March 2011

Cast your Bobblehead vote

Who doesn’t love a good Bobblehead? Generally, who gets immortalized in bobble form is determined ahead of time—but now, the fans get to choose. In a repeat of last year, the Nationals are letting their fans determine who the third Bobblehead night will honor. Pudge Rodriguez was the fans’ choice in 2010, so who will reign supreme in ’11?

Will it be newcomer Adam LaRoche? He has already made a splash with the Nats in Spring Training, hitting .398 with an incredible OPS of 1.038 in 15 games. His offense and defense are sure to impress his new fans in DC.

Or perhaps it will be one of the Zimmerman(n)s. Face-of-the-franchise Ryan was honored last year with his Gold and Silver Bobblehead, showing off his 2009 Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards. He was awarded another Silver Slugger award for the 2010 season and it’s clear he is one of the premier third basemen in the entire League. Jordan is back for his first full season since recovering from Tommy John surgery. It’s obvious that he’s feeling fine; in his second start last fall, he pitched six shutout innings, striking out nine and allowing only one walk. Impressive, right?

Drew Storen is also an option. He had a strong finish to Spring Training once he re-discovered his fastball and ended his time in Viera with a pair of saves. It’s still unclear who will be the Nationals’ closer for the regular season, but Storen is definitely in the race for it.

And then there’s second baseman Danny Espinosa. Though he only appeared in 28 games last season, he thrilled the fans in Washington with his power. He hit for a .447 slugging percentage with four doubles, a triple and six home runs. His presence in the middle of the infield, and the middle of the lineup, isn’t to be toyed with.

So who will you choose? Either way, you win. If you can’t make up your mind, go ahead and vote for all five. Fans can vote as often as they’d like, and can also vote using Facebook and Twitter.

But spread the word—the contest ends Sunday, April 3, at 10 p.m. Vote here, and be sure to spread the word. Check back with us on April 4 to see which Nat won.

The third annual NatsFest photo journal

Frank Howard told Bryce Harper he had a record that Harper would never touch and he wasn’t talking about his 48 home runs in a single season either. Howard can tell stories as detailed and captivating as a World War II veteran—you start to wish the story never ended. He talked about the doubleheader on Sept. 19, 1970 when he recorded six straight strikeouts and hit into a double play in his seventh at-bat to be the first person to strikeout six straight times and record eight outs in seven at-bats in one day. On the bright side, it was the first standing ovation he received as a visiting player.

Frank Howard didn’t just tell the story—he acted it out for his fans and his peers (Davey Johnson and Bob Boone.)

Future journalists? They showcased their interviewing skills and peppered (far left) Pitching Coach Steve McCatty, Manager Jim Riggleman, Stephen Strasburg and Drew Storen with questions.

It might not be long before Bryce Harper is calling Nationals Park home.

“I am pretty cool. I just got a high-five from Stephen Strasburg.”

GEICO Racing Presidents will join the Circus for a day

Is there anything Abe, George, Tom and Teddy can’t do? Over the last few months, they’ve been seen racing on ice during a New York Islanders game, appearing in The Washington Ballet production of Septime Webre’s The Nutcracker, and now, they’re going to the circus.

 

On Thursday, March 24, the GEICO Racing Presidents will make an appearance at the Verizon Center during the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus, where they will entertain the crowd (showtime: 7:30 p.m.). Fans who arrive early will also be able to catch their favorite Presidents perform during the pre-circus show from 6:30-7:00 p.m.

 

Will Abe walk the tightrope? Can George fly with the acrobats? Maybe Tom will pile into a fully-packed clown car and Teddy… well, whatever Teddy does, let’s just hope he’s safe as we all know Teddy doesn’t have the best of luck. Perhaps they’ll just be clowning around with, you guessed it, a bunch of clowns. One thing’s for sure: circus fans won’t know what they’re in for.

 

See you at the circus.

