Spring Training Preview, Part IV: Infielders

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by Kyle Brostowitz

Entering Spring Training, Washington’s 2015 40-man infield unit is a careful mixture of stability (Ian Desmond and Anthony Rendon), transition (Ryan Zimmerman), quality depth (Danny Espinosa, Kevin Frandsen and Tyler Moore) and newcomers (Yunel Escobar and Wilmer Difo). The 2014 unit boasted two Silver Sluggers while leading Major League Baseball with 91 home runs. The combination of power, speed and defensive versatility allows this unit to be one of the most reliable in Major League Baseball.

We’ve already previewed the Nationals’ catchers, relievers and starting pitchers; now, in alphabetical order, let’s review the 2015 infielders.

*Note, 2014 totals reflect only Major League stats.

IAN DESMOND

Atlanta Braves v Washington Nationals2014 Season Totals: .255/.313/.431, 108 wRC+, 7.1% BB rate, 28.2% K rate, 4.1 fWAR in 648 PA.
2015 Steamer Projection: .258/.313/.416, 104 wRC+, 6.8% BB rate, 24.9% K rate, 2.9 fWAR in 619 PA.

The longest tenured member of the organization, Desmond is the unquestioned leader of this unit. He earned his third consecutive Louisville Slugger Silver Slugger Award in 2014 and was one of just three big leaguers to earn a Silver Slugger in 2012, 2013 and 2014, joining Andrew McCutchen (NL, outfielder), and Mike Trout (AL, outfielder) on this short list. Since the award’s inception in 1980, Desmond is the first National League shortstop to win back-to-back-to-back honors since Barry Larkin (HOF 2012) won five straight from 1988-1992.

Desmond was one of five “20/20” players in Major League Baseball in 2014 and his 24 home run/24 stolen base effort was his third straight dating to 2012.  He is as dependable as they come, appearing in at least 154 games in four of his five complete big league seasons.

WILMER DIFO

2014 Season Totals: N/A
2015 Steamer Proj.: .219/.252/.300, 53 wRC+, 3.8% BB rate, 14.3% K rate, 0.0 fWAR in 1 PA.

A speedy, switch-hitting middle infielder, Difo is a product of Washington’s revamped scouting efforts in the Dominican Republic. He was signed on June 3, 2010 and progressed steadily through the Nationals’ chain before exploding onto the scene in 2014, earning him recognition and inclusion on Baseball America’s Top 10 Prospect List for the Nationals (No. 7). He was added to Washington’s 40-man roster following the 2014 season.

Difo was named the South Atlantic League’s Most Valuable Player after leading the league with 176 hits while ranking second in total bases (263), second in stolen bases (49), fourth in RBI (90) and fourth in runs scored (91). His 90 RBI were the most among Nationals farmhands, while his .315 average was good for second. He was the recipient of the Bob Boone Award, which is granted annually to the Nationals Minor Leaguer who best demonstrates the professionalism, leadership, loyalty, passion, selflessness, durability, determination and work ethic required to play the game the “Washington Nationals Way.”

YUNEL ESCOBAR

2014 Season Totals: .258/.324/.340, 95 wRC+, 8.1% BB rate, 11.3% K rate, 0.2 fWAR in 529 PA.
2015 Steamer Proj.: .271/.333/.367, 98 wRC+, 8.1% BB rate, 11.8% K rate, 2.1 fWAR in 522 PA.

Escobar, a slick-fielding middle infielder (2013 AL Gold Glove Finalist) is a veteran of eight Major League seasons. He was acquired from Oakland in exchange for right-handed reliever Tyler Clippard on January 14, 2015. Escobar appeared in 137 games for the Rays in 2014, his fewest since 2011, due to right shoulder soreness that sent him to the 15-Day disabled list (June 30–July 11) and a left-knee sprain in mid-September that ended his season prematurely.

Escobar is expected to bounce back from those injuries and return to form in 2015 to provide stability to the Nationals infield. He will transition to second base while also providing depth at shortstop, when needed. When he takes the field for Washington in 2015, he will become the third Cuban-born player to play in the big leagues for the Nationals, joining pitchers Livan Hernandez and Yunesky Maya.

DANNY ESPINOSA

New York Mets v Washington Nationals2014 Season Totals: .219/.283/.351, 75 wRC+, 4.9% BB rate, 33.5% K rate, 0.6 fWAR in 364 PA.
2015 Steamer Proj.: .218/.278/.348, 74 wRC+, 6.0% BB rate, 30.1% K rate, 0.2 fWAR in 181 PA.

Espinosa bounced back from a wrist injury that plagued his 2013 season. He started off strong in the month of April, hitting .291 (23-for-79) with five doubles, one triple, and three home runs in 25 games. He also hit left-handers hard in 2014, batting .301 (31-for-103) with eight doubles, three home runs and 10 RBI, posting an .859 OPS from the right side of the plate. Espinosa’s versatility and elite defensive ability at shortstop and second base allow him to be used in a variety of roles by manager Matt Williams.

KEVIN FRANDSEN

2014 Season Totals: .259/.299/.309, 72 wRC+, 2.5% BB rate, 11.0% K rate, -0.6 fWAR in 236 PA.
2015 Steamer Proj.: .270/.309/.357, 86 wRC+, 3.6% BB rate, 10.8% K rate, 0.0 fWAR in 173 PA.

Frandsen returns for his second season with the Nationals. He brings a strong bench bat and defensive versatility to Washington’s roster. Frandsen is a career .255 (38-for-149) pinch hitter, and his 25 pinch hits the last two years rank second in MLB behind only Reed Johnson (27).

In his first season in Washington, Frandsen led the Nationals with 11 pinch hits (T-10th in NL) and started 42 games at four positions (6 at 1B, 9 at 2B, 12 at 3B, 15 in LF). He hit .303 (23-for-76) vs. left-handed pitching and .298 (14-for-47) with runners in scoring position.

JEFF KOBERNUS

2014 Season Totals: .000/.250/.000, 4 wRC+, 12.5% BB rate, 12.5% K rate in 8 PA.
2015 Steamer Proj.: .250/.302/.332, 77 wRC+, 6.1% BB rate, 18.3% K rate in 1 PA.

Kobernus began the 2014 season with Triple-A Syracuse, playing in two contests before sustaining a broken left hand suffered when he was hit by a pitch on April 7. He was placed on the 60-Day DL on April 12 and after several rehab assignments, was recalled on June 25 and reported to Triple-A Syracuse, where he would hit .269 with 13 doubles, one triple, two home runs, 22 RBI, 22 walks, 14 stolen bases and 27 runs scored in the final 56 games of the season.

He joined Washington when rosters expanded in September and appeared in four games for the Nationals.

