Results tagged ‘ Chien-Ming Wang ’

2012 Player Review: Ross Detwiler

Follow @Nationals on Twitter | Like the Nationals on Facebook

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. With Election Day behind us, we move to our favorite, politics-based nickname on the team, The National Det himself, Ross Detwiler.

With all the breakout seasons from various members of the Nationals in 2012, it can be easy to overlook just how good Ross Detwiler pitched. In fact, most fans have probably forgotten by this point that John Lannan was expected to occupy Detwiler’s place in the starting rotation until the final day of Spring Training, when the announcement was made that Detwiler had earned his place as the number five starter. And while Detwiler yielded his starting spot temporarily to Chien-Ming Wang upon the latter’s return from the Disabled List, he didn’t remain in the bullpen for long, finishing the year back in the rotation.

Detwiler quietly proved to be a reliable starter in Davey Johnson’s rotation.

The key for Detwiler was finding the right balance of his two fastballs – a lively four-seamer that runs up in the mid-90s and a sinking two-seamer a couple miles-per-hour slower – and his developing off-speed pitches. He found that balance over his best stretch of the season from June 12 to August 2, a period in which he threw 49.2 innings with a 2.17 ERA, and 29 strikeouts to just 11 walks. While the southpaw has never been an overwhelming “strikeout pitcher,” he learned to pitch to contact to a greater degree this season. That helped him to his first career 10-win campaign, along with a huge performance in Game 4 of the National League Division Series.

Detwiler posted very similar overall numbers to those in his 2011 campaign, allowing 8.2 hits, 0.8 homers and 2.8 walks while striking out 5.8 per nine innings (8.6/1.0/2.7/5.6 in ’11). He lowered his WHIP ever so slightly from 1.26 to 1.22. His .241 batting average against ranked 14th among qualifying starters in the National League, just ahead of Ryan Vogelsong and Edwin Jackson, and also lower than rotation-mate Jordan Zimmermann.

Off the field, Detwiler and Jackson happily adopted the moniker of “The Other Guys” during the season, as the two members of the rotation happy to stay out of the wake of publicity surrounding Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Zimmermann. His easy-going, light-hearted personality allowed him to stay even-keeled through the rotation debates and the ebbs and flows throughout the year.

Although Detwiler pitched just 66.0 Major League innings in 2011, his combined total, including his Triple-A workload, was 153.1 frames. He topped that by 11.0 innings in 2012, not signifying a significant increase, but obviously held up fairly well at the end of the year, if Game 4 of the NLDS was any indication. Detwiler’s left arm should be well prepared to handle another increase in innings as a full-time starter in 2013, when he will enter his first year of arbitration. The Nationals have the 26 year-old southpaw under team control through the 2015 season.

- SEE ALL OUR 2012 PLAYER REVIEWS -

What to Watch For: 9/23

Follow @Nationals on Twitter | Like the Nationals on Facebook

Milwaukee Brewers (78-73) vs. Washington Nationals (92-59)

RHP Yovani Gallardo (16-8, 3.68) vs. RHP Chien-Ming Wang (2-3, 6.92)

The Nationals pounded out 13 hits including three home runs in a 10-4 victory on Saturday to even this four-game series with the Milwaukee Brewers at a game apiece. Chien-Ming Wang makes his first start since June 19 as the Nats hope to solve Milwaukee ace Yovani Gallardo again, after hanging seven runs on the righty in five innings in Milwaukee back in July.

NATIONALS LINEUP

1. Werth RF

2. Harper CF

3. Zimmerman 3B

4. LaRoche 1B

5. Morse LF

6. Desmond SS

7. Espinosa 2B

8. Suzuki C

9. Wang RHP

START ME UP

Chien-Ming Wang makes his fifth start of the season (ninth appearance) for the Nationals today against the Brewers, a club which he has never faced. Opposing Wang is Yovani Gallardo, who comes to D.C. with a string of eight straight winning decisions since July 31.

