October 2013

Nationals Name Matt Williams Manager

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by Amanda Comak

The Washington Nationals named Matt Williams as the team’s field manager on Thursday, agreeing to terms on a multi-year contract with the five-time All-Star and former Arizona Diamondbacks coach. President of Baseball Operations and General Manager Mike Rizzo made the announcement.

The agreement culminates a thorough process by the Nationals to find a successor to Davey Johnson, whose tenure as the team’s manager came to an end after 2 1/2 seasons.

MW_photo_darker“I am thrilled to welcome Matt to our organization and am confident he is the best choice to lead the Nationals at this time,” Rizzo said. “He is exceptionally prepared for the task. Matt came into the interview process already possessing an extensive knowledge of our organization: our roster, our Minor League system – and our fan base.

“He has genuinely creative, unique ideas on how to increase performance, and on cultivating leadership and team unity.”

Williams, 47, comes to the Nationals after four years on the Diamondbacks’ coaching staff, the last three as their third base coach. A decorated player during his 17-year career, Williams becomes the organization’s fifth manager since baseball returned to D.C. in 2005.

“Matt has a wealth of knowledge and experience as a former player and coach,” said Theodore N. Lerner, Managing Principal Owner of the Nationals. “But what most impresses us is his ability to understand and ably communicate situations and strategies in a disciplined, forthright manner. We think he is the right leader for a Washington Nationals team ready to compete for a World Series championship.”

Williams is a rookie Major League manager, but Rizzo’s relationship with him dates back more than 10 years, to their time together in the Diamondbacks organization – and this is a role in which he long thought Williams could thrive.

“I saw first-hand the leadership qualities he possessed as a player, on the field and in the clubhouse,” said Rizzo, who was a part of the Diamondbacks front office for seven years before joining the Nationals in 2006. “He’s been someone on my radar as a potential manager for years.

“Matt was a great player, but he also understands just how much hard work goes into becoming a great player. In the second phase of his baseball life, he has channeled the intensity he had as a player into becoming an intellectual coach with a calm, confident demeanor.”

Known for his hard-nosed, no-nonsense style as a player, Williams was a career .268 hitter with an .317 on-base percentage, .489 slugging percentage and .805 OPS in 1,866 games. He totaled 378 home runs, including six seasons with 30-plus home runs. Williams earned four Gold Glove Awards and four Silver Slugger Awards as a third baseman.

“I think it’s great,” Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman said of the hire. “He’s a younger guy who was a good player and knows the game. I’m looking forward to getting to know him a little bit… I don’t think we were too far away from where we needed to be, and I think we’re all looking forward to next year.”

A former first-round draft pick, Williams appeared in the top 10 in the Most Valuable Player voting four times in his career, finishing as high as second in 1994, when he clubbed 43 home runs and drove in 96 runs for the San Francisco Giants in the strike-shortened season.

As a player, Williams was no stranger to the postseason. He played on six playoff teams and appeared in the World Series with the Giants (1989), Indians (1997) and Diamondbacks (2001), winning a World Series ring in Arizona. He is the only player in baseball history to hit at least one World Series home run for three different teams.

After retiring from playing in 2003, Williams dabbled in broadcasting for a few years, serving as a color analyst on select Diamondbacks broadcasts from 2005–09, and co-hosting the weekend pregame show for the Diamondbacks with his wife, Erika, in 2007. He joined the Diamondbacks as a first base coach in 2010.

In addition to his coaching duties with the Diamondbacks, Williams managed in the Arizona Fall League in 2012, leading the Salt River Rafters – which included several of the Nationals’ top prospects – to the AFL Championship Game.

Arizona Fall League, Week 3 (10.22–28)

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by Mike Feigen

Each week, we will recap the performances of the eight members of the Nationals organization participating in the Arizona Fall League, a “finishing school” for top prospects. 

The eight Nationals players are members of the Mesa Solar Sox, which is comprised of young stars from the Nationals, Angels, Athletics, Cubs and Tigers farm systems. The Solar Sox will battle the Glendale Desert Dogs, Peoria Javelinas, Salt River Rafters, Scottsdale Scorpions and Surprise Saguaros during the six-week season, with each team made up of players from five MLB organizations.