TYLER MOORE

2014 Season Totals: .231/.300/.385, 94 wRC+, 7.0% BB rate, 29.0% K rate, 0.3 fWAR in 100 PA.
2015 Steamer Proj.: .244/.305/.426, 104 wRC+, 7.5% BB rate, 25.2% K rate, 0.2 fWAR in 99 PA.

Moore was set to begin the 2014 season with Triple-A Syracuse, but was recalled to Washington on April 6 when outfielder Scott Hairston was placed on the 15-Day disabled list. Moore enjoyed three stints with the Nationals, appearing in 42 games. While with Syracuse he hit .265 with 21 doubles, 10 home runs, 44 RBI and 45 runs scored in 84 games. It marked the fourth time in the last five seasons Moore hit at least 10 home runs at the Minor League level.

ANTHONY RENDON

San Francisco Giants v Washington Nationals2014 Season Totals: .287/.351/.473, 130 wRC+, 8.5% BB rate, 15.2% K rate, 6.6 fWAR in 683 PA.
2015 Steamer Proj.: .279/.350/.454, 125 wRC+, 9.0% BB rate, 15.6% K rate, 5.0 fWAR in 643 PA.

In his first full big league season, Rendon posted MVP-level numbers, finishing fifth in the NL MVP voting en route to his first National League Silver Slugger Award. He ranked fourth in MLB (2nd in NL) in Wins Above Replacement (6.6), according to Fangraphs.com, and his 111 runs paced the National League (3rd in MLB). He also ranked among National League leaders in hits (T-5th, 176), total bases (3rd, 290), doubles (T-4th, 39), extra base hits (T-5th, 66) and times on base (10th, 239).

Although he appeared in 28 games at second base in 2014, Rendon has solidified himself as one of the top third baseman in the game and will man the hot corner for Matt Williams in 2015.

RYAN ZIMMERMAN

2014 Season Totals: .280/.342/.449, 120 wRC+, 9.2% BB rate, 15.4% K rate, 1.2 fWAR in 240 PA.
2015 Steamer Proj.: .275/.344/.449, 122 wRC+, 9.2% BB rate, 18.5% K rate, 3.4 fWAR in 570 PA.

Houston Astros v Washington NationalsZimmerman’s 2014 season was marred by two extensive disabled list stints that limited him to just 61 games. He fractured his right thumb sliding head first back into second base on April 13 at Atlanta. He returned June 3 and, upon his return, selflessly shifted to left field to allow Matt Williams flexibility when filling out the lineup card. He suffered a strained right hamstring on June 23 in Colorado sprinting to first base to beat out a ground ball. He rejoined the Nationals active roster on September 20 and started four games, all in left field. Zimmerman played defensively in left field (30 games), at third base (23) and first base (1). He did not commit an error in left field while connecting on two outfield assists.

Zimmerman will again transition to a new position in 2015, making the full-time move across the diamond to first base. Zimmerman’s elite hands and instincts hope to prove valuable in making the transition as smooth as possible.

Nationals agree to terms with RHP Casey Janssen

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by Amanda Comak

Baltimore Orioles v Toronto Blue JaysThe Washington Nationals added a veteran right-handed arm to the back-end of their bullpen on Monday, agreeing to terms with right-handed pitcher Casey Janssen on a one-year contract with a mutual option for 2016.

Janssen, 33, joins the Nationals after 10 years in the Toronto Blue Jays organization, including five consecutive Major League seasons with an ERA of 3.95 or lower.

“We are happy to add Casey Janssen to our stable of relief arms,” said Nationals President of Baseball Operations and General Manager Mike Rizzo. “We’re excited about what he will bring to our bullpen – on the mound, as one of the most effective and consistent relievers the last several years, as well as in the clubhouse.

“He is a veteran guy who has a plethora of experience in late, high-leverage innings, and we’re thrilled to add him to our mix.”

In 2014, Janssen was 3-3 with a 3.94 ERA over 45.2 innings pitched. From 2011-2013, however, Janssen was 11-2 with a 2.46 ERA while appearing in 173 games (102 games finished), racking up 58 saves, 170 strikeouts, and posting a 0.977 cumulative WHIP over 172 IP.

Before the All-Star break in 2014, Janssen was 3-0 with a 1.23 ERA in 23 games (22 IP) with 14 saves. Over the course of his career, Janssen is 29-24 with a 3.52 ERA, 90 saves, and 368 strikeouts in 493.0 IP.

The third Blue Jays pitcher ever to record three straight 20-save seasons, the veteran right-hander has significant experience in late-inning roles, including 90 career saves – 81 of which were earned in the previous three seasons alone.

With the addition of Janssen, the Nationals have designated right-handed pitcher Eric Fornataro for assignment. Fornataro was acquired from the St. Louis Cardinals on a waiver claim in November 2014. In eight Major League games in 2014, Fornataro was 0-0 with a 4.66 ERA.

Mentoring: A Grand Slam Experience

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By John Walls
YBA Mentor

John Walls with Scholar AthleteOne hour. You’d be surprised how much you can get done and what a difference you can make in that time. For about as long as it takes to watch my favorite Netflix show, the time I spend mentoring at the Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy is giving me the chance to make a positive difference in the lives of young people, and to form relationships I hope will last for years to come.

As part of the Academy’s mission of focusing on helping youngsters in some of D.C.’s more challenging areas develop better academic and life skills, mentors in language arts, math, and science work regularly with scholar-athletes. I’ve been working with fourth graders Chalore and Kayla since the fall, and we just added Mikael to our group last week.

They’re quite a bunch! Sure, we might not always get through every lesson plan. Conversations about school, movies, dance teams, or whatever, tend to weave through the time we spend together. And I’ll admit, I’m not always sure I’m getting through to them.

But then you have one of those moments.

The eyes light up. The giggle’s for real. Or you can genuinely sense their pride when you give them a “Great Job!” when working through a nightly reading assignment. You know that being there, when you’re supposed to be, just for them, and really listening to what they have to say is making a difference.

That’s what mentoring is all about.

It’s a blessing to have the chance to be a positive role model for young people who really need that in their lives. The Academy is playing a vital role in the community, and it really is a privilege to be a part of it. You can watch Netflix any time, but you can make a difference in a child’s life, right now.  Give it a try!

YBA - Girls

January is National Mentorship Month, a great opportunity to highlight the work of theWashington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy – a new, state of the art education and recreation facility in Southeast D.C. – where Nats players and community volunteers alike have forged strong mentoring relationships with youth from at-risk communities.

For more information on how you can serve as a mentor at the Nationals Youth Baseball Academy please visit: http://washington.nationals.mlb.com/was/youthbaseballacademy/getinvolved.jsp

No Excuses Mentoring: What you give is what you get

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By Christine Jackson
YBA Mentor

My plate is full. My schedule is already very tight. I can’t fit another thing into my life. I’m super busy!

