Archive for the ‘ Author – Amanda Comak ’ Category

Frank Thomas becomes first Hall of Fame player signed by Mike Rizzo

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by Amanda Comak

For nearly 20 minutes on a spectacular Sunday afternoon in Cooperstown, NY, Frank Thomas stood in front of thousands of fans, friends, family, and those he could now call his contemporaries: fellow Hall of Famers. For nearly 20 minutes, the man the baseball world came to know as ‘The Big Hurt,’ delivered an emotional, touching speech.

Seven minutes into that speech — one littered with the thanks he had for those who’d helped him on his way to becoming one of the most feared right-handed hitters of a generation — Thomas uttered the name of Washington Nationals President of Baseball Operations and GM, Mike Rizzo.

“I would like to thank the Chicago White Sox organization for drafting me into professional baseball,” Thomas said. “Special thanks to Jerry Reinsdorf, Eddie Einhorn, Larry Himes, Al Goldis, (Howard) Pizer and Mike Rizzo, for taking a chance on a kid from a small town with many big dreams.”

Sunday was an exceptional day for Frank Thomas, along with the rest of the 2014 Hall of Fame class. But it was an exceptional day for so many others, too, who’d had a hand in helping to get those transcendent talents to this point. When it comes to Thomas, count Rizzo among that group.

“It’s a very proud day for me,” Rizzo said Sunday morning on MASN. “He’s a player who is very near and dear to my heart. He was the first big leaguer that I ever signed, and obviously the first Hall of Famer I ever signed. I’m just so happy for him. He was a guy a lot of people doubted when he was coming up and Frank played with a little chip on his shoulder. I think that drove him to be the player he (became) — and what a special player.

“In my opinion he’s one of the greatest right-handed hitters of all time, and certainly the greatest right-handed hitter I ever signed.”

The moment the White Sox selected Thomas with the No. 7 overall pick in the 1989 draft was obviously a seminal one for the organization, as well as Thomas. But it served as one for Rizzo, too.

Rizzo was a young area scout then, and White Sox GM and Scouting Director, Himes and Goldis, respectively, put their faith in Rizzo’s scouting abilities by trusting his recommendation and taking Thomas. It wasn’t without pushback from other scouts, who wondered about Thomas’ speed and defensive abilities. But Rizzo was clear: This guy can hit. He will hit.

“The debate was ‘Do you take a first baseman with the seventh overall pick in the draft?'” Rizzo recalled. “Any scout will tell you the toughest thing to scout when you’re in the amateur game of scouting is the hit tool. Everyone can see velocity. There’s a radar gun for that. You know when a guy can run fast because there’s a stopwatch for that. There’s no instrument to judge if the guy can hit or not. It’s something that’s really in the eye of the beholder — and when you’re taking a first baseman as big as Frank, who doesn’t possess great defensive skills and speed, but a guy who’s going to have to hit for a living, it’s much more difficult.

“But Larry Himes and Al Goldis both had some hitting background and expertise and to sell them on a guy we should take seventh and if he doesn’t hit he doesn’t play, it was challenging. It was something I was really hell-bent on (though) because I really did think he was an impact bat. And at the end of the day they trusted my judgment.”

Himes and Goldis also afforded Rizzo the opportunity to negotiate Thomas’ contract — and that was perhaps the first step on Rizzo’s path to becoming a Major League GM, and now President of the Nationals’ Baseball Operations.

Rizzo signed Thomas for $175,000 — less than the amount Himes and Goldis had given him as a maximum to work with.

Twenty-five years later, on an idyllic Sunday in upstate New York, Thomas became a Hall of Famer. And Rizzo could take a lot of pride in that.

Nationals recall Zach Walters, place Ryan Zimmerman on 15-day DL

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by Amanda Comak

Milwaukee Brewers v Washington NationalsThe Nationals placed Ryan Zimmerman on the 15-Day Disabled List on Wednesday afternoon with a right hamstring strain, and recalled infielder Zach Walters from Triple-A Syracuse.

Walters, 24, rejoins the Nationals for his second Major League stint of the season. In 60 games at Triple-A this season, Walters is hitting .300 with a .358 on-base percentage and a .608 slugging percentage. While racking up 38 extra-base hits, Walters has clubbed 15 home runs and collected 48 RBI.

