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.
Tuesday night, as part of the Washington Nationals’ first Social Fan Event of the season, Washington Nationals President of Baseball Operations and General Manager Mike Rizzo took some time to answer questions from the team’s most loyal Facebook fans. In the third inning of the Nationals’ 5-0 victory over the Miami Marlins, Rizzo answered several queries.
Here’s a recap of the Facebook Q&A:
Ralph Thompson Jr.: Here are two – how does the GM see the farm system going forward? Are there lots of prospects in the lower minors?
Washington Nationals President of Baseball Operations & GM Mike Rizzo: Thanks for the question, Ralph Thompson Jr. We feel good about our entire Minor League system. We believe our last couple of drafts have been very successful. We’ve got a lot of power arms coming and some exciting position players also.
Ben Gerow: Do you like to watch every game or have someone tell you about it (a la Moneyball)?
MR: Hi, Ben Gerow. I watch every game, in person, home and away.
Stacey Cottrell: What’s your opinion on instant replay? Do you believe it should be in the MLB and if so to what extent.
MR: Thanks for the question, Stacey Cottrell. I believe that the Major League umpires do the best job of any of the professional sports. With that said, it makes sense — with the technology that we have — to get each and every call right, so we are proponents of it.
Kristen Hottle: What’s your favorite, or best, experience with the Washington Nationals so far?
MR: That’s a tough question, Kristen Hottle. Probably the day that we clinched the National League East title.
Nathan Marquez: Who opened the first “door” to the Front Office for you? And why did they open it for you instead of the others wanting a shot?
MR: Thanks for the question, Nathan Marquez. I would have to say Joe Garagiola Jr. gave me my first opportunity in the front office. He hired me to be the Director of Scouting for the Arizona Diamondbacks and my time in Arizona was extremely valuable.
Stefany Needel Meyer: Which off-season transaction was he the most proud of (or which was the most difficult deal to get done)?
MR: Thanks for writing in Stefany Needel Meyer. I think the most important one was the hiring of Matt Williams as our manager at the outset of the offseason.
Nancy Edwards: What is your personal dream for the Nationals Baseball Youth Academy?
MR: Hi, Nancy Edwards. Thanks for asking about the Youth Baseball Academy. We are very excited about it. We have a vision of helping all underprivileged children in Washington D.C. by giving them a strong foundation — a place to be, where they can learn skills not only for baseball but for life, and a good safe place they can come after school and improve themselves.
Steven Graves: What is the situation with (Ryan) Zimmerman? Go Nats!
MR: Hi, Steven Graves. Thanks for the question. Ryan Zimmerman is very important to all of us. We feel that he’s had this soreness in his shoulder before. He knows that we know how to handle it, and we’re just going to manage it throughout the rest of the season.
Aaron Thackery: Mike, A+ thank you for building a respectable ball club. Here’s my Q: have you ever considered switching (Jordan Zimmermann) and Strasburg in their rotation positions?
MR: Hi, Aaron Thackery. Interesting suggestion. But the way the rotation sets up is really only the way it goes the first couple of times through the rotation. After that, with days off and that kind of thing, it’s whoever is available and whatever time their number comes up.
Clark Townsend: Seems like after the 2015 season will be a big decision year for you. Has Mr. Lerner given you a blank checkbook to get (Wilson) Ramos, (Ian) Desmond and (Jordan Zimmermann) extensions done?
MR: Thanks for writing in, Clark Townsend. Ownership has given us all of the resources that we need to put together a quality baseball team, and a quality franchise, and will continue to do so.
Dena Olyaie: If you could have a walk out song, what’d it be?
MR: Haha, Dena Olyaie. I guess it would have to be the theme from Rocky.
Nancy Edwards: What do you see as role of social media for the Nats organization?
MR: Good question, Nancy Edwards. I think Social Media is a great way for the Nationals to get our message out. It’s a great way to engage with fans and connect them more to our team and our game. It also helps us call attention to the many wonderful off-field things the organization does.
Washington Nationals: Thanks, everyone for the questions. That’s all the time Nationals President of Baseball Operations & GM Mike Rizzo has tonight. We hope you enjoyed it!
When the Washington Nationals’ promotional schedule was unveiled earlier this year, you may have noticed four nights devoted to “Social Fan Events.” These are nights designed exclusively as a way to say thank you to, and engage with our most loyal social media fans.
- GET TICKETS NOW ($20): Scoreboard Pavilion ticket (regularly $22) + $6 concession credit
The first of these events is Tuesday night, April 8, when the Nationals take on the Miami Marlins at 7:05 p.m. and it’s geared toward our Facebook fans!
As a part of this event, our Facebook fans can enjoy discounted tickets with added value to spend throughout Nationals Park, the opportunity to claim a limited edition T-Shirt (pictured), and exclusive gameday experiences. You can get all of the details, including an easy link to purchase tickets through this event, right here.
Upon entering the ballpark, please stop by the Social Fan Table at Section 103 for more details on what’s planned, find out how to pick up the limited edition T-shirt and enter for your chance to take part in the gameday experiences!
Here’s a rundown of some of the fun stuff we’ve got planned for Tuesday night — both on our Facebook page as well as inside the ballpark, rewarding our Facebook fans.