20150127_190417All of these are valid excuses for NOT mentoring. But, at some point, when a little bit of time suddenly appears in your schedule, then what will your excuse be? While we are feeding our minds with how hectic our lives are, there are so many young people starving to get a little one-on-one time with one of us!

I came to this realization as I considered whether I could commit to mentor one night a week at the Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy.  Of course, I made a mental note of my daily full-time work schedule and all the other items on my to do list. I remembered how exhausted I was after teaching school every day (over 20 years ago).  The list of excuses kept growing, but eventually, I made a decision to make a difference.

The factors that lead to students dropping out by ninth grade are well documented. As a parent of two young-adult children, I was familiar with the impact that significant adult relationships had on my children as they navigated through adolescence. I also know first-hand, growing up in D.C.’s Ward 8, how easily a child can slip through the cracks or become a victim of substandard education and low socio-economic conditions.  I was fortunate enough to have strong relationships with many adults, especially my parents, who forced me to read books throughout the summer, re-do homework until it was correct, and encouraged me to explore creative writing to express my vivid imagination far beyond the dismal condition of my immediate community that I saw on a daily basis.

So Tuesday nights became more beneficial to me as I saw the faces of Charles, Levon and Andre light up whenever I engaged them in a conversation about their lives. A little game time playing UNO or tackling brain teasers also helps to stimulate a little healthy competition! My momentary weariness quickly fades into their excitement each week. In fact, I know my words of encouragement and affirmation will stay with them long after this mentoring year ends.

It’s rewarding to be among the cadre of mentors who give to the lives of our scholar athletes each week with the realistic expectation that there will be a return on the investment manifested in the productive lives of our mentees!

 

YBA - Main Field Logo

January is National Mentorship Month, a great opportunity to highlight the work of theWashington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy – a new, state of the art education and recreation facility in Southeast D.C. – where Nats players and community volunteers alike have forged strong mentoring relationships with youth from at-risk communities.

For more information on how you can serve as a mentor at the Nationals Youth Baseball Academy please visit: http://washington.nationals.mlb.com/was/youthbaseballacademy/getinvolved.jsp

Spring Training Preview, Part III: Starting Pitchers

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by Kyle Mann

Coming off a Major League Baseball-best 3.03 starters ERA, the Washington Nationals added 2013 American League Cy Young Award Winner Max Scherzer to a starting staff that is now projected to feature five members with Top-10 Cy Young Award finishes since 2012.

We’ve already previewed the Nationals starting catchers and relievers; now let’s dig into what could be a historically good starting staff.

*Note, 2014 totals reflect only Major League stats.

MAX SCHERZER

2014 Season Totals: 18-5, 3.15 ERA, 2.85 FIP, 10.29 K/9, 2.57 BB/9, 5.6 fWAR in 220.1 IP
2015 Steamer Projection: 14-8, 2.91 ERA, 2.96 FIP, 10.46 K/9, 2.43 BB/9, 3.9 fWAR in 192.0 IP

Even in a rotation full of aces, Scherzer stands out due to his impressive resume that includes the 2013 American League Cy Young Award and a fifth-place Cy Young finish in 2014. Scherzer, a 6-foot-3, 220-pound right-hander, also has two straight All-Star appearances, earning the starting nod in 2013 and winning the game out of the bullpen last season.

Now back in the National League, where he started his career as a first round pick of then-Diamondbacks Vice President of Scouting Operations (and current Nationals President of Baseball Operations and GM) Mike Rizzo, Scherzer is poised to continue his success in 2015 and beyond. Scherzer, baseball’s active leader (and fourth all-time) in strikeouts per nine innings pitched, also led the AL in wins each of the last two seasons (tied in 2014) and was a top three finisher in in strikeouts each of the past three years.

the Washington Nationals Nationals play the San Francisco Giants in the 2nd playoff gameJORDAN ZIMMERMANN

2014 Season Totals: 14-5, 2.66 ERA, 2.68 FIP, 8.20 K/9, 1.31 BB/9, 5.2 fWAR in 199.2 IP
2015 Steamer Proj.: 13-9, 3.39 ERA, 3.45 FIP, 7.65 K/9, 1.72 BB/9, 2.9 fWAR in 182.0 IP

A model of consistency, Jordan Zimmermann has established himself as one of the best pitchers in the Major Leagues the past four seasons. After tying for the NL lead in wins and finishing seventh in the Cy Young Award voting in 2013, Zimmermann followed up his first All-Star season with an even better 2014.

Zimmermann’s no-hitter to end the regular season was certainly the highlight, but Zimmermann was dominant all year. Zimmermann twice won NL Player of the Week honors and allowed the fewest walks per nine innings in the league, en route to a fifth-place finish in NL Cy Young voting. Known for being a bulldog on the mound, Zimmermann finished second in the league in strikeout-to-walk ratio and fourth in WHIP (walks plus hits per inning pitched) and finished behind only National League MVP and Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw in fielding independent pitching (FIP) —a key indicator of future performance.

STEPHEN STRASBURG

2014 Season Totals: 14-11, 3.14 ERA, 2.94 FIP, 10.13 K/9, 1.80 BB/9, 4.3 fWAR in 215.0 IP
2015 Steamer Proj.: 13-8, 3.03 ERA, 2.87 FIP, 9.78 K/9, 2.27 BB/9, 3.8 fWAR in 182.0 IP

Since being selected with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft out of San Diego State University, Stephen Strasburg has established himself as one of the game’s most talented pitchers. Last season, Strasburg led the National League in strikeouts and games started behind a dominating fastball that averaged 94.8 mph and a change-up that averaged 88.2 miles per hour.

Strasburg struck out 10.13 batters per nine innings, good for second in the NL, on his way to a ninth-place finish in the Cy Young Award balloting. Thanks to a reduction in walk rate, Strasburg improved his strikeout-to-walk ratio from 3.41 in 2013 to 5.63 last season, good for second in the National League.  Strasburg has been the Nationals’ Opening Day starter each of the past three seasons and served as the Game 1 starter in the 2014 playoffs — and at just 26, is still improving — but it remains to be seen where he’ll slot in this rotation at the start of the 2015 campaign.

MLB-Miami Marlins at Washington NationalsDOUG FISTER

2014 Season Totals: 16-6, 2.41 ERA, 3.93 FIP, 5.38 K/9, 1.32 BB/9, 1.3 fWAR in 164.0 IP
2015 Steamer Proj.: 12-10, 3.78 ERA, 3.68 FIP, 6.20 K/9, 1.82 BB/9, 2.1 fWAR in 182.0 IP

In his inaugural season in Washington, Doug Fister had the best ERA among all Nationals starters, and his 2.41 ERA was good for fourth best in the National League. Considering he may head into 2015 as a possible fourth starter in the rotation, D.C. has plenty of reasons to be excited about the team’s chances during the 2015 season. With a quick tempo and a four-pitch mix that perplexed hitters all season long, Fister improved his ERA every month of the season on his way to an eighth-place finish in the NL Cy Young Award voting. Finishing behind only teammate Jordan Zimmermann in the NL in walks per nine innings, Fister’s control is the key to his success. After flourishing in his first season in the nation’s capital, Fister is poised for another great season for the Nationals in 2015.

