April 2014

Nationals Game Notes — April 30 at Houston Astros

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Game #28: Washington Nationals (15-12) at Houston Astros (9-18) | 7:10 p.m. CT (8:10 p.m. ET) | Minute Maid Park
Pitching Match-Ups: RHP Jordan Zimmermann (1-1, 4.05 ERA) vs. LHP Brett Oberholtzer (0-4, 4.61 ERA)
Radio: 106.7 FM / 1500 AM, also on nationals.com (for subscribers to MLB.tv)
TV: The game will be televised on MASN 2
Live Stats: nationals.com

Here are tonight’s game notes, courtesy of the Washington Nationals PR department. Enjoy!

Bryce Harper comes through surgery on left thumb

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by Amanda Comak

HOUSTON –  Bryce Harper underwent surgery on Tuesday to repair the ulnar collateral ligament in his left thumb. The Washington Nationals outfielder is expected to begin his rehab immediately.

040913-348 bryce harperHarper, who injured his thumb sliding into the third base bag on Friday night, visited the Cleveland Clinic on Monday for a second opinion. It was determined there that surgery was the best option for the 21-year-old slugger.

“We got a little message from Bryce about getting back to (batting practice) post-surgery, so it went fine,” manager Matt Williams said before the Nationals played the Astros on Tuesday night.

“We’ll have to see how long that takes. We expect him to heal fast. He’s young and, given his history, he’s healed pretty fast. We’re optimistic about it but unsure at this point how long exactly it will take.”

The injury adds to the talented list of walking wounded currently on the Nationals’ roster as Harper joins Ryan Zimmerman (finger), Wilson Ramos (hand), Doug Fister (lat) and Scott Hairston (oblique) on the Disabled List – though all are progressing well in their individual returns to the active roster.

Harper was batting .289 with a .352 on-base percentage and .422 slugging percentage at the time of his injury, but it appeared he was just starting to find his groove. In his last 62 at-bats, Harper is hitting .339 with a .406 on-base percentage and .516 slugging percentage.

“It hurts a lot,” Williams said of losing Harper for a significant amount of time. “He’s a fantastic player and we’ll certainly miss him but we’ve got to step up and play well. At this point he’s going to be out for an extended period and we’ll just have to play and win our games.”

With Harper out, the work the Nationals did to overhaul their bench in the offseason will be brought to the forefront.

Nate McLouth, Kevin Frandsen, Tyler Moore and — when he returns from the DL — Hairston, will likely share the responsibilities of filling that spot in left field.

McLouth, who posted a .258 average, .351 on-base percentage and .459 slugging percentage in 2013 with the Baltimore Orioles, hit his first home run of the season on Sunday.

Nationals recall RHP Ryan Mattheus, option RHP Taylor Jordan

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by Amanda Comak

062111-688 ryan mattheusHOUSTON — The Washington Nationals recalled right-handed reliever Ryan Mattheus from Triple-A Syracuse on Tuesday and optioned right-handed starter Taylor Jordan there.

Mattheus, 30, joins the Nationals after pitching in eight games for Triple-A Syracuse, working in both short relief as well as multi-inning appearances. In 10 innings of work, Mattheus has struck out eight batters and walked only three; he has allowed 11 hits and worked to a 5.40 ERA.

In four home games (6.2 IP) Mattheus has held opponents to a .227 batting average.

Acquired by the Nationals in 2009, Mattheus has pitched to a 3.77 ERA in parts of three Major League seasons, including posting a 2.84 mark in his first two seasons in the big leagues (101 games, 98.1 innings pitched).

Mattheus Spring Training was shortened a bit after he dealt with a bout of costochondritis, an inflammation of the cartilage that connects a rib to the sternum. Ultimately the Nationals felt the right-hander didn’t have as much time as they’d have liked to build up his strength and be ready to open the regular season on the Major League roster.