HARRIS IMPRESSED WITH YOUNG SOUTHPAWS

Nationals Director of Player Development Doug Harris sat down with Curly W Live to discuss the progress of left-handers Matt Purke and Sammy Solis, two of the top hurlers in the Arizona Fall League. Purke, a 2011 third-round pick, and Solis, a 2010 second round selection, completed their regular seasons with the High-A Potomac Nationals. Here are the highlights from that Q&A:

Curly W Live: Where are Matt Purke and Sammy Solis in their overall development?

Doug Harris: Both finished their regular seasons really well. Even though their innings were limited, their volume was fairly significant because they were doing a lot of work on their arms prior to them actually getting into a game. They had a nice break after the playoff run with Potomac, which freshened them up, so now they’re where they would be if they were coming down the home stretch of a regular season.

Matthew’s command is a little more crisp than it was during the regular season, which enables him to utilize his secondary stuff. You’re seeing some strikeouts and his walks are down. Sammy’s stuff has been really good out there. He’s gotten ahead of hitters very quickly, but he’s walked a few because he’s gone to his secondary stuff a little more than he’s needed to.

Sammy Solis continues to impress in the desert. (Jason Wise/MLB.com)

Sammy Solis continues to impress in the desert. (Jason Wise/MLB.com)

CWL: Are they both fully back on track from previous setbacks?

Harris: First and foremost, they have health. Both are very talented young men and have worked very hard to get themselves back to this point. Matthew, in particular, battled some ups and downs early on. He had a little clean-up that has enabled him to not look back and be more of the pitcher that we saw (in college). Sammy was moving really well through the system, had the Tommy John surgery, and now he’s right back on track.

CWL: They have put up excellent numbers in the Arizona Fall League. How much of an indicator are the statistics down there?

Harris: I think they’re somewhat of an indicator, but I don’t think they’re the gospel. With the Arizona Fall League, you look at each hitter day-to-day and each pitcher outing-to-outing. It’s somewhat of a scripted league, so you have to dissect things day-to-day a little more than you would in the regular season.

Matthew’s good fastball command has enabled him to get to his secondary stuff, which is why you’re seeing low hits-to-innings-pitched from him (three hits in 12 innings as of October 28).

CWL: What type of pitches are they throwing and how is their velocity?

Harris: Both have a very similar mix: a fastball, curveball and change. Sammy’s fastball is a tick more firm than Matthew’s at this point. Sammy, prior to Tommy John, was up to 96 and we’ve seen comparable velocity from him. During the regular season, Matthew was up to 94, but they both pitch in the 90-92 range. Both have good movement on their fastballs, and they’re both still developing their breaking ball consistency. Sammy’s change-up is ahead right now. Matthew is still learning how to throw it, when to throw it and developing trust in throwing it.

CWL: Do you have any goals for them for the rest of the Arizona Fall League season as they head into Spring Training?

Harris: The first thing is maintaining their health. They’re taking the ball every fifth day and they have a five-inning cap. After an abbreviated season, they’re increasing their volume, which will really allow us to expand their innings next year. That’s a critical thing for us. They’ll continue to work on fastball command and the quality of their secondary stuff. The most important thing is having them (arrive at Spring Training) healthy and ready to go into a strong 2014.

PURKE NAMED AFL PITCHER OF THE WEEK

In addition to earning rave reviews from Harris, Purke is beginning to pick up accolades for his work on the mound. The left-hander earned Arizona Fall League Pitcher of the Week honors on Tuesday, following his five innings of scoreless, one-hit baseball against Scottsdale on October 23.

Purke will take the hill Tuesday evening in prime time, when the Mesa Solar Sox travel to Salt River to take on the Rafters.

OUTFIELDER GOODWIN SELECTED TO FALL STARS TEAM

Center field prospect Brian Goodwin will represent the Nationals in this Saturday’s Arizona Fall League Fall Stars Game, the league announced Monday. Goodwin, who will celebrate his 23rd birthday the day of the game, has compiled a .304 batting average with five runs scored and three RBI in 11 games with the Mesa Solar Sox this fall.

This will mark Goodwin’s second consecutive appearance in the Fall Stars contest, formerly known as the Rising Stars Game. MLB Network will broadcast the exhibition live at 8 p.m. ET on Saturday from Surprise, Arizona.

