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Nationals Game Notes: April 20 at Miami

Washington Nationals (10-3) at Miami Marlins (4-8)RHP Joe Ross [2-0, 0.60] | LHP Wei-Yin Chen [0-0, 5.56]

Wednesday, April 20 l Game #14 / Road #8 l Marlins Park l Miami, FL

Television: MASN2 l Radio: 99.1 WDCH & Nationals Radio Network

  TATERMEN!

The Nationals erupted for seven runs in the seventh inning of Tuesday night’s 7-0 win over the Miami Marlins, with all seven coming on four home run swings in two sets of back-to-back jacks…In the process, Washington set quite a few marks:

· According to the Elias Sports Bureau, no team in Nationals/Expos franchise history had ever hit two sets of back-to-back home runs in the same inning before Jayson Werth-Wilson Ramos and Bryce Harper-Ryan Zimmerman did it Tuesday night…No team in the Major Leagues had accomplished the feat since 2010 when Milwaukee did so vs. Arizona, Aug. 11, 2010.

· It was also, via Elias, the only time in modern MLB history (since 1900) that a team hit two sets of back-to-back home runs in the same inning with one of the longballs being a grand slam (Harper).

· The last time Washington hit two sets of back-to-back home runs in the same game was July 10, 2013; Anthony Rendon-Ramos in the fifth, Zimmerman-Werth in the sixth.

· Tuesday’s seventh inning marked the first time in Nationals history (2005-pres.) the club had hit four home runs in a single inning, and the first time in franchise history (Nationals/Expos) since April 29, 1986 against CIN, when Andre Dawson, Hubie Brooks, Tim Wallach and Mike Fitzgerald all went deep…It also happened one other time, July 30, 1978 against ATL, courtesy of Dawson (2), Dave Cash and Larry Parrish.

2 0 0

And starting all of Tuesday’s home run fun was Nationals LF Jayson Werth, whose solo shot with one out in the seventh clanked off the Marlins’ home run sculpture in center field, lodged behind a light in the piece of art, broke the scoreless tie and added Werth’s name to the 200-homer club.

· With the blast, Werth joined Alfonso Soriano (8/13/2006), Adam LaRoche (4/20/2013) and Ryan Zimmerman (9/02/2015) as the only players to hit their 200th career home run in a Nationals uniform, according to Elias…Zimmerman’s No. 201 came later in Tuesday’s seventh inning.

ANOTHER GRAND OCCASION FOR THE MVP

Through the first 99 home runs of his young career, Nationals OF Bryce Harper had never hit a grand slam…Thursday, Harper changed that and became the first player in MLB history to record his 100th home run and his first grand slam on the same swing…Harper then went a whole four games (and three more home runs) before recording the second grand slam of his career as his contribution to the Nationals’ homer parade, the first of the second set of back-to-backs on Tuesday, cleared the fence in right field with the bags full of Nationals.

· With 20 RBI in the season’s first 13 games, Harper now leads the Major Leagues in that category, along with slugging percentage (.867), and his seven home runs are second in MLB only to COL’s Trevor Story.

· RHP Stephen Strasburg (who went 2-for-3 in the fifth multi-hit game of his career) has now been on third base for both of Harper’s career grand slams. 

SETTING THE TONE

Through the season’s first 13 games, the Nationals’ starting pitching staff has worked to a Major League-best 1.98 ERA…Ahead of the Chicago Cubs (2.14) and New York Mets (2.87).

· Nationals’ starters have been exceptional of late, having allowed just eight earned runs in their last 56.1 innings, a 1.28 ERA.

· RHP Stephen Strasburg continued his strong start to the season with 8.0 shutout innings over the Marlins on Tuesday…Strasburg struck out 10 batters, his first 10-plus strikeout game of the season and 22nd of his career.

· Since returning from the disabled list on Aug. 8, 2015, Strasburg is 9-2 with a 1.74 ERA in 13 starts…In that span he has held opponents to a .180 average against and struck out 113 batters with just 15 walks (11.56 K/9.0 IP; 7.53 K/BB)…He has allowed more than 2 ER in a start only once in that stretch.

Nationals Minor League Report: April 20, 2016

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Welcome to the first installment of the 2016 Washington Nationals Minor League Report.

All the information listed here, and linked below, reflects games played from April 7-19.

April 7-19 Record: 26-21
Organizational Record: 26-21 (.553, 8th in MLB)

Organizational Top Performer: SS Trea Turner – Syracuse Chiefs

After going 13-for-30 (.433) with three doubles, one homer, five RBI, four walks, two stolen bases and six runs scored, SS Trea Turner was named the first International League Player of the Week for the 2016 season…Turner went 4-for-4 with a double and an RBI in a 4-3 win, 4/12 vs. Buffalo (TOR)…He then posted back-to-back three-hit games, 4/14-15 at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (NYY)…He clubbed his first home run of the season, 4/16 at SWB, a solo shot in the third inning.

