August 2010

Nats sign No. 1 pick Bryce Harper

Bryce Harper.jpgBryce Harper is officially a member of the Washington Nationals. The two sides agreed on a five-year Major League contract with just seconds before the midnight deadline. It is the second straight year the negotiations have come down to the wire. Last year, the Nats signed No. 1 pick Stephen Strasburg with less than two minutes before the deadline.


“People thought it would take until the last minute,” President Stan Kasten said last year. “We didn’t even need that last minute.”


This year they needed the extra minute and now they have two No. 1 draft picks that could be the cornerstones of the franchise for the next decade. They hope they never have the No. 1 pick again too. At the same time, they couldn’t have asked for two better years to have two slam dunk No. 1 picks.


“With a full minute to go, Mike and I both thought we were not going to have a deal done,” Kasten said. “It changed during the middle of that last minute. This was literally right at the end. It was just both sides coming together. I thought we started early enough to avoid [the last minute]. Early in the evening, it sounded like there was a willingness on the other side to not get in the situation. Yet, there we found ourselves [in that situation].”


It came down to the finals seconds but it was clear from the beginning that the Nationals wanted to sign him and that Harper wanted to begin his road to the Majors this season.


That’s why he earned his G.E.D. after his sophomore year in high school and skipped his final two years of high school. He then dominated the competition in his only junior college season at the College of Southern Nevada. He hit .443 (101-for-228) with 23 doubles, four triples, 31 home runs, 98 RBI, 39 walks and 20 stolen bases in 66 games using wood-bats. Despite being the youngest player in the Scenic West Athletic Conference, Harper posted .526 and .987 on-base and slugging percentages, respectively, en route to a stellar 1.513 OPS (OBP+SLG) this season. He led his team and conference in virtually every primary offensive category.


Harper, 17, was named 2010 SWAC Player of the Year and also earned First-Team SWAC All-Conference status. Harper’s 31 home runs in 2010 set a College of Southern Nevada single-season mark, easily besting the former record of 12, which was set during CSN’s era using aluminum bats. Last summer, he was anointed by Sports Illustrated as “Baseball’s Chosen One: Bryce Harper is the most exciting prodigy since Lebron.”


He will begin his professional career in the next few days in the Gulf Coast League. The Nationals will officially introduce him to Washington next week when the team is at home.


Other signings


The Nationals agreed to terms on a professional contracts with left-handed pitcher Sammy Solis, the Nationals’ second-round selection (51st overall) and right-handed pitcher A.J. Cole, the Nationals’ fourth-round selection in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft.


Solis was the first selection in the second round of the 2010 Draft and went 9-2 with a 3.42 ERA in 15 games/14 starts for University of San Diego to garner All-West Coast Conference honors. In 92.0 innings as a redshirt sophomore, Solis struck out 92 (9.0 per 9.0 innings), walked just 29 (2.8 per 9.0 innings) and registered a .233 batting average against. In three seasons with the Toreros, Solis posted a 3.7/1 strikeout-to-walk ratio en route to going 13-4 with a 3.64 ERA in 34 games/20 starts.


The 6-foot-5, 225 lbs. Solis was rated as the No. 7 prospect, third-best college player, in California among the 2010 Draft class as part of Baseball America‘s Draft Preview. Solis was originally drafted by the Diamondbacks in the 18th round of the 2007 First-Year Player Draft, but instead chose to attend USD.


Cole joins the Nationals after combining to go 12-1 and fanning 10.7 batters per 9.0 innings during his junior and senior seasons at Oviedo (FL) High School. Cole, who stands 6-foot-5, earned All-American status from both AFLAC and Under Armour in 2009.


The Nationals signed or agreed to terms with 33 players from their 2010 First-Year Player Draft, including 25 of their top 26 selections.


The inside pitch with Miguel Batista

Miguel Batista pitching.jpgRelief pitcher Miguel Batista spent some time prior to Saturday’s game in the PNC Diamond Club, fielding questions from fans and  moderator Rob Dibble for another installment of Inside Pitch Live:

You were voted the number one good guy in Major League baseball by Sporting News in 2003. In that same season you were suspended for 10 games when you hit another good guy, Cardinals first baseman Tino Martinez. That led to a bench-clearing brawl. Were you not able to use your good guy status to lower that suspension?