HOMER HAPPY

The Nationals 179 home runs are the most hit by a team representing the Nation’s Capital (1901-71, 2005-present) and the most hit in the 44-year history of the Nationals/Expos franchise. Washington ranks second in the NL this season in homers, only MIL (188) has more.

DATE IN DC BASEBALL

September 23, 2007: Austin Kearns finishes 3-for-4 with two RBI to lift the Nationals to a come-from-behind, 5-3 win over the Phillies in the 1,047th and final MLB game played at RFK Memorial Stadium. The win averted a four-game series sweep and gave the Nationals (122-121) a winning record in their three-year stay at RFK.

September 23, 2006: Nick Johnson fractures his right femur during a collision with right fielder Austin Kearns in the eighth inning of a 12-6 loss at New York. Johnson had successful surgery later that night.

- FOLLOW BREWERS VS. NATIONALS LIVE -

What to Watch for: 6/19

Follow @Nationals on Twitter | Like the Nationals on Facebook

Tampa Bay Rays (37-29) vs. Washington Nationals (38-26)

LHP David Price (8-4, 3.01) vs. RHP Chien-Ming Wang (2-2, 4.67)

The Nationals look to get back on track as they welcome the Tampa Bay Rays to start another home series. After last weekend’s sweep at the hands of the Yankees, the Nats are hoping to get back on the winning track and expand upon their four-game lead in the National League East.

NATIONALS LINEUP:

1. Espinosa 2B

2. Harper CF

3. Zimmerman 3B

4. Morse RF

5. LaRoche 1B

6. Desmond SS

7. Moore LF

8. Flores C

9. Wang RHP

NATIONALS LOOK TO GET BACK ON TRACK

The Nationals look to bounce back after being swept at home for the first time in 2012. Washington is 7-5 against the American League this season and can record a winning Interleague record for the second consecutive season by winning at least three of the final six games this week.

DAVEY MAKES IT 30

With tonight’s tilt against the visiting Rays, manager Davey Johnson will have managed against each of MLB’s 30 franchises. In addition, Johnson managed Tampa Bay’s Ben Zobrist during the 2005 World Cup played in The Netherlands.

ZIMMERMAN NEARING 1,000

With 993 in the bag, Ryan Zimmerman is just seven hits shy of recording his 1,000th career hit. While Zim would be the seventh player to record a 1,000th career hit as a National, he’d be the first to do so exclusively as a National.

- FOLLOW RAYS VS. NATIONALS LIVE -

What to Watch for: 6/12

Follow @Nationals on Twitter | Like the Nationals on Facebook

Washington Nationals (36-23) vs. Toronto Blue Jays (31-30)

RHP Chien-Ming Wang (1-2, 5.11) vs. RHP Henderson Alvarez (3-5, 3.76)

The Nationals head into tonight’s matchup looking to extend their four-game winning streak. Washington also hopes to remain undefeated (4-0) in Interleague Play this month.  A win for the Nationals tonight would not only give Chien-Ming Wang his first win as a starter in 2012, but would also give the team their third consecutive series victory.

STATE OF THE NATIONALS

Washington enters today at a season-best 13 games over .500, the team’s best mark since July 2005 (54-41 after 95 games). The Nationals have not reached 14 games over .500 since they were 54-40 thru 94 contests in July ‘05. The Nats have won four straight and would match their season-best win streak with a victory tonight. A win would also clinch the series; Washington is 13-4-3 in series play this season, including 7-3 in road series.

ZIM CLOSING IN ON 1,000 HITS

Ryan Zimmerman needs just nine hits to reach the 1,000-hit plateau for his career. Since Zim made his debut on September 1, 2005, only two MLB third basemen have posted more hits: David Wright (1,099) and Adrian Beltre (1,021).

In addition, Zimmerman owns the Nationals (‘05-present) mark with 991 hits and will become just the eighth player in Nationals/Expos franchise history to reach 1,000, joining Tim Wallach (1,694), Tim Raines (1,622), Andre Dawson (1,575), Gary Carter (1,427), Jose Vidro (1,280), Vladimir Guerrero (1,215) and Warren Cromartie (1,063).

ESPINOSA HEATING UP

Four games into this Interleague road trip, Danny Espinosa is 5-for-15 (.333) with four doubles, three RBI, three runs scored and two stolen bases. Furthermore, in his last 10 games, Espinosa is batting .297 (11-for-37) with three walks, five doubles, a triple, four RBI, and seven runs scored.

- FOLLOW NATIONALS VS. BLUE JAYS LIVE -

What to Watch for: 6/7

Follow @Nationals on Twitter | Like the Nationals on Facebook

New York Mets (31-26) vs. Washington Nationals (32-22)

RHP Robert Alan Dickey (8-1, 2.69) vs. RHP Chien-Ming Wang (1-1, 6.43)

As the Nationals lead the series (2-0), the Mets are hoping to prevent the home team from walking away with a series sweep this afternoon. Mets’ pitcher R.A. Dickey, is coming off of a shutout, when he faced the Cardinals last Saturday, while Nationals starter Chien-Ming Wang makes his first home start of the season.

ADAM’S BOMB PROVIDES NEEDED SUPPORT

After Bryce Harper reached on an error and Ryan Zimmerman followed with a walk, Adam LaRoche hit his ninth home run of the season to put the Nationals ahead 3-0 in the first inning last night. With one swing, LaRoche provided Edwin Jackson with more run support than he received in five of his previous 10 starts as a member of the Nationals.

SERIES BUSINESS AT NATS PARK

With last night’s 5-3 victory over the visiting New York Mets, the Nationals now boast a 6-1-3 record in series at Nationals Park in 2012. A victory today would give the Nats their second home sweep of the season (Miami, 4/20-21).

MORSE CODE

Michael Morse plated his first RBI of the season last night with a single to right field in the fifth inning, plating Ryan Zimmerman. After going 0-for-9 since his return from the DL, Morse now has four hits in his last seven at-bats, with two doubles and an RBI.

- FOLLOW NATIONALS VS. METS LIVE -

From The Desk Of Mark Lerner – Capital Pride

Follow @Nationals on Twitter | Like the Nationals on Facebook

Nationals Principal Owner Mark D. Lerner will be blogging throughout the 2012 Grapefruit League Season from Viera, bringing his own unique perspective of the goings-on at Nats Spring Training.

Good Afternoon Nats Fans:

On Monday afternoon, I took in Chien-Ming Wang’s 2012 debut, as he participated in the first intra-squad game of the spring over at our Minor League Complex. This contest was part of our Accelerated Development Program, which consists of our best and brightest prospects.

As many of you know, we have invested a lot of time and energy the last five years in building our minor league system from the ground up. Being named the No. 1 system last month by Baseball America was really a great accomplishment and a benchmark of how far our organization has come along.

There is definitely a different energy and expectation this Spring Training. If the 2011 season was about promise, then 2012 should be about performance. This Nationals team believes it’s ready to win and expects to win.

Both GM Mike Rizzo and Manager Davey Johnson say this team should be playing meaningful games in September. This is the season our loyal fans have been waiting for.

As I glanced around the diamond yesterday, I noticed various names I had heard previously (and some I’d seen) during brief visits to Hagerstown, Potomac and Harrisburg.

Names like Jeff Kobernus, Blake Kelso and Matt Skole are familiar to me, as are their games. Same with Michael Taylor and Destin Hood, who are two of our finest outfield prospects. All were scattered around the field. But I was especially interested in two players in particular: Chien-Ming Wang and Brian Goodwin, one of our top picks in the 2011 draft. As fate would have it, they squared off to start the game.

Score one for the youngster, as Goodwin put a nice swing on Wang offering and legged out a leadoff double.

Wang did not disappoint either, as he fanned 3 in 2.0 innings. He allowed one run on three hits, throwing 31 pitches, 24 for strikes. But his fastball sat consistently at 89-90 and hit 91 on occasion. What’s more, Davey and Mike were pleased. They both liked how strong he was right out of the chute. Last year, in his first 5-6 starts with us, Wang took an inning or two to really get loose and transfer that strength into his pitches. No so yesterday. He was strong right from the start. That’s why Goodwin’s double was impressive. It came on a good pitch.

As an aside… I also  saw pitcher Alex Meyer our second pick in the  first round last year out of Kentucky on another field. He is one large man at 6’9”.

Last night’s game in Port St. Lucie resulted in our first win of the Grapefruit League season, a 3-1 victory over the Mets. Rick Ankiel, the pride of Port St. Lucie High School, went deep to provide his home crowd, including a few former teachers and administrators, a great moment. John Lannan (one earned run in 3.0 innings) also pitched very well in his Grapefruit League debut. Bryce Harper and Eury Perez also continue to look great.

I’d also like to take this opportunity to thank my dear friend, Ted Leonsis, for the kind words he wrote yesterday in his blog regards to our new “Natitude” marketing campaign.

I know how much Ted enjoys baseball and is excited for our season ahead. Likewise, I have an eye on our Capitals and their playoff pursuits. I am thinking that their best hockey is yet to come. I know if I were a Bruins or Rangers fan that I would not relish facing the Caps in the first round.

I am off to Disney’s Wide World of Sports for today’s game against the Braves. But the real draw is that Gio Gonzalez will be making his Spring Training and Nationals debut. It will be a thrill to see our 26-year-old southpaw finally take the mound wearing our Nationals red, white and blue.

Trust me on this one… Nats fans are going to fall in love with this young man.

Until we blog again.

The Face Of The Franchise

Follow @Nationals on Twitter | Like the Nationals on Facebook

John Dever is the Senior Director of Media Relations for the Washington Nationals. As a team employee in close contact with the players, coaches and front office throughout Spring Training, he will bring an inside look at the happenings in Viera in Dever’s (Almost) Daily Diary throughout February and March.

*Yesterday’s contract extension with Ryan Zimmerman really was a benchmark moment for your young franchise. I am not going to delve into the financial specifics, that is not my duty or intention here. But what I can tell you that there is not a player in this game more deserving than Ryan Zimmerman. He endured a list of mental and physical challenges these last seven seasons that would. But through thick and thin, Ryan’s demeanor and professionalism never wavered. He’s a rock.

Zimmerman at his extension press conference.

Ryan is also adamant about seeing this project through. He wants to create magical moments, win big games and end DC’s October baseball drought, which dates to 1933. I think he knows that the toughest times have been weathered and to leave after 2013 would have been silly for all parties involved. The bottom line is that the Face of Our Franchise is here for a LONG, LONG, LONG time. A hearty CONGRATS to him, and to our fans too!

And there is more good news: Ryan is “only” 27 years-old. I think we lose perspective that this is one of MLB’s finest young players for two very good reasons:

  1. He came to us in Sept of 2005. In this world of ours, which is predicated on the immediate, that was a long time ago. Did Facebook even exist then? (answer: yes it did, but one could only join if of high school or college age)
  2. Upon joining our ballclub at the age of 20, Ryan was instantaneously the most mature player in the clubhouse. I think his maturity quotient is that of an average 50 year-old. He is just unflappable. I think that is why, when the moment is right, he’s the guy every Nationals fan wants at the plate.

*One last thought on the extension. I don’t think there is any important person in the current equation that does not want to see Ryan finish his career as a Washington National. And by that I mean Ownership, Baseball Operations, Ryan, his family, his representatives and most importantly the Nationals ever-expanding Fan Base. Everyone understands that baseball in Washington is best served with Ryan Zimmerman manning the Hot Corner. Enough said.

Bryce Harper took batting practice yesterday for the first time in camp.

*On Sat., Davey was asked if he had watched Bryce Harper take his first official batting practice of the spring. Davey scoffed and said that was not on his “to-do” list. Well, Davey was subsequently asked, what was on that to-do list? Davey’s reply was that he wanted to spend some time with Tony Beasley, who will serves has Triple-A Syracuse’s manager this season (and was Double-A Harrisburg’s skipper in ’10). Davey then opined about the mutual trust and understanding that must flow between a big league manager and his Triple-A equal. I thought that Davey offering was quite insightful.

*Look for Mark DeRosa to focus on 1B, 2B and 3B this spring. And oh-by-the-way, judging by Sat.’s BP session, Mark’s wrist is healthy. Rockets galore.

*Not a shocker, but upon being asked what Davey expects from Chien-Ming Wang this spring, his answer was “to be in our rotation.” Short and sweet from the skipper.

*I may have talked about this last spring, and if I did, please forgive me. But as I watch Bryce Harper make his way, I often wonder who can best relate to him right now? Some might say LeBron, but I think that is a bit extreme. Others might offer Stephen Strasburg and they have a legit point. But Stephen was a three-year college pitcher who played for a Hall-of-Famer in college. Lots of similarities, but different nonetheless.

In my mind, there is another former phenom in this Space Coast Stadium clubhouse who weathered similar ups and downs as an extremely young professional. Remember Rick Ankiel? Our center fielder for much of 2011 and vying for a similar role in 2012. Well, grab your nearest time machine and let’s jet back to 1998. That summer, he led all minor league hurlers with 222 strikeouts. In a 2-year span from ’98-99, he was named the best pitcher in both the Midwest, Carolina, Texas and Pacific Coast leagues by Baseball America. Then in 2000, he won 11 games and posted a 3.50 ERA in 31 games/30 starts for the Cardinals as a 20 year-old rookie. Yep, Ankiel can empathize with Harper’s current plight.

Dever’s (Almost) Daily Diary

Follow @Nationals on Twitter | Like the Nationals on Facebook

Greetings from (partly) sunny Viera, where the temps were expected to reach the 80s today. So far, the weather has been more than agreeable for players, fans and executives alike.

My name is John Dever and I am the Nationals Senior Director of Baseball Media Relations. Over the next week and a half, I am going to blogging about the various sights and sounds … and storylines of the Nationals 2012 Spring camp. I hope these insights prime your appetites for the upcoming 2012 season, which – I think it is fair to say – is the most-anticipated since your Nationals landed in DC in 2005.

Let’s get started:

*Yesterday was Michael Morse’s first full day in camp. Morse showed up the day before and dropped off a few things, but yesterday he was present early. Judging from the gaggle of Taiwanese reporters talking to him today, he is still basking in the afterglow of his tour of Taiwan with an MLB All-Star Team last November. For those of you unaware, Morse participated in MLB’s five-game tour of various Taiwanese ballparks. Morse’s jovial demeanor, size and especially his batting stance were big hits on the trip.

Chien-Ming Wang throws at camp in Viera.

I was told by some MLB staffers that Morse was the tour’s second-biggest draw, behind only … (surprise!) Chien-Ming Wang himself. In fact, during the pregame introductions to Game One, Morse was introduced by the P.A. announcer as “Washington Nationals first baseman, and a good friend of Chien-Ming Wang’s, No. 38 Michael Morse.”

In chatting with Morse later in the day, he said the Taiwanese media had asked him about his memories of the Tour, the special glove made in Taiwan, Wang and … of course … Jeremy Lin.

*I noticed that one of the groups to make the mound yesterday included Edwin Jackson, John Lannan, Ross Detwiler and Jordan Zimmermann. Not a bad quartet. Let’s just say that if these four comprised our rotation any season from 2006-11, we all would have been thrilled. Then I remembered that Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Wang threw yesterday. Boy, Davey Johnson and Steve McCatty have their work cut out for them.

*Had a nice chat with Ryan Perry today. Physically, I’d describe him as sturdy. OK, that is an understatement. He’s strong. Perry’s fastball will play, as it reportedly sits in the mid-90s. He’s a former first-rounder of the Tigers in 2008. Perry is thrilled to be here. The trade (in exchanged for RHP Collin Balester on Dec. 9th) presented Perry a new opportunity. As we chatted, Perry was very interested to see Strasburg perform. Perry has obviously heard a lot of great things, but he wants to see how his power and repertoire compares and contrasts to that of Justin Verlander, who was his teammate with the Tigers for three years.

Edwin Jackson chats with pitching coach Steve McCatty.

*I’d like to close my first Diary of the Spring season by recognizing the seemingly never-ending efforts of our catchers, including our bullpen catchers. We have five catchers in camp, plus two bullpen guys: Wilson Ramos, Jesus Flores, Jhonatan Solano, Sandy Leon, Carlos Maldonado, Nilson Robledo (bullpen) and Julian Martinez (bullpen). These seven guys catch all 25 guys in camp. And when they finish, they practice blocking balls in drills that can only be described as brutal. Then they work on conditioning. And then they hit. All in about 2.5 hours.

As physical as the catchers’ tolls can be, they all have to remain sharp mentally. Today, for instance, Davey Johnson spent an extended period of time questioning Ramos about Jackson and his delivery. Davey never misses an opportunity to talk to catchers and batters about what they are seeing, because that is one vantage point that he cannot account for.

Well, thank you for joining me. I’ll be in touch again soon with another installment.

43 Days until Opening Day at Wrigley Field. And we are just 50 shy of Opening Day at Nationals Park!

So This Is The New Year

Follow @Nationals on Twitter | Like the Nationals on Facebook

There is something refreshingly cathartic about the cycle of years and seasons. The end of the old always brings with it the beginning of a new era, another chance to be better than before. While this is true of every baseball season, it is no stretch to say that the buzz — the excitement, the energy, the hope — that is floating around the 2012 Nationals is unlike anything that Washington has seen since the team moved to The District in 2005.

This hope does not come without good reason. There is the prospect of a healthy Stephen Strasburg electrifying the top of the rotation every five days. He will be followed by two more dynamic, budding stars in Jordan Zimmermann and the recently acquired Gio Gonzalez, all three 26 years-old or younger. Solid, sturdy veterans Chien-Ming Wang and John Lannan will be in the mix with the promising Ross Detwiler, bringing stability to the back end of the starting staff.

Drew Storen will look to follow up on a rookie season in which he saved 43 games.

From there, another set of power arms takes over in the bullpen, led by 2011 All-Star Tyler Clippard and anchored by closer Drew Storen, who in his rookie campaign became just the second National ever to notch 40 saves in a season. Add in flamethrower Henry Rodriguez, who regularly touches triple digits on the radar gun, and you’ve got three more exciting arms, again all under the age of 27.

In the lineup, the Nationals will look for a healthy year from Ryan Zimmerman. DC’s under-the-radar superstar began last season hot before suffering an abdominal strain that hampered his production throughout the year. Still just 27 years of age, the third baseman will look to return to his form of the previous five seasons, during which he averaged 37 doubles, 23 home runs and 89 RBI while playing in an average of 145 games.

Jayson Werth, meanwhile, will look to reestablish himself as the player who received MVP votes in each of his two seasons prior to joining the Nationals. While he reached the 20-home run plateau for the fourth consecutive season in 2011, a return to form across the board in his numbers would make the middle of the Nationals lineup that much more formidable to opposing pitching staffs.

Mike Morse was one of the National League's best hitters in 2011.