Mark Lerner says goodbye to Florida

Nationals
Principal Owner Mark D. Lerner will be blogging throughout the 2011 Grapefruit
League Season, giving Nats fans a unique perspective of the goings-on at the
Nats Spring Training home in Viera, Fla. Check back often for the latest
updates.

Good afternoon NatsTown!

Later tonight, after today’s 1:05 p.m. home game against the Tigers, my wife,
Judy, and I will fly back to DC, thus ending our three-week stay in Viera. We
talked last night about perhaps a longer stay next spring. Only time will tell,
but we both agreed that we struck the right balance between business and
pleasure during our visit. It sure was nice to cut almost a month off our
winter. We have enjoyed seeing Nationals fans all around Viera, not just at
Space Coast Stadium, and also on all of our road trips. Although it will be
good to get back into the DC routine, it will be hard not to let my mind wander
back to the ballclub.

Fortunately, NatsFest is only 10 days away, and of course the season opener is
the next afternoon against the Braves at Nationals Park. Here are a couple of
notes I’d like the share as it pertains to these two events:

NatsFest (Wed., March 30, 4-8 p.m. at Nationals Park)
*Batting Practice will begin at 4 p.m.
*Each of the 25 Nationals will be present and participate in NatsFest, with the
one exception being the Opening Day starting pitcher.
*We will also be bringing a few bonus Nationals for our fans to meet: Stephen
Strasburg, Bryce Harper, Derek Norris, Chien-Ming Wang and Cole Kimball. Also
look for Bob Boone and Davey Johnson to be in town that day and mingling.
*Fans will enjoy various Q and A sessions and opportunities to interact with
and take pictures of their favorite Nationals. Children will also be able to
attend and participate in their own event, a Kids Press Conference, which
begins at 6:50 p.m.

Opening Day (Thu., March 31, 1:05 p.m. vs. Atlanta Braves)
*We urge all our fans to come early. We are expecting a sellout crowd and want
all of our fans to enjoy their afternoon at Nationals Park as much as possible.
This will also allow everyone to enjoy the extended pregame festivities.
*By the way, earlier this week, the Braves named RHP Derek Lowe as their
Opening Day starter.

So, this will be my final Spring Training blog. Why don’t we start with some
impressions from the last three weeks:

*I have talked about this before, but this really was a well-run camp. Jim
Riggleman, Bobby Henley and a dozen or so coaches and advisors put together a
heck of an operation. I honestly feel the emphasis on fundamentals set the
stage for a successful Grapefruit League and 2011 season.

*I enjoyed getting to know Mike Rizzo’s key offseason additions (Jayson Werth,
Adam LaRoche, Tom Gorzelanny, Jerry Hairston, Jr. and Matt Stairs, among
others) for the first time. And I am more enthusiastic than ever about our next
wave of homegrown talent. What is not to like about Danny Espinosa, Wilson
Ramos, Bryce Harper, Chris Marrero, Derek Norris and Cole Kimball?

*Don’t the new home uniforms look fantastic? We’ve purposely worn them for all
of the games televised on MASN. They offer a clean look and, we believe, best
portray the tradition of baseball in DC. I have received
a lot of great comments down here not only from our players, but our fans as
well.

*Mike Rizzo has a slew of big roster decisions to make in the next 10 days or
so. Who will be the 25 players to comprise your Nationals Opening Day roster?
Sure, he will seek out and process input from Jim Riggleman and his staff, but
ultimately, it is Mike’s call as to who makes that roster. Personally, I love
that he’s grinding a bit. This means there is big league talent here. These are
the type of decisions that we dreamt about back in 2007 and ’08. But at that
stage of our evolution, we were always looking to add quality big league
talent, not pare it down, at the end of spring.

*Random highlights of my Spring Training experience, in no particular order:
Michael Morse’s scalding hot start, talking to Stephen Strasburg and seeing him
throw a baseball again, Bryce Harper’s first exposure to big league pitchers,
seeing Jayson Werth on our ballclub, Kenny G’s one-minute note, the
beyond-perfect weather, the Nationals’ Par 3 Golf Tournament, a pair of wins
over the Yankees, March 11 twilight launch of Delta Rocket (spy satellite… but
don’t tell anyone).