Through his first 11 games of the season, Turner ranks among International League hitters in stolen bases (T2nd, 4), runs scored (T1st, 10), hits, (T5th, 15), on-base percentage (8th, .449), and batting average (8th, .357)…Turner entered the season rated as the No. 2 prospect in Washington’s Minor League system and the No. 9 prospect in MLB, according to Baseball America.

Potomac’s Hot Hitters

The Potomac Nationals boast three hitters ranked in the top 11 in batting average in the Carolina League…INF Khayyan Norfork ranks second at .407 (11-for-27), 1B Jose Marmolejos is fourth at .366 (15-for-41) and 3B Drew Ward is 11th at .340 (16-for-47)…As a club, the P-Nats rank among Carolina League clubs in on-base percentage (1st, .371), slugging percentage (1st, .431), batting average (2nd, .273), runs scored (2nd, 74), home runs (2nd, 9), walks (2nd, 62), doubles, (T3rd, 27) and triples (T3rd, 6).

Schrock rocks

Hagerstown infielder Max Schrock used a five-hit effort (5-for-5, 2 2B, 5 RBI, 2 SB, 3 R)  on April 19 at Lakewood (PHI) to propel himself into the top 10 in hitting in the South Atlantic League…His .370 batting average is good for 10th in the SAL (and third among Nationals Minor Leaguers), while his 17 hits are tied for sixth in the league.

Through 12 games, Schrock is 17-for-46 with four doubles, eight RBI, five walks, five stolen bases and 10 runs scored…He was selected in the 13th round of the 2015 First-Year Player Draft out of the University of South Carolina…Prior to the season, Schrock was cited by Baseball America as having the “Best Strike-Zone Discipline” among Nationals Minor Leaguers.

For more information & notes on the Nationals’ Minor League system, view the full Minor League Report here:

Nationals Game Notes: April 19 at Miami

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Washington Nationals (9-3) at Miami Marlins (4-7)
RHP Stephen Strasburg [2-0, 1.98] | LHP Adam Conley [0-0, 3.86]
Tuesday, April 19 l Game #13 / Road #7 l Marlins Park l Miami, FL
Television: MASN2 l Radio: 106.7 The Fan & Nationals Radio Network

lineup41916ABOUT LAST NIGHT
The Nationals suffered just their third defeat of the 2016 season on Monday night in Miami, falling 6-1 and moving their record to 9-3…RF Bryce Harper drove in Washington’s lone run with a sacrifice fly in the fifth inning…The RBI was Harper’s 16th of the season, tied for the Major League lead (with COL 3B Nolan Arenado).

  • Owners of the second-best record in the Major Leagues (.750 winning percentage), the Nationals’ fast start has placed them into the record books: The 9-1 start was not only the best in Nationals history (2005-present), but it’s also the best in franchise (Nationals/Expos) history, and the best in D.C. baseball history…The 1974 Montreal Expos began the season 9-2 and the 1951 Washington Senators began 9-3…Both teams had held the previous best for the the franchise and D.C. baseball at 7-2.

GOING STREAKING
Nationals 2B Daniel Murphy went 1-for-4 on Monday night to push his hitting streak to 10 games… Murphy has reached base safely in 24 of his 48 plate appearances this season with 17 hits (3 2B, 2 3B, 2 HR), eight RBI and seven walks…He has hit safely in 11 of the 12 games the Nationals have played.

  • Murphy leads the Major Leagues with a .415 batting average, is tied for second with a .500 on-base percentage, and ranks fourth with a .732 slugging percentage.

POP FROM THE TOP
Nationals OF Michael A. Taylor has reached base safely in six of his last eight games (seven starts), and went 2-for-4 with a double, a walk, and a run scored on Monday night in Miami…Taylor also has three multi-hit games in his last seven starts.

  • Taylor launched his third career leadoff home run on Friday night when he sent Jeremy Hellickson’s second pitch of the game into the left field seats…It was the first game-opening home run for the Nationals this season and keyed a five-run first inning from which Washington did not look back.

 

Nationals OF Bryce Harper named co-NL Player of the Week

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Following a week in which he hit .346, notched the 100th home run of his career in grand fashion and tied a Nationals record for consecutive games with a homer, Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper was named the co-National League Player of the Week on Monday, along with Colorado’s Nolan Arenado.

Harper, who went 9-for-26 (.346), reached base at a .400 clip and slugged .846 for the week of April 11-17. He clubbed one double and four home runs in that span, driving in 12 total runs, walking three times, scoring six times, and stealing two bases. Harper tallied four go-ahead RBI last week, including three game-winning RBI.