GIO GONZALEZ

2014 Season Totals: 10-10, 3.57 ERA, 3.03 FIP, 9.19 K/9, 3.18 BB/9, 3.1 fWAR in 158.2 IP
2015 Steamer Proj.: 11-9, 3.70 ERA, 3.59 FIP, 8.68 K/9, 3.32 BB/9, 2.0 fWAR in 163.0 IP

The lone southpaw in the Nationals’ batch of starters, Gio Gonzalez enters 2015 coming off a strong September where he posted a 2.48 ERA and had 31 strikeouts and only five walks. Overall, his effectiveness in 2014 was masked by an ERA more than a half run higher than his FIP, which could indicate a return to some of the numbers the Hialeah, Fla. native posted during his 21-win 2012 campaign. The two-time All-Star is sixth among active pitchers in strikeouts per nine innings and sixth among active MLB lefties in career ERA, with an uptick in numbers since joining the Nationals three seasons ago. Gonzalez could be in line for a strong 2015, particularly if he continues to develop his change-up, a pitch he threw with more regularity in the second half of the season.

TANNER ROARK

2014 Season Totals: 15-10, 2.85 ERA, 3.47 FIP, 6.25 K/9, 1.77 BB/9, 3.0 fWAR in 198.2 IP
2015 Steamer Proj.: 2-2, 4.10 ERA, 4.13 FIP, 6.44 K/9, 2.26 BB/9, 0.3 fWAR in 38.0 IP

Part of the package the Nationals received for Cristian Guzman in a 2010 trade, Tanner Roark finished the 2014 season with 15 wins and a 2.85 ERA, proving his strong rookie season was no fluke. While Roark’s 2015 role isn’t yet clear, he’s shown he can be very successful as a starter, or coming out of the bullpen, including 22.2 innings in 2013 in which he posted a 1.19 ERA. After finishing last season in the Top 10 in the National League in wins, WHIP, walks per inning pitched and pitching WAR, Roark provides great rotation depth for the Nationals and should easily beat his Steamer projections if he gets regular work. As the old saying goes, you can never have too much pitching, and Roark has shown he will provide value no matter how he is used in 2015.

New York Mets v Washington Nationals - Game OneBLAKE TREINEN

2014 Season Totals: 2-3, 2.49 ERA, 3.09 FIP, 5.33 K/9, 2.31 BB/9, 0.6 fWAR in 50.2 IP
2015 Steamer Proj.: 2-2, 3.55 ERA, 3.47 FIP, 6.83 K/9, 2.17 BB/9, 0.2 fWAR in 45.0 IP 

A key part of the three-team trade that sent Michael Morse to Seattle before the 2013 season — a deal that also netted the Nationals A.J. Cole and Ian Krol (later an integral part of the trade for Doug Fister) — Blake Treinen’s blazing fastball generated a lot of buzz in D.C. during his first taste of the Major Leagues. After posting an outstanding 2.49 ERA in 15 appearances (seven starts) with the Nationals in 2014, Treinen is an option to provide rotation depth, or be utilized out of the Nationals bullpen. A former college walk-on, Treinen threw his hard, sinking fastball nearly 80 percent of the time last season with an average speed of 94.8 miles per hour. Regardless of role, Treinen should be a solid contributor for the Nationals in 2015.

TAYLOR JORDAN

2014 Season Totals: 0-3, 5.61 ERA, 4.50 FIP, 5.96 K/9, 2.81 BB/9, 0.1 fWAR in 25.2 IP
2015 Steamer Proj.: 1-1, 3.79 ERA, 3.74 FIP, 6.45 K/9, 2.14 BB/9, 0.1 fWAR in 20.0 IP

After a successful rookie season in 2013, Taylor Jordan began the year in the Nationals rotation before returning to Triple-A Syracuse in early May. The young right-hander underwent surgery to remove bone chips from his right elbow in September, and began the process of working toward this spring. A groundball pitcher, the Merritt Island, Fla. native has induced a 56 percent groundball rate during his time in the Majors, peaking at 57.5 percent during his 2013 campaign, in which he posted a 3.66 ERA. Provided he’s healthy to start the season, Jordan should be ready to contribute in the role and the level the Nationals feel will be his best fit.

TAYLOR HILL

2014 Season Totals: 0-1, 9.00 ERA, 3.69 FIP, 5.00 K/9, 3.00 BB/9, 0.1 fWAR in 9.0 IP
2015 Steamer Proj.: 1-1, 3.88 ERA, 3.96 FIP, 5.69 K/9, 1.65 BB/9, 0.0 fWAR in 30.0 IP

A sixth-round pick in the 2011 draft out of Vanderbilt University, Taylor Hill made his Major League debut for the Nationals in June and earned his first big league start in September of last season. While Hill ran into some tough luck during his brief MLB stint, he produced an outstanding 2.81 ERA for Triple-A Syracuse in 144 innings. Hill provides great starting rotation depth for the Nationals.

A.J. COLE

2014 Season Totals: N/A
2015 Steamer Proj.: 0-0, 4.14 ERA, 4.05 FIP, 6.99 K/9, 2.73 BB/9, 0.0 fWAR in 1.0 IP

Ranked as the Nationals’ No. 2 prospect by MLB.com, A.J. Cole features a fastball that sits in the mid-90s as well as a solid changeup and curveball. After being selected as a fourth-round pick in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft, Cole was included in the haul to acquire All-Star Gio Gonzalez from the Oakland Athletics in December 2011. But the Nationals have always been high on Cole, who was reacquired by the Nationals in January 2013 as the centerpiece of the Michael Morse trade. After a successful 2014 season between Double-A Harrisburg and Triple-A Syracuse, in which he combined for a 3.16 ERA and 111 strikeouts over 134 innings, Cole enters Spring Training with a chance to contribute to the Nationals at some point during the 2015 season.

FELIPE RIVERO

2014 Season Totals: N/A
2015 Steamer Proj.: 0-0, 4.48 ERA, 4.48 FIP, 6.86 K/9, 3.96 BB/9, 0.0 fWAR in 1.0 IP

Acquired with Jose Lobaton and Drew Vettleson last spring for Nathan Karns, Felipe Rivero is a hard throwing southpaw who can hit 97 mph with his fastball. He complements that offering with a curveball and a change-up, both which show promise. The native of Venezuela struck out 8.4 batters per nine innings across three levels in 2014, ending his season with a stint in the Arizona Fall League. If Rivero improves his command, the 23-year-old projects as left-handed starter in the majors, but also has potential as a left-handed stopper in the bullpen.