Jordan, 25, made five starts for the Nationals this season. He was 0-3 with a 5.61 ERA in 25.2 innings. In 14 career Major League games (77.1 IP), Jordan has a 4.31 ERA.

Nationals Magazine preview: Gio Gonzalez; Line in the Water

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The following is an excerpt from the April/May issue of Nationals Magazine. To read the full story, visit nationals.com/publications to find out how you can subscribe. The April/May issue of Nationals Magazine is on sale now, can be purchased at the Main Clubhouse Team Store at Nationals Park and is also available inside Nationals Park on gamedays.

by Amanda Comak

Gio Gonzalez, the Nationals’ affable left-hander, is at peace as he begins his third season in Washington, a demeanor he’s arrived at with time spent with a fishing pole in hand. 

gio line in the water1There is a spot just off the Pineda Causeway, before the bridge reconnects with U.S. Route 1 and just far enough into the Indian River, where it’s easy to feel like you’re away from the rest of the world for a while. The waves crash against the base of the bridge and the breeze tempers the late afternoon sun.

It is a spot that Gio Gonzalez found during his first Spring Training with the Washington Nationals, now three camps ago. He used to come to this small pull-off with teammates. Sometimes Michael Morse, other times Edwin Jackson or Yunesky Maya, whose knack for fishing Gonzalez still hasn’t forgotten. They’d park their cars mere feet from the water and spend a few hours letting their minds focus on the fish.

On one idyllic afternoon this February, Gonzalez came here with his father, Max. They pulled off the causeway and dropped a few lines into the water. Max lit a cigar. They gazed into the horizon and relaxed.

“Any problem you have, you come out and fish and it’s like it disappears,” Gio said.

He smiled easily as his father joked with him and told stories.

There was the time Max took Gio and his brothers to the Florida Keys for a few days when they were kids. They slept in a tent right on the shore and spent the days fishing and swimming. One afternoon, moments after they’d gotten out of the water from a swim, “the biggest manatee I ever saw swam by,” Max recalled, separating his arms to emphasize his point. “They flipped,” he added with a chuckle.

Not 10 minutes after he’d told the manatee story, Max, standing about 15 feet from his son, spotted a familiar creature and shouted excitedly to Gio. Three manatees swam by, playing with one another as they went.

“Wow,” Gio said as they passed, a smile crossing his face. “You can’t beat that with a stick.”

Just as he seemed on that afternoon, Gonzalez begins his third season in Washington with a sense of peace about him. He has put a tumultuous 2013 season — the first in his career in which he did not improve upon what he’d done the year before — behind him. The potential for greatness remains ahead.

Asked if he’s excited for the upcoming season, Gonzalez is firm.

“I am,” he said without hesitation. “We just look focused — even our young guys in camp. Everyone has a focus about them… It just feels right.”

Cover-Mag1-webTo continue reading “Line in the Water” on Nationals left-hander Gio Gonzalez, along with more great content from Nationals Magazine, please visit nationals.com/publications, or pick up a copy at the Main Clubhouse Team Store at Nationals Park, as well as inside Nationals Park on gamedays.

Nationals Minor League Report

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Welcome to the 2014 Minor League Report, a comprehensive collection of notes from the Washington Nationals PR staff that highlights the outstanding performers in the Nationals’ Minor League system through the season’s first few weeks.

To view this report on your full screen, please click the icon in the bottom right corner of the notes.

Enjoy!

Minor League Report; April 23, 2014

Nationals recall RHP Aaron Barrett, option LHP Xavier Cedeno

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by Amanda Comak

The Washington Nationals recalled right-handed reliever Aaron Barrett from Triple-A Syracuse on Tuesday afternoon and optioned left-handed reliever Xavier Cedeno there.

Marlins v. NationalsIn two appearances since being optioned to Triple-A on April 12, Barrett, 26, collected two saves and did not allow a run in 2.1 innings pitched. He surrendered just two hits, walked one and struck out two.