In his last 10 games with Syracuse, Walters has hit .475 with a .523 on-base percentage and a .608 slugging percentage.

From April 13 – May 24, Walters appeared in 27 Major League games (two starts) and hit .182 (6-for-33) with all three of his home runs coming off the bench.

Zimmerman, 29, hits the DL for the second time this season after missing 44 games with a right thumb fracture earlier in the year. The Nationals’ third baseman/left fielder is hitting .282 on the season with five home runs, 19 doubles and 36 RBI.

In the month of July, Zimmerman has collected 21 hits in 58 at-bats (.362 AVG), posted a .418 on-base percentage and a .569 slugging percentage, courtesy of eight extra-base hits (six doubles, two home runs).

When Zimmerman has been in the Nationals’ starting lineup this season, they are 33-19 and average 4.9 runs per game. In the 46 games they have played without him, the Nationals averaged 3.5 runs per game and went 22-24.

Nationals Game Notes — July 20 vs. Milwaukee Brewers

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Game No. 96: Washington Nationals (52-43) vs. Milwaukee Brewers (54-44) | 1:35 p.m. ET | Nationals Park
Pitching Match-Up: LHP Gio Gonzalez (6-5, 3.56 ERA) vs. RHP Yovani Gallardo (5-5, 3.68)
Washington Nationals left-hander Gio Gonzalez is 4-0 with a 0.32 ERA (1 ER/28.0 IP) in four starts this season against National League Central foes.
Radio: 106.7 FM / 1500 AM  and also on nationals.com (for subscribers to MLB.tv)
TV: Today’s game will be televised on MASN and WUSA9
Live Statsnationals.com

Of note:

  • Gio Gonzalez enters his start today with 995 career strikeouts (511 as an Athletic, 484 as a National). Only seven pitchers have pitched for the Nationals (2005 – pres.) and amassed 1,000+ strikeouts during their careers: Pedro Astacio, Miguel Batista, Dan Haren, Livan Hernandez, Edwin Jackson, Esteban Loaiza and Jason Marquis.

Here are the lineups for today’s match-up:

NATIONALS (52-43)

2 Denard Span (L) CF
6 Anthony Rendon 2B
28 Jayson Werth RF
25 Adam LaRoche (L) 1B
11 Ryan Zimmerman 3B
34 Bryce Harper (L) LF
20 Ian Desmond SS
59 Jose Lobaton (S) C
47 Gio Gonzalez LHP

BREWERS (54-44)

27 Carlos Gomez CF
23 Rickie Weeks 2B
8 Ryan Braun RF
16 Aramis Ramirez 3B
20 Jonathan Lucroy C
18 Khris Davis LF
7 Mark Reynolds 1B
9 Jean Segura SS
49 Yovani Gallardo RHP

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

Nationals Game Notes — July 19 vs. Milwaukee Brewers

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Game No. 95: Washington Nationals (51-43) vs. Milwaukee Brewers (54-43) | 7:05 p.m. ET | Nationals Park
Pitching Match-Up: RHP Tanner Roark (8-6, 3.01 ERA) vs. RHP Matt Garza (6-6, 3.69)
Washington Nationals right-hander Tanner Roark has never faced the Brewers but is 6-5 with a 2.34 ERA (23 ER/88.1 IP) when facing any team for the first time in a starting role (14 career starts).
Radio: 106.7 FM / 1500 AM  and also on nationals.com (for subscribers to MLB.tv)
TV: Today’s game will be televised on MASN and WUSA9
Live Statsnationals.com

Of note:

  • The Nationals’ 3.09 staff ERA leads Major League Baseball (Oakland is second) and Nationals pitchers rank among MLB’s top two in the following categories: fielding-independent pitching (first, 3.20), fewest earned runs allowed (first, 293), walks/9.0 inn. (first, 2.40), fewest walks (first, 228), SO/BB ratio (2nd, 3.34/1), homers allowed (2nd, 63), homers allowed/9.0 inn. (2nd, 0.66), stolen bases against (2nd, 30).