Well the good guy status–that was a mistake. They couldn’t find anybody else to give it to. No, but he thought it was intentional, then he started screaming stuff and before we knew it, there were people punching each other. It was kind of funny because I didn’t throw any punches. Everybody else fought but us. That was fine for me.

You played for nine different teams. What has the journey been like over the last 20 years?

Long.  It’s been interesting. I’ve seen this team evolve from being in Canada, changing that ugly uniform we had to this–that was a good improvement–and seeing great superstars come up. It was funny because somebody told me the other day I’m the only guy that still plays that actually played with Andre Dawson.

What’s the secret to staying in great shape and pitching for 20 years in professional baseball? What do you have to do to keep yourself physically fit?

The first thing I learned is knowing yourself–knowing what you can do, knowing your role. Some guys they take weightlifting too hard. They forget that they have to be ready to pitch. Some of them want to look like body builders out there trying to pitch. That’s something that I don’t want to do, especially at my age. I’m one of the few dinosaurs left, as they called me the other day. I try to do the best I can just to be ready to pitch every day. I do certain maintenance. There are certain things that I need to do to be ready, especially when you’re the reliever. You have to be ready to pitch every night, regardless of how many pitches you threw the night before.

You’ve been called “the poet.” You’re written a novel called The Avenger of Blood. You have a poetry book out called Feelings in Black and White. What is your inspiration?

O boy…anything. The inspiration comes from everywhere. Writing a novel is a totally different thing. You can improvise, especially fiction. I believe fiction is the greatest thing in the world. You can be as good as God or as bad as the devil.

Poetry is a different thing. It’s a moment in time. You have to frame it when you see it and if you don’t, you may never remember it the same way.

On July 27th, Stephen Strasburg was scratched. You made the spot start. When you were introduced, fans booed you. You then went out and pitched five scoreless innings. Did you use the negative vibe that night as motivation?

No. I was surprised they started booing me before I hit the mound. I go, okay, you haven’t even seen me throw a pitch and you’re already booing? That’s no good. But when I got to the mound, I thought about what I needed to know. We had a game plan to execute. There’s a lot going on, especially for pitchers. We have to be alert. You have to block everything out and execute your game plan.

Batista and Miss Iowa c.jpgAfter the game, you had some good comments. You said, “Imagine you go to see Miss Universe and you end up having Miss Iowa.” Do you wish you would have compared yourself to Miss South Dakota or Miss Wyoming? …I actually thought it was funny.

You would be one of the few. My original thought was that people are booing without seeing the product. They just heard Miguel Batista’s pitching and they start going “Booooo.” Well, I guess after the night was over, Miss Iowa wasn’t as ugly as he thought he was.

And then she came here and now you guys are friends.

I wouldn’t call that friends (laughing). I had to explain to her how the whole thing went out of proportion.

What would you like to do when your playing days are over?

That’s a helluva question. I don’t know.  I would have to find something to do. I have a lot of interests and things that have already tried–from broadcasting to writing for ESPN. But I haven’t actually pinpointed what I want to do yet.

You also play the saxophone, which I see carry everywhere on the road with you. How many years have you been playing?

I tried on and off for two year. But it’s like being married to a woman from a different planet. We don’t understand each other.

Your first year in Arizona in 2001, you won the World Series. Is that your greatest baseball memory?

In a lot of ways, it is. I think what makes it special is the fans. We were out there after the World Series was over and people were looking at us like we were rock stars. I understand that probably Randy Johnson is used to that kind of attention, but not me. I was going down the street and people were waving at me like they knew me. I was like, “Okay…” I wasn’t even used to that much attention.

Who would you love to strike out?

That would be a good question. I don’t know. If I had a chance, I would like to strike out Jesus.