Barrett, a rookie who made the Nationals out of Spring Training after a strong performance in Major League camp, has pitched in six Major League games (4.1 IP) this season and has not allowed an earned run.

Of the 16 batters Barrett has faced in the Major Leagues, he’s allowed just one hit, walked only two and struck out six.

Despite his youthful status on the Nationals’ roster, manager Matt Williams rarely hesitated to trust Barrett with getting big outs early in the season. He made his Major League debut in the ninth inning of a tie game on Opening Day, and on another occasion he was summoned to face Giancarlo Stanton, one of the most feared power hitters in the Major Leagues, in a one-run game. He met those challenges head-on.

Cedeno, 27, appeared in one game for the Nationals, tossing 1.1 innings against the Los Angeles Angels on Monday night. He allowed two hits but did not surrender a run.

In three appearances with Triple-A Syracuse this season, Cedeno has tossed 3.2 scoreless innings. For the Chiefs, Cedeno has allowed just one hit, walked one and struck out four while holding opponents to a .077 batting average. Acquired from the Astros in April of 2013, Cedeno has amassed 46.1 innings and worked to a 4.16 ERA in parts of four Major League seasons.

Nationals welcome 20 millionth fan

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by Mike Feigen

St. Louis Cardinals v Washington NationalsThe Washington Nationals welcomed their 20 millionth fan in franchise history Friday night, honoring the lucky guest, Wayne Gonsorcik, with a pregame celebration prior to the team’s contest with the St. Louis Cardinals.

Gonsorcik, a Hospital Corpsman Chief Petty Officer in the United States Navy, attended the game with his wife, Tara, and two young children. The family was awarded with seat upgrades to the Lexus Presidents Club seats behind home plate, a signed Jordan Zimmermann jersey and tickets to a future Nats game of their choice.

“(I was) a little astonished — quite surprised,” Gonsorcik said of the experience. “We’ve been treated like royalty tonight.”

Gonsorcik, originally from Dale City, Va., was vacationing from his home in Pensacola, Fla., where he works as an instructor training Navy recruiters. The active duty officer has been in the Navy for nearly 20 years, serving two tours in Iraq.

Including the Gonsorcik family, the Nationals have welcomed 20,016,672 fans to RFK Stadium and Nationals Park since baseball returned to the nation’s capital in 2005.

Nationals recall LHP Xavier Cedeno, option RHP Blake Treinen

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by Amanda Comak

The Washington Nationals recalled left-handed reliever Xavier Cedeno from Triple-A Syracuse on Friday afternoon and optioned right-hander Blake Treinen to Syracuse.

In three appearances with Triple-A Syracuse this season, Cedeno has tossed 3.2 scoreless innings. Cedeno has allowed just one hit, walked one and struck out four while holding opponents to a .077 batting average.

Acquired from the Astros in April of 2013, Cedeno, 27, appeared in 11 games and worked to a 1.50 ERA with Washington last season. In parts of three Major League seasons, Cedeno has amassed 45 innings and worked to a 5.40 ERA.

Treinen, 25, made his Major League debut with the Nationals on April 12, pitching two scoreless innings against the Atlanta Braves.

In three Major League appearances, the hard-throwing right-hander who has drawn raves from team officials and scouts since Spring Training, allowed just one earned run in 6.2 innings of work, a 1.35 ERA.

He earned his first Major League strikeout on April 12 when he got Braves third baseman Chris Johnson swinging.

The Kids Are All Right

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by Amanda Comak

In the final weeks of Spring Training, as the Washington Nationals began to whittle their roster down to the 25 men who would travel north with them to begin the 2014 season, manager Matt Williams had to have several difficult conversations. Rosters constraints are what they are, Williams had to explain, and at that moment there just wasn’t room for everyone.

There was one caveat Williams tried to impress on some of the young talent that made the trek to his office in those final days of camp.

