Results tagged ‘ Collin Balester ’

Dever’s (Almost) Daily Diary

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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!

Screech and the Nats Head to Taiwan

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In mid-October, the Washington Nationals were excited to learn that Major League Baseball had selected Screech, the team’s official mascot, as the only MLB mascot to travel to Taiwan with a team of MLB All-Stars for the 2011 Taiwan All-Star Series the first week of November.

Screech will accompany Nationals players P Collin Balester, P Ross Detwiler and 1B/OF Michael Morse, who were named to the MLB team roster, and P Chien-Ming Wang, who will play for the Chinese Taipei National Team, for the exciting weeklong trip to Taiwan.

To prepare for his trip, Screech stopped by the historic Twin Oaks Estate in Northwest D.C. earlier this week to visit with Ambassador and Mrs. Jason Yuan of the Taipei Economic & Cultural Representative Office, both of whom offered to teach Screech about traditional Taiwanese customs.

From learning basic Chinese phrases and greetings to mastering the art of using chopsticks, Ambassador Yuan and his wife ensured that Screech was well-versed in Taiwanese culture so that he can fully understand and enjoy his experience abroad.

In addition, the Ambassador recommended several landmarks for Screech to visit – including the Taipei 101 tower, which, at 1,671 feet tall is the second tallest building in the world – and invited Screech to sample a traditional Cantonese dim sum, which included delicious dishes such as shrimp dumplings and spring rolls in oyster sauce. 

Check out footage from the visit here:

Screech will meet up with his old friends Ballester, Detwiler, Morse and the rest of the MLB All-Star Team in Los Angeles before making the 14-hour journey to Taiwan this weekend. The Nationals players will be joined by 25 players from 16 other MLB clubs, including Pablo Sandoval (San Francisco Giants) and Curtis Granderson (New York Yankees).

The 2011 Taiwan All-Star Series will consist of five games played in three different cities – New Taipei City (XinZhuang Stadium) on November 1, Taichung (Intercontinental Stadium) on November 3 and 4, and Kaohsiung (Chengcing Lake Stadium) on November 5 and 6.

MLB Network will televise all five games of the series, while Nationals fans can keep up with Screech’s adventures on his blog and on his Twitter at @ScreechTheEagle.

It’s a beautiful day for a doubleheader

Todd Coffey won’t be seen sprinting out of the Nationals’ bullpen anytime soon—the team placed him on the 15-day DL with a left calf strain, retroactive to April 9. In his place, Washington has recalled Collin Balester, who earned his promotion after pitching five scoreless innings with Triple-A Syracuse. Balester, who transitioned to the bullpen last season, pitched to at 2.57 ERA in 2010 with the Nationals.

 Lineups:

 Brewers:

2B Rickie Weeks

SS Craig Counsell

LF Ryan Braun

1B Prince Fielder

3B Casey McGehee

RF Mark Kotsay

C Jonathan Lucroy

CF Carlos Gomez

P Yovani Gallarado

 Nationals:

2B Danny Espinosa

CF Rick Ankiel

RF Jayson Werth

1B Adam LaRoche

LF Michael Morse

SS Ian Desmond

C Ivan Rodriguez

3B Alex Cora

P Jayson Marquis

 *This is the first game of a traditional single-admission doubleheader between the Nats and the Brewers. This is due to the fact that yesterday’s game was pushed back due to the heavy rainstorm the soaked much of the east coast.

 *In 19 plate appearances against Yovani Gallardo, Adam LaRoche has batted .313 with a double, a home run, and three walks.

 *Former National leadoff man and center fielder Nyjer Morgan has yet to appear in the starting lineup in this series thus far. However, former Nat Wil Nieves started in Game 1.

 *Game 2 of the doubleheader will begin approximately 30 minutes after the first game ends. A second lineup post will be made when that information becomes available, so be sure to check this space.

Day 16 in sunny Viera

Nationals Principal Owner Mark D. Lerner will be blogging throughout the 2011 Grapefruit League Season, giving Nats fans a unique perspective of the goings-on at the Nats Spring Training home in Viera, Fla. Check back often for the latest updates.

 

Good afternoon NatsTown from Viera!

 

As you might expect, optimism is high after recording 9-3 and 5-3 wins over the Mets the last two days. Both games were remarkably well-pitched and the defense was strong. Just two errors and two walks! Usually you don’t see such cleanly-played games until a week or so into the Grapefruit League schedule. Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa combined on a 4-6-3 double play on Monday against the Mets that I am not sure many other tandems would have finished off.

