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Nationals acquire RHP Joe Ross and a Player To Be Named from the Padres

The Washington Nationals acquired a former first-round draft selection in right-handed pitcher Joe Ross, and a player to be named, from the San Diego Padres on Friday in exchange for outfielder Steven Souza Jr. and left-hander Travis Ott. The deal was part of a three-team trade that included the Tampa Bay Rays, who will ultimately receive Souza Jr. and Ott.

Seattle Mariners v San Diego PadresRoss, 21, was 10-6 with a 3.92 ERA in 23 games (22 starts) between Single-A Lake Elsinore and Double-A San Antonio in 2014.

The 6-foot-4 righty struck out a career-best 106 batters and walked just 29 in 2014 — a 3.66 strikeout-to-walk ratio, the best of his career. In four games (three starts) for Double-A San Antonio, Ross fanned 19 batters while walking just one. He went 2-0 with a 3.60 ERA (8 ER/20.0 IP) after his late-July promotion. He features a mid-90s fastball that induces groundballs to go along with an above average slider.

In the hitter-friendly Single-A California League, Ross went 6-4 with a 3.76 ERA in 14 starts en route to being named a California League All-Star. In addition, he garnered California League Pitcher of the Week honors on May 5 after striking out nine batters in six innings of shutout ball, April 29 vs. Visalia (ARI).

Ross, who has improved his strikeouts per nine innings and walks per nine innings at each level of the Minor Leagues over the last two years, was considered by multiple industry experts to be one of the Padres’ Top 10 prospects. He was rated by Keith Law of ESPN.com as the No. 41 overall prospect in baseball during the 2014 season.

Ross was originally selected by San Diego in the first round (No. 25 overall) of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft. He attended Bishop O’Dowd High School in Oakland, Calif. and is the younger brother of Padres pitcher Tyson Ross.

Souza Jr., 25, was selected by the Nationals in the third round of the 2007 First-Year Player Draft out of Cascade High School in Everett, Wash. He spent seven seasons in Washington’s Minor League system before making his Major League debut on April 13 at Atlanta. Following the 2014 season, Souza Jr. was named Washington’s Minor League Player of the Year and earned International League Most Valuable Player honors for an outstanding season at Triple-A.

The athletic outfielder’s signature moment as a National came on the final day of the 2014 regular season when he sealed Jordan Zimmermann’s no-hitter, the first in Nationals history, with an outstanding leaping catch in left field.

Ott was selected in the 25th round of the 2013 First-Year Player Draft out of Shippensburg Area (PA) High School. He was 4-4 with a 3.96 ERA in 23 minor league games (20 starts).

Nationals acquire 2B Chris Bostick and RHP Abel de Los Santos in exchange for LHP Ross Detwiler

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by Amanda Comak

Milwaukee Brewers v Washington NationalsThe Washington Nationals concluded the 2014 MLB Winter Meetings by completing a trade that brought two new prospects into the organization. The Nationals acquired second baseman Chris Bostick and right-handed reliever Abel de Los Santos from the Texas Rangers on Thursday in exchange for left-handed pitcher Ross Detwiler.

Bostick, 21, has a .270 career batting average and a .341 on-base percentage in four Minor League seasons ranging from Rookie Level to high Class-A. In 2014, with Single-A Myrtle Beach of the Carolina League, Bostick hit .251 with a .322 on-base percentage and a .412 slugging percentage. While he played 122 of his 130 games at second base in 2014, Bostick has played 18 Minor League games at shortstop in his career.

Bostick ranked among Carolina League hitters in runs scored (second, 81), hits (T-sixth, 124), doubles, (T-fifth, 31),  triples (T-fifth, 8), stolen bases (ninth, 24), and RBI (T-ninth, 62).

A 44th-round selection in the 2011 MLB First-Year Player Draft out of high school, Bostick was originally drafted by the Oakland Athletics. He was acquired by the Rangers, along with Michael Choice, on Dec. 3, 2013, in exchange for Craig Gentry and Josh Lindblom.

de Los Santos, 22, was a teammate of Bostick’s in Myrtle Beach for much of the 2014 season. Though he made eight appearances to begin the year in Single-A Hickory of the South Atlantic League, de Los Santos made 33 appearances for Single-A Myrtle Beach, where he was 5-2 with a 1.97 ERA.

On the season, the 6-foot-2 right-hander pitched to a 1.92 ERA with 65 strikeouts in 56.1 innings pitched (41 games).

Signed out of the Dominican Republic by the Rangers in 2010, de Los Santos worked to a 0.959 WHIP in 2014 (Walks and Hits per Innings Pitched) and struck out 10.4 batters per nine innings in 2014. He allowed just two home runs all season and his eight saves were good for second on the Myrtle Beach club.