“You need 35 guys during the course of a season – on the low end,” he told them. “We’re going to need you guys at some point. Make sure you’re ready.”

In the first three weeks of the season, the Nationals have already summoned four of those players, and no fewer than five rookies, including right-hander Aaron Barrett who made the team out of camp, have made significant contributions. It’s the first time since 2009 that the Nationals have used as many as five rookies in the month of April.

Aaron Barrett holds the ball used in his first MLB strikeout.

Aaron Barrett holds the ball used in his first MLB strikeout.

Early-season injuries, along with a taxed bullpen, have necessitated the promotions of catcher Sandy Leon, right-hander Blake Treinen, outfielder Steven Souza Jr., and infielder Zach Walters. Barrett, who was outstanding in six games (4.1 IP), did not surrender a single earned run and allowed just one hit before a the need for a fresh arm sent him to Syracuse last weekend.

On the Nationals’ most recent road trip, clubhouse manager Mike Wallace was so busy properly inscribing important baseballs for the many “firsts” the rookies racked up, it seemed the Nationals were rolling a ball out of play every night.

“They all proved that they were capable during Spring Training,” Williams said this past week. “Some guys have been up here before, but they were ready to come when they were called. That’s a testament to player development, making sure they’re playing enough and getting at-bats and doing things they need to do to be ready when they’re called.

“We don’t want them called – and by that I mean, because you want your starting guys out there – but it’s a testament to them that they were ready.”

For the players, it has been quite an experience.

“The whole thing is a dream,” Walters said. “Just being here.”

When Barrett entered to make his Major League debut on Opening Day – in a tie game – his adrenaline surged. Before he began his warm-up pitches, shortstop Ian Desmond approached him.

“He just looked at me and said, ‘Hey, just take a second and look around. Just take this all in,’” Barrett said later that day. “I’m just really glad he did that, because I’ll never forget that moment and that he did that for me.”

Zach Walters, left, Steven Souza Jr., center, and Sandy Leon, right, hold the baseballs used in their various MLB "firsts" before a game in Miami this week.

Zach Walters, left, Steven Souza Jr., center, and Sandy Leon, right, hold the baseballs used in their various MLB “firsts” before a game in Miami this week.

Treinen made his Major League debut on Saturday, April 12, and registered his first Major League strikeout that night when Atlanta Braves third baseman Chris Johnson swung at strike three.

Leon, who has appeared in the big leagues in each of the past two seasons but retains his rookie status, smashed his first Major League home run over the right field wall on Monday night in Miami. After that game, Leon smiled often and called his first MLB homer “really awesome.”

Walters, who is also in his second big league stint after a September call-up last season, followed suit on Tuesday, crushing his first big league home run to right field. He didn’t wait long for his second, either, with a shot to deep left field that broke a 3-3 tie with the Marlins in an eventual 6-3 victory.

Souza Jr., whose indirect path to the Major Leagues has brought his emotions right to the surface now that he is here, picked up his first big league hit on Tuesday night, a single up the middle. When he got back to the dugout, his teammates were waiting for him.

“It’s so cool, man,” Souza Jr. said. “The love you get around here, the camaraderie. I’m just the new guy up there. Everybody is making me feel so welcome. To get hugs from (Desmond), who I started (in the organization) with, to Tyler (Moore), one of my best friends, it’s just a moment I’ll never forget.”

Sandy Leon holds the ball he hit for his first MLB home run.

Sandy Leon holds the ball he hit for his first MLB home run.

“I was just glad I was able to get a couple of zeroes and some outs, and do what I was called up here to do: eat some innings and help save our bullpen,” Treinen said after his debut. “It felt good. I’m kind of at a loss for words. It was fun to be up here at this level.”

The baseballs used in those “firsts” become the ultimate keepsakes for the players. They are authenticated by a Major League Baseball authenticator and inscribed by Wallace. Where they go from there is up to each guy. Treinen immediately gave his to his parents, and Souza Jr. said his was likely heading to his parents as well.