SAMMY SOLIS

2014 Season Totals: N/A
2015 Steamer Proj.: 0-0, 4.06 ERA, 4.05 FIP, 7.16 K/9, 3.07 BB/9, 0.0 fWAR in 1.0 IP

A 6-foot-5 left-hander, Sammy Solis has pitched well when healthy. Solis has an impressive 3.33 ERA over the course of his Minor League career with 7.9 strikeouts per nine innings, and features a fastball that can touch 95 miles per hour to go with a solid change-up. A former second-round draft pick out of the University of San Diego, Solis has the chance to move through the Nationals’ system quickly.

Get ready for ‘Ten Days Of Teddy’

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Hey Nats fans!

I hope you’ve had a great offseason.

It’s Teddy here to remind you that baseball will be back in just a few short weeks! Can you believe we’re celebrating the Nationals 10-Year Anniversary this year? This historic season will have a lot in store and we can’t wait to welcome you back to Nationals Park.

WNA_Twitter_icon_Teddy26Nats_2011_400x400The team has wisely asked me to help kick off our Anniversary celebration, so we’re launching  “10 Days Of Teddy,” an exciting initiative that will run during the first two weeks in February, starting on Monday, February 2.

Weekdays only… weekends are for training! You hear that, Bill?

As part of “10 Days Of Teddy,” I’ll be heading out to different locations around D.C., Maryland, and Virginia to reveal the promotional items that will be given away this season to celebrate the past decade of baseball in D.C. And YOU will have the opportunity to break the news.

Here’s all you need to know: keep an eye on the @nationals Twitter account each day between 11:00 a.m-1:00 p.m. That’s where I’ll send out a clue about my location. The first fan to find me – and show me the clue on their mobile device – will not only be able to announce a 2015 promotional item on their Twitter account, but they’ll receive two tickets to the game at which the item will be distributed.

To sweeten the deal, I’ll pick two days over the 10 when the winner will receive Opening Day tickets, too!

In the meantime, we’ll be posting some of our favorite giveaways from the past 10 years to get you excited.

See you in February! And I can’t wait to welcome you all back to the ballpark during our 10-Year Anniversary season!

-Teddy

B823fCcCMAAS9NRUpdate (Feb. 2, 12:45 pm): We have our first winner! Congratulations to Michael A. Simmons who found me at my first secret locale: Mount Pleasant Library. (Thanks to the library for having me!) Michael was lucky enough to win Opening Day tickets AND announce that we’ll be giving away this commemorative tin on Opening Day! This collectors item represents the traditional 10-Year Anniversary gift of tin and can be used to store your Nationals keepsakes!

TenDaysTeddy_Bobble1Update (Feb. 3, 11:45 pm): We’ve got another lucky winner. Congratulations to Alicia Prince, who found me at D.C. City Hall today! We were honored to have Mayor Muriel Bowser join in our fun today. Alicia announced that on May 4, 2015 vs. the Marlins we’ll be giving away a Livan Hernandez bobblehead, celebrating our inaugural game! This is the first bobblehead in our 10-Year Anniversary season.

bottlestopperUpdate (Feb. 4, 11:45 pm): Our third winner has found me! Congratulations to Jim Scanlon, who found me today in Old Town, Alexandria! Jim won tickets to our May 5 game vs. the Marlins where we’ll be giving away our first 10 Year Tuesdays keepsake: a Nationals bottle stopper! 

coinUpdate (Feb. 5, 12:22 pm): Today’s winner found me visiting some of the wonderful people working at the Pentagon! Congratulations to Karin Drinkhall, who found me at lunchtime and won Opening Day tickets AND tickets to our June 2 game vs. the Blue Jays where we’ll be giving away a commemorative coin, one of our 10 Year Tuesdays keepsakes!

zimmermanBobble-postUpdate (Feb. 6, 12:25 pm): Congrats to Emily Lelandais — a Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy mentor! — who found me outside the Bethesda Metro Station this afternoon! I am so excited that Emily got to announce that on June 4 vs. the Cubs she’ll be in attendance when we give away this bobblehead of Ryan Zimmerman’s Nationals Park-opening walk-off home run!

UNesting-Dollspdate (Feb. 9, 1:00 pm): After a weekend spent training for the 2015 Presidents Race, I was back in action and today’s winner found me visiting the National Zoo! Congrats to Larry Durbin, who spotted me by the American Bison at the National Zoo. Larry, I am so happy that you won tickets to our September 3 game vs. the Atlanta Braves and got to announce that on that night we’ll be giving away these Nesting Dolls! Can’t wait to see you there!

stras_bobble_postUpdate (Feb. 10, 12:45 pm): Ten Days of Teddy hit the movies today! Congrats to Fred Kleiman, who spotted me at AFI Silver Spring this afternoon! Fred is a big winner. He will not only be in attendance at our game on July 5 vs. the San Francisco Giants, but he got to announce that on that night we’ll be giving away a bobblehead commemorating Stephen Strasburg’s electrifying Major League debut! 

werthbobblepostUpdate (Feb. 11, 12:44 pm): Today was about filling my belly, and congratulations to Victor Ponce, who found me at Hard Times Cafe in Clarendon! Victor got to announce that on Aug. 30 we’ll be giving away this awesome bobblehead commemorating Jayson Werth’s Game 4 walk-off home run — and Victor will be there, because he won tickets to that game, too.

Only two days left in my 10 Days of fun, and remember there are still a pair of Opening Day lineup-card2tickets up for grabs. Be sure to be on the lookout for tomorrow’s clue!

Update (Feb. 12, 1:00 pm): Nine Days of ME are complete! Congrats to Irma P. Alba, who found me at the Harris Teeter in Potomac and announced that we’ll be giving away this Inaugural Game Mini Lineup Card on Sept. 8!

Only one more day left. Where will I be tomorrow?!

zmannbobblepostUpdate (Feb. 13, 12:45 pm): Ten Days of Teddy has come to its conclusion — but we went out with a bang! Congrats to Jeremy Art, who found me at Union Station today. Jeremy won tickets for Opening Day at Nationals Park AND announced that we’ll be giving away this Jordan Zimmermann No-Hitter bobblehead on Sept. 25!

Thank you so much to all who participated in our scavenger hunt. It was so nice to meet all of our winners and everyone else who stopped by the last two weeks! I can’t wait for our 10th Anniversary season to begin!