Here are the lineups for today’s match-up:

NATIONALS (51-43)

2 Denard Span (L) CF
6 Anthony Rendon 2B
28 Jayson Werth RF
25 Adam LaRoche (L) 1B
11 Ryan Zimmerman 3B
34 Bryce Harper (L) LF
20 Ian Desmond SS
40 Wilson Ramos C
57 Tanner Roark RHP

BREWERS (53-43)

27 Carlos Gomez CF
2 Scooter Gennett (L) 2B
8 Ryan Braun RF
16 Aramis Ramirez 3B
20 Jonathan Lucroy C
18 Khris Davis LF
24 Lyle Overbay (L) 1B
9 Jean Segura SS
22 Matt Garza RHP

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

Nationals Game Notes — July 18 vs. Milwaukee Brewers

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Game No. 94: Washington Nationals (51-42) vs. Milwaukee Brewers (53-43) | 7:05 p.m. ET | Nationals Park
Pitching Match-Up: RHP Stephen Strasburg (7-6, 3.46 ERA) vs. RHP Kyle Lohse (9-4, 3.26)
Washington Nationals right-hander Stephen Strasburg has earned at least one win at the expense of 12 of the National League’s other 14 teams. Exceptions: Milwaukee/2 starts, St. Louis/4 starts)
Radio: 106.7 FM / 1500 AM  and also on nationals.com (for subscribers to MLB.tv)
TV: Today’s game will be televised on MASN
Live Statsnationals.com

Of note:

  • Dating to May 30, the Nationals are 9-2-2 (win-loss-tie) in series play, and 26-15 (.634)overall. Three of their nine series wins in that span were sweeps (3-0 vs. Philadelphia, 2-0 vs. Houston, 3-0 vs. Colorado). (The Nationals’ home-and-home set with the Orioles is considered one series for this note.)

Here are the lineups for today’s match-up:

NATIONALS (51-42)

2 Denard Span (L) CF
6 Anthony Rendon 2B
28 Jayson Werth RF
25 Adam LaRoche (L) 1B
11 Ryan Zimmerman 3B
34 Bryce Harper (L) LF
20 Ian Desmond SS
40 Wilson Ramos C
37 Stephen Strasburg RHP

Brewers (53-43)

27 Carlos Gomez CF
2 Scooter Gennett (L) 2B
8 Ryan Braun RF
16 Aramis Ramirez 3B
20 Jonathan Lucroy C
18 Khris Davis LF
7 Mark Reynolds 1B
9 Jean Segura SS
26 Kyle Lohse RHP

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

Nationals agree to terms with RHP Erick Fedde

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by Amanda Comak

The Washington Nationals agreed to terms with right-handed pitcher Erick Fedde on Friday afternoon, the No. 18 overall pick in the 2014 First-Year Player Draft.

Fedde, a 6-foot-4, 180-pound junior out of the University of Nevada Las Vegas, is regarded as one of the top collegiate arms in the 2014 First-Year Player Draft and is coming off a season in which he went 8-2 with a 1.76 ERA (15 ER/76.2 IP) and 82 strikeouts in 11 starts for the Rebels.

The 21-year-old was named the 2014 Mountain West Pitcher of the Year and to the All-Mountain West First Team after going 6-1 with league-leading 1.60 ERA (10 ER/56.1 IP) in eight starts in conference play. He was also named a Louisville Slugger Second-Team All-American by Collegiate Baseball and to the midseason Golden Spikes Award watch list.

Fedde entered the 2014 season rated as the No. 12 pitching prospect and the No. 17 overall prospect in collegiate baseball, according to Baseball America.

As a sophomore, in 2013, Fedde went 7-3 with a 3.92 ERA (42 ER/96.1 IP) in 15 starts. He led the UNLV staff and ranked fourth in the Mountain West with 83 strikeouts, and was named to the Spring Academic All-Mountain West team. Following the season, he was 3-1 with a 2.34 ERA for the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox of the Cape Cod Baseball League. He left the league after tossing a league-best 30.2 innings and recording 26 strikeouts, third-most in the league. Fedde joined the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team later in the summer.

The right-hander, who underwent “Tommy John” ligament replacement surgery on June 3, 2014, will report to Viera, Fla., to continue this rehab under the Nationals’ care.