Against left-handed hitters in 2014, de Los Santos surrendered just 14 hits while striking out 35 of the 85 lefty batters he faced.

Detwiler, 28, joins the Rangers after eight years in the Nationals’ organization.

The No. 6 overall selection in the 2007 MLB First-Year Player Draft, Detwiler was 20-32 with a 3.82 ERA over the course of six Major League seasons. In his lone playoff appearance with the Nationals, Detwiler spun six innings of one-run ball over the St. Louis Cardinals in 2012.

A starter for the first five years of his Major League career, Detwiler was shifted to a bullpen role in 2014. The 6-foot-5 left-hander had a 4.00 ERA in 2014, going 2-3 in 63.0 innings of work.

Winter Meetings 2014: Catching up with Matt Williams, Tommy Shields joins Minor League staff & more

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by Amanda Comak

The Washington Nationals play the Atlanta BravesAs the 2014 MLB Winter Meetings head into their second day, Washington Nationals Manager Matt Williams will meet with the media this afternoon in San Diego. The National League Manager of the Year enters his second season at the helm looking to help the team improve on what was a very successful 2014 season.

Before Williams meets with the media, he spent a few minutes catching up on the year that was and more:

From where you were last year at this time, how do you reflect on how everything has gone?

I think it was a successful season for us. I think it was satisfying, yet unsatisfying at the same time because we weren’t the last ones standing — and that’s why we’re all here. So, a very positive step in the right direction and hopefully many more steps to come. 

Do you feel more focused or sure of what you’re looking for at these meetings than maybe you were in 2013? 

I think I’m a little more comfortable because I know everybody. Last year was a sort of “getting-to-know-you” process. This year, I’m a little more comfortable with our group and our fantastic group of scouts and front office folks. But I still have butterflies, like everybody else does, in anticipation of the upcoming season so I’m excited and looking forward to February.

What do you think your biggest accomplishment of the past year?

I just think the ability to understand our players, and help them, and put them in a position to succeed. We had a lot of guys who had great years and I think that’s probably the biggest accomplishment I can point to — and ultimately my job is to put them in a position to succeed and do the best they can. If each individual can do that then we have a very good chance of succeeding as a team.

What are you most looking forward to in 2015?

Just the opportunity to get back to the postseason. We want to play meaningful games in September and October. We had a little bit of a taste of it this year and we want to certainly get back there and see if we can go further this time.

What was your reaction to being named the 2014 BBWAA NL Manager of the Year?

I’m extremely proud of the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) Award as well. It means to me that we have a fantastic organization and that everybody is on the same end of the rope, pulling as hard as they can to have success and be a championship club. I’m proud to be able to go to New York in January and represent us and accept that award on behalf of our organization.

***

The Nationals have added Tommy Shields to their Minor League staff, naming him co-field coordinator on Tuesday. Shields, a Fairfax, VA, native, joins Jeff Garber in that role.

Shields, who comes to the Nationals after spending three seasons as the manager of the Burlington Royals in the Kansas City Royals’ chain. Shields earned the Appalachian League Manager of the Year honors in 2012.

He played parts of eight Minor League seasons in the Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Chicago Cubs’ organizations. A left-handed-hitting infielder, Shields made his Major League debut in 1992 with the Baltimore Orioles but earned his first MLB plate appearance with the Chicago Cubs in 1993.

***

The MLB PR Directors announced their annual Winter Meetings auction on Monday, with a litany of incredible, unique experiences up for bid with all of the proceeds going toward LUNGevity, the largest national lung cancer-focused nonprofit.

The charity, which was the personal cause of Orioles PR Director Monica Barlow, who passed away in February at age 36 after a lengthy battle with lung cancer, works to change outcomes for people with lung cancer through research, education, and support.

The Nationals have two great experiences up for auction this year: lunch with Matt Williams and his coaching staff inside the Nationals’ clubhouse one day this upcoming season, and a grounds crew experience. You can bid on these, and many other great items here. And all of the donations will go to a fantastic cause, and in Monica’s memory.

Nationals sign LHP Matt Purke to Minor League contract with invitation to Major League Spring Training

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by Amanda Comak

The Washington Nationals re-signed left-handed pitcher Matt Purke to a Minor League contract with an invitation to Major League Spring Training on Monday.

Purke will now remain with the organization that drafted and developed him, and will continue his rehabilitation from Tommy John surgery (May 29, 2014) without any interruptions to his prescribed plan.