Event highlights include:
- A top secret, once-in-a-lifetime experience that will make you the envy of all your friends, followers and fans!#
- Exclusive batting practice viewing from the warning track!#
- Run out on to the field as part of the Starting 9!#
- One lucky fan will help deliver manager Matt Williams’ official lineup card!
- One lucky fan will get to yell “Play Ball” to start the game!
- Exclusive Facebook Q&A with Nationals President of Baseball Operations and GM Mike Rizzo.
- See your best photos from the night on the NatsHD scoreboard
- And much, much more!
# Experience to be awarded exclusively at the ballpark after first gates open (4:30 P.M.)
We hope you’ll join us!
The following is an excerpt from the April/May issue of Nationals Magazine. To read the full story, visit nationals.com/publications to find out how you can subscribe. The April/May issue of Nationals Magazine is on sale now, can be purchased at the Main Clubhouse Team Store at Nationals Park and is also available inside Nationals Park on gamedays.
by Mike Feigen
Three short seasons ago, Jayson Werth leaned on his experience as he adapted to a new organization. Today, the Nationals outfielder has become a fan favorite, the catalyst in a dynamic and talented lineup, and one of the most vocal leaders in a close-knit clubhouse.
Following the Nationals’ first full workout of Spring Training, Jayson Werth looked out from his locker at Space Coast Stadium as the throng of reporters huddled around him. He deftly answered questions with his trademark dry wit, commanding the tone of the session with a few well-timed jokes and several well-reasoned responses.
Such is life for Jayson Werth in 2014, often a go-to spokesman for a team with worlds of talent and championship dreams to match. When the bearded 34-year-old says he’s optimistic about the upcoming season and points out how close last year’s club came to making a postseason run, it’s only natural for everyone to nod their heads along with him.
“The way we played in the second half last year coming down the stretch, there’s still some meat on the bone,” Werth says. “The season just wasn’t long enough. It’s something to build on going forward. We’re excited to get things going.”
As Werth looks forward to the promise of a new year, it’s easy to forget just how far he and the Nationals have come since he signed with the club on December 5, 2010. Year One of the Werth era brought a major leap forward for the entire organization, with an 80-81 record and third place finish in the National League East, then the highest placement in the division since the franchise moved to D.C. in 2005.
In spite of the team’s dramatic improvement, Werth’s up-and-down season did not live up to his own lofty standards, and he knew he could do more. At the time, he spoke at length about how he battled just to find his swing, even as his 2.3 WAR (Wins Above Replacement) would have ranked in the top three among qualified Nats hitters each of the previous three seasons.
What was less apparent, beneath the surface, was how his leadership had slowly begun to transform the Nationals into a group that expected to win by the end of 2011.
“(Last season is) water under the bridge now,” Werth told reporters upon reporting for camp before the 2012 season. “I don’t think it’s a fair assessment to judge my career or my time in Washington on last year. We’ve got lots of time to make good. We’re going in the right direction.”
Proven prophetic as the wins poured in throughout his second season with the Nationals, Werth wasn’t able to be as integral as he’d hoped, sidelined by a broken wrist for much of the summer. Even upon his return, when he slashed an excellent .312/.394/.441, he did so from the leadoff spot because his home run power had yet to fully return. Still, he continued to put the team first, setting the table for the rest of the offense while he healed.
Then, with one mighty swing on October 11, 2012, everything changed.
To continue reading “Speaker of the House” on Nationals right fielder Jayson Werth, along with more great content from Nationals Magazine, please visit nationals.com/publications, or pick up a copy at the Main Clubhouse Team Store at Nationals Park, as well as inside Nationals Park on gamedays.
by Amanda Comak
The roars from the sold-out crowd at Nationals Park on Friday afternoon began the moment shortstop Ian Desmond connected with David Hale‘s first-pitch curveball to open the bottom of the fifth inning.
They only increased as Desmond motored toward second base. And as Atlanta Braves left fielder Justin Upton threw his hands up in the left field corner, the cheers reached a crescendo. Desmond crossed home plate.
The Nationals had tied the game on an inside-the-park home run by their two-time Louisville Silver Slugger shortstop.
At least, that’s what the implication was when none of the umpires on the field signaled that the play was dead, and Upton proceeded to retrieve the ball from underneath the padding in the left field wall and throw it back to the infield.
But Braves Manager Fredi Gonzalez challenged the play. The instant replay crews in New York overturned the call, citing rule 7.05(f) and ruling that the ball was lodged in the padding of the wall. Desmond was awarded second base, and the Nationals’ first run was taken off the board.
Here’s what Nationals Manager Matt Williams had to say about the play after the game, which ended as a 2-1 Braves victory.
“(The umpires) told me that from replay, the ball was lodged between the pad and the dirt. I question that because when (Upton) had to, he reached down and threw it in. That was my question. He threw up his hands. Generally that is an indication that the ball was lodged, but when there was no signal from the umpire, throwing his hands up saying it was a double or lodged, Justin reached down, picked it up and threw it in.
“By that time, Ian had scored. They reviewed it and determined that it was lodged under the fence.”
“One of the reasons we have replay is to make sure we get calls right,” Williams continued. “I have question with that one though because of what happened after the fact — the fact that when (Upton) had to, he reached down and threw it in.
“(The umpire didn’t signal) so, for me, in the heat of the moment and with my naked eye, tells me that he didn’t think it was lodged. But it is a reviewable call and a reviewable play, so they did and determined that it was a double and the ball was lodged underneath the pad.”