WEEKLY RUNDOWN

Here is a look at how each of the Nationals participants in this year’s Arizona Fall League performed during the season’s third week (October 22-28):

ROBERT BENINCASA | RHP

Prospect Robert Benincasa was Washington's seventh-round selection in 2012. (Jason Wise/MLB.com)

Prospect Robert Benincasa was Washington’s seventh-round selection in 2012. (Jason Wise/MLB.com)

Weekly Totals: 2 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 2 SO

Season Totals: 6 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 5 SO, 4.50 ERA, 1.50 WHIP

BRIAN GOODWIN | OF

Weekly Totals: .333/.353/.333, 1 RBI, 2 R, 1 BB in 17 PA

Season Totals: .304/.347/.348, 2 2B, 3 RBI, 5 R, 2 SB, 2 BB in 50 PA

RICHIE MIROWSKI | RHP

Weekly Totals: (1 SV), 2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 0 SO

Season Totals: (1 SV), 5 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 3 SO, 1.80 ERA, 0.60 WHIP

ADRIAN NIETO | C

Weekly Totals: .286/.375/.286, 1 RBI, 1 R, 1 BB in 8 PA

Season Totals: .300/.423/.350, 1 2B, 3 RBI, 3 R, 5 BB in 26 PA

MATTHEW PURKE | LHP

Weekly Totals: (0-0), 5 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 3 SO

Season Totals: (2-0), 12 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 12 SO, 0.00 ERA, 0.50 WHIP

MATT SKOLE | 1B/3B

Weekly Totals: .000/.200/.000, 3 BB in 15 PA

Season Totals: .179/.410/.429, 2 HR, 1 2B, 5 RBI, 6 R in 39 PA

SAMMY SOLIS | LHP

Weekly Totals: (0-1), 3.0 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 2 SO

Season Totals: (3-1), 15.2 IP, 18 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 5 BB, 16 SO, 2.87 ERA, 1.47 WHIP

STEVEN SOUZA, JR. | OF

Weekly Totals: .571/.571/.571, 3 SB in 7 plate appearances

Season Totals: .400/.520/.450, 1 2B, 5 RBI, 3 R, 9 SB, 5 BB in 25 PA

For more information on the Arizona Fall League, visit MLBFallBall.com.

Ian Desmond, Denard Span Named Rawlings Gold Glove Finalists

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by Amanda Comak

The finalists for the Rawlings Gold Glove Awards were announced this morning by Rawlings Sports, and for the second consecutive year the Washington Nationals have two players among the honorees.

Desmond is a Gold Glove finalist for the second straight season.

Desmond is a Gold Glove finalist for the second straight season.

Shortstop Ian Desmond and center fielder Denard Span were named as finalists at their respective positions, but they’ll have to wait until Tuesday, October 29 to find out if either will take home the prize.

Desmond, who was also a finalist for the award in 2012, is up against tough competition in Atlanta Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons and Colorado Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki.

Span faces some heady competition as well with Milwaukee Brewers center fielder Carlos Gomez and Pittsburgh Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen also named as finalists. McCutchen is considered a frontrunner for the National League’s Most Valuable Player Award when it is announced in November.

Neither Nationals player has won a Gold Glove previously, but both would be deserving of the honor this year.

Desmond, whose range and exceptionally strong throwing arm were on display often again this season, finished the year with a .971 fielding percentage. Fangraphs.com ranks him among the five best shortstops in the league in most advanced metrics categories.

Former Nationals manager Davey Johnson, a three-time Rawlings Gold Glove second baseman himself, often said that he viewed Desmond as the best shortstop in the league – offensively and defensively.

Span was a pleasure to watch patrol center field for the Nationals, often earning effusive praise from his teammates for the effortless way with which he made difficult catches look simple. The highlight to his defensive season likely came when he saved a 6-5 victory over the San Francisco Giants by making a sensational diving catch to end the game.

Advanced metrics seem to underrate Span, though Fangraphs.com still ranks him as having the third-best Ultimate Zone Rating in the league behind A.J. Pollock and McCutchen, perhaps because he is not among the most laser-armed outfielders. But his exceptional defensive work does not go unnoticed by those on the field. Jayson Werth said late in the 2013 season that he trusts Span more than any center fielder he’d ever played with .

070313-461 denard span

Span excelled in center field in his first season with the Nationals.