Spring Training Preview, Part II: Relief Pitchers

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by Kyle Mann

Over each of the next few weeks, we’ll break down the entire Nationals roster as the team prepares to take the field in Viera, Fla., to get to work on defending their NL East Division title. Continuing this week with relief pitchers, we’ll take a look at the stockpile of talent acquired and developed by President of Baseball Operations & General Manager Mike Rizzo, 2014 NL Manager of the Year Matt Williams and their respective staffs.

We already reviewed the catchers, so now let’s delve into some of the arms they’ll spend their time catching: the relievers.

*Note, 2014 totals reflect only Major League stats.

Miami Marlins v Washington NationalsDREW STOREN

2014 Season Totals: 2-1, 11 saves, 1.12 ERA, 2.71 FIP, 7.35 K/9, 1.76 BB/9, 0.9 fWAR in 56.1 IP
2015 Steamer Proj.: 3-3, 33 saves, 3.37 ERA, 3.45 FIP, 7.89 K/9, 2.28 BB/9, 0.3 fWAR in 65.0 IP

Since being drafted No. 10 overall in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft, right-hander Drew Storen has been a steady contributor in the Nationals bullpen. After the toughest year of his young career in 2013, Storen came back with a vengeance last season, posting an N.L best 1.12 ERA (min. 50 innings pitched). Coming off such a strong year, Storen is being counted on to build off his great 2014 campaign and lock down the ninth inning for the defending NL East Champions.

MATT THORNTON

2014 Season Totals: 1-3, 0 saves, 1.75 ERA, 2.66 FIP, 7.00 K/9, 2.00 BB/9, 0.7 fWAR in 36.0 IP
2015 Steamer Proj.: 3-2, 2 saves, 2.96 ERA, 3.11 FIP, 8.33 K/9, 2.26 BB/9, 0.5 fWAR in 55.0 IP

An 11-year veteran, Matt Thornton was acquired by the Nationals from the Yankees last August to provide a veteran left-handed presence in the bullpen. Thornton responded with 18 scoreless appearances for the Nationals while also stranding 100 percent of inherited baserunners. Signed through 2015, Thornton is projected to continue his success in the back-end of the Nationals bullpen in 2015, which will likely include a significant late-inning load again this season.

CRAIG STAMMEN

2014 Season Totals: 4-5, 0 saves, 3.84 ERA, 3.19 FIP, 6.94 K/9, 1.73 BB/9, 0.6 fWAR in 72.2 IP
2015 Steamer Proj.: 3-3, 3 saves, 3.46 ERA, 3.45 FIP, 7.53 K/9, 2.42 BB/9, 0.3 fWAR in 65.0 IP

Craig Stammen has proven to be Mr. Everything for the Nationals since making his Major League debut in 2009. A starting pitcher in 2009 and 2010, Stammen has since established himself as a solid, versatile reliever for the Nationals the last four seasons, posting an ERA under 4.00 each year. While Stammen’s ERA rose from 2.76 in 2013 to 3.83 last season, his FIP and underlying peripherals indicate his performance was much closer to his outstanding 2013 than his ERA showed. With a career best 4:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio last season, thr right-hander should be in line for another solid season in 2015, no matter which role he occupies in the Nationals’ bullpen.

Atlanta Braves v Washington NationalsAARON BARRETT

2014 Season Totals: 3-0, 0 saves, 2.66 ERA, 2.59 FIP, 10.84 K/9, 4.43 BB/9, 0.6 fWAR in 40.2 IP
2015 Steamer Proj.: 2-2, 1 save, 3.21 ERA, 3.26 FIP, 9.20 K/9, 3.07 BB/9, 0.3 fWAR in 45.0 IP

Whether you count securing the win in his Major League debut on Opening Day, or taking down the Rockies Brandon Barnes in a July 23rd anthem stand-off among the highlights, there’s no doubt that Aaron Barrett proved himself as a bullpen force during his rookie season. Finishing the year with an outstanding 2.66 ERA and extremely impressive 10.84 K/9 mark, Barrett provided plenty of reasons for Nationals fans to be excited about his second MLB season. Barrett has the ability to pitch in a right-handed set-up role for the Nationals in 2015, and if he can improve upon last season’s 4.43 BB/9, it seems the sky is the limit for him.

JERRY BLEVINS

2014 Season Totals: 2-3, 0 saves, 4.87 ERA, 2.77 FIP, 10.36 K/9, 3.61 BB/9, 0.7 fWAR in 57.1 IP
2015 Steamer Proj.: 3-2, 1 save, 3.11 ERA, 3.55 FIP, 9.03 K/9, 2.89 BB/9, 0.2 fWAR in 55.0 IP

A teammate of Stammen’s at the University of Dayton, Jerry Blevins joined Stammen as a key bullpen contributor during his first season in the Nation’s Capital. The left-hander’s 4.87 ERA from last season may be a bit misleading, but if you dig a bit deeper you’ll see that he had an outstanding 10.36 K/9 and 2.77 FIP, plus some impressive performances out of the bullpen during the postseason. Blevins’ strong peripheral stats lead to a rosy 2015 projection for the international traveler where he should combine with Thornton to provide solid left-handed contributions in the Nationals’ bullpen.

XAVIER CEDENO

2014 Season Totals: 0-0, 0 saves, 3.86 ERA, 3.56 FIP, 6.43 K/9, 0.00 BB/9, 0.0 fWAR in 7.0 IP
2015 Steamer Proj.: 3-2, 1 save, 3.11 ERA, 3.55 FIP, 9.03 K/9, 2.89 BB/9, 0.2 fWAR in 55.0 IP

While Cedeno has only pitched 13 innings for the Nationals since being acquired from the Houston Astros early in the 2013 season, he has performed well at the Major League and Triple-A levels during his time in the Nationals organization. In 74 appearances for Triple-A Syracuse, Cedeno has a 1.84 ERA with 102 strikeouts in only 73.2 innings. As a left-hander with great numbers in the Minor Leagues and several solid stints with the big league club, Cedeno is a great option as a third lefty out of the ‘pen for the Nationals in 2015.

ERIK DAVIS

2014 Season Totals: N/A
2015 Steamer Proj.: 1-1, 0 saves, 3.52 ERA, 3.60 FIP, 7.87 K/9, 2.75 BB/9, 0.0 fWAR in 15.0 IP

Davis, a college teammate of Drew Storen’s at Stanford University, underwent Tommy John surgery last season and is due back during 2015. Davis impressed during a call-up in 2013 with 12 strikeouts in 8.2 innings pitched for the Nationals. With a 3.10 ERA in Triple-A Syracuse in 2013, Davis could be another option for the Nationals bullpen as soon as he returns to full health.