Again, many thanks for your interest in our ballclub. We look forward to seeing
many of you at Nationals Park this summer. And down here again next spring.
I will be in touch again soon.

Tom Gorzelanny gets back on track

Nationals Principal Owner Mark D. Lerner will be blogging throughout the 2011 Grapefruit League Season, giving Nats fans a unique perspective of the goings-on at the Nats Spring Training home in Viera, Fla. Check back often for the latest updates.

 

Good afternoon, Nats Town.

 

It’s a quiet day at Space Coast Stadium, as the Nationals have traveled inland for a matinee tilt against the Astros in Kissimmee. I, personally, did not travel west for the big league game, instead hanging back to watch the three minor-league games being played at our complex.

 

I love every opportunity I get to watch the minor-league games and see the young prospects we have in our system. Mike Rizzo and his crew have done a terrific job of stocking the system with talented, young players, and the future is bright. There are a lot of names you may not have heard of yet (Eury Perez, Sammy Solis, A.J. Cole, Brad Peacock, etc), but you’ll know them soon enough. Trust me.

 

A few things I wanted to touch on…

* It was great catching up with Tim Kurkjian and John Kruk yesterday, as ESPN’s Baseball Tonight bus stopped at Space Coast Stadium to feature the Nationals. For those of you who didn’t catch Baseball Tonight yesterday, Tim and John did a great job assessing our club, even taking the opportunity to sit down with Jayson Werth and Stephen Strasburg as part of their tour stop.

 

I had an opportunity to check out the bus. What an impressive vehicle. Although, here’s some insight: they aren’t really traveling around Florida and Arizona on the bus. It’s pretty much just a mobile studio. They have been sleeping in hotels and following the bus in a more-traditional vehicle. Not exactly roughing it.

 


Tom Gorzelanny 1.JPG* Last night’s game… despite the loss, there were a lot of bright spots in yesterday’s game vs. the Mets in Port St. Lucie. Tom Gorzelanny, acquired from the Cubs this offseason for a trio of minor leaguers, twirled 4.0 solid innings and held the Mets to just a run. Keep an eye on Tom. He was slow out of the gate this spring, hampered by the flu, but could be a key arm in our rotation this year.

 

Another bright spot yesterday, and really all spring, has been right-hander Brian Broderick. We acquired Brian from the Cardinals via the Rule 5 Draft in December, and he has posted an impressive 1.04 ERA in 5 appearances. What’s most impressive about Brian is his presence and demeanor. At 6-foot-6, he is as cool as a cucumber on the mound. 

 

* Monday night, I played in the players’ par-3 golf tournament at the Duran Golf Club (about a mile down the street from Space Coast Stadium).  Had a great time, and even won the ‘closest to the pin’ competition. My foursome (with Cole Kimball, Chad Gaudin and Matt Eiden – one of our strength and conditioning guys) finished 5th of 6. Congrats to the winning team of Rick Eckstein, Davey Johnson, Pudge Rodriguez and Scotty Paquin (assistant equipment manager for our minor-league operations).

 

Since I won’t be blogging tomorrow, I want to take this opportunity to wish everybody a Happy St. Patrick’s Day. Let’s hope we have the luck of the Irish on our side when we battle the Braves in Orlando.

 

And, remember, just 15 days until Opening Day at Nationals Park.

The List: 50 things to look forward to in 2011

Nationals Principal Owner Mark D. Lerner will be blogging throughout the 2011 Grapefruit League Season, giving Nats fans a unique perspective of the goings-on at the Nats Spring Training home in Viera, Fla. Check back often for the latest updates.

 

Hey NatsTown. Thanks for again stopping by.