 

Yesterday, I was impressed by Ross Detwiler, who struck out three in 2.0 strong innings. It was good to see Ross’ velocity back up after he endured that hip injury last spring. He has a heck of a slider too. Very encouraging signs from our former first-rounder.

 

And after Detwiler left the game, I was taken aback by the power of both Cole Kimball and Collin Balester. Both guys are BIG and regularly throw in the mid-90s. I sat behind the dugout yesterday at Space Coast Stadium and let me tell you, you can feel the velocity from both Cole and Collin. Mets hitters did not look too thrilled to be facing either of those two power arms.

 

At the plate, it is hard not to be impressed with Michael Morse and his .714 batting average. He is 5-for-7. And his 2-homer effort in Monday’s opener at St. Lucie was really special in that his first homer was crushed to left field (500 feet? Seemed close to that) and his second was an opposite-field shot. That’s good hitting in February, March or… August.

 

The weather for Tuesday’s opener was a tad disappointing, as it rained for most of the morning. But by noon, the system pushed off shore and we were ready for baseball. So it was dry. It was great to host representatives from each branch of the military yesterday, the majority of which are stationed at nearby Patrick Air Force Base, which is only about 10-12 miles from Space Coast Stadium.

 

The good news is that the ideal weather is back today. Look for lots of sunny skies and temps ranging from 77-81 the next week or so.  Great baseball weather for players and fans alike.

 

I found out yesterday that the Nationals will face left-hander C.C. Sabathia on Saturday in Tampa. Should be a fun test as he is on a short list of the best the game has to offer.

 

Also, we have a Henry Rodriguez sighting! He arrived in Viera late last night and reported to camp this morning. Pitching Coach Steve McCatty told me that Rodriguez’s bullpen sessions were very impressive. This is another legit power arm and you certainly cannot have enough of those.

 

I ran into Bob Carpenter this morning. He is in town with F. P. Santangelo and Debbi Taylor to address the ballclub this morning. Bob’s spirits are very high for the 2011 season. He also told me that F.P. is a great addition to MASN’s stable of TV talent. They are anxious to get going.

 

I then enjoyed meeting F.P. later in the morning. He is thrilled to be here with us, especially after driving across the country last week! F.P. certainly has studied up on the Nationals. He knows the roster inside and out, and is already well aware of the tangible momentum we have going within our organization.

 

One correction from Monday’s blog, MASN’s initial telecast of the spring is set for Sunday at 1:05 p.m. as the Nationals host the Braves at Space Coast Stadium. So please tune in and take a peek at what the 2011 season might have to offer.

 

2-0 and looking forward to today’s contest against the Marlins. John Lannan is on the mound. Let’s hope our winning ways will continue…

30 Players in 30 Days: Collin Balester


Collin Balester 99.JPGCollin Balester no longer has a
mustache that could be confused for a squirrels nest but he is rocking a Grizzly Adams offseason beard. As he put it, “It feels like a very high turtle neck of human hair.” Balester is the type of person who would casually wear a turtle neck and not just to an ugly-Christmas sweater party. He is the same person who asked to wear No. 99 this spring, a number not even reserved for players who will never make the team. He finally got his wish this season and brazenly said in Spring Training, “I got 99 problems but a pitch ain’t one.” One pitch for Balester has never been a problem but many pitches in one game became a problem.

He didn’t pitch well at Spring Training and went 1-3 with an 11.65 ERA in five starts with the Triple-A Syracuse Chiefs. He struggled with his control, fell behind early in counts, walked batters and just couldn’t get batters out. Something had to change. Balester was converted to a reliever and it might have saved his career. He can now just focus on one inning and one batter at a time. He became more aggressive with his fastball that now reaches the mid-90s and his stuff became more effective with shorter stints.

He was called up in September for the third time in 2010 and made a lasting impression. He posted a 1.35 ERA (2 ER/ 13.1 IP) with 16 strikeouts and a .136 BAA (6-for-44). He still struggled with his control at times, walking seven batters. And while he was never pitching in pressure situations, he regained his confidence when he stands on the mound.