Drew Storen, Kevin Mench and Coach Dan Radison Visit the National Rehabilitation Hospital

National Rehab Hospital Visit 040 c.jpgFriday, August 13 was a lucky day for patients at the National Rehabilitation Hospital in northwest D.C. Washington Nationals players Drew Storen and Kevin Mench joined First Base Coach Dan Radison for a visit to the hospital, which specializes in treating patients with physical disabilities caused by spinal cord and brain injuries, as well as a variety of other neurological and orthopedic conditions.


In addition to handing out hats, posing for photos and signing autographs, the players took part in rehabilitative activities and were able to see firsthand what patients experience as part of their rehab process. Storen, for instance, was challenged to a game of “Stick Ball,” with the goal of scoring points by hitting the ball between the wheel chairs. 


“I enjoyed spending time and interacting with the patients at the National Rehabilitation Hospital,” the rookie pitcher said. “While it was tough to see the hardships they’re going through, I hope that our visit brightened their day for at least a little while.”


National Rehab Hospital Visit.jpgRadison and Mench were also given the opportunity to show off their competitive sides when they were invited to play Wii Baseball by a group of young patients who were eager to find out if the Big Leaguers were as skilled at the videogame as they were on the field.  


“The kids and adults are here for rehab  and we were able to bring a smile to their faces,” Mench said. “Anytime you can bring a smile to someone’s face, you can change someone’s life.”

Ryan Zimmerman and Stephen Strasburg Visit Children’s National Medical Center

Zimmerman and Strasburg at the Hospital.jpgOn Thursday morning, Washington Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman and pitcher Stephen Strasburg made a special visit to the young patients at Children’s National Medical Center in Northwest Washington, DC.

The appearance was a meaningful one for Zimmerman who, through the Nationals’ Community Relations department, makes an effort to visit children’s hospitals throughout the baseball season.

“These kids are going through a lot right now,” Zimmerman said. “So taking time out of my day to visit and hopefully cheer them up is really important to me.”

After meeting several children in the atrium, Zimmerman and Strasburg made room visits to kids in the Hematology and Oncology Ward, where they signed autographs, gave out Washington Nationals hats and spent a few minutes getting to know each patient they visited.

“It was a great experience going to the hospital and getting to say hello to a bunch of cool kids,” Strasburg said. “It was a very emotional experience. I was really taken aback, and it made me realize how much I’m blessed with and how fortunate I am to be in the position that I am in today.”

The visit was especially rewarding to Strasburg given the fact that his mother worked in a hospital throughout his childhood. Though it was his first hospital visit in Washington, the rookie pitcher made it clear that it won’t be his last.

“I loved hanging out with the kids and seeing them smile,” Strasburg said. “They didn’t really care much about baseball, but they knew that I play the game and that I play the game to have fun.”

Livo has emerged as the unlikely star of the staff

Livan Hernandez Nats-Arizona.jpgBack in April, Livan Hernández stood on the mound with a bright big smile, chomping his gum just as effortlessly as he was pitching. He never blew a bubble but he constantly made it clear that he had it in his mouth like a kid showing his parents. Troy Tulowitzki stood at the plate with a 1-2 count. It might as well have been school because he was about to learn firsthand how Einstein’s theory of relativity works. He just saw two 85 mph fastballs–yes, that’s 85 mph–and an 81 mph slider.

Livo reached into his bag of tricks for the fourth pitch and threw a slow looping curveball, a pitch as devastating as his smile is infectious. Tulo couldn’t lay off of it. He swung so far in front of the ball he could have put his bat back on his shoulder and swung again.

All Tulo could do was laugh as he walked backed to the dugout. 85 mph never seemed so fast and 66 mph never seemed so slow. Livan just smiled ear to ear, looked at Tulo and slowly walked to the dugout chomping him gum as if to say, “How could you ever doubt me?”

That has been the epitome of Livo the entire 2010 season–the gum-chomping, curveball crawling hurler has been the Nationals most consistent pitcher this season by just being his normal, laidback self with a fastball that jogs to the plate at 84 mph and a curveball that walks. In his 23 starts, Livo has allowed three earned runs or less in 18 of them. In those 18 games he is 8-4 with a 1.85 ERA (121.2 IP/ 25 ER) with a .232 BAA. Not a bad stat line for a pitcher who wasn’t even on the roster when Spring Training started.