Fedde is a graduate of Las Vegas High School where played alongside Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper. He was also an all-state soccer player and helped lead LVHS to a soccer state championship in 2009. He was originally selected by the San Diego Padres in the 24th round of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft, but he did not sign.

Running Men: A Nationals coaching staff routine

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by Amanda Comak

Nationals Manager Matt Williams, left, and third base coach Bobby Henley at the tail end of one of their runs this season.

Nationals Manager Matt Williams, left, and third base coach Bobby Henley at the tail end of one of their runs this season.

Inside the visitors’ clubhouse at AT&T Park, the music blared. High-fives and fist bumps were exchanged all over the room. Positive energy pumped through the locker stalls.

A long west coast trip had gotten off to a terrific start for the Washington Nationals with five wins in their first six games, including three straight against the San Francisco Giants — who came into the series playing better than any team in the National League.

Inside the manager’s office, Matt Williams smiled, and then groaned. Mere hours separated the Nationals from their next game, a 12:45 p.m. start locally, and then the next city on the trip beckoned.

“We have to run tomorrow,” Williams said late that night, massaging his left calf. “We’re killing ourselves.”

The “we” to which the Nationals’ manager referred was the coaching staff. And the runs, between 30-40 minutes or three to four miles of torture, well, they’ve become quite a routine among the Nationals’ coaches.

“It’s entirely superstitious,” Williams said in early July. “If we take a day off and we don’t win, then we definitely have to run the next day. If we run and we play like we did (in a 13-0 victory over the Chicago Cubs on July 5), then we have to run the exact same route.”

Williams, who used to run with the Diamondbacks coaching staff in previous years, brought the daily runs to the Nationals when he took over as manager. They’re all named, and folks of all fitness levels are welcome. They won’t leave any man behind, Williams said, but “we keep it sane, too.”

In D.C., they have three main runs: The River Run, featuring views of the Anacostia and the Potomac Rivers, the Capitol Run, which is up to and around the Capitol Building, and the Power Run, a jaunt to the Capitol Building, by the Supreme Court and past the Library of Congress.

It’s not hard to see how that one got its name.

“That’s the power of our country, right there,” Williams said.

But the road trips provide opportunities for other routes. Williams ticks them off with obvious enjoyment.

Attachment-1In San Francisco, they have the Embarcadero Run. In San Diego, it’s the Midway Run or the Airport Run (“Depending on how we’re feeling,” the manager explains). In Philadelphia, they leave from the hotel and do the Rocky Run. In Miami, the South Beach Run. St. Louis features the Arch Run, and in Milwaukee, from Miller Park, it’s the Graveyard Run. The list goes on. And everywhere the Nationals visit, they’ll have at least one running route to tour.

Williams, while the most enthusiastic about the runs, said the coaches have mostly jumped on board. It’s a time for them to build camaraderie and bond, while also (hopefully) bettering their own health.  Williams singled out third base coach Bobby Henley as one who has really taken to the runs and improved. Plus, there’s the aforementioned superstitions.

“They don’t gripe,” Williams said, smiling. “I hear little snippets, but no griping. Secretly I think they like it.”

But do they really?

“I absolutely hate ‘em,” said bench coach Randy Knorr. “But I go.”

Nationals RHP Tyler Clippard named to 2014 NL All-Star team

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by Amanda Comak

Atlanta Braves v Washington NationalsWashington Nationals right-hander Tyler Clippard earned his second All-Star nod on Sunday afternoon, named to the 2014 National League squad by St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny.

Clippard, 29, will replace Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Julio Teheran, who started Sunday’s contest at Chicago. The 85th Major League Baseball All-Star Game will be held at Target Field in Minneapolis, MN on Tuesday, July 15.

Long one of the league’s elite set-up men, Clippard is 6-2 with one save and a 2.03 ERA (9 ER/40 IP) in 43 appearances for the Nationals this season.

The right-hander leads the Nationals bullpen and ranks among National League relief leaders in wins (tied for 2nd in NL), strikeouts (8th, 53) and holds (4th, 19).

He has allowed an earned run in just two of his last 36 appearances (since April 15) and owns the longest scoreless inning streak of any Nationals reliever this season (19.2 innings).

