March 2011

Day 18 in Viera: Happy Friday

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.

 

Hello NatsTown. I am writing to you from sunny and warm Viera, Fla. Today is very windy and comfortable.

 

Since my last blog, your Nationals have topped the Mets (5-3 on Wednesday at home) and lost a 7-5 decision to the Cardinals on Thursday in Jupiter. So, we stand 3-1 and host the Braves today here at Space Coast Stadium.

 

Today’s 1:05 p.m. contest will likely be a bit strange without Bobby Cox guiding the Braves. Bobby is going to be missed. He is the ultimate ambassador, for not only the Braves, but the game of baseball. I wish him all the best in his retirement, but I bet we run into him at a ballpark or two over the next few years. Bobby’s never going to leave the game entirely. At least I hope not.

 

I took in a 2-inning Minor League contest down the street at the Washington Nationals Training Complex. The game was set up for Tom Gorzelanny, Chien-Ming Wang and Ryan Mattheus to ease themselves into game conditions in a controlled setting. Wang pitched well during his 15-pitch inning, during which he threw in the mid-80s and induced 3 outs (one out was negated by a fielding error). Tom Gorzelanny looked good too. He recorded 5 outs in 30 pitches (a pair of 15-pitch innings). Tom retired the side in order during his 2nd inning. Lastly, righthander Ryan Mattheus struck out 2 in a scoreless inning. He is the pitcher Mike Rizzo acquired from the Rockies in July of 2009 in exchange for Joe Beimel. He is returning from July 2009 Tommy John surgery and is essentially on the same time line as Jordan Zimmermann.

 

Speaking of Zimmermann, his performance yesterday in Jupiter was especially pleasing. 3.0 scoreless innings against the Cards lineup that featured Albert Pujols. I’ll take that in a heartbeat, especially in a Grapefruit League debut. I see Jordan as a silent-killer type. He is a quiet and polite guy when you meet him, but the coaches tell me that he is as fierce a competitor as we have on the pitching staff. Like Marquis, I can hope for nothing more than full health for Jordan, because that is all he’ll need to succeed. His arm is electric and other teams know it.     

 

This morning, Rizzo, Jim Riggleman and Steve McCatty reassigned Shairon Martis, Matt Chico and Joe Bisenius to Minor League camp. Hopefully this move affords the trio more innings, but I think it also speaks to our ever-increasing pitching depth. McCatty has a lot of good arms to look at in a relatively short amount of time. It is going to be tougher than ever to earn a spot on this pitching staff. We are getting there.

 

I am very excited to see our guys face the Yankees tomorrow. As previously disclosed here, we will face C.C. Sabathia, but word came out yesterday that Joba Chamberlain is also likely to pitch for the Yanks. Should be fun.

 

I was anxious to see Jason Marquis’ spring debut today. The wait was worth it, as he allowed just one hit in 3.0 scoreless innings (he just finished up a moment ago, score still tied 0-0 after 3 innings). Jason struggled with injuries last year, but everyone knows he is better than that with full health. We saw a good number of ground balls today (6 outs on the ground). That’s a good clue that Jason is on track for an improved performance in 2011.

 

Please, everyone have a good weekend! Oh, don’t forget to tune into Sunday’s game against the Braves on MASN and/or on our new flagship radio station, 106.7 WJFK-FM.

I will be in touch again soon.

Day 17 in Viera: The Nats are 3-0

Hello again gang. This is John Dever again, and for one day only I am stepping in for Mark Lerner, who likely will return to the blogosphere tomorrow.

 

I have the honor of being the baseball PR Director for your Nationals. I hope to keep in touch with you for much of this spring, perhaps once a week now that Mark in on the ground here in Viera. As always, I will be utilizing the keen eyes and ears of my PR brethren, Mike Gazda and Bill Gluvna. They are great to work with and they know what they are talking about, whether it be this team or the game of baseball in general.

 

Let’s get down to the nitty gritty…

 

*Obviously, with our 3-0 start in mind, optimism is abound. That’s patently obvious, but it feel really GOOD.

 

*What a difference a year makes. Remember, last year the Nationals dropped their first 11 Grapefruit League contests? As great as the 3-0 start is, what is even more impressive is just how well the team has actually played. The games have been played with precision, have been quick and seemingly everything done on the field has a positive purpose. Our chuckers have walked just 3 batters in 3 games. That, my friends, is unheard of in late February/early March. Last spring, the Nationals opened the Grapefruit League slate with split squad action on March 4. Nationals pitchers issued 8 walks and 25 runs in those 2 games. Yea, I like this year better…

 

*One of Mike Rizzo’s mantras is that competition is good for everyone, including the team. Well, 3 games in, that thought is being reaffirmed, especially in left field, where Rick Ankiel, Roger Bernadina and Michael Morse are vying for Jim Riggleman’s affections. The 3 LF amigos are a combined 10-for-19 with 4 home runs and 9 RBI. In fact, the LF trio has combined on 4 of Washington’s 5 home runs to date. All 3 gentlemen look comfortable at the plate, so let’s look for more of the same type of production in the coming week…

 

*This weekend’s 2 contests—Sat. at NYY and Sun. vs. ATL—will offer stiff tests for Rick Eckstein’s battalion of bats. Why? Washington will be opposed by C.C. Sabathia and Tommy Hanson. Not-so subtle reminder that you can watch Sunday’s action on MASN as your Nationals host the Braves from Space Coast Stadium. Ross Detwiler will get the starting nod. He will throw the first pitch at 1:05 p.m.