“I’ve learned more about pitching coming out of the bullpen than I ever have,” Balester said. “It’s just going out there and pounding the strike zone. You really feel the heat when you go out there and walk guys. When I’m able to throw strikes, my curveball got a lot better this year, and it’s a better one-two punch. If I throw strikes and get to that curveball, it’s a little easier that way, instead of having it be 2-0. These guys can hit 100 miles per hour in this League. If you get ahead of these guys, you can pitch with your best stuff. That’s what’s been working.”

Balester made the most of role reversal and it appears it will be his spot to lose in the bullpen this spring.

On a much different note, the mind of Collin Balester is a mysterious and puzzling place. We won’t try to be Sigmund Freud and dive into it but we always like keeping up with Balester. He makes it pretty simple too. He is a social network addict–aren’t we all though? Now that the season is over, he has a lot of time to update his twitter account. He tweets as often as ESPN breaks news about Brett Favre.

See for yourself the philosophical and informative pearls of wisdom bestowed by Balester:

“Cooking class was a success. But I just want to go to eating class haha. My wife cooks I eat and clean.” about 11 hours ago

“It sorta feels like a tornado hit a volcano out here in california. Don’t really know what that means ask @eminem. It’s feels pretty good.” 4:06 p.m. Oct. 25th

“Crushing NHL 11 online like it’s my day job.” 10:03 a.m. Oct. 25th

“I was watching the phillies giants game in the mirror at the gym and Halladay and lincecum would make siiiiick lefties. Wow” 10:48 p.m. Oct. 21st

“Brushing your teeth 2 times back to back is like the best thing ever. At the best store ever right now ikea.” 4:20 p.m. Oct. 20th

“Offseason beards are so money. Feels like a very high turtle neck of human hair.” 7:31 p.m. Oct. 16th

I dropped my phone the first try at taking a pic of that spider because it jumped at me a little. So I learned my lesson with mother nature” 10:28 p.m. Oct. 15th

“6 pounder” http://plixi.com/p/50688260 12:02 a.m. Oct. 15th

“Why is it that every hole number 10 I get like 10 plus on??” 2:59 p.m. Oct. 14th

Game 151

It’s the final countdown at Nationals Park and here are three things as we head into the final 12 games of the season:

 

1.         Ryan Zimmerman is currently hitting .306 on the season, after going 2-for-4 to record his team-leading 46th multi-hit game of the season last night. He is hitting .410 (16-for-39) in his last ten games and aims to become just the third Nationals player to hit .300 or better in a single season, joining Cristian Guzman (.316 in ’08) and Dmitri Young (.320 in ’07).


 
Collin Balester red.jpg2.         A mustache-less Collin Balester is thriving in his converted role as a reliever. He has not allowed a run in 10.1 innings (eight appearances) and has seen his ERA drop to 2.40 since reaching a season high 7.71 on August 3.

3.         The bullpen has racked up 460 relief K’s this season, which is good for third in the Majors and sets the Nationals’ single season record. Tyler Clippard is also 2 K’s away from recording the first 100-relief strikeout season in the history of baseball in DC.

 

Astros (73-77):

1.    Jason Bourgeois – CF

2.    Jeff Keppinger – 2B

3.    Hunter Pence – RF

4.    Carlos Lee – 1B

5.    Jason Michaels – LF

6.    Chris Johnson – 3B

7.    Tommy Manzella – SS

8.    Jason Castro – C

9.    J.A. Happ – SP (6-2, 3.24 ERA)

* The seven runs scored in the fifth inning yesterday were the most runs scored by the Astros in a single inning since they drove in seven during a fourth-inning surge against the Marlins on August 12, 2009.

* Bud Norris tossed 6.2 innings of two-run ball last night to improve his record to an impressive 7-1 with a 3.52 ERA in his last 11 starts.

 Nationals (62-88):

1.      Danny Espinosa – 2B

2.      Ian Desmond – SS

3.      Adam Dunn – 1B

4.      Ryan Zimmerman – 3B

5.      Michael Morse – RF

6.      Ivan Rodriguez – C

7.      Roger Bernadina – LF 

8.      Justin Maxwell – CF

9.      John Lannan – SP (8-7, 4.61 ERA)

Strasburg back on the DL

The Nats officially placed Stephen Strasburg on the 15-Day Disabled List, retroactive to August 22, with a right forearm flexor strain and recalled right-handed pitcher Collin Balester from Triple-A Syracuse.

It doesn’t come as a surprise. That Nationals are taking every precaution possible with their prