Results tagged ‘ Brad Lidge ’

2012 Player Review: Tyler Clippard

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The Washington Nationals enjoyed unprecedented success in 2012, recording the best record in Major League Baseball. The team relied on the contributions of many different players, whom we will catalogue throughout the offseason as we look ahead to the 2013 campaign. Today, we continue our alphabetical romp with “the guy who wears goggles and pitches every day,” Tyler Clippard.

Clippard’s unorthodox delivery has served him well in his six-year Major League career.

Coming off an All-Star campaign in 2011, Tyler Clippard was one of the few Nationals to have gained a fair amount of national exposure before the 2012 season. After picking up an anomalous, team-leading 11 wins out the bullpen in 2010, Clippard proved that he deserved every bit of his Midsummer Classic selection last year by posting career bests in ERA (1.83), WHIP (0.84), and K/BB rate (4.00). His ERA+ was a stunning 209, begging the question: what in the world could he possibly do for an encore?

Manager Davey Johnson both leaned on and spared Clippard throughout the 2012 campaign, throwing him for just 72.2 innings (compared to 88.1 in ’11, 91.0 in ’10), but still using him a team-high 74 times out of the bullpen. When Drew Storen opened the season on the Disabled List and Johnson was unable to find consistency at closer with the combination of Brad Lidge and Henry Rodriguez, Clippard stepped into the void with perhaps his most impressive stretch of the season. The right-hander converted 14 consecutive save opportunities, posting a 0.40 ERA and allowing just 16 baserunners while striking out 27 batters over a 22.1-inning span from May 18-July 15. That helped earn him the MLB Delivery Man of the Month award in June, where he logged a perfect 0.00 ERA and converted all 10 of his saves, including three straight at Fenway Park, capped by the one below.

While Clippard’s overall numbers couldn’t compete with those he posted the year prior, he adapted to new roles on the fly and was a crucial cog in the team’s success. After notching just one Major League save over the first five years of his professional career, the righty logged 32 of them in 2012, tied for seventh in the NL and just 10 behind the league leaders, despite only 37 total attempts.

As a “Super Two,” Clippard enters the second of his four years of arbitration in 2013, meaning he will remain under team control through at least the 2015 season.

2012 Player Review: Roger Bernadina

2012 Player Review: Corey Brown

2012 Player Review: Sean Burnett

Open For Business

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Whew. If there was any question of how the Nationals would respond to the pressures of expectation in 2012, they showed some good signs in their first game of the season on Thursday. However, we’ll all have to wait until Saturday before enjoying chapter two.

The quirky schedule gave the team a day off Friday after just the one game. While players might normally want to save that break for a time later in the season, our fans could certainly use the chance to catch their collective breath after a nerve-wracking, gut-checking, come-from-behind victory over the Cubs on Opening Day at Wrigley Field. This is the type of game they should come to expect, though. With the way this Nationals team is built, there are likely to be a good number of well-pitched, tight, low-scoring affairs all season long. And there will be 161 more games in the next 180 days, so brace yourselves.

Stephen Strasburg looked like a seasoned veteran through seven solid innings in his first Opening Day start.

The opener had a bit of everything to make for an exciting affair: great starting pitching, would-be home runs (knocked down by the wind), sparkling defense, and a pair of late rallies, one to tie the score and the other to put Washington in front for good. Many of the offseason storylines were tested immediately. Could the top two spots in the order get on base? Check – Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa combined to reach safely in five of their 10 plate appearances. How would Stephen Strasburg fare in his first Opening Day start? His line – 7.0 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 5 K – suggests he was more than up to the task. And what kind of impact could we expect from Davey Johnson’s revamped bench? Look no further than Chad Tracy’s double, which led to Brett Carroll scoring the game-winning run in the ninth. It’s as strong a first impression as Johnson could have hoped for from this group in its collective debut. So on a day when the team managed just four hits, the rest of the pieces came together to get the Nationals that all-important first Curly W.

We need not worry about Ryan Zimmerman, either, whose 0-for-2 (with two walks) performance would have been a 2-for-2 with a pair of home runs, if not for the sharp, gusting wind coming in off Lake Michigan and directly over the center field wall. The third baseman showed just how deep his value really is, though, with two superb defensive plays. He bailed out Wilson Ramos on a pick and swipe tag to catch Alfonso Soriano stealing in the fourth inning, before reversing roles and gunning down Joe Mather at the plate in the ninth (with Ramos applying the nice tag) to preserve the one-run victory.

Jayson Werth couldn't be happier to be reunited with teammate Brad Lidge.

Jayson Werth also had a potential run-scoring, extra-base hit knocked down by the wind early. However, he came up with a great defensive play of his own and battled back from an 0-2 count to draw a bases loaded walk, forcing in the game-tying run in the eighth inning. That’s what team leaders are supposed to do: find ways to contribute, no matter what the circumstance. Werth is one of the best in the game at finding ways beyond the box score to do that. Don’t take our word for it, though. Pick up the first edition of Nationals Magazine when you’re at the ballpark starting next week and read all about it.

There should be no lingering questions surrounding Brad Lidge and his stuff at this point, either. One of Johnson’s fill-in closers (along with Henry Rodriguez), Lidge utterly overwhelmed Reed Johnson with a slider and froze Marlon Byrd with a perfectly painted fastball to end the game. He could be the steal of the offseason for Johnson and GM Mike Rizzo, providing veteran leadership to the back end of the bullpen and the occasional save when called upon.

Nevertheless, it will be great to get Drew Storen back, as it will be to have outfielders Michael Morse and Rick Ankiel in Washington again. Morse and Ankiel are both on rehab assignments with Double-A Harrisburg, which is playing just up the road in Bowie this week.

In the meantime, breathe easy and enjoy the day off. There’s been plenty to talk about, but we’re just one game in. At the end of the day, though, the team is 1-0. And that’s as good of a place as you can be one game into the marathon that is the Major League Baseball season.

Lombo Support

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The Nationals are enjoying a number of new luxuries this Spring Training that the organization has never experienced to this point in its existence. The young, talented rotation may be the main component lending to heightened expectations, but there is a subtler, more under-the-radar quality to this team that may prove crucial over the course of the 162-game regular season grind: depth. There is veteran depth in the bullpen, thanks to the addition of Brad Lidge, and in the lineup with the versatile Mark DeRosa. But another player in the DeRosa mold, one with great versatility and a solid bat, who could make a big difference for the 2012 Nationals, is infielder Steve Lombardozzi.

Danny Espinosa and Ian Desmond give the Nationals solid, everyday players at both positions up the middle. But Lombardozzi’s ability to play defensively at each spot (and even spell Ryan Zimmerman at third on the occasional day off) makes him a viable option in that third middle infielder role. The Nationals have had a handful of players fill that role over the past few years (Alex Cora, Alberto Gonzalez, Felipe Lopez), but none have brought the offensive promise that Lombardozzi has displayed lately.

Lombardozzi tags out Dee Gordon in a game at Nationals Park last year.

After a slow start, Lombardozzi’s bat has heated up as of late, and he put together his most impressive performance of the spring on Friday, going 3-for-3 with a solo shot off CC Sabathia in Washington’s contest against the Yankees in Tampa. He is now batting .333 in the Grapefruit League, a notable improvement off the .194 he batted in his first 31 Major League at-bats last season.

“It’s not just my on-base percentage, I need to do everything well,” explained Lombardozzi. “But I take pride in getting on base and getting things going as a table-setter.”

Of course, for those who have followed Lombardozzi’s Minor League career, his recent success should come as no surprise. The son of the former big league infielder of the same name, he has batted .298 with a .369 on-base percentage over his four-year Minor League career. He’s coming off a 2011 year that saw him set career highs in batting average (.309) and home runs (eight), and set a new high with 30 stolen bases while being caught just eight times (78.9% success rate). With the Nationals looking for high on-base percentage players in front of the powerful bats in the middle of the lineup, Lombardozzi’s ability to do just that could earn him one of the final spots on the 25-man roster.

Lombardozzi won't forget that his line in Friday's box score any time soon.

“I’m very excited to be in big league camp and try to win a job out of spring,” he said. “I think the future of this team is real bright.”

As for the game today, Gio Gonzalez looked solid again, allowing his first run of the spring, but fanning six in just 3.1 innings of work, leaving with a 3-1 lead. The Yankees would eventually win in 10 innings, but not before Sean Burnett, Ryan Perry and Tyler Clippard each contributed a scoreless inning of relief. Washington returns home to Space Coast Stadium for a pair of games this weekend, beginning with the Marlins on Saturday.

Here are the Nationals results to date:

vs. Georgetown (exhibition) – W, 3-0

@ Houston – L, 3-1

vs. Houston – L, 10-2

@ New York (NL) – W, 3-1

@ Atlanta – W, 5-2

vs. St. Louis – T, 3-3

vs. Houston – W, 8-0

@ Miami – L, 3-0

vs. New York (NL) – W, 8-2

@ Detroit – T, 5-5

@ St. Louis – Canceled (rain)

vs. St. Louis – W, 8-4

vs. Detroit – L, 6-3

@ Atlanta – L, 6-5

vs. New York (AL) – L, 8-5

@ New York (AL) – L, 4-3 (10)

Overall Record: 5-7-2

Youth Is Served

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One of the great parts of Spring Training is the excitement of the young players getting their first shot in a big league uniform, facing off against players they were watching on television just a couple years prior. With split-squad games (which started today, the Nationals hosting the Mets and traveling to face the Tigers), those opportunities become more abundant. Teams will take a handful of players from Minor League camp to fill out each roster, giving them an opportunity to get a few innings in. Their youthful exuberance is fun to watch, although sometimes it betrays them.

Enter Michael Taylor, one of the most talked-about young outfield prospects in the Nationals system, who came in as a defensive replacement in center field in the fifth inning of the Nationals 8-2 victory over the Mets in Viera today. He showed some nice patience in his first plate appearance, working a one-out walk in the bottom of the sixth. He was then put in motion on a hit-and-run, as Sandy Leon pulled a ball perfectly through the hole vacated by the second baseman, who was covering the bag with the runner going. Taylor motored around second on his way to third, but got a little too far ahead of himself, his weight out over his front feet. Try as he might, he couldn’t stay upright, tumbling to the dirt about 50 feet shy of third base.

A handful of players from the Nationals Minor League camp got a chance to play Saturday.

Mets right fielder Cesar Puello, another minor leaguer added to fill out the roster, saw the opportunity to make a play as he went to collect the ball. In fact, he saw it clearly enough that he took his eye off the ball, which he bobbled, allowing Taylor enough time to collect himself and lope down to third safely, both he and third base coach Bo Porter laughing the whole way.

“The umpire came over and was explaining to me about second base and how you have to step on it and stay on your feet,” said Taylor after the game, as his wide smile denied his attempt at deadpan humor.

Taylor will no doubt hear from his teammates about that play for the rest of camp, but he can take solace in one fact – at least this game wasn’t on television, so it’s unlikely to make him a YouTube sensation. He said that he didn’t even feel that nervous playing on a bigger stage – his body simply didn’t want to cooperate.

“I was actually kind of surprised, I was comfortable and relaxed,” Taylor said. “But for some reason my feet didn’t want to stay underneath me.”

Taylor was rewarded for continuing on to the next base, though, as players are taught to do in those situations. With runners at the corners and one out, Blake Kelso lifted a ball into right-center, where Puello redeemed himself with a nice catch. Leon had advanced almost all the way to second, and Puello fired back to first for the inning-ending double play. But Taylor made a heads-up play and tagged at third, crossing the plate before the final out was made at first base. Since the double play was not of the force out variety, the run counted. Who’s laughing now?

Posted in the clubhouse. Don't forget to set your clocks for tomorrow.

In other news, Ryan Zimmerman had a pair of doubles and two RBI, and Wilson Ramos also drove in a pair on two hits. Brad Lidge looked very sharp, pitching around an error and striking out the side in the sixth. The first two batters never got the bat off their shoulders on strike three, as Lidge locked up each of them with his signature slider.

Tyler Moore had a nice game as well, with two hits and an RBI. The second of his hits was a rocket to dead center field, high up off the 30-foot batters eye. Needless to say, it would have been a home run in any big league ballpark, but Moore had to settle for the RBI double.

Meanwhile, the other half of the split squad overcame a 4-0 deficit to earn a 10-inning, 5-5 tie with the Tigers.

It’s back to Jupiter tomorrow, as Washington takes on St. Louis at 1:05pm. Here are the results to date:

vs. Georgetown (exhibition) – W, 3-0

@ Houston – L, 3-1

vs. Houston – L, 10-2

@ New York (NL) – W, 3-1

@ Atlanta – W, 5-2

vs. St. Louis – T, 3-3

vs. Houston – W, 8-0

@ Miami – L, 3-0

vs. New York (NL) – W, 8-2

@ Detroit – T, 5-5

@ St. Louis – Sunday, 1:05pm

Overall Record: 4-3-2

On The Network

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In a great moment from the baseball classic Bull Durham, Ebby Calvin “Nuke” Laloosh, the young pitcher who has just reached the big leagues, drops the following line in a television interview:

“Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose… sometimes, it rains. Think about it.”

Today in Viera, we didn’t have a win or a loss, but we got it all in before the rain. That’s right, we had ourselves a tie, an option that Laloosh never offered, and one which baseball fans are not used to considering.

Nationals Principal Owner Mark Lerner visits with Peter Gammons in Lake Buena Vista on Tuesday.

Here’s how it all went down. The Nationals plated an early run, thanks to an Ian Desmond leadoff double and a Jason Michaels two-out, RBI-single. The Cardinals pushed in front with a run in the fifth and two more in the seventh. The home side trailed 3-1 into the bottom of the ninth, when Koyie Hill dropped a high foul pop off the bat of Tyler Moore, giving the Nationals prospect new life. He took advantage, singling up the middle, and Carlos Maldonado followed by swatting a deep drive to the opposite field over the wall to tie the game at three apiece.

As it turned out, Davey Johnson had told Cardinals manager Mike Matheny around the sixth inning, when the game was tied at 1-1, that he only had enough pitching on hand to go nine innings. Matheny acknowledged that, and the two agreed that the game would go no further, no matter the score. And so, let it go down in the record books that the Nationals and Cardinals played to a 3-3 draw Wednesday, one of the anomolies of Spring Training.

Of course, ties aren’t the only aspect unique to Spring Training. It also provides some great opportunities for fans of the game that they can’t always take advantage of during the regular season. The ability to be up close and personal with those who play and report on the game is truly unparalleled, even at the Minor League level. While fans are generally most captivated by the players themselves, there are a handful of other figures around the game that can generate the same level of excitement. One of those individuals is MLB Network’s Peter Gammons.

We saw Gammons yesterday in Lake Buena Vista, as he took in the 5-2 Nationals victory over the Braves. That was when we discovered he would be traveling to Viera today to interview Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper for MLB Network. We were excited to get his take on the buzz and excitement surrounding the organization this spring. After all, when Peter Gammons talks, you listen. A three-time Sportswriter of the Year recipient and J.G. Taylor Spink Award Winner (given by the BBWAA), there is no greater authority on the modern game. We asked if he might share some of his first impressions of the 2012 Nationals so far in Spring Training, and he was more than happy to do so. Here is a glimpse of what he had to say.

Gammons interviews Stephen Strasburg in Viera on Wednesday.

“We all realize there’s a great deal of talent here,” Gammons said of Nationals camp. “I think the thing that’s really struck me, other than watching batting practice, is the job Mike Rizzo’s done in getting really good players. I hate to say ‘complimentary players’, because it’s an insult – anyone who makes the big leagues is a good player. But to be able to go out and get a Mark DeRosa, to have Brad Lidge, to have Chad Durbin, they’re some of the best people you could ever meet in your life. They’re rocks for the young players to follow.”

Look for much more from Gammons including which Nationals he expects to break out in 2012, which minor leaguer not named Harper to keep an eye on, and which team from recent history he believes this year’s team compares to best, all in the first Inside Pitch of the season, coming in April at Nationals Park.

The Nationals have another home day game tomorrow, taking on the Astros at 1:05pm. Here are their results to date:

vs. Georgetown (exhibition) – W, 3-0

@ Houston – L, 3-1

vs. Houston – L, 10-2

@ New York (NL) – W, 3-1

@ Atlanta – W, 5-2

vs. St. Louis – T, 3-3

vs. Houston – 1:05pm

Overall Record: 2-2-1

From The Desk of Mark Lerner – What A Week!

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Hello everybody. What a great week to be a Nats fan!

Yesterday was Groundhog Day. With Bill Murray’s 1993 classic movie in mind, I would like to relive some of the excitement that the last week has offered.

Consider:

*Last Thursday, Jan. 26, we signed one of the era’s best closers to pitch for us in the MIDDLE INNINGS.

*Earlier this week, Baseball America announced that they have rated our minor league system as the finest in game.

*And just yesterday, we agreed to terms with right-handed pitcher Edwin Jackson on a one-year contract.

Let’s take a look at these accomplishments by starting with our newest pitchers, Mr. Lidge and Mr. Jackson.

From my understanding, Brad had multiple offers. But at the end of the day, he liked the story we were writing and his place in that storyline. His four years with the Phillies gave Brad a good vantage point to watch the evolution of our ballclub. Brad is a smart guy and I think his instincts told him that it is an opportune time to join the upstart Nationals.

While on the mound, Brad can dominate with his slider alone, but I expect his professionalism, demeanor and experience will influence our entire pitching staff on a nightly basis.

A strong draft class including Alex Meyer, Anthony Rendon and Brian Goodwin (left to right) helped the Nationals farm system earn Baseball America's top ranking.

By inking Jackson yesterday, we added one of the finest players on this year’s free agent market. It is remarkable that Edwin has already accomplished so much in this game and he just turned 28 in September.

Edwin is perhaps best known for throwing a no-hitter on June 25, 2010, but his talents have been well known long before his historic night. He throws hard and HARDER. His potential is enormous, but perhaps his most prized quality is durability. This is a 30-plus start, 200-inning guy. This is a consistent tool at Manager Davey Johnson‘s disposal.

With Jackson, we have unrivaled depth (eight quality starting pitchers), power (Strasburg, Gonzalez, Zimmermann, Jackson, Detwiler and Gorzelanny all throw well into the mid-90s) and youth (seven of the eight starters are in their 20s) in what is now considered the hardest-throwing rotation in the National League.

As for the key ranking by Baseball America, it was a gratifying moment for our franchise.

When I got the call from Mike Rizzo, I could hear the pride in his voice as he shared the news. I couldn’t help but think that this type of independent affirmation would mean a lot to any baseball executive, but even more so to a third-generation scout like Mike, who still talks shop with his father, Phil, on a daily basis.

When Baseball America ranked us 30th in 2007, we deserved it. We were in a big hole. We had inherited what was no better than an expansion franchise. Many of our own evaluators called it worse. To go from worst to first in four years is something that we’re all immensely proud of. While many of our fans have watched us put together the pieces of our Major League club, the work that’s really going to pay off for the team in the long term was going on behind the scenes, down in the minors.

We did not officially win any games this week, but it certainly feels good to know that  Baseball America – the publication widely regarded as baseball’s bible – has recognized and lauded the stellar work of our scouting and player development.

So, I ask that you indulge me as I share in Mike’s pride and offer my heartfelt thanks to him, his scouts and his player development personnel. You guys are the best.

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