of one-run ball and striking out 12.
“To see him go out and execute it today, exactly the way he wanted to change and what he was going to mess with, was pretty good to see. That’s maturity. Everyone forgets how young he is. He’s going to keep on getting better and better, and today was proof of that.” — Ian Desmond on Stephen Strasburg
“This is the type of ball that we can play. You’ve got to keep tacking on runs late. These teams in our division, they can hit. So they’re going to be doing the same. But I think night in, night out if we come in here looking to outslug the other team, we’re going to be in good shape.” — Jayson Werth after the Nationals hit their second late-inning grand slam in as many games.
“We were already winning. ‘Come through’ is what Aaron Barrett did.” — Ian Desmond, when asked how he felt to ‘come through’ for the team with his grand slam that blew open a close game, referencing Aaron Barrett striking out Giancarlo Stanton to keep it a one-run game.
“The next one better be in the dirt.” — Catcher Sandy Leon to Aaron Barrett after Giancarlo Stanton crushed a slider foul. Stanton struck out on the next pitch.
by Amanda Comak
“When you’re put in that situation and the game is on the line, you want to come through for your teammates. I was happy to do that.” – Jayson Werth after his eighth-inning grand slam gave the Nationals a 10-7 victory.
“Knowing Jayson, if a pitcher looks at him wrong, he’ll take that personally. Them blatantly walking (Anthony Rendon) to get to him, you typically don’t walk to get to your 3-hole hitter, especially a veteran guy that’s proven he can get big hits. But they chose to, and it worked out in our favor this time.” – Craig Stammen, who turned in an outstanding 3.1 innings of relief to keep the Nationals in the game, on Werth’s slam.
“I’m just happy it went over the wall and we got three runs out of it.” – Bryce Harper on his majestic three-run home run into the third deck that got the Nationals back into the game.
“Any time you’re down five, it’s tough to come back. But they fought tonight. I’m proud of them for it. They stayed in it. Bryce’s homer helped. Even after they tied the game late, they still fought, which they’re happy with and I’m happy with.” — manager Matt Williams on the Nationals’ comeback.