Joining that pair will be 2011’s breakout star, Michael Morse. The numbers don’t lie — Morse hit .303 with 36 doubles, 31 home runs, 95 RBI and a .550 slugging percentage. But to understand just how good Morse’s season was, consider the following: he had more doubles and home runs than Troy Tulowitzki, and a higher slugging percentage than Albert Pujols (see for yourself). In fact, besides the NL MVP, Morse was the only player in the National League to bat over .300 with 35 or more doubles, 30 or more home runs and a slugging percentage of .550 or better. The return of “The Beast” to the middle of the lineup should be a welcome sight for Nats fans everywhere.

Another returnee for 2012 who impressed last year was rookie infielder Danny Espinosa, who will look to build on the power potential he flashed during his 21-home run performance last season. Coupled with the slick glove work he often showed at second base, the former Long Beach State shortstop may just prove he owns that rare combination of being a versatile middle infielder with pop from both sides of the plate. Oh, and he won’t turn 25 until after Opening Day.

Even after trading four prospects to the Oakland Athletics in the Gonzalez deal, there is still plenty of talent waiting in the wings, ready to contribute in the future. Top prospects like lefthander Matt Purke and infielder Anthony Rendon are poised to join Bryce Harper in the years to come, but that discussion is for another time.

Bryce Harper headlines the next wave of Nationals prospects.

While the future remains very bright for this team, make no mistake, the window has officially opened. With the Gonzalez trade, EVP of Baseball Operations and GM Mike Rizzo not only added one of the premiere left-handed power arms in the game, he announced that he is not waiting for some distant tomorrow to contend.

“Gio’s ample talents are well known and chronicled,” said Rizzo after inking the lefty to a five-year extension on Sunday. “Now both Gio and our fans can shift their focus and excitement to his debut in DC knowing that their relationship won’t be ending in the short term.”

Of course, the road will not be easy. With the flurry of acquisitions made by the new Miami Marlins, the NL East has improved to the point of challenging its American League counterpart as the toughest division in baseball. And speaking of that AL East, the Nats will draw the perennial powerhouse in Interleague Play this year, making the schedule that much tougher. The good news is, should Washington survive this gauntlet and (gasp!) force its way into the picture for the potentially expanding postseason field, this young Nationals squad will have already faced the toughest teams in the league.

If you’ve been following the Nats from the beginning, your best days certainly appear to be ahead of you. If 2012 marks the beginning of your fandom, then welcome. Strap yourself in and enjoy the ride.

2011 Winter Meetings Q&A with GM Mike Rizzo

Follow @Nationals on Twitter | Like the Nationals on Facebook

You asked, and Nationals EVP of Baseball Operations and GM Mike Rizzo is ready to answer. We gathered questions from Nationals fans far and wide for this exclusive fan Q&A with the man tasked with shaping your Washington Nationals.

From Facebook, Bryce J. wants to know: Higher priority, finding a dominant #2 to follow Strasburg in the rotation or a positional player to shore up the 3-4-5 while Harper learns the ropes?

Mike Rizzo: I think it’s imperative to find both. We feel we have in-house candidates for the number two starter behind Stras’. Jordan Zimmermann had a terrific year last year, really a breakthrough year for him. We expect bigger and better things – it will be his first full season off of Tommy John surgery – so we’re excited for big things from him. We’re always looking to improve the rotation. You can never have enough good, quality starting pitching in this division, so we’re always in the market for that.

A big bat would be something that would really jump-start our offense. We feel like we’re going to be stronger and better than we were last year with the current players that we have. We feel like a year of experience for our young, middle-of-the-field guys like Wilson Ramos, Danny Espinosa and Ian Desmond is going to do nothing but help them. We’re looking for another outstanding season from Michael Morse, a healthy season from Ryan Zimmerman and Adam LaRoche, and a bounce-back season from Jayson Werth, so we feel like we’re going to be better in that regard. But you can never have too much offense, and good, young two-way players – offensively and defensively with athleticism – are always what we’re looking for.

On Twitter, @gonastynats asks: So what IS #RogerBernadina’s future w/ the #Nationals? Is he our CF next year, or what?