The Nationals, who have a wealth of experience in successfully rehabbing pitchers after the ligament replacement surgery, look forward to Purke continuing his progress in their organization.

“We are excited to keep Matt in the organization and to keep his rehab on track,” said Nationals President of Baseball Operations and General Manager Mike Rizzo. “We look forward to seeing him rebound from his surgery during the upcoming season.”

The 24-year-old left-hander was drafted by the Nationals in the third round of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft as a highly-touted prospect out of Texas Christian University. Injuries have limited him to 29 Minor League appearances in the past three seasons.

On Friday, the Nationals released Purke from the Major League contract he signed shortly after he was drafted, with a plan in place to re-sign him and keep him in the organization.

Nationals agree to terms with INF/OF Kevin Frandsen

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by Amanda Comak

The Nationals agreed to terms on a Major League contract with infielder/outfielder Kevin Frandsen on Friday, avoiding arbitration and securing the affable utility man for a second season in D.C.

Frandsen, 32, hit .259 with a team-leading 11 pinch hits for the Nationals in 2014 – ranking him 10th in the National League in that category.

An exceptionally versatile player, Frandsen appeared in 105 games for the Nationals last season with time at third base, second base, left field and first base. He started 42 of those games, filling in wherever needed when the Nationals were struck by injuries while also excelling in a bench role.

Frandsen is a career .259 (320-for-1235) hitter with 57 doubles, five triples, 15 home runs and 110 RBI in 507 big league contests spanning eight seasons with the Nationals, Phillies, Angels and Giants. Against left-handed pitching, Frandsen is a career .291 hitter with a .337 on-base percentage and .415 slugging percentage.

With the signing of Frandsen, the Nationals now have 10 remaining players eligible for arbitration: LHP Jerry Blevins, RHP Tyler Clippard, LHP Ross Detwiler, INF Danny Espinosa, RHP Doug Fister, C Jose Lobaton, C Wilson Ramos, RHP Craig Stammen, RHP Drew Storen and RHP Stephen Strasburg.

Nationals announce return of entire coaching staff

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by Amanda Comak

On the heels of Washington Nationals Manager Matt Williams taking home the 2014 BBWAA National League Manager of the Year award, the Nationals announced Wednesday morning that they will welcome back all of their coaches from the 2014 staff.

In keeping bench coach Randy Knorr, pitching coach Steve McCatty, hitting coach Rick Schu, third base coach Bobby Henley, first base coach Tony Tarasco, bullpen coach Matt LeCroy, and defensive coordinator/advance coach Mark Weidemaier in the fold for 2015, Williams will have stability and continuity on his staff as he enters his second year at the helm.

McCatty, the longest-tenured member of the Nationals’ Major League staff, returns for his seventh season. Knorr returns for his fourth season as the Nationals’ bench coach, and sixth year on the staff, while Tarasco and Schu will begin their third seasons on the coaching staff. Henley, LeCroy and Weidemaier will all be back for their second campaigns.

Six of the Nationals’ seven coaches had experience coaching in Washington’s system before earning their Major League assignments, making the Nationals’ an exceptionally “homegrown” staff.

This marks the first time since 2007-2008 that the Nationals have returned their entire coaching staff in successive seasons.

Nationals Manager Matt Williams named 2014 BBWAA NL Manager of the Year

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by Amanda Comak

After leading the Washington Nationals to their second National League East title in the last three years, Nationals manager Matt Williams was named the 2014 National League Manager of the Year Tuesday night by the Baseball Writers Association of America.

Williams received a total 109 points, including 18 first-place votes. Pittsburgh Pirates manager Clint Hurdle finished second in the voting, and San Francisco Giants Manager Bruce Bochy was third.

Williams, who joins Davey Johnson to become the second manager in Nationals history to earn this honor, had an exceptionally successful rookie season in the dugout as he led the Nationals to an NL-best 96 victories and the division title.

“On behalf of the Lerner Family and the entire Washington Nationals organization, I want to offer heartfelt congratulations to Matt on this well-deserved award,” said Nationals President of Baseball Operations and General Manager Mike Rizzo. “His first year in the dugout was excellent, and it was a pleasure to watch him grow throughout. He is a respected leader, and the steady hand that navigated our team through many challenges this season.

“What we accomplished this season would not have been possible without the right man at the helm. That was Matt this season, and we’re all looking forward to 2015.”

National League Division Series Game OneSince the inception of the award in 1983, Williams is just the fourth first-year manager ever to win it. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, he joins Hal Lanier (Houston Astros, 1986), Dusty Baker (San Francisco Giants, 1993), and Joe Girardi (Florida Marlins, 2006).