“I try to stay on the mound the right way, the way I am in life,” Hernandez said. “Because I like to be happy and laughing and my family appreciates that. I’m a very serious guy and take everything seriously, but at the same time, I like to enjoy baseball. When I go on the mound, I try to be relaxed and enjoy the game.  Because if I take it too seriously, too intense, it’s not me. I try to play the game the way I am in life.”

He hasn’t missed a start this season and he leads the Nats in ERA (3.03), innings pitched (151.1), strikeouts (80) and wins (tied with Tyler Clippard with 8).

“I don’t know how I’m going to feel one day when I miss one start,” Hernandez said. “Maybe I will go crazy. Maybe I will have to go to the hospital or something.”

Livo takes the mound tonight trying to stop the Nats four game skid. There is a good chance he will, if not, you can still expect to see him smile.

Marlins (56-56):

1.    Hanley Ramirez – SS

2.    Logan Morrison – LF

3.    Gaby Sanchez – 1B

4.    Dan Uggla – 2B

5.    Cody Ross – CF

6.    Mike Stanton – RF

7.    Donnie Murphy – 3B

8.    Brett Hayes – C

9.    Ricky Nolasco – SP (12-8, 4.57 ERA)


Nationals (49-65):

1.      Roger Bernadina – CF

2.      Ian Desmond – SS

3.      Adam Dunn – 1B

4.      Ryan Zimmerman – 3B

5.      Michael Morse – RF

6.      Adam Kennedy – 2B

7.      Ivan Rodriguez – C

8.      Willie Harris – LF

9.      Livan Hernandez – SP (8-7, 3.03 ERA)


Nats vs. Marlins – game 2

Josh Willingham gets the day off in left field. He is in the midst of a 6-game 2-for-21 slide at the plate and is batting .192 (15-for-78) with zero home runs and eight RBI in 23 games since the All-Star break. His last home run was on July 2. Willie Harris will get the start in left.


Marlins (55-56):

1.    Hanley Ramirez – SS

2.    Logan Morrison – LF

3.    Gaby Sanchez – 1B

4.    Dan Uggla – 2B

5.    Cody Ross – CF

6.    Mike Stanton – RF

7.    Donnie Murphy – 3B

8.    Ronny Paulino – C

9.    Chris Volstad – SP (5-8, 4.63 ERA)


Nationals (49-64):

1.      Roger Bernadina – CF

2.      Ian Desmond – SS

3.      Adam Dunn – 1B

4.      Ryan Zimmerman – 3B

5.      Michael Morse – RF

6.      Adam Kennedy – 2B

7.      Ivan Rodriguez – C

8.      Willie Harris – LF

9.      Scott Olsen – SP (3-3, 4.12 ERA)

Strasburg returns

*The Nats return home for just their seventh home game since July 11. Stephen Strasburg will make his first start since being scratched on July 27. He missed the last 16 games after being placed on the DL with right shoulder inflammation on July 29, retroactive to July 22. Strasburg is 5-2 with a 2.32 ERA in nine starts with Washington. He has posted a .216 batting average against, 75 strikeouts and 15 walks in 54.1 innings.              


*Ian Desmond is batting second for the fourth straight game. He is batting .328 (19-for-58) with 6 RBI in 14 games in the No. 2 spot this season. Desmond has been on a tear since July 27–he is batting .381 (16-for-42) with one home run, five RBI and seven multi-hit games in 13 contests.


*The Nationals will recognize the career of baseball’s newest Hall of Famer and former Montreal Expos outfielder Andre Dawson tonight at Nationals Park. Dawson, who played 11 of his 21 seasons with the Montreal Expos, was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., last month.


Dawson is one of only three players in the Hall of Fame with ties to the Nationals/Expos franchise, joining catcher Gary Carter and first baseman Tony Perez–only Dawson and Carter wear Expos hats on their Hall of Fame plaques.


Dawson–nicknamed the Hawk–was an eight-time All-Star who won eight Gold Glove and four Silver Slugger awards. He posted 438 home runs with 1,591 RBI and 314 stolen bases during his prolific career. Dawson joins Willie Mays and Barry Bonds as the only three players in baseball history to record 400 home runs and 300 stolen bases.