Chicago Cubs v St. Louis CardinalsERIC FORNATARO

2014 Season Totals: 0-0, 0 saves, 4.66 ERA, 3.13 FIP, 4.66 K/9, 3.13 BB/0, 0.0 fWAR in 9.2 IP
2015 Steamer Proj.: 1-1, 0 saves, 4.44 ERA, 4.52 FIP, 5.70 K/9, 3.08 BB/9, -0.2 fWAR in 20.0 IP

Acquired from the Cardinals this offseason, Fornataro is known for premium velocity and posted a 2.57 ERA for Triple-A Memphis last season. Fornataro had a 4.66 ERA in eight MLB appearances with the Cardinals last season and the 27-year-old provides solid right-handed depth for the Nationals bullpen. 

MATT GRACE

2014 Season Totals: N/A
2015 Steamer Proj.: 1-1, 0 saves, 4.24 ERA, 4.40 FIP, 5.86 K/9, 3.16 BB/9, -0.2 fWAR in 25.0 IP

Grace, a 2010 selection in the First-Year Player Draft out of UCLA, has excelled in the minors since a move to the bullpen. After posting a 1.17 ERA between Double-A and Triple-A last season, the 6-foot-4 left-hander was selected to attend the Arizona Fall League, regarded as a finishing school for Major League prospects. Grace posted a 3.18 ERA in the hitter-friendly league, showing that he is ready should the Nationals call on him to provide left-handed depth in their bullpen in 2015.

Step Up To The Plate: Inspiration Comes in Small Packages

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By Margaret “Marg.” Clark
YBA Mentor

With a trio of “scholar-athletes,” I spent my Wednesday evenings last fall at the Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy reading, writing and talking about baseball heroes and their inspiring legacies. If we completed our weekly lesson early, we’d head to the YBA training room to play tag, do pushups and compare muscles. (The young men were much impressed with my willingness to run the gym with them and show off my toned 64-year-old biceps!)

Marg with Scholar AthletesWhen I signed up to serve as a mentor, I worried that my young charges would not find an “old white woman” to be very relatable, and might be jealous of groups that got cool young guys as mentors. If that is the case, it is not apparent to me. From the very beginning, Rocco, Daniel, and Joshua greeted me with hugs, smiles and enthusiasm, and openness to both learning and getting to know each other.  And for 10 weeks or so, we did exactly that.

Rocco, all focused attention, Daniel, clever and quick, and Josh, alert to everything going on around him—all third graders, all scholar-athletes and each uniquely himself—left it all out on the baseball diamond and in the classroom, week after week.

After a long holiday break, I decided to spend our first meeting of 2015 making collages about a person who inspired us. I saw it as a way to revisit some of the material we had had covered and get reacquainted as we drew, cut and pasted.

Who would I depict as my inspiration? No question: my scholar-athletes. Here are some of the cutout words I pasted into my collage to describe them:

  • Energy
  • Courage
  • Confidence
  • Special
  • Love to talk
  • Leave ordinary behind

During a mentor training session on cultural competency, we were encouraged to view ourselves not as benevolent givers, but as partners in a rewarding two-way relationship. Good advice!  But even if I hadn’t been so instructed, it was quickly obvious to me that I was getting every bit as much or more than I was giving.

YBA - Entrance

January is National Mentorship Month, a great opportunity to highlight the work of theWashington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy – a new, state of the art education and recreation facility in Southeast D.C. – where Nats players and community volunteers alike have forged strong mentoring relationships with youth from at-risk communities.

For more information on how you can serve as a mentor at the Nationals Youth Baseball Academy please visit: http://washington.nationals.mlb.com/was/youthbaseballacademy/getinvolved.jsp

Step Up To The Plate: Celebrating National Mentorship Month at the Nationals’ Youth Baseball Academy

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by Tal Alter

Over 20 years ago, Charles Barkley kicked up a national debate about the impact of professional athletes in society.  “I am not a role model,” he famously quipped.

While the indirect effect of professional athletes on kids might be up for debate, what’s absolutely clear is the meaningful difference a direct and consistent mentor can make in the lives of kids who need positive influences.

January is National Mentorship Month, a great opportunity to highlight the work of the Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy – a new, state of the art education and recreation facility in Southeast D.C. – where Nats players and community volunteers alike have forged strong mentoring relationships with youth from at-risk communities.

Tal Alter pic for mentoring blogAt the Academy, we call these young people our “scholar-athletes” – a term that reflects our two-fold commitment to helping them become physically fit and develop baseball skills, but also achieve academic success, enhanced confidence, and – ultimately – become young men and women of character.

All of our scholar-athletes live in either Ward 7 or 8, neighborhoods experiencing the challenges of high crime and poverty rates.  In these areas, fewer than 30% of elementary school students receive proficient test scores in math and reading, with astonishing high school dropout rates. Of youth who complete the 8th grade in these two Wards, 60% have vanished from the system by 10th grade.

These harsh realities can seem overwhelming and disheartening. But with a mentor at their side, our scholar-athletes are empowered to triumph over these statistics. At-risk youth who have a mentor in their lives are 81% more likely to report participating regularly in sports or extracurricular activities.  They’re more than twice as likely to hold a leadership position in a club or team.  They’re more than 55% more likely to be enrolled in college than those who don’t have a mentor.

But approximately 9 million at-risk youth will reach age 19 without ever having a mentor, thus missing out on a relationship that could positively change the arc of their future.

We’re helping to close that gap at Nats Academy, where community volunteers turn out every night to serve as coaches, tutors and mentors for our scholar-athletes. They are dedicated to being a real, consistent and positive presence.

Over the coming weeks, we’re going to introduce you to some of these remarkable individuals. People who’ve made the decision to stand-up and declare “I am a role model,” and are putting those words into action.   They’ll be guest bloggers here on the Curly W blog – giving their first-hand perspective on the Nats Academy and the role they play in the lives of the young men and women we serve.

We hope their stories inspire you to become a mentor – at the Nats Academy or wherever you have a chance to make a positive difference in the life of a young person.

For more information on how you can serve as a mentor at the Nationals Youth Baseball Academy please visit: http://washington.nationals.mlb.com/was/youthbaseballacademy/getinvolved.jsp

 

Highlights from Max Scherzer’s introductory press conference

Twitter: @Nationals | Facebook: Nationals | Instagram: @Nationals

by Mike Feigen

The Washington Nationals agreed to terms with right-handed pitcher Max Scherzer on a seven-year contract on Wednesday, followed by an introductory press conference at Nationals Park.

The event featured Scherzer, President of Baseball Operations & General Manager Mike Rizzo, 2014 NL Manager of the Year Matt Williams and Scherzer’s agent, Scott Boras. In addition, several members of the Lerner family, Nationals outfielder Jayson Werth and Scherzer’s wife, Erica, attended the press conference.