Each manager and up to six coaches on each staff voted from a pool of qualified players in their league, and cannot vote for players on their own team. But this year, for the first time in its 57-year history, Rawlings added a sabermetric component to the Rawlings Gold Glove Award selection process, as part of its new collaboration with the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR).

The SABR Defensive Index accounted for approximately 25 percent of the overall selection total, with the managers and coaches’ vote continuing to carry the majority.

The winners of the 2013 Rawlings Gold Glove Awards will be announced Tuesday night at 8 p.m. on ESPN2 in a special one-hour Baseball Tonight.

An Offseason Field Trip

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by Noah Frank

There may not have been any games played at Nationals Park last weekend, but the field was still put to good use. The Washington Nationals and the Baseball Tomorrow Fund (BTF) partnered to host the first Field Maintenance Clinic at Nationals Park as part of the Field Maintenance Education Program, a joint initiative between BTF and Major League Baseball.

Nationals Head Groundskeeper John Turnour and Assistant Head Groundskeeper Mike Hrivnak hosted 25 local coaches from more than 20 youth organizations on Saturday morning.

The two-hour clinic featured instruction on everything from maintaining the lip of the grass to prevent bad hops to keys to ensuring a safe, playable mound and the do’s and don’ts of clearing water off a wet infield. Turnour and Hrivnak were able to take the work they do on a Major League field and translate it into tips that youth leagues can use, even though they don’t have the same resources available. One such piece of advice was that it’s better to use towels to remove standing water on a field rather than sweeping it off with a broom.

In conjunction with the clinic, the Nationals and BTF selected Banneker City Little League to receive a $10,000 grant. The newly formed league will use the money for the upkeep and renovation of the upper field at Banneker Community Center. Check out photos from the clinic in the slideshow below.

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Signature Moments of 2013: Finals

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With 86 wins in the books, the 2013 season had its share of lasting memories. We have seeded the top 10 in our book, and over the next few weeks we will be letting you vote in a bracket-style competition to determine the ultimate signature moment of the season. Check back every Monday, Wednesday and Friday through the World Series for a new poll and to see which moments advanced on to the next round.

SigMomentsBracket 10-23

ONE GRAND SWING | 8.10

Jayson Werth reached the 1,000-hit milestone in memorable fashion on August 10, in an 8-5 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies. After a pair of singles in his second and third at-bats got him to 999, Werth was set up for a chance to reach the 1,000 mark in his next at-bat, which came in a tie game with a runner at first and two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning. The normally methodical Werth took no time to make his presence felt, jumping on the first pitch and wrapping it inside the left field foul pole for a go-ahead, two-run home run.

“IT AIN’T OVER…” | 9.17


Following the tragic events of September 16 at the nearby Navy Yard, the mood was somber as the Nationals took on the Atlanta Braves in game one of a split doubleheader the next day. Down two in the bottom of the ninth against the seemingly unbeatable Craig Kimbrel, the Nats rallied for three runs to win the game, scoring the go-ahead and winning runs on a grounder by Denard Span that snuck between the legs of Atlanta shortstop Andrelton Simmons.

SignatureMomentFinals

Arizona Fall League, Week 2 (10.15-21)

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by Noah Frank

Each week, we will recap the performances of the eight members of the Nationals organization participating in the Arizona Fall League, a “finishing school” for top prospects.

The eight Nationals players are members of the Mesa Solar Sox, which is comprised of young stars from the Nationals, Angels, Athletics, Cubs and Tigers farm systems. The Solar Sox will battle the Glendale Desert Dogs, Peoria Javelinas, Salt River Rafters, Scottsdale Scorpions and Surprise Saguaros during the six-week season, with each team made up of players from five MLB organizations.

Here is a look at the Week 2 performances from the Valley of the Sun, where Mesa’s 8-2 record is easily the league’s best:

ROBERT BENINCASA | RHP

Weekly Totals: 3 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 2 SO

Overall Totals: 4 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 3 SO

After allowing a single run in each of his first two outings, the former Florida State Seminole has posted consecutive scoreless frames in his last two relief appearances. 