MR: Roger is a terrific talent, he’s got great skills. He’s a guy who can play defense at all three outfield positions, gives us some pop from the left side of the plate, can steal you a base when he has to steal a base, and he’s got great versatility. He’s going to be a big part of our ballclub and is going to compete for the CF job. In the worst-case scenario, he’s going to be a terrific fourth outfielder for us that who can fill in for extended periods of time. He brings great energy on the baseball field and a great attitude in the clubhouse.

Our email inbox was overflowing as well. Don B. has an interesting idea for the starting rotation: Since there are a number of promising young arms, could it be possible to have a six-man rotation of Strasburg, Zimmermann, Wang, Peacock, Milone, and Lannan, perhaps keeping Zimmermann on a five-day schedule?  In addition to getting a longer look at the young prospects at the major league level, it would cut down on Stephen Strasburg’s starts and consequently, his innings.  If he is on an innings limit, this could allow him to pitch deeper into the season.  Is this a possibility?

MR: We’re not going to go to a six-man rotation. What we’ll do, we’ll keep the traditional five-man rotation and we’re going to protect Stras’ whenever we can and whenever possible. And we’re going to have two or three quality pitchers in the Minor Leagues that are ready to come up and ready to pitch extended and important innings in the Major Leagues. We’re going to extend our pitchers out, but be prudent about it knowing in the back of our minds that we’ve got really good quality pitchers to summon from the Minor Leagues when need be.

While Danny B. writes in about the outfielders: What outfielders are being targeted by the Nationals?

MR: We’ve overturned every stone. We’ve talked to every team where we think a center fielder fits for us. The trade market is very difficult for such a quality position; they are in high demand. We’ve kicked the tires on many center fielders via the trade route, we’ve looked internationally for some international talent and we’re looking at all aspects to try and improve our ballclub.

We feel that we do have an in-house candidate with Jayson Werth. He can always move and play center field, if we have to have him play there, which opens up a whole different pool of players for our corner outfield position.

Jim W. surely has his wish list, but wants to know what are the top priorities for the Nats this offseason: What are the top three needs in acquisitions going into the 2012 season?

MR: We certainly would like to upgrade our rotation with an arm that could fit in with Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann and give us a real potent top three guys in the rotation – to go along with Chien-Ming Wang, Ross Detwiler, John Lannan, Brad Peacock and Tommy Milone. We like to have great depth and versatility there. So that’s our number one priority.

Number two is probably to find an answer in the outfield, going the center field route, or moving Werth to center field and going the corner outfield route.

And lastly, to strengthen our bench. We need good veteran players off the bench to allow Davey Johnson to do what he does best, which is to strategize and control the game at the end with pinch hitters and really out-managing the guy in the other dugout.

Our loyal readers here on the Curly W Live blog also chimed in with some great questions in the comments, led by Donald L. He wants to know, what’s the word on Yoenis Cespedes?

MR: Cespedes is a big, powerful center fielder with a great skill set. We scouted him extensively in world competitions with our scouts. I personally went down to the Dominican to see a private workout with him. He’s an impressive young man with great physical skills. He’s got great strength and great speed, and shows flashes of being a five-tool player. With our knowledge of him and his skill set, he’s a guy that we’re monitoring seriously.

Meanwhile, Dan D. wonders if a familiar face from the past could fill a hole in the Nationals outfield plans. Could Josh Willingham fill in as RH bat, 5th OF and 1B? Great pop, good guy, fans like him.

MR: Josh is a terrific talent. He’s way over-qualified to be a fifth outfielder or a right-handed bat off the bench. This is a guy who came off last season with 29 homeruns and 98 RBI’s in a tough Oakland ballpark to hit in. He’s going to get an everyday job somewhere and he’s going to be a guy who fits in somebody’s outfield as a regular. He’s a great quality person, and a great human being, and a guy we really like around here.

That’s it for the Winter Meetings Q&A, thanks for all of the great questions! Check back throughout the offseason for the inside scoop on your Washington Nationals.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 537 other followers