“I am incredibly honored and humbled by this award,” Williams said. “This was a very special year for us, and I am proud of what we accomplished in my first season at the helm. For me, as a newcomer to the managerial fraternity, it is a privilege just to be considered amongst the best in our game. Clint and Bruce are certainly that.

“While this is an incredible acknowledgement by the writers, I know we have bigger goals to accomplish in Washington and I look forward to the challenge that the 2015 season will bring.”

The Nationals, though besieged by injuries, won their division by the largest margin (17.0 games) of any in the Major Leagues under Williams’ watch. Over the course of the season, the Nationals saw 948 total games missed due to stints on the Disabled List, with Bryce Harper, Ryan Zimmerman, Wilson Ramos, Doug Fister, Gio Gonzalez, Adam LaRoche and Denard Span – all key players — accounting for 284 of those games.

While the Nationals withstood that barrage, Williams’ guided them toward steady improvement as the season progressed.

After playing to a .500 record (27-27) through the season’s first two months, the Nationals were at least four games over the .500 mark in each remaining month of the season, finishing 69-39 from June through September. That stretch included a 19-10 month of August that featured a 10-game winning streak from Aug. 12-21, the longest winning streak in the National League this season.

On Sept. 16, the Nationals clinched their second National League East Division title, and they finished the regular season with a 96-66 record.

Williams, 48, was named the fifth field manager in Nationals history on Oct. 31, 2013. The five-time All-Star third baseman was also voted by his managerial peers as the 2014 Sporting News Manager of the Year.

Ian Desmond & Anthony Rendon earn NL Silver Slugger honors

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by Amanda Comak

Silver Slugger LogoAn historic season for Washington Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond and a breakout one for infielder Anthony Rendon was validated with notable hardware on Thursday night.

Desmond and Rendon were honored as Louisville Slugger Silver Slugger Award winners, voted as the best-hitting shortstop and third baseman, respectively, in the National League.

“Our entire organization is exceptionally proud of Ian and Anthony,” said Nationals President of Baseball Operations and GM Mike Rizzo. “These awards confirm what we already knew: that they are two of the best offensive infielders in the game, and we consider them equally talented defensively. After the seasons each of these homegrown players put together, we’re honored that they did it with our uniform on their backs.”

This is the third such honor for Desmond, who notched his third consecutive 20-home run, 20-stolen base campaign this past season, and the first for Rendon, who established himself as one of the best young talents in the game during his sophomore season in the big leagues.

This is just the second time in the Nationals’ short history that they’ve had multiple players earn the National League’s top offensive award in the same season (also 2012).

“I’m extremely humbled and blessed to have won this award for the third straight year,” Desmond said. “It’s a testament to my teammates, who surround me in the lineup, the trainers – Lee Kuntz, Steve Gober and John Hsu – for keeping me on the field, and obviously the coaching staff for bringing out the best in me every day.

“As much of an honor as this is, I still feel like there are a lot of things I can improve on, and will improve on. I’m going to continue to work hard so I can be better next year.”

Leading all NL shortstops with 154 games played, Desmond hit .255 with a .313 on-base percentage and a .430 slugging percentage in 2014. He also led all NL shortstops in home runs (24) and RBI (91), while finishing second in hits (151), runs (73), and placing among the top 10 in doubles (T-4th, 26), triples (10th, 3), and  walks (7th, 46).

As this is the third consecutive season in which Desmond has been named a Silver Slugger Award winner at shortstop — making him the first Nationals player ever to take home three such awards – he now finds himself in elite company. Since the inception of the award in 1980, Desmond is the first National League shortstop to win back-to-back-to-back honors since Hall of Fame shortstop Barry Larkin won five straight from 1988-1992.

Desmond also joins Edgar Renteria and Larkin as the only NL shortstops to win the award at least three times.

Adding 24 stolen bases to his 24 home runs this season, Desmond became just the fourth shortstop in Major League history to notch a 20/20 season at least three times in his career.

“It is that package,” manager Matt Williams said after Desmond hit the milestone. “It’s speed and power… He’s got the ability to do a lot of things. When he puts it together, it’s speed and power, and he’s shown that this year.”

Rendon, who established himself as one of the league’s best infielders in a breakout season, played both second and third base for the Nationals in 2014.

“While I don’t play this game for the individual accolades, I’m incredibly honored to receive this award and to be mentioned in the same breath as these great players — especially my teammate and friend, Ian Desmond,” Rendon said.

“I would like to thank all of the coaches, trainers and teammates who I’ve been with along the way. Without them, I wouldn’t be in a position to accept this.”