BRIAN GOODWIN | OF

Weekly Totals: .235/.235/.235, 1 R in 17 plate appearances

Overall Totals: .290/.333/.355, 2 2B, 2 RBI, 3 R, 2 SB, 1 BB in 33 plate appearances

The top position prospect in Washington’s system hit safely in six of seven AFL contests so far. He’s teed up left-handed pitching in the early going (in, albeit, a very small sample size), going 4-for-8 with both of his extra-base hits against southpaws. Goodwin also stole a pair of bases in his second week with the Solar Sox.

RICHIE MIROWSKI | RHP

Weekly Totals: 2 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 2 SO

Overall Totals: 3 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 3 SO

The 24-year-old right-hander continued to impress against right-handed hitters, who are 0-for-6 with three strikeouts against him. While Mirowski did allow his first run of the fall, he has yet to yield a walk through his first three outings.

ADRIAN NIETO | C

Weekly Totals: .143/.333/.143, 1 RBI, 2 BB in 9 plate appearances

Overall Totals: .308/.444/.385/, 1 2B, 2 RBI, 2 R, 1 SF, 4 BB in 18 plate appearances

The switch-hitting Nieto continued to show an impressive eye at the plate, where he racked up four walks with just three punch outs so far. This should come as no surprise to fans of the Potomac Nationals, who saw Nieto draw 53 walks while fanning just 82 times in 452 plate appearances this season.

Purke dominated through four hitless innings last week.

Purke dominated through four hitless innings last week. (Jason Wise/MLB.com)

MATT PURKE | LHP

Weekly Totals: (1-0), 4 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 HBP, 1 BB, 7 SO

Overall Totals: (2-0), 7 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 1 HPB, 2 BB, 9 SO

Purke cruised to his second win in as many Arizona Fall League starts with four hitless innings of work last Thursday against Peoria. While he walked and hit a batter, the promising lefty fanned seven — half of the 14 batters he faced as Mesa cruised to a 6-1 victory. Nationals officials said Purke did well attacking hitters, showing good command of his fastball and his changeup.

After two outings, Purke is tied for second in the league in wins (2), third in WHIP (0.57), fourth in opponents batting average (.083) and tied for fourth in strikeouts (9).

MATT SKOLE | 1B/3B

Weekly Totals: .375/.643/.875, 1 2B, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 4 R, 6 BB in 10 plate appearances

Overall Totals: .313/.542/.750, 1 2B, 2 HR, 5 RBI, 6 R, 8 BB in 24 plate appearances

Despite opposing pitchers’ best efforts to pitch around him, Skole managed hits in each of the three games he played last week, while also collecting six walks. He continued to display the dual ability to show great patience at the plate while also hitting for power, as he swatted his first double and second home run of the fall, striking out only once this week.

In his five games played, Skole has reached at least twice in four of them, so it should be no shock that his .542 on-base percentage  ranks second in the league. Skole, who spent much of the year rehabbing April Tommy John surgery on his non-throwing elbow, also ranks among league leaders in walks (tied for third, 8) and slugging percentage (fifth, .750).

Solis earned two victories last week and leads the circuit with three wins.

Solis earned two victories last week and leads the circuit with three wins. (Jason Wise/MLB.com)

SAMMY SOLIS | LHP

Weekly Totals:  (2-0), 9.0 IP, 9 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 12 SO

Overall Totals: (3-0), 12.2 IP, 12 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 4 BB, 14 SO

Solis may have had the most notable week of all the Washington prospects, starting twice and pitching Mesa to a win both times. His eight-strikeout performance in just four innings in a 7-4 win over Scottsdale stands out as a particularly good sign for how he’s progressing, as he fanned no more than five batters in any of his 14 regular season outings this year.

After missing the 2012 season, Solis entered 2013 ranked as  the 11th-best prospect in the Washington system by MLB.com. But the left-hander now leads the AFL with three wins and ranks second in both innings pitched (12.2) and strikeouts (14).

STEVEN SOUZA, JR. | OF

Weekly Totals: .200/.500/.200, 2 RBI, 1 R, 1 SB, 3 BB in 8 plate appearances

Overall Totals: .308/.500/.385, 1 2B, 5 RBI, 2 R, 6 SB, 5 BB in 18 plate appearances

Souza started just two games last week, but reached base twice in each contest. He walked twice, stole a base and scored a run on Saturday against Salt River. He is now a perfect 6-for-6 on the basepaths, sharing the league lead in steals.