If you missed any of the press conference, we’re here to fill you in:

Opening statement by President of Baseball Operations & General Manager Mike Rizzo:

Well, it’s a big day here at Nats Park. It is my extreme pleasure to introduce to the Washington D.C. community one of the finest right-handed pitchers in all of baseball and a fine gentleman in his own right, Max Scherzer.

These opportunities don’t come up every day with players of this caliber and with an ownership group with the willingness to put themselves out there and acquire us a player of this ilk. It is my extreme pleasure to welcome Erica and Max to the Washington, D.C. family and to the Washington Nationals family. We couldn’t be happier to have Max in the fold.

Scherzer, on why he signed with the Nationals:

MS: It’s pretty easy. And it’s one (reason): winning. I think this team is capable of winning, and winning a lot. So when you look at the at the near term and long term, this is an organization you want to be a part of.

(Mike Rizzo) has been an architect here, creating a team that has been there at the bottom and has now created a team that is poised to be at the top. That’s something, as a player looking from afar, that I was able to see. Obviously, when the Nationals started knocking on your door, this is a team you want to be a part of. You start having conversations with the Lerner family and understand their commitment to excellence and their commitment to winning — that lines up great with what I want to do. I want to win and that’s why I’m here.

Rizzo, on why he wanted to improve an already strong rotation:

MR: I would say that whenever you can acquire a player of Max Scherzer’s ability level, character, and toughness on the mound, those opportunities are few and far between. We saw a player that we were extremely interested in. He fits all the criteria that we’re looking for in a Washington Nationals type of player. He’s good between the lines, he’s a tough guy, he gets after it, he takes the ball, he attacks hitters. In the clubhouse (he’s a) magnificent teammate. In the community, (he) does nothing but impress everybody he touches. He’s a guy who you can’t ask for more from. He’s the type of guy we’re looking for and he’s the guy we went after very aggressively — and we strengthened a strength. Who wouldn’t want Max Scherzer on their club?

Rizzo, on why Max is “the Nationals’ type of guy”:

MR: He’s everybody’s kind of guy. He’s got great ability, he’s got great work ethic, he’s a great teammate and he gets after it. He’s a winner. We like to think that we attract that type of player, and we certainly landed one in Max.

Scherzer, on when he knew the Nationals would be a good fit?

MS: For me, once January came around there were more teams in contact, and there were different opportunities that (arose). However, throughout the contact, when the Nationals started knocking on the door, that was the conversation I had with Scott; this is definitely a destination I want to play in. This is a team that can win now and can win in the future. That’s something that when you’re signing up for seven years that you want to be a part of. Winning cures everything, and this is definitely a type of organization I want to be a part of. I wanted to continue these type of negotiations with the Washington Nationals because I believe in the Lerner family and what they’re committed to.

Rizzo, on when he started pursuing Max:

MR: Well, ’06, he was on my radar, that’s when I started loving him. We have a grand plan coming into each offseason and there (are) different routes to get to where you want to be — we have different options and opportunities. The plan was laid at the beginning of the offseason and came to fruition in the last three, four weeks or so.

Scherzer, on his initial reaction to the contract offer:

MS: It was jaw dropping. You just can’t even fathom it sometimes. You work so hard to put yourself in this position. For me, it’s all about winning. I don’t play this game for money, but yet at the same time when you have an offer like that it just makes you go, “Wow.” I’m very fortunate to be in this position, that they wanted to commit that type of dollar amount to me.

Scherzer, on whether he called people up to tell them about the deal:

MS: (Scott Boras) told me, “You can’t tell anybody.”  So I had to keep it to myself and just tell my wife. It was a wild moment, so I was very happy.

Williams, on his starting rotation from a manager’s perspective:

MW: To put any of those names down every fifth day is a privilege for anybody. What it does is it just allows us to have a better chance of winning. As Max said, he wants to win, we desperately want to win, Jayson is with us today, he wants to win desperately. We’re glad to have (Max), we’re anxious to get to Spring Training and we know he is.

To give you an idea of the type of competitor Max is, (back in) 2007, he was a young Double-A pitcher and I was his manager. Every Minor Leaguer has a pitch count; his was 100. He was at 97 pitches and I went out to the mound and told him he’s got three pitches to get this last guy out and he was done. He reared back and went 97, 98, 99 (mph) to strike him out. So that’s the kind of guy you see up here. He hasn’t changed since then and he won’t change now. He’s a bulldog and we’re going to be happy to give him the ball every fifth (day).

Scherzer, on wanting the rest of the rotation stay intact beyond this season, including Doug Fister and Jordan Zimmermann:

MS: For me personally, of course you want to see guys like that. You always want good players on your team. When you speak of Fister and Zimmermann, those are highly talented pitchers. Of course you want to see them on your ballclub, but at the end of the day, Mike’s the architect here. He understands what pitchers he has coming on the way and what’s best for the team, so that’s where he’s going to make this type of decision.

Rizzo, on having the flexibility to add Scherzer without moving other pieces:

MR: With the acquisition of Max, ownership has allowed us to do our business in the best way you can, as far as the baseball side goes. They’ve given us all the ammunition that we need to put together a quality team. Nothing has changed with regard to any other player on the roster. We make good baseball decisions based on baseball evaluations and money does not come into play. We love the team that we have right now, we feel that it’s a really good, capable ballclub and we’re looking to better ourselves each and every day.

Scherzer, on talking to other Nationals players before he signed:

MS: After I signed, Fister reached out to me and sent me a couple of text messages. I was happy to rejoin him. He’s a really good pitcher — there (are) a lot of things you can learn from him. I was also working out with Matt Thornton as well … I was picking his brain the previous week, asking about the clubhouse, how are the different things throughout the year. I feel really comfortable about joining this clubhouse.

Rizzo, on what he remembered about Scherzer before the 2006 draft:

MR: I saw Max twice as an amateur, and the first time he didn’t fare that well, but loved the competitiveness, loved the way he attacked hitters and loved the demeanor on the mound. He was pouring fastballs into these right-handed hitters. His stuff was there, it was pretty evident that he had power stuff. But what really affected me in a positive light was I saw a guy that was struggling a little bit but made no excuses and just got after it. The second time when I went back to see him it was a 180 (degree change). It was a very easy game to scout and he was an extremely easy player to take at the No. 11 pick in the draft that year.

Rizzo, on having little concern about Scherzer’s age and duration of contract:

MR: He’s a durable pitcher. If I’m not mistaken, he’s never been on the Disabled List in the past five years. He takes the ball whenever he’s given it — he’s a horse. He’s got the makeup and character to take things deep into games, if asked to. For a 30-year-old pitcher, he’s thrown very (few) innings and pitches for a pitcher that’s had the success he’s had at the age that he’s at. I feel like we’ve got a young 30-year-old arm with a lot of mileage left on the tires and a guy that’s going to take us into competitive games for a very long time … he can really hit, too, by the way.

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