Rendon hit .287 with a .351 on-base percentage and a .473 slugging percentage. Leading the National League in runs scored with 111, Rendon clubbed 21 home runs as part of 66 extra-base hits, while walking 58 times and stealing 17 bases.

Exclusively as a third baseman, where he played 134 of his 153 games, Rendon hit .288 with a .353 on-base percentage and a .475 slugging percentage. Nineteen of his 21 home runs came while he was playing the hot corner, as did 53 of his 66 extra-base hits, 72 of his 83 RBI and 89 of his 111 runs scored.

“He’s a very, very impressive player,” Philadelphia Phillies left-hander Cole Hamels told The Washington Post late in the 2014 season. “I put him up with the [Troy] Tulowitzkis and the David Wrights when they first came up, those impact players you don’t normally see at such a young age. You know they’re only going to get better, and you’re like, ‘Great.’ He’s that type of guy — one of those superstars that’s going to be around forever.”

Rendon, who earned himself the nickname ‘Tony Two Bags’ because of his penchant for doubles, finished the year with 16 three-hit games – tied for the third-best mark in the NL with Atlanta Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman and San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey.

According to Fangraphs.com, Rendon’s 6.6 Wins Above Replacement for the 2014 season was tops among all NL infielders, and second only to Pittsburgh Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen (6.8).

NATIONALS TO WIN LOUISVILLE SILVER SLUGGER AWARDS (2005-2014)

2006  OF Alfonso Soriano
2009  3B Ryan Zimmerman
2010  3B Ryan Zimmerman
2012  SS Ian Desmond, 1B Adam LaRoche, P Stephen Strasburg
2013  SS Ian Desmond
2014  SS Ian Desmond, 3B Anthony Rendon

Nationals announce exhibition game vs. NYY at Nationals Park

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The Washington Nationals’ 2015 Spring Training schedule will conclude on April 4 with an exhibition game vs. the New York Yankees at Nationals Park.

Just two days later, on April 6, the Nationals will begin the 2015 regular season by hosting the New York Mets at Nationals Park on Opening Day.

This will mark the Yankees’ fourth trip to Washington, D.C., including a previous exhibition contest in 2013, and regular-season visits in 2006 and 2012.

With the Nationals facing American League East teams this season in Interleague play, New York will return to D.C. for two regular-season contests on May 19 and 20. The Nationals will then travel to Yankee Stadium for two games on June 9 and 10.

Tickets for the April 4 exhibition game are included in all 2015 regular season full, half and partial season ticket packages. For more information, or to purchase a NATS PLUS membership, visit nationals.com/2015. Information on single-game tickets for this game will be disseminated at a later date.

Nationals name Bob Miller Vice President & Assistant GM

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by Amanda Comak

The Washington Nationals welcomed Bob Miller to their front office staff today, naming him Vice President and Assistant General Manager.

Miller, who will assist in all facets of baseball operations, comes to the Nationals after nine seasons with the Cincinnati Reds, serving most recently as Vice President and Assistant General Manager to Reds’ President of Baseball Operations and GM Walt Jocketty.

In that role, Miller had a hand in all aspects of baseball operations, including arbitration cases, contract negotiations, rules, player evaluations, and departmental budgeting.

Joining the Nationals for his 33rd season in professional baseball, Miller reunites with Rizzo for the first time since the two worked together for seven years with the Arizona Diamondbacks. There they helped build the 2001 World Series championship team, and take Arizona’s Minor League system from No. 29 (as ranked by Baseball America) to No. 1 in five years.

Miller, who initially joined the Reds in Feb., 2006, as Director of Baseball Administration under then-GM Wayne Krivsky, quickly moved through the ranks in Cincinnati. He was promoted to Assistant General Manager in June of 2006 and in Dec., 2006, was named Vice President and Assistant GM.

During his time with the Reds, the team improved from a sub-.500 club to win two division championships and earn three playoff appearances. In 2012, the Reds were also named Baseball America’s Organization of the Year.

Prior to joining the Reds, Miller spent seven seasons with the Diamondbacks — first as Assistant Director of Scouting, then Director of Baseball Operations, and the final three as Assistant General Manager, where he oversaw the organization’s Minor League player development from 2004-05. In 2005, the Diamondbacks were named TOPPS’ Minor League Organization of the Year.

Miller joined the Diamondbacks with 16 years of Minor League experience on his resume, including 14 years at the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues, and stops as Vice President of Baseball Operations in the independent Texas-Louisiana League office, along with serving as executive GM of that league’s Amarillo Dillas club.

Miller, 50, graduated from the University of South Florida with a degree in finance.

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