Nationals Youngsters Wrap Up Instructional League Camp

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by Mike Feigen

As the Nationals concluded the regular season and some of their top prospects prepared for the Arizona Fall League, other Nationals farmhands headed to Viera, Fla., to take part in the Instructional League.

Instructional League provides an opportunity for young players to continue their development by maximizing their strengths and working through their weaknesses in a controlled environment. It also allows executives, coaches and scouts to evaluate the progress players made during the year, and give further instruction as they head into the offseason.

Roughly 45-50 players participated this year, according to Mark Scialabba, Nationals Director of Minor League Operations. They ranged in age from 16-year-old third baseman Anderson Franco, one of the Nationals’ newest international signings, to Double-A infielder Jason Martinson, who celebrated his 25th birthday this past week. The camp also included a number of 2013 draft picks, who have yet to participate in Spring Training.

Ross Detwiler made great progress in the Instructional League.

Ross Detwiler made great progress in the Instructional League.

“Overall, it was a good camp,” Scialabba said. “It was about three-and-a-half weeks long, so it’s not an extremely long period of time – but when we’re on the field, we play the game hard.”

The Instructional League schedule is also helpful for rehabilitating Major Leaguers. This year they had left-hander Ross Detwiler, who did very well in his continued rehab from a back injury. Scialabba said everything was a success during Detwiler’s time in Viera, where he headed during the final weeks of the big league club’s season and pitched in game situations.

“Ross threw the ball really well,” Scialabba said. “He finished the camp healthy. Outing to outing he improved, and his fastball velocity was there. We couldn’t ask for anything more from Ross.”

For players with less experience than Detwiler, the Instructional League also helps prepare them for the length of a full big league season. Many Minor Leaguers see their game action come to an end around Labor Day, so the extra few weeks of baseball can be essential to their development. The extra playing time can particularly benefit players like 2012 first-round pick Lucas Giolito, who came back from Tommy John surgery to throw 36.2 innings between the Rookie Gulf Coast League Nationals and Short-Season A Auburn Doubledays this year.

“(Lucas) did a great job,” Scialabba said of the 6-foot-6 righty. “His stuff is off the charts and he has an electric arm. He has to learn to put away hitters with all three pitches, continue his development with PFP (pitchers’ fielding practice), hold runners and control the strike zone. We’re really pleased with his progression so far.”

Two other pitchers who earned high praise following their Instructional League performances were 2013 top pick Jake Johansen and young Dominican hurler Jefry Rodriguez.

Lucas Giolito continued to impress in his first full season of professional ball.

Lucas Giolito continued to impress in his first full season of professional ball.

Johansen, selected in the second round out of Dallas Baptist University, dominated in his first taste of Minor League action. The right-hander compiled a 1.06 ERA in 10 starts for Short-Season A Auburn, striking out 44 batters and allowing just 22 hits in 42.1 innings. Rodriguez, 20, went 3-0 with a 2.45 ERA for the GCL champion Nationals squad during the 2013 season and continued his progression in the Instructional League. Scialabba said the lean, 6-foot-5 right-hander touched 96 miles per hour with a good curveball in Viera, giving Nats fans another young arm to keep an eye on for the future.

On the offensive side of the ball, Scialabba singled out 2013 third-rounder Drew Ward and 20-year-old catcher Pedro Severino as stars of the Instructional League camp.

“Drew Ward really shined,” Scialabba said of the 18-year-old third baseman, who completed high school a year early to enter the draft. “He’s mature beyond his years; not only physically, but mentally. He has very good plate discipline for a young player, with a very short stroke that stays in the zone for a long period of time.

“Pedro is a young catcher with tremendous makeup. He’s a high-energy guy who has worked really hard at learning the English language. He has a contact bat, but his value is going to be his defense. He has a cannon behind the plate.”

When camp wrapped up a week ago, the final step for the Nationals participants was to receive their offseason workout plans and get their nutritional programs in order. Most players will take a break from baseball and start hitting the weights in the next few weeks, before ramping up their baseball activity closer to Spring Training.

Scialabba also said some select players will return to Viera this November for a newly implemented winter conditioning program. The extra instruction will give the staff yet another opportunity to ensure the young talent throughout the organization stays on course for a successful 2014 season.