“It’s one of those things,” Souza Jr. said. “You’ve come so far, and all the hard work (that’s gone into getting here), and the people who helped me along this way, it’s a moment to kind of share with everyone.”

“These guys have wanted to do this since they were six years old,” said Williams, who still has the baseballs from his “firsts” as a player. “It’s the culmination of your efforts to become a big leaguer. And then there are three stages of that: you want to get there, you want to stay, and then you want to win a championship.

“I’m happy to see them all doing well.”

Mike Rizzo talks injuries, roster moves & more

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by Amanda Comak

ATLANTA — Washington Nationals President of Baseball Operations and General Manager Mike Rizzo met with the media before this afternoon’s game at Turner Field to discuss a litany of topics that have arisen in the season’s first two weeks.

Here’s some of what Rizzo discussed, from injuries to roster moves and the growing rivalry with the Atlanta Braves.

Atlanta Braves v Washington NationalsOn how he feels the team is positioned after losing Doug Fister, Wilson Ramos, Denard Span and Ryan Zimmerman to early injuries: 

“We feel as good as we can with the glut of injuries that we’ve had to key players. We’re talking about your middle-of-the-lineup bats. But we prepared for it this offseason with the acquisitions of (catcher Jose Lobaton) and key guys like (Kevin Frandsen) and (Nate McLouth). We still feel good about the roster.”

On if he feels the Nationals are just not catching any breaks early, with regard to injuries:

“No, nobody cares. The rest of the league doesn’t care. We’re just trying to work our way through it. We’ve got a game every day. That’s the one thing about baseball. The everydayness of it is really what separates the sport. That’s why we have 40-man rosters, that’s why we have Minor League systems.

“Injuries happen and you have to prepare for them. We think we’re well-prepared and well-positioned to handle them. We’ve got games to play and games to win.”

On how Denard Span is doing after being placed on the 7-day DL Saturday with a concussion:

“We’re going to have the doctor re-examine him tomorrow in Miami. He’s going to do some physical activities, and then we’ll take it from there.”

On Ryan Zimmerman’s prognosis after fracturing his right thumb on Saturday night:

“It’s a clean fracture. I saw the X-rays and I talked to the doctor. He’s going to see a hand specialist (at the Cleveland Clinic) on Monday. We’ll get a diagnosis and make our plans from there.”

On infielder Zach Walters, who was called up to replace Zimmerman on the roster

“He’s capable of playing (second base, third base and shortstop). His natural position is shortstop. He’s got the skillset to play shortstop. He’s going to play all the different positions, and being a switch hitter off the bench with power helps us.”

On Doug Fister’s rehab from a strained lat muscle:

“Doug’s involved in his (throwing) program. He’ll progress to another bullpen (on Monday), throwing all this pitches, and he’ll take the next step depending on how it goes.”

On his opinions of the job manager Matt Williams has done in the season’s first 11 games: 

“It’s the same game he’s always watched. Putting the lineups together, running the game in his mind (it’s not unfamiliar to him). Besides the newness of instant replay, it’s baseball as usual.

“He’s got a great support system around him with the coaches. It’s baseball 24/7 with Matt and the rest of them. They’re constantly in the clubhouse talking baseball. It’s a great dynamic and it’s enjoyable to see.”

On his evaluations of Danny Espinosa thus far this season as he bounces back from 2013: 

“We’re glad we drafted him and developed him. We’ve always valued him as a really good Major League player. It’s time for him and for other players on the team to show (what they can do).”

On how he views the Nationals’ games against the Braves: 

“(I’ve seen) great games. They’ve come on the winning side of it more often than we like, but we feel confident against this team. We feel we’re better than this team. We respect them, we respect the organization, but we don’t fear them . We think we’re the better team and we think at the end of the day we’re going to come out on top.”

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