It was a week of personal feats for Harper, who also helped the Nationals achieve the best start in franchise history (Nationals/Expos) as they posted a 9-1 record through the season’s first 10 games. Harper took a vicious swing on a bases-loaded 1-0 pitch from Julio Teheran on Thursday afternoon and became the first player in Major League history whose 100th career home run and his first career grand slam came on the same swing.

At 23 years, 181 days old, Harper became the eighth-youngest player in MLB history to reach the 100-home run mark, joining Mel Ott (22 years, 132 days), Tony Conigliaro (22 years, 197 days), Eddie Mathews (22 years, 292 days), Alex Rodriguez (23 years, 16 days), Andruw Jones (23 years, 62 days), Miguel Cabrera (23 years, 127 days), and Johnny Bench (22 years, 161 days). Harper was younger than Albert Pujols (23 years, 185 days), Hank Aaron (23 years, 191 days) and Ken Griffey Jr. (23 years, 206 days) when he hit the 100-homer mark.

But that was just the start of a power-filled weekend for Harper, who joined Ryan Zimmerman and Ian Desmond as the only players in Nationals history (2005-present) to eclipse the 100-homer milestone in a Nationals uniform. He followed his 100th longball with three more, setting a new career high and matching a Nationals record with home runs in four straight games. He enters Monday sitting on the precipice of becoming the first player in franchise history to hit one in five consecutive contests.

With home runs in all three games the Nationals played in Philadelphia April 15-17, and dating back to 2015, Harper tied Ernie Banks (1955) as the only visiting players in MLB history to homer in six straight games in Philadelphia.

100 home runs 4

This is the fourth Player of the Week award of Harper’s career after he took home three during his 2015 NL MVP campaign (May 4-10, May 11-17, & Sept. 14-20, 2015), and his first of 2016. It is the 19th such honor for the Nationals organization.

Harper adds to the haul brought in by Max Scherzer (June 15-21 & Sept. 28-Oct. 4), Stephen Strasburg (Sept. 14-20, 2015 & June 7-13, 2010), Jordan Zimmermann (Sept. 22-28, 2014; June 2-8, 2014), Adam LaRoche (Sept. 1-7, 2014), Jayson Werth (June 30-July 6, 2014), Ryan Zimmerman (July 16-22, 2012; Aug. 15-21, 2011; July 30-Aug. 5, 2007), Josh Willingham (July 27-Aug. 2, 2009), Cristian Guzman (Aug. 25-31, 2008), and Nick Johnson (May 31-June 6, 2005) as honorees.

Nationals Game Notes: April 17 at Philadelphia

Washington Nationals (9-1) at Philadelphia Phillies (5-7)
LHP Gio Gonzalez [0-0, 0.00] | RHP Charlie Morton [0-1, 5.23]
Sunday, April 17 l Game #11 / Road #5 l Citizens Bank Park l Philadelphia, PA
Television: MASN l Radio: 106.7 The Fan & Nationals Radio Network

20160417 lineupSTARTING STRONG…
The Nationals pushed their winning streak to seven consecutive games on Saturday night with an 8-1 win over the Philadelphia Phillies, improving to 9-1 on the season…Owners of the best record in the Major Leagues, the Nationals’ fast start has placed them into the record books:

  • The 9-1 start is not only the best in Nationals history (2005-present), but it’s also the best in franchise (Nationals/Expos) history, and the best in D.C. baseball history.
  • Both the 1974 Montreal Expos and the 1951 Washington Senators began the season 7-2, the previous best.
  • The 2015 Nationals’ longest winning streak stretched to eight games, which the 2016 Nationals could match this afternoon in Philadelphia.

…STARTS WITH STARTING STRONG
RHP Max Scherzer continued the Nationals’ strong stretch of starting pitching with 7.0 innings allowing just one run on Saturday, making it the fifth straight game a Nationals starter has allowed two earned runs or fewer.

  • Through the season’s first 10 games, the Nationals’ starting pitching staff has worked to a Major League-best 1.93 ERA…The next closest team, the Chicago Cubs, has posted a 2.49 ERA.
  • Nationals’ starters have been exceptional this last turn through the rotation, having allowed just three earned runs in their last 35.1 innings…Nationals starters have averaged 7.0 IP in this stretch and combined on a 0.76 ERA.

FEELING RIGHT AT HOME
Nationals OF Bryce Harper homered for the third consecutive game on Saturday night, his fifth straight game at Citizens Bank Park with a longball, dating to 2015.

  • Harper now has at least two hits and at least one home run in his last five games at Citizens Bank Park…According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Harper joins Jim Bottomley as the only opposing players in modern MLB history (since 1900) to have two hits and at least one home run in five straight games at PHI…Bottomley did so for the St. Louis Cardinals from July 5-9, 1929.
  • Also via Elias, Harper is the fourth visiting player to homer in five straight games against Philadelphia, joining Bottomley (1929), Ernie Banks (1955), and current Phillies broadcaster Matt Stairs (2004-07), who came over to the Phillies’ side in 2008 and played for the Nationals in 2011…Only Banks extended his streak to six games.
  • Harper’s current three-game home run streak ties the longest of his career, done three times before, all in 2015 (May 6-9, Sept. 4-6, Sept. 14-16)…Should he homer in Sunday’s contest it would be the longest consecutive stretch of games with a home run in his career.

Learn more about tonight’s match-up, including plenty of pitcher and hitter notes in today’s game notes:

Nationals Game Notes: April 16 at Philadelphia

Washington Nationals (8-1) at Philadelphia Phillies (5-6)
RHP Max Scherzer [1-0, 4.15] | RHP Aaron Nola [0-1, 3.21]
Saturday, April 16 l Game #10 / Road #4 l Citizens Bank Park l Philadelphia, PA
Television: MASN l Radio: 99.1 WDCH & Nationals Radio Network

4162016lineupIT’S NOT HOW YOU START, BUT…
The Nationals pushed their winning streak to six consecutive games on Friday night with a 9-1 win over the Philadelphia Phillies, improving to 8-1 on the season…Owners of the best record in the Major Leagues, the Nationals’ fast start has placed them into the record books:

  • The 8-1 start is not only the best in Nationals history (2005-present), but it’s also the best in franchise (Nationals/Expos) history, and the best in D.C. baseball history.
  • Both the 1974 Montreal Expos and the 1951 Washington Senators began the season 7-2, the previous best.

…MAYBE IT IS HOW YOU START…
Nationals RHP Joe Ross tossed 7.2 shutout innings on Friday night, making it the fourth straight game a Nationals starter has allowed two earned runs or fewer, and the third in the last four in which they’d not allowed a run.

  • Through the season’s first nine games, the Nationals’ starting pitching staff has worked to a Major League-best 2.01 ERA…The next closest team, the Chicago White Sox, has posted a 2.37 ERA.
  • Nationals’ starters have been even sharper of late, having allowed just two earned runs in their last 28.1 innings…Nationals starters have averaged 7.0 IP in this stretch and combined on a 0.64 ERA.

…SERIOUSLY, IT’S HOW YOU START
Nationals OF Michael A. Taylor launched his third career leadoff home run on Friday night when he sent Jeremy Hellickson’s second pitch of the game into the left field seats…It was the first game-opening home run for the Nationals this season and keyed a five-run first inning from which Washington did not look back.

  • The five-run first marked the Nationals’ season high for runs in an inning and was the first time the Nationals batted around this year.

Learn more about tonight’s match-up, including plenty of pitcher and hitter notes in today’s game notes:

 

Legacy Fields: Field Renovation Program Starts with Ryan Zimmerman Field

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Although it was rainy and cold, this past Saturday D.C. Little Leaguers and their families gathered with Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman, the Washington Nationals Dream Foundation, District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser and Under Armour for a ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the opening of the new Ryan Zimmerman Field at Randall Recreation Center in Southwest D.C.

Ryan Zimmerman Field is the first “Legacy Field” of the Nationals’ new field renovation program. Located just a few blocks from Nationals Park, the field will serve the surrounding community by hosting Capitol Hill Little League games and other D.C. youth sports games throughout the year.

Nationals announce 2016 Opening Day roster

Opening Day roster

The Washington Nationals announced their 2016 Opening Day 25-man roster on Sunday, in preparation for Opening Day on Monday afternoon at Atlanta.

The Nationals’ Opening Day roster is comprised of 12 pitchers (nine right-handed pitchers, three left-handed pitchers), two catchers, six infielders and five outfielders. Two players who joined Nationals’ Spring Training as non-roster invitees made the club: RHP Matt Belisle and OF Chris Heisey.

Eight of the players on the team’s active roster have joined the organization since the end of the 2015 season, and 19 members of the Nationals’ veteran-laden 25-man roster have previous postseason experience.

PITCHERS CATCHERS INFIELDERS OUTFIELDERS
RHP Matt Belisle C Jose Lobaton INF Stephen Drew OF Bryce Harper
RHP Shawn Kelley C Wilson Ramos INF Danny Espinosa OF Chris Heisey
RHP Jonathan Papelbon   INF Daniel Murphy OF Ben Revere
RHP Yusmeiro Petit   INF Anthony Rendon OF Michael A. Taylor
RHP Tanner Roark   1B/OF Clint Robinson OF Jayson Werth
RHP Joe Ross   1B Ryan Zimmerman  
RHP Max Scherzer      
RHP Stephen Strasburg      
RHP Blake Treinen      
LHP Gio Gonzalez      
LHP Oliver Perez      
LHP Felipe Rivero      

Nationals formally announce 2016 Major League coaching staff

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By Kyle Brostowitz

The Washington Nationals announced manager Dusty Baker’s full coaching staff on Tuesday, making the additions of bench coach Chris Speier, pitching coach Mike Maddux, hitting coach Rick Schu, first base coach Davey Lopes, third base coach Bobby Henley, assistant hitting coach Jacque Jones, and bullpen coach Dan Firova official.

Speier, 65, returns to the dugout as Baker’s bench coach, a role he served for six seasons (2008-13) with the Cincinnati Reds. Speier comes to Washington after gaining experience with six other organizations as a manager, coach or instructor, and after having served as Special Assistant to Reds General Manager Walt Jocketty the last two seasons (2014-15). A member of Baker’s staff in Chicago as well, serving as the Cubs’ third base coach from 2005-06, Speier spent the 2004 season as bench coach for the Oakland Athletics, coached third base for the 2001 World Series champion Arizona Diamondbacks, and served in the same role for the 2000 Brewers. Speier, who has extensive experience as a minor league manager and coach, played 19 years professionally. The three-time All-Star’s career spanned stops in San Francisco, Montreal, St. Louis, Minnesota and Chicago and included three postseason appearances

Maddux, 54, comes to Washington after seven seasons as the Texas Rangers’ pitching coach. During his tenure, the Texas Rangers earned four postseason berths, and Maddux was integral in developing many Rangers pitchers. Under his watch in 2015, Colby Lewis ranked fifth in the American League with 17 wins, while Yovani Gallardo’s 3.42 ERA ranked 11th. In 2014, his staff ranked second in the American league with 17 shutouts, second-most in Texas history. From 2010-13, the Rangers were one of just five clubs (along with Atlanta, St. Louis, Oakland, and Tampa) to post four consecutive sub-4.00 team ERAs, accomplishing that feat for just the second time in Rangers history (six straight, 1974-79). Prior to Maddux’s arrival, the Rangers had not posted an ERA lower than 4.00 since 1990. Over his first five seasons with Texas (2009-13), their team 3.94 ERA was Texas’ lowest ERA over a five-year span since 1981-85 (3.92). Maddux joined Texas after six years (2003-08) with the Brewers as pitching coach. There, he oversaw a Brewers staff that ranked second in the NL with a 3.85 ERA in 2008, the lowest mark by a Milwaukee club in 16 years, en-route to securing their first postseason berth in 26 years. Maddux served as the pitching coach for Houston’s Double-A Round Rock from 2000-02. As a Major Leaguer, Maddux was 39-37 with a 4.05 ERA in 472 games (48 starts) over 15 seasons with Philadelphia (1986-89), Los Angeles (1990, 1999), San Diego (1991-92), New York Mets (1993-94), Pittsburgh (1995), Boston (1995-96), Seattle (1997), Montreal (1998-99), and Houston (2000).

Schu, 53, returns to the Nationals for his third full season as the Major League hitting coach, his sixth with the organization. Schu, whose resume includes 18 seasons as a hitting coach and a nine-year playing career, oversaw a 2015 Nationals offense that ranked among NL teams in runs scored (3rd, 703), home runs (T3rd, 177) and slugging percentage (5th .403), as well as the emergence of NL MVP Bryce Harper. Schu, who was elevated to the Major League coaching staff on July 23, 2013, began the 2013 season as the Nationals’ Minor League Hitting Coordinator, a role he’d been in since 2010. Prior to the Nationals, Schu spent 12 years with the Diamondbacks, including portions of four seasons (2004, 2007-09) as Arizona’s MLB hitting coach. Schu hit .246 with 41 home runs and 134 RBI in 580 MLB games with Philadelphia, Baltimore, Detroit, California and Montreal.

Lopes, 70, returns to the Nationals as the team’s first base coach, a post he held during the 2006 season. The 2016 season will mark the 30th as a Major League coach for Lopes, who spent the past five seasons in the same position for the Los Angeles Dodgers. A highly-regarded baserunning instructor, Lopes was instrumental in improving the Dodgers’ running game. Since 2011, a Dodger has ranked in the top 10 in stolen bases three times, and the 2011 Dodgers posted a 75.9 stolen base percentage, the team’s second-best mark since moving to L.A. in 1958. Prior to joining the Dodgers, Lopes spent four seasons (2007-10) as the first base coach and outfield/baserunning instructor for the Philadelphia Phillies, appearing in the postseason all four years and winning a World Series ring in 2008. While with Philadelphia, Lopes coached current Nationals outfielder Jayson Werth, helping him achieve back-to-back 20 stolen base seasons (2008, 2009) and an 88 percent (60-for-68) stolen base percentage. In each of his four seasons the Phillies posted the best stolen base percentage in MLB, including the best mark in MLB history in 2007 (87.9 %). In 2008, the Phillies also led the NL and tied for the MLB lead with 36 outfield assists. Lopes served previously as the first base coach in San Diego (1995-1999 and 2003-2005), Baltimore (1992-1994) and Texas (1988-1991), and skippered the Milwaukee Brewers from 2000-02. A 16-year Major Leaguer, Lopes’ playing career included stops in Los Angeles (1972-81), Oakland (1982-84), Chicago (1984-86, Cubs) and Houston (1986-87). Lopes appeared in four World Series, including a World Series Championship in 1981, as well as four consecutive All-Star Games (1978-81).

Henley, 42, returns for his third season as Washington’s third base coach and his 23rd season with the Montreal/Washington franchise. Henley, who has coached in the Nationals’ system for 11 years, served as the Nationals Minor League field coordinator from 2010-13 and spent four seasons (2006-09) as catching coordinator, as well as manager of the rookie-level Gulf Coast League Nationals. Henley guided the GCL Nationals to a league championship in 2009, posting a 36-19 mark before going a perfect 3-0 in the playoffs. He also served managerial posts in Washington’s system with Single-A Potomac (2005), Single-A Savannah (2004) and the GCL Expos (2003). Henley was selected by the Montreal Expos in the 26th round of the 1991 First-Year Player Draft and made his MLB debut in 1998.

Jones, 40, returns to the MLB ranks as the Nationals’ assistant hitting coach. A veteran of 10 Major League seasons, Jones most recently worked in 2014 as the hitting coach of San Diego’s Triple-A affiliate El Paso Chihuahuas. It was his third season as a coach in San Diego’s system after serving the 2013 season in the same capacity with Double-A San Antonio. Jones joined the Padres in 2012 as the hitting coach at Single-A Fort Wayne. Selected in the second round of the 1996 First-Year Player Draft by the Minnesota Twins, Jones enjoyed time with Minnesota, (1999-2005), the Chicago Cubs (2006-07), where he played under Baker, Detroit (2008) and Florida (2008). He hit .277 with 255 doubles, 19 triples, 165 home runs, 630 RBI, 632 runs scored and 82 stolen bases in 1,302 games.

Firova, 59, joins the Nationals after more than 20 years of managing and coaching in the Mexican League. He most recently worked as a coach at the Pericos de Puebla Baseball Academy and for the past two seasons, he managed the Piratas de Campeche, earning postseason berths in 2014 and 2015. Firova’s most successful managerial stint came with the Tigres de Mexico City, where he won three Mexican League championships (1997, 2000, 2001) during his eight seasons (1995-2002) as manager. Firova was selected by the Seattle Mariners in the second round of the 1980 amateur draft and made his Major League debut with the Mariners during the 1981 season. He also appeared in the Major Leagues with Seattle in 1982 and Cleveland in 1988. Firova played 13 professional seasons with Seattle, Kansas City, Cleveland and the Chicago Cubs, before joining the Tecolotes de Nuevo Laredo as a coach in 1992.

Asked & Answered: Mark D. Lerner answers fan questions

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By Mark D. Lerner
Vice Chairman & Principal Owner of the Washington Nationals

Lerner2Nationals Fans,

Thanks so much for submitting your questions this past week. I always enjoy hearing from fans, and have always said we have the best fans in baseball! I plan on sharing on our social channels throughout the offseason, so I hope this will be the first of many conversations!

Let’s get right to your questions:

Why haven’t you cut Jonathan Papelbon yet? His act was embarrassing to a Nats fan. I will not attend or watch a game until he is no longer on the roster.

I knew this would be the first question, so let me tell you what our thinking is right now. This continues to be a tough one. The incident between Jonathan and Bryce Harper was an unfortunate and unacceptable blow-up between two very passionate players.  Luckily, they put it behind them almost immediately. It was probably easier for them to do that because they know each other in a larger context: as teammates who both want to win.  I know both players would love to have that unfortunate moment back. We have asked Mike Rizzo to determine what roster best puts us in a position to win a World Series. He will certainly do that based on talent, and what’s best for our clubhouse moving forward.

What are you going to do now that Jordan Zimmermann is gone and you might lose Doug Fister? Is Tanner Roark back in rotation? Or Lucas Giolito ready?

We are always looking to improve our starting rotation.  The good news is that we have some strong young arms in our farm system that may prove that they are ready to crack the roster as starters.  We also have stockpiled enough young talent all around that we have players other teams may want to trade in return for a pitcher or two.  I think we are going to have a very interesting and competitive Spring Training in 2016.

Mr. Lerner –

Per Twitter, I am asking a question that my season ticket partner and I have had for years. Is the Curly-W clock in right/center going to get hands again? The clock was such a nice and what seems to be a relatively cheap feature. Also, what about the Curly W in the center field grass? I have read that the answer was due to it damaging the lawn but I am not sure I buy that. I had even put a Curly W in my backyard and tweeted it for encouragement.:) We have concert stages that leave marks.

I love the clock, too, but there has been an ongoing maintenance issue and I’m sorry to say it looks like it’s impossible to fix.  I’ve been told the parts are just not available.  It’s actually a pretty complicated issue, believe it or not, and we’re looking at designs to replace it with something else, no later than the All-Star Game in 2018.

As for the field, I think fans loved seeing the Curly W the same as I did, but players complained about the erratic bounce the ball made off the edges of the design so, of course, the groundskeepers stopped cutting it into the grass.  Can’t argue with that.

Thank you for taking my question, Mark…It seems as though a strategic error was made last season with the failure to add the necessary pieces to make the playoffs. Mike Rizzo mentioned at the trade deadline that budget constraints were a factor in the decision not to add talent, other than Papelbon, who played at no cost. I can only assume that Scherzer’s $210MM salary had a lot to do with limiting the available budget, and you have his salary on the books for another 13 years. What is being done to allocate the necessary funds to on-field talent this year to avoid a repeat of last season? Thank you.

We will never go crazy on spending for spending’s sake, but I think we have a proven history of smart spending on talent we believe will help us win now and in the future.  That really is our test at this point.  We are constantly looking for ways to get better, and we ask Mike Rizzo and his staff to make honest assessments about the value of the talent available.

Will the Lerner family be willing to sign high profile free agent(s) this season?

I think the fans know we will never be shy about spending money and will never rule anything out. These types of investments — and they are truly that — are large-scale decisions that have to be taken on a case-by-case basis. But to close yourself off from any of those investments with a blanket statement wouldn’t be prudent, or in the best interest of the team. We have great trust in our baseball operations department and the guidance they provide, and we won’t close any doors.

The Nats refreshed the team’s uniforms several years ago. I personally feel the set has been a success for the most part, but also could be improved in some ways. How do you feel about them? Do you see any enhancements/additions in the future, or are you content with this set?

It’s funny, now anywhere I travel I run into folks wearing Nationals team merchandise – Curly W caps, jerseys, T-shirts.  I think we have developed a pretty popular logo and brand.  We are open to alternate designs down the line, but currently we are sticking with what is proving to be popular.

Can we have the interlocking “DC” return as a home/away alternate and is it possible to sell the uniforms and caps with the interlocking “DC” logo in the team store?

We are open to alternate designs, but don’t have any current plans to change the uniforms next season. I’ll share your request for the interlocking DC logo to be made available in our stores with the retail team!

I was born in D.C., raised in Prince George’s County, MD. I still live in P.G. till this day. I, like most D.C. area baseball fans, were forced to follow the Baltimore Orioles until we finally brought a team back here to our metro area. It’s frustrating to see the Baltimore Orioles post up billboards in P.G. County (BW Parkway right at the D.C. border, and 301) as if to claim the area as their own territory simply because it’s in the state of MD. P.G. County is a part of the D.C. area, as is Montgomery County, and has no connection to the Baltimore area other than it happens to be in the same state. My question is- What are you doing to continue establishing your territory on the MD side of the D.C. metro area? It just feels like we get less attention than the VA side of the DC area. There should be a lot more presence here. This is all Nats country. O’s country stops in Howard and Anne Arundel counties. 

As a fan who grew up in the Maryland suburbs, I know how strong our fanbase is there. Believe me, we are going to keep growing our brand throughout Maryland and the entire DMV. We are working to develop innovative ways to reach and keep those fans.  Keep your eyes open and I think you will see some additional presence through our community relations and marketing.

Any big changes/new developments you are working on at Nationals Park?

We’re always working on enhancing the fan experience – from concessions to giveaways to seating options. Last season we created the private clubs within the ballpark, K Street boxes and Club 24, unveiled the Lansinoh Lounge for nursing mothers and hosted Jose Andres’ Pepe food truck – to name just a few.  We have some great things being developed during the offseason, but I wouldn’t want to ruin the surprise!

What’s being done about security at Nats Park. I want to feel safe at the ballpark. The security staff seems as though they don’t take their job seriously.

I disagree with your assessment. Our security is second to none. Most of the comments I’ve gotten about security – both from the perspective of friendliness as well as professionalism – have been very positive. If you have specific instances, you should alert the organization immediately using the in-park text messaging system. Our staff is very well-trained and we are vigilant about providing the best and most effective public security possible, as well as the best game-day experience.

Seriously, you should have interviewed me for the skipper job! What women do you have in your team execution group? You need us! I am available if price is right!! #womentowinworldseries

I am proud that the Washington Nationals have one of the best records in professional sports when it comes to hiring.  We currently have more women working in executive positions in our front office than not only any other in Major League Baseball, but than any other team in professional sports in America. I do think we will begin to see more women breaking into baseball operations departments throughout baseball, and we will see women assuming high ranking jobs on the field.

Can you share your feelings regarding last season? The thank you letter to fans at the end of the season said “Our desire to do better – to be better – burns stronger than ever.” What do you view as the biggest issue that contributed to the disappointing season?

Our family’s goal is to bring a World Series back to Washington. We strive to be a playoff-caliber team every year. We were disappointed that we weren’t able to be that last season. But we are moving forward to next season and are excited to usher in the Dusty Baker era. We have put into place several other significant changes, too, from hiring a new coaching staff to restructuring our medical team and we’re hopeful that the 2016 season will be a great one.

Why won’t the Nationals pay to have Metro run late for evening games?

We’ve consistently said that as a world-class city – and the Nation’s Capital – D.C. needs to have a world-class public transportation system and that includes an extended hours schedule like every other major American city. Currently our fans contribute millions of dollars and thousands of hours a year to WMATA traveling to and from games during our 81 home games.  That usage should be reflected in extended hours.

The construction scheduled for the new spring training facility is very ambitious. How confident are you that you will be able to meet the goal to open in time for 2017? And what is the plan if it can’t happen in time? 

This is going to be such a wonderful complex for our team, our fans, and the Palm Beach community. We’re really excited for this new chapter for our organization and are happy to have such wonderful partners in the Astros organization. The new facility will feature Major League-size practice fields, minor league-size practice fields, batting cages and pitching mounds. The stadium itself will significantly improve the fan experience with 6,400 ticketed seats and 1,250 ticketed berm seats, as well as suites, party decks, concession stands, team store, a picnic area and outfield attractions.  The Palm Beach location also has lots of flights to and from D.C. and features expanded hotel and restaurant options. It is an aggressive timetable. Our organization, and the Astros and our contractors are very aware of what needs to be done. The local governments and our new neighbors have been great and are engaged in working to meet the deadline to open our doors to fans for 2017’s spring training.

Why do you believe Dusty Baker is the right man for the job?

There was unnecessary confusion and misinformation during the hiring process because of so many false reports. We were thrilled to bring Dusty on board. He is a fantastic addition to the team and we are incredibly excited to see what he will bring to the clubhouse. He brings nearly 50 years of professional baseball experience with him – he is among the winningest managers in baseball history. He has deep postseason experience, both as a manager and as a player – and has produced seven postseason teams, including five division championships. He’ll help create a clubhouse focused on winning and he’s a lot of fun to be around. We think players and fans will really connect with him.

Many people have pointed out that MLB has had very few African-American managers. What are your thoughts on how baseball can become more diverse at all levels?

Diversity at all levels helps make the game better. We support MLB’s efforts to enhance diversity within the management ranks and believe it is important. We’re proud to have Dusty. Dusty is the best person to be our manager right now. Period. Of course, we are also proud that our most recent coaching hires have made us more diverse.

I see that NatsFest has been expanded to two days and now has a winter theme. Why did you make these changes and how will NatsFest be different this year? 

We think everyone will really enjoy the new and improved WinterFest experience! Two days – December 12 and 13 from 11:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at the DC Convention Center – with new winter-themed games and photos with Santa – and old favorites like the Kids Press Conference, Player Story Times and autograph sessions. Dusty Baker will be attending, as well as players. Tickets are available at nationals.com/NatsWinterfest  – $30 for adults and $20 for children 12 and under. Tickets can also be purchased at the door for $35 for adults and $22 for children 12 and under.

We heard from fans that the one-day only model was difficult given how busy families are during the holiday season. Expanding to two days gives our fans more options. We also looked at the calendar and realized that given the timing, it made sense to incorporate a winter theme along with fan favorites from previous years.

Mr. Lerner,
Your manager just made dismissive comments about allegations of domestic violence allegedly perpetrated by a former player of his. My question: what are you planning on doing about it, knowing that silence or a vague non-apology is not acceptable?  

The Nationals and MLB take domestic violence very seriously. We support the policies the league has put into place regarding this issue. Dusty gave the eulogy less than a year ago at Darryl Hamilton’s funeral, whose death was tragically a result of domestic violence. He has personal experience with domestic violence, and seen the repercussions of it to those very close to him. He was in no way condoning or trivializing the allegations. Dusty was sharing his personal impressions of Chapman based on his experience managing him for the Reds, and commenting on the man he knew then. He has clarified that his hope was that Chapman, the Chapman he knew, had not committed the reported acts of violence.

The Nats had great success and overwhelming crowd participation when Take On Me was played during the 7th-inning stretch.  Now, it seems it’s hard to get much involvement and participation has dwindled. Why is Take On Me no longer played and will you ever bring it back to the 7th-inning stretch?  

Thanks for this question. We’ve heard from many fans that they would like a larger variety of songs incorporated into the game experience, so we’ve experimented with different things. We’re working on what will be played next season and appreciate your feedback!

Given Wednesday’s announcement by MLB regarding proposed netting guidelines, what sections will be impacted at Nationals Park?

We take the health and safety of our fans very seriously. We’ve been told by MLB that our current netting meets the standards proposed this week.

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