 

*Let’s play the name game. The following is a list of actual first names of Nationals players, but these same guys “go” by other names. Follow?

Example would be Edwin was Duke Snider’s actual first name. Or Larry is Chipper Jones’ first name. So, let’s ramp up the Nationals fun below:

 

1B Robert (Michael) Aubrey

OF Rogearvin (Roger) Bernadina

RHP Justin (Todd) Coffey

INF Jose (Alex) Cora

RHP Eisler (Livan) Hernandez

1B David (Adam) LaRoche

RHP John (J.D.) Martin…middle name: Dale

RHP Olise (Cla) Meredith…middle name: Claibourne

 

*A few defensive nuggets… Chris Marrero made a few nice scoops, and in the process showed some solid footwork around the bag, in Tue.’s home opener vs. NYM… this is a strong statement, but Yunesky Maya is a Grade A fielder… his skills are akin to those of his big brother (not literally) Livan Hernandez… both our Cuban starters act almost insulted a batter would have the audacity to drive a grounder up-the-middle for a single… that is fun to watch.

 

*BTW, best of luck Cla Meredith, who had Tommy John surgery yesterday. A resident of Richmond, VA, Cla was excited at the prospect of pitching for his hometown team. He won’t pitch this season, so that hope will have to be shelved for now. That said, I would not bet against Cla Meredith…

 

Thanks for your time and interest in the Nationals. Let’s be in touch again soon.

 

Day 16 in sunny 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 from Viera!

 

As you might expect, optimism is high after recording 9-3 and 5-3 wins over the Mets the last two days. Both games were remarkably well-pitched and the defense was strong. Just two errors and two walks! Usually you don’t see such cleanly-played games until a week or so into the Grapefruit League schedule. Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa combined on a 4-6-3 double play on Monday against the Mets that I am not sure many other tandems would have finished off.

 

Yesterday, I was impressed by Ross Detwiler, who struck out three in 2.0 strong innings. It was good to see Ross’ velocity back up after he endured that hip injury last spring. He has a heck of a slider too. Very encouraging signs from our former first-rounder.

 

And after Detwiler left the game, I was taken aback by the power of both Cole Kimball and Collin Balester. Both guys are BIG and regularly throw in the mid-90s. I sat behind the dugout yesterday at Space Coast Stadium and let me tell you, you can feel the velocity from both Cole and Collin. Mets hitters did not look too thrilled to be facing either of those two power arms.

 

At the plate, it is hard not to be impressed with Michael Morse and his .714 batting average. He is 5-for-7. And his 2-homer effort in Monday’s opener at St. Lucie was really special in that his first homer was crushed to left field (500 feet? Seemed close to that) and his second was an opposite-field shot. That’s good hitting in February, March or… August.

 

The weather for Tuesday’s opener was a tad disappointing, as it rained for most of the morning. But by noon, the system pushed off shore and we were ready for baseball. So it was dry. It was great to host representatives from each branch of the military yesterday, the majority of which are stationed at nearby Patrick Air Force Base, which is only about 10-12 miles from Space Coast Stadium.

 

The good news is that the ideal weather is back today. Look for lots of sunny skies and temps ranging from 77-81 the next week or so.  Great baseball weather for players and fans alike.

 

I found out yesterday that the Nationals will face left-hander C.C. Sabathia on Saturday in Tampa. Should be a fun test as he is on a short list of the best the game has to offer.

 

Also, we have a Henry Rodriguez sighting! He arrived in Viera late last night and reported to camp this morning. Pitching Coach Steve McCatty told me that Rodriguez’s bullpen sessions were very impressive. This is another legit power arm and you certainly cannot have enough of those.

 

I ran into Bob Carpenter this morning. He is in town with F. P. Santangelo and Debbi Taylor to address the ballclub this morning. Bob’s spirits are very high for the 2011 season. He also told me that F.P. is a great addition to MASN’s stable of TV talent. They are anxious to get going.

 

I then enjoyed meeting F.P. later in the morning. He is thrilled to be here with us, especially after driving across the country last week! F.P. certainly has studied up on the Nationals. He knows the roster inside and out, and is already well aware of the tangible momentum we have going within our organization.

 

One correction from Monday’s blog, MASN’s initial telecast of the spring is set for Sunday at 1:05 p.m. as the Nationals host the Braves at Space Coast Stadium. So please tune in and take a peek at what the 2011 season might have to offer.

 

2-0 and looking forward to today’s contest against the Marlins. John Lannan is on the mound. Let’s hope our winning ways will continue…

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