Signature Moments of 2013: Semifinal #2

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With 86 wins in the books, the 2013 season had its share of lasting memories. We have seeded the top 10 in our book, and over the next few weeks we will be letting you vote in a bracket-style competition to determine the ultimate signature moment of the season. Check back every Monday, Wednesday and Friday through the World Series for a new poll and to see which moments advanced on to the next round.

SigMomentsBracket 10-21

“IT AIN’T OVER…” | 9.17


Following the tragic events of September 16 at the nearby Navy Yard, the mood was somber as the Nationals took on the Atlanta Braves in game one of a split doubleheader the next day. Down two in the bottom of the ninth against the seemingly unbeatable Craig Kimbrel, the Nats rallied for three runs to win the game, scoring the go-ahead and winning runs on a grounder by Denard Span that snuck between the legs of Atlanta shortstop Andrelton Simmons.

A STORYBOOK BEGINNING | 4.1

On April 1, Bryce Harper’s first swing of the 2013 campaign connected with a hanging curveball out of Ricky Nolasco’s hand, soared 406 feet and landed in the right field seats. In his second at-bat, the defending National League Rookie of the Year punished another Nolasco breaking ball, again to right. He couldn’t have scripted a better start to his sophomore season.

LastPoll

An Introduction

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by Amanda Comak

Welcome to the “new” Curly W Live Blog, which is a lot like the old one, except for one twist:  I am pleased to announce that the Washington Nationals have asked me to come aboard and steward the keyboard in this space.

Going forward, this is the main spot where you can find my writing, along with plenty of other Nationals-related content.

Loyal Curly W Live blog readers may notice some changes over the next few months, and certainly when things get underway in the 2014 season.

We’re going to have more contributors, including myself, and the hope is that we will be able to provide a comprehensive inside look at the team by bringing all kinds of interesting stories to the forefront. That goes for all of our publications, too, including Inside Pitch, which is available in-season at the ballpark, and Nationals Magazine, where my writing will be featured as well.

When I left The Washington Times after three seasons on the Nationals beat, I mentioned that part of why I was doing so was because it was time for a change. While my role is different, and multi-faceted here, I will still be writing. I will still be a vocal part of the coverage of this team going forward. But this is also a new challenge for me, and a new opportunity. I couldn’t be more excited about the potential that lies ahead in bringing some of the best stories about this team to you, the fans.

From a technical standpoint, I have joined the Nationals as Director of Baseball Media Relations and New Media. So, in addition to working with the media, some of my responsibilities include overseeing our various social media channels. With that in mind — and to be sure that you don’t miss a thing — please follow the Nationals accounts on Twitter (@nationals), Facebook (facebook.com/nationals) and Instagram (@nationals), if you are not already.

I will remain active on my @acomak account on Twitter as well, but the best place to go will be @Nationals for all of your updates.

Thanks for taking a few minutes to read about what’s been going on here. This offseason should be an exciting one for the Nationals, and I’m looking forward to getting started.

Signature Moments of 2013: Semifinal #1

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With 86 wins in the books, the 2013 season had its share of lasting memories. We have seeded the top 10 in our book, and over the next few weeks we will be letting you vote in a bracket-style competition to determine the ultimate signature moment of the season. Check back every Monday, Wednesday and Friday through the World Series for a new poll and to see which moments advanced on to the next round.

SigMomentsBracket10-18

WALK-OFF WONDERS | 7.25 & 7.26

On July 25, in a 7-7 tie with two outs and a runner on first in the bottom of the ninth, Bryce Harper ripped a line drive to deep left-center field, just clearing the #NATITUDE sign and dropping into the second row of the Red Porch for the first game-winning home run of his career. The very next night, in the second game of a doubleheader with the New York Mets, Ryan Zimmerman punished a high fastball over the out-of-town scoreboard to give the Nationals a 2-1 victory. It was his ninth-career walk-off home run, four shy of the Major League record.

ONE GRAND SWING | 8.10

Jayson Werth reached the 1,000-hit milestone in memorable fashion on August 10, in an 8-5 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies. After a pair of singles in his second and third at-bats got him to 999, Werth was set up for a chance to reach the 1,000 mark in his next at-bat, which came in a tie game with a runner at first and two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning. The normally methodical Werth took no time to make his presence felt, jumping on the first pitch and wrapping it inside the left field foul pole for a go-ahead, two-run home run.

GrandOverWalkoff

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