Since his bullpen debut on June 25, 2009, Clippard paces Major League Baseball in relief strikeouts (493) and has pitched in more games (382) than any Nationals pitcher.

Clippard returns to the Mid-Summer Classic after a two-year hiatus. He was the Nationals’ lone representative in 2011, when he was selected by Giants field manager Bruce Bochy to participate in the game at Chase Field in Phoenix, AZ, where he earned the win for the National League squad.

Clippard joins Nationals right-hander Jordan Zimmermann as Nationals players honored as All-Stars this season. Zimmermann, who is also a two-time All-Star, won’t be able to pitch in Tuesday’s game due to a right bicep strain.

Nationals Game Notes — July 12 at Philadelphia Phillies

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Game No. 92: Washington Nationals (49-42) at Philadelphia Phillies (42-51) | 7:15 p.m. ET | Citizens Bank Park
Pitching Match-Up: RHP Stephen Strasburg (7-6, 3.47 ERA) vs. LHP Cole Hamels (3-5, 2.87)
Washington Nationals right-hander Stephen Strasburg (West Hills HS) and Philadelphia Phillies left-hander Cole Hamels (Rancho Bernardo HS), both natives of San Diego, match up for the third time (Strasburg’s ERA in the first 2 matchups: 0.64).
Radio: 106.7 FM / 1500 AM / ESPN Radio and also on nationals.com (for subscribers to MLB.tv)
TV: Today’s game will be televised on FOX
Live Statsnationals.com

Of note:

  • Wilson Ramos has hit safely in a career-high 14 straight games, going 20-for-53(.377) with four doubles, two homers and six RBI. Ramos’ 14-gamer is currently the longest hitting streak in the Major Leagues, and the longest posted by a National this season.

Here are the lineups for today’s match-up:

NATIONALS (49-42)

2 Denard Span (L) CF
6 Anthony Rendon 2B
28 Jayson Werth RF
25 Adam LaRoche (L) 1B
11 Ryan Zimmerman 3B
20 Ian Desmond SS
7 Scott Hairston LF
40 Wilson Ramos C
37 Stephen Strasburg RHP

Phillies (42-51)

24 Grady Sizemore (L) LF
11 Jimmy Rollins (S) SS
26 Chase Utley (L) 2B
6 Ryan Howard (L) 1B
3 Marlon Byrd RF
25 Cody Asche (L) 3B
29 Cameron Rupp C
2 Ben Revere (L) CF
35 Cole Hamels (L) LHP

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

Nationals Game Notes — July 8 vs. Baltimore Orioles

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Game No. 89: Washington Nationals (48-40) vs. Baltimore Orioles (49-40) | 7:05 p.m. ET | Nationals Park
Pitching Match-Up: RHP Doug Fister (7-2, 2.93 ERA) vs. RHP Bud Norris (7-5, 3.62)
Washington Nationals right-hander Doug Fister (51-52 career record) hopes to reach .500 for the first time since his career record was 6-6 in May, 2010.
Radio: 106.7 FM / 1500 AM, also on nationals.com (for subscribers to MLB.tv)
TV: Today’s game will be televised on MASN
Live Statsnationals.com

Of note:

  • The Nationals’ 23-13 (.639) record dating to May 30 is tied for the second-best mark in MLB with the Reds, Pirates and Mariners, and  only the Athletics (24-11, .686) have been superior. In this span, the Nationals have outscored their opponents by 52 runs (158 to 106).

Here are the lineups for today’s match-up:

NATIONALS (48-40)

2 Denard Span (L) CF
6 Anthony Rendon 2B
28 Jayson Werth RF
25 Adam LaRoche (L) 1B
11 Ryan Zimmerman 3B
34 Bryce Harper (L) LF
20 Ian Desmond SS
59 Jose Lobaton C
58 Doug Fister (L) RHP

Orioles (49-40)

21 Nick Markakis (L) RF
13 Manny Machado 3B
10 Adam Jones CF
23 Nelson Cruz LF
19 Chris Davis (L) 1B
2 J.J. Hardy SS
36 Caleb Joseph C
6 Jonathan Schoop 2B
25 Bud Norris RHP

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

 

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