Marlins (54-56):

1.    Hanley Ramirez – SS

2.    Logan Morrison – LF

3.    Gaby Sanchez – 1B

4.    Dan Uggla – 2B

5.    Cody Ross – CF

6.    Mike Stanton – RF

7.    Wes Helms – 3B

8.    Ronny Paulino – C

9.    Anibal Sanchez – SP (8-7, 3.50 ERA)

*On Saturday, Hanley Ramirez led off with his 25th career lead-off home run, and then in the 10th inning, drove in the game-winning run to make the Fish walk-off winners. Ramirez is the first Marlins player in franchise history to provide a lead-off home run and a walk-off hit in the same game.


Nationals (49-63):

1.      Roger Bernadina – CF

2.      Ian Desmond – SS

3.      Ryan Zimmerman – 3B

4.      Adam Dunn – 1B

5.      Josh Willingham – LF 

6.      Michael Morse – RF

7.      Ivan Rodriguez – C

8.      Adam Kennedy – 2B

9.      Stephen Strasburg – SP (5-2, 2.32 ERA)


*The Nationals hit 15 home runs on their just-completed seven-game roadtrip, pacing MLB last week (August 2-8). The 15 long balls are also good for the most hit by the Nationals franchise on a road trip lasting seven games or less since the Expos went deep 16 times during a six-game trek from September 20-25, 1985.

*Adam Dunn enters play today leading the NL with 30 home runs.

Desmond Visits Prince George’s County Youth Baseball Clinic

PG Clininc - pic 1.jpgOn Saturday, July 31, Washington Nationals Shortstop Ian Desmond altered his game day routine to visit children participating in the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission Department of Parks and Recreation (M-NCPPC) Youth Baseball Clinic at Cosca Regional Park in Clinton, Md.

 “It’s great. You can see it on their faces that they were excited to see me,” Desmond said. “Everything I say they are absorbing. There is no better feeling in the world than that.”

PG Clininc - pic 2.jpgWith support from the Washington Nationals, the free clinic was run by the M-NCPPC and a group of community leaders known as Leadership Prince George’s. Children ages seven to 15 participated in the clinic conducted by former Major League Baseball players and local high school coaches.

Desmond’s appearance at the clinic is a continuation of the collaboration between the Nationals and the M-NCPPC Department of Parks and Recreation. The partnership aims at developing youth baseball and softball in Prince George’s County. The M-NCPPC Department of Parks and Recreation was also the recipient of the 2010 Washington Nationals Baseball Equipment Drive.

“We were very excited to have Ian Desmond out here with the kids in Prince George’s County,” said former Major Leaguer Steven Carter of M-NCPPC Department of Parks and Recreation. “It was a great day and Desmond was very interactive. It’s good to have a Major League Baseball player like that giving back.”

PG Clininc - pic 3.jpgThe children participated in defensive drills, fielding ground balls and turning double plays. One of the participants, a seven-year-old boy named Ryan, paid especially close attention to Desmond’s lessons and fundamentals.

PG Clininc - pic 4.jpg“He taught me when the ball is on the ground, you get your glove in the dirt, and when you pick it up, bring it to your belly button, then you throw it,” Ryan said. “I was excited that he came here to see us do stuff, and when he told us how to do stuff, I was thinking I could try it in my backyard.”

For Desmond, the day reminded him of the clinics he attended as a child.

“It brings me back to when I was a kid, coming out and doing camps with some Minor Leaguers and Big Leaguers,” Desmond said. “It shaped the path for me today, and it’s good for me to give back.”

His main message to the children:  “Just play hard and have fun. To this day, I try and go out there and play as hard as I can and make sure every day is fun.”