 

Big weekend down here. Two more wins, including Saturday’s 6-5 comeback win over the Yankees in front of a packed house at Space Coast Stadium. We are now 10-5 on the Spring. Only the Braves (11-5) have a better record in the Grapefruit League. Feels good! We lost today’s home matchup with the Tigers, 4-1, but Jason Marquis continued to pitch very well. I think we are beginning to see the “real” Jason Marquis now.

 

Want to change things up today. Peek just about anywhere on television or at your favorite newsstand and you’ll quickly notice that our society is fixated on lists.

Honestly, who does not appreciate a good list after all? They are fun, thought provoking and stir debate.

 

With this in mind, I am going to list 50 “things” I am interested in, excited about or intrigued by entering the 2011 season.

 

This list is in no particular order, but I hope this spurs some dialogue and/or discussion among your fellow Nationals fans and friends.

Please feel free to send along your own admissions.

 

Let’s get started …

 

1.      Opening Day. Packed house, a big win over the Braves. I had to list this first, right?

2.      Jordan Zimmermann’s evolution in first complete season since having Tommy John surgery.

3.      The buzz at Nationals Park when Henry Rodriguez hits triple digits on the radar gun.

4.      The number of ways Jim Riggleman can pencil in Zimmerman, Werth, LaRoche in the 3-4-5 slots. Or will it be just one?

5.      Witness day-to-day Pudge’s march toward 3000 hits.

6.      The new food options opening up during the season at Nationals Park. This won’t be a small list.

7.      How much has Screech worked out this offseason? Will he again be svelte Screech?

8.      Our outfield defense. You have to think it will be really strong under almost every alignment Rizzo and Riggleman come up with.

9.      Ian Desmond’s defense. With a year of maturity and experience under his belt, and LaRoche’s vacuum-like glove at first base, how many fewer errors will he make without compromising his elite range.

10.  Will Sean Burnett continue to be as good a left-handed middle reliever as there is in MLB? I bet he will be with continued good health.

11.  Jayson Werth’s professionalism and its affect on our clubhouse. And how his presence in the middle of our lineup will positively affect our run production.

12.  Roger Bernadina or Nyjer Morgan, who will have more bunt hits.

13.  Who will lead the team in hustle hits (aka infield hits)? My bet is on Ian Desmond. But watch out for Danny Espinosa, plus he gets more than half his at-bats from the left side.

14.  When will we see Rick Ankiel’s legendary outfield arm pay dividends for the first time. Cannot wait.

15.  Will Tyler Clippard stick with “Peaches” as his intro song. Hope so.

16.  How will Jim Riggleman use his bench, which is as talented and as deep as we have known here.

17.  How many pinch homers will Matt Stairs hit? How many of those will be game-changers.

18.  Does Michael Morse put it all together? His prospects look good, don’t they?

19.  How noticeable and tangible will our renewed emphasis on baserunning be? Should be really fun seeing a lot of first-to-third, first-to-home on a double, etc.

20.  See Livan throw a ‘Bugs Bunny’ changeup that registers in the low 60s on the radar gun?

21.  Will Ryan Zimmerman win his 3rd straight Silver Slugger?

22.  Can Ryan rightfully reclaim his Gold Glove? I bet “yes.” Having Mr. LaRoche as a target won’t hurt.

23.  Interested to see Wilson Ramos’ arm and, for kicks and giggles, ask Bob Boone how it compares to Pudge’s when he was 23 years-old.

24.  With his new mechanics in mind, watch Ross Detwiler take the next step in his career (so far, so good this spring)

25.  Watch who gets the majority of our saves.

26.  Good weather, maybe highs in the 70s with plenty of sun, for Nats Fest on Wed., March 30.

27.  Want to watch the Mel Antonen, Tom Davis, Dave Johnson and Phil Wood pre pre-game show on MASN from 5-6:30pm weeknights. Also excited about Charlie and Dave on 106.7-WJFK FM. Good to be back on FM again!

28.  Multiple All-Stars for the Nationals for the first time since 2005 (Livan, Chad Cordero).

29.  With a small lead in hand, see who will pitch the 9th inning on Opening Day against the Braves.

30.  Can Collin Balester clone his Sept. 2010 performance and reproduce it in 2011?

31.  How many home runs will Bryce Harper hit in the minor leagues?

32.  See who Mike Rizzo and his talented network of scouts pluck with the 6th and 23rd-overall selections in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft.

33.  Excited to experience F.P. Santangelo on MASN 10 times in 10 days during a May road trip.

34.  Time (via a stopwatch) how long it takes our fans to fall in love with Jayson Werth and Jerry Hairston, Jr. Oh, and Todd Coffey and his sprint?

35.  Further good health and prosperity for Jesus Flores, who deserves both.

36.  Fewer trips to the mound for Steve McCatty as our starting pitchers consistently go 7 innings.

37.  Danny Espinosa and Ian Desmond become the best and most athletic middle infield tandem in the NL. Heck, why stop there. Let’s say best in MLB.

38.  Adam LaRoche to be named as one of the sneaky-good signings of the 2010-11 offseason.

39.  Perhaps have a young opposing player swing twice when seeing a vintage Tyler Clippard changeup for the first time.

40.  With most of Taiwan watching, have Chien-Ming Wang make the first of his 20+ starts for us in May.

41.  Read about an opposing player like Chipper Jones, Chase Utley or David Wright lauding the consistent hustle and effort of your 2011 Washington Nationals.

42.  Require a calculator to tally the number of errorless games we string together in 2011.

43.  Watch to see how we grow as a franchise through the prism of social media.

44.  See if Nyjer Morgan can regain his 2009 Mojo.

45.  Watch Danny Espinosa homer from both sides of the plate in the same game.

46.  Have Livan Hernandez rightfully claim his first Gold Glove.

47.  See Tom Gorzelanny make 30 starts and regain his status as a double digit-game winner.

48.  See winning records and postseason berths in Syracuse, Harrisburg, Potomac, Hagerstown, Auburn, Viera and the Dominican Republic.

49.  Be present as Stephen Strasburg pitches in mid-September, a la Jordan Zimmermann in Sept. 2010.

50.  Will Teddy win? I sure hope so! Maybe I’ll ask Todd Coffey if he can work with Teddy on the fine art of sprinting.

 

Again, please don’t hold back. Send in some of your own ideas.

Thanks so much for your time and continued enthusiasm for the Nationals.

17 more days until the opener…

 

I will be in touch again soon.

 

Mascot Madness


Screech victory.jpgFor those interested in witnessing history, be sure to check out FOX 5’s Annual Mascot Madness coverage as Washington Nationals mascot Screech sets out to defend his back-to-back titles against regional mascots who think they have what it takes to defeat him on the basketball court.

 

This year, Screech will attempt to do what no other mascot has ever done: THREE-PEAT a championship title win.

 

While other birds may have flown south this past winter, Screech stayed right here in the Nation’s Capital and underwent a rigorous Rocky Balboa-style training program, which included running the stairs at Nationals Park with his personal trainerTeddy.

 

Recently, the Washington Wizards’ G-Wiz, the only other mascot to ever win a Mascot Madness title, hosted his birthday party and a slam dunk contest at the Verizon Center.

Of course those in the mascot community knew this was G-Wiz’ way of getting a last-minute look at Screech’s b-ball skills, but like the true champion he is, Screech rose to the occasion and was one of the few mascots to put the ball through the net

 

Watch video of Screech flying through the air and pulling off the one-wing jam!

 

With that superb performance in mind, there’s little doubt that the competition will all be targeting our favorite eagle, so be sure to check out FOX 5 for exclusive coverage of Mascot Madness to watch Screech bring home another title.

Day 25 in Viera

Nationals Principal Owner Mark D. Lerner will be blogging throughout the 2011 Grapefruit League Season, giving Nats fans a unique perspective of the goings-on at the Nats Spring Training home in Viera, Fla. Check back often for the latest updates

Good afternoon NatsTown. Time to quickly blog again leading into tonight’s game against the Astros here at Space Coast Stadium. Of course, we are on MASN the next 2 days, so I urge everyone to tune in and gain a glimpse of your 2011 Nationals.

If you can join us at Space Coast Stadium tonight, don’t be late. At 5:57 pm, NASA is launching a Delta 4 – NROL27 Rocket from nearby Cape Canaveral. So, it should be up in the air right around the time the National Anthem is played. Details on this rocket launch can be found here: http://spaceflightnow.com/tracking/index.html.

The winning ways have largely continued. Since my last entry, your Nationals are 2-1.

An 8-4 win on Wednesday at Florida was quickly followed by a 6-5 home victory over the Mets. Last night in Kissimmee, the Astros scored late to edge us, 6-5.

Let’s start with Wednesday in Jupiter. This really was our best game of the spring. As you might have guessed, the winning vibe began with the starting pitcher. Vintage Jason Marquis. His 4.0 scoreless innings included 3 strikeouts and, more importantly, a ton of ground balls. Marquis was followed by Todd Coffey, who was in control, striking out the side in the 5th inning. He has looked strong this spring. More strikeouts than you’d expect too. The bats matched the arms as we led, 7-0, after 7 innings. Danny Espinosa went 3-for-3 with a double, his second homer of the season and 4 RBI. Michael Morse had 2 more hits and a walk. Not much went wrong in this contest.

Thursday afternoon’s 6-5 victory had a familiar feel, that is until things got a tad hairy in the 9th inning. But no matter, as Tyler Clippard recorded the game’s final 2 outs to push the winning streak to 4. Chad Gaudin turned some heads with his start. In 5.0 scoreless innings, he struck out 6. Our 3-run first inning was highlighted by Adam LaRoche’s bags-loaded 2-run (automatic) double to center field. Adam’s ball would have been a grand slam in most parks, but a fierce cross wind knocked that ball down a bit.

I was not able to attend last night’s game at Houston, more good pitching from the arms of Collin Balester and Cole Kimball, who tossed 1.0 scoreless inning apiece. At the plate, Jerry Hairston had 3 hits in the loss. Can’t win them all.

I just had our PR official John Dever run the numbers on our starting pitchers through 12 games. In those 12 games to date, our 8 starters have combined on a 2.60 ERA, 12 walks and 32 strikeouts in 38.0 innings. I am quite sure that Mike Rizzo, Jim Riggleman, Steve McCatty, Teddy, Screech and our loyal and ever-growing fan base would gladly take those numbers over 162 games.

We know it is not that simple, but it is hard not to like what we are seeing. I get the feeling we have some pitching depth to work with. Let’s maintain some standard health and I think there is something to work with.

Looking toward next week, we are expecting ESPN and the good folks from Baseball Tonight to bring their bus to Viera and Space Coast Stadium on Tuesday, March 15. I cannot wait to ask Tim Kurkjian what it has been like living the life of John Madden for the last 3 weeks or so. No doubt that Big John put on hundreds of thousands of miles on his Madden Cruiser, but he never had to bunk with John Kruk! It will be good for the ESPN folks to get a first-hand look at our guys (even though we play that evening at the Mets).

As you read various season previews, you should be aware that most of the national baseball writers who choose to write about us do so after watching us play road games. Viera is a bit more isolated than most of the other camps in/around Florida (and Phoenix for that matter). Writers understandably like to cluster their visits. See 6 or 7 camps in a week. They like those types of ratios, as do their employers. This keeps travel costs down.

One of the flaws in this practice is that these writers rarely (if ever) get to see our “A” lineup unless they trek to Viera. At this juncture of the spring (we are nearing the midpoint), you will not see Ryan Zimmerman, Jayson Werth, Nyjer Morgan, Pudge, Adam LaRoche, Ian Desmond, etc. playing together on the road. And when you think about it, why would Jim Riggleman exhaust them? It does not make sense. Each of these guys will play in multiple road contests, but these road appearances are staggered for a reason.

So, I offer this info so that you gain some perspective when reading some of the season previews that are readily available all over the internet.

We are expecting a lot of fans and friends to visit us this weekend, mostly from DC. No doubt that Saturday’s Yankees game is a big drawing card. The weather looks good for tomorrow, sunny and in the mid-70s. Cannot wait.

I will be in touch early next week. Please have a great weekend…

Nats keep winning in Viera

Nationals Principal Owner Mark D. Lerner will be blogging throughout the 2011 Grapefruit League Season, giving Nats fans a unique perspective of the goings-on at the Nats Spring Training home in Viera, Fla. Check back often for the latest updates.

 

Thanks for stopping by NatsTown. I am writing today from Viera and in a few minutes I am set to take the 112-mile trek south to watch the Nats play the Marlins in Jupiter.

 

Well, glancing at the Grapefruit League standings, we are right at the top with a 6-3 record. Tied with the Braves (7-4) and Tigers (8-5). What does this mean? Some would say not much. We’ll take it, enjoy it and most importantly keep it in perspective. But it sure beats the alternative, right?

The baseball fan in me senses that the monotony that comes with Spring Training has officially set in. Workouts every morning. Games every day. You might say these are the Dog Days—not of July or August—but of March. Countdown to Opening Day…

But my eyes tell me differently!

Our guys are working hard, every day and seemingly every hour. There is a continued palpable intensity. Hundreds of ground balls courtesy of Dan Radison. Baserunning instruction from Bo Porter. Bullpen sessions with Steve McCatty. Extra-hitting with Rick Eckstein. Teaching moments from Davey Johnson and/or Pat Corrales. It does not end… well except for lunch around 11:15 a.m. or so. Then it is time to reinvigorate, to stretch, to play catch and get ready for the game at 1:05 p.m.

Jim Riggleman firmly believes that this will all pay off, and when you think about it, how can it not? All 58 players in our camp are committed to the pursuit of improved individual play within the scope of team-oriented baseball.

Since my last blog, your Nationals have pulled out a couple of wins: 14-9 over the Astros on Monday and a nicely-played 4-3 victory in 10 innings over the Mets yesterday at St. Lucie.

Saw plenty of power in yesterday’s win over the Mets as Michael Morse, Jerry Hairston and Brian Bixler all went deep. Saw plenty of rock-solid pitching from Jordan Zimmermann (3.0 scoreless innings, threw 93-94 mph), Brian Broderick (one run, 3.0 innings), Sean Burnett (1.0 scoreless inning) and Adam Carr (2.0 scoreless innings).

But what will I take away from St. Lucie yesterday? My first peek at one of our top prospects, Eury Perez!  The young guy (21 years-old) has a lot going for him.  He led off the 10th inning with an opposite-field single, then he swiped second with ease. Two batters later, Laynce Nix sent him home with the decisive run via a double. One of our pr guys, John Dever chatted with Ian Desmond, who told him that Eury is the “fastest player he had seen” since he became a pro. High praise indeed.

I am told Eury is a heck of an outfielder, he can hit (batted .345 in Dominican Winter League, .299 for Hagerstown last year) and he can run all day long (84 stolen bags in 2010 per my PR guys). I will keep an eye on his boxscores this summer via milb.com.

Ryan Zimmerman Spring Training.JPGMonday’s win featured a trademark homer to right-center off the bat of Ryan Zimmerman and later a 9-run 8th inning that included two doubles from Bryce Harper. Don’t look now, Bryce is hitting .308 (4-for-13). He’s really holding his own against pitchers with 5 and sometimes 10 years of professional experience at their disposal. It sure is fun to dream about what is coming, isn’t it?

A lot has been made of our error total to date. Please note that only 7 have come from players who are seemingly certain to make the Opening Day roster. We are going to be much improved this summer defensively. Remember, the hard work has not stopped, won’t stop and will pay off. 

Tomorrow we have our lone split squad action of the spring. Afternoon game against the Mets in Viera followed by a night game in Kissimmee against the Astros. I am told that we will face A.J. Burnett on Saturday when the Yankees visit Viera. Challenges abound.

Thanks for your time and continued interest in the ballclub. Only 22 more days until Opening Day!

I’ll be in touch again soon …

Day 21 in Viera: Starting pitchers continue to roll

Nationals Principal Owner Mark D. Lerner will be blogging throughout the 2011 Grapefruit League Season, giving Nats fans a unique perspective of the goings-on at the Nats Spring Training home in Viera, Fla. Check back often for the latest updates.

 

Good afternoon NatsTown. Yet another picturesque morning in Viera. Looking forward to hosting the Astros today at Space Coast Stadium.

Before we delve into baseball talk, many of our fans who have made the trip down to Spring Training have been stopping by before and after games to say “hello.”

Please know, we love seeing you all and want to impress on everyone just how much we appreciate your never-ending support of the Nationals. It does not go unnoticed.

Thank you!

We are just coming off a big Grapefruit League weekend, including Sat.’s 10-8 victory in a slugfest over the Yankees. It is always interesting to play the Yankees, always fun to beat the Yankees. With 27 World Championships, they are the standard against which teams measure themselves. Sure, we know Saturday’s win came in a Grapefruit League contest and we did not face some of their star players.

But our lineup fared well against C.C. Sabathia and Joba Chamberlain, two mainstays of their rotation and bullpen, respectively. Ryan Zimmerman (2 doubles, 2 RBI) and Ian Desmond (2 hits, RBI) both appeared to be in midseason form. And what a thrill for Jeff Frazier, who grew up in New Jersey, to homer against his hometown Bronx Bombers. And with family and friends in the stands? Great story for Jeff.

Despite some daunting skies in the late morning, we hosted a huge and boisterous crowd of 6,250 on Sunday at Space Coast Stadium. That made for a fun atmosphere reminiscent of a regular-season game. Kenny G. performed a rendition of the National Anthem that culminated with a 60-second note near the end of the tune. Everyone was simply wowed by the performance. I won’t forget it.

Although our bats stalled against the Braves, I think it is fair to say that Ross Detwiler’s superb outing is the key performance going forward. Ross looked very strong as he struck out 5 in 3.0 scoreless innings. And this was a Braves lineup that featured the vast majority of their big names (Heyward, Chipper, Uggla, Prado). I know Steve McCatty was beaming afterwards about the outing.

Don’t look now, but Detwiler, Livan Hernandez, Jason Marquis, Yunesky Maya and Jordan Zimmermann have combined to allow just one earned run in 16.0 innings this spring. These performances are in stark contrast to last spring, when the majority of our pitching staff struggled in Florida. So, things appear to be trending in the right direction on the pitching front. Oh, and those numbers do not include 4.0 businesslike innings out of Livan in a Minor League game yesterday. I could watch Livan pitch anywhere, anytime. After his start yesterday, Livan told me that he was pleased, especially compared with his first start, during which he did not feel like he was in synch.

Scary moment Sunday when Wilson Ramos was struck by a foul tip. He is alright, but it gave us all pause for a minute or so there as he was being tended to by our athletic training staff. Wilson is a special talent who is going to help our pitchers, our lineup and our defense. He can really throw and he has some power in that bat. And he is still learning. There is not much that Wilson cannot do on the baseball field.

I took a few calls late yesterday from family and friends in DC and the F. P. Santangelo reviews were all positive. We are happy to have F.P. and his family on board for 2011 and beyond. It is great to have all our broadcasters—Bob Carpenter, Charlie Slowes, Dave Jageler, Debbi Taylor—on the ground with us here in Viera.

Quick reminder that MASN will telecast two games next weekend, Friday vs. Houston (6:00 pm) and Saturday vs. NY Yankees (1:00 pm).

I am also pleased to say that Saturday’s game against the Yankees is sold out. Should be fun. I will be in touch again soon.

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