Mr. Walk-Off and today’s lineups

From the time Zimmerman’s Major League career began on September 1, 2005, he has hit seven game-ending home runs, more than anyone else since that date. Andre Ethier and David Ortiz hold second place with six. Zimmerman also leads the Majors in any type of game-ending hit/event since September 1, 2005 with 12: seven home runs, three singles, one walk and one sacrifice fly. Just call him “Mr. Walk-Off.” Here’s a look at Zimmerman’s seven “game-over” homers:


June 18, 2006 over the Yankees–Final score: 3-2

Only 21 years old and a Major League Rookie, Zimmerman hit a two-run long ball with one out and his team down one in the bottom of the ninth to give his team their second straight comeback victory. He said he’d never done that before in all of his years of playing baseball: “No walk-off nothing–single, anything.” It must have felt great, but he would experience the feeling again, less than three weeks later.


July 4, 2006 over the Marlins–Final score: 6-4

He’s getting good at clutch hitting on the holidays. Just a few weeks after Zimmerman hits his first career walk-off home run on Father’s Day, he hits his second on Independence Day–a three-run long ball in the ninth with two outs. “You sit in the dugout and dream — nothing wrong with that,” the Nationals then-manager Frank Robinson said. “And sometimes, it comes true.”


May 12, 2007 over the Marlins–Final score: 7-3

The game started on Saturday night. Then Sunday morning at 1:42, Zimmerman finally ended it with a walk-off grand slam–two separate rain delays and one nearly-vacated stadium later.


March 30, 2008 over the Braves–Final score: 3-2

Don’t tell Zimmerman how to throw a housewarming party. On Opening Night in brand-new Nationals Park, Zimmerman launched a solo shot with two outs in the bottom of the ninth to christen the team’s new home. It landed in a section of seats directly behind a “Welcome Home” sign. Braves pitchers had successfully retired 24 consecutive Nationals batters and the host had not scored since the first inning when the face of the franchise also became the hero of the night. “You can’t really write up a script better than that,” Zimmerman said. “It turned out perfect.”


September 6, 2009 over the Marlins–Final score: 5-4

I’m beginning to think the Marlins are not huge Zimmerman fans. In his third walk-off homer over the Marlins franchise, Zimmerman hit a two-run homer to cap a furious finish in what originally looked like it would be a 2-0 snooze fest in favor of the Marlins. “Zim doing what Zim does,” Willie Harris said. “Coming through.” The Marlins twice blew two-run leads and the Nationals frantically scored all five of their runs in the last two innings.


July 6, 2010 over the Padres –Final score: 6-5

On a day where the game-time temperature was 99 degrees, Zimmerman proved he was even hotter, connecting on his second home run of the game, a solo shot to center field, to put away the Padres for good. “When you make a mistake, [Zimmerman] makes you pay for it,” one of Zimmerman’s home run victims, Padres starter Clayton Richard said. “That’s [been] proven to us over and over again.”


July 31, 2010 over the Phillies–Final score: 7-5

The Phillies broke a 4-all tie in the top of the ninth when Carlos Ruiz hit an RBI single off Drew Storen. But in the bottom of the ninth, Michael Morse singled and Adam Kennedy walked to set up Zimmerman at the plate with one out. He looked over towards Adam Dunn in the on-deck circle. “He let me know I’m not hitting again,” Dunn said. “It’s like, ‘You don’t get the win today.” Then Zimmerman followed through with a 3-run homer to start the fireworks.


Now for today’s lineups:


Phillies (56-48):

1.    Jimmy Rollins – SS

2.    Placido Polanco – 3B

3.    Jayson Werth – CF

4.    Ryan Howard – 1B

5.    Ben Francisco – LF

6.    Domonic Brown – RF

7.    Carlos Ruiz – C

8.    Wilson Valdez – 2B

9.    Cole Hamels – SP (7-7, 3.48 ERA)

 Nationals (46-58):

1.      Roger Bernadina – CF

2.      Ian Desmond – SS

3.      Adam Dunn – 1B

4.      Ryan Zimmerman – 3B

5.      Josh Willingham – LF 

6.      Michael Morse – RF

7.      Alberto Gonzalez – 2B

8.      Wil Nieves – C

9.      John Lannan – SP (2-5, 5.76 ERA)

* The Nationals have posted a .500-or-better record at home every month this season: July (9-6, .600), June (6-6, .500), May (7-4, .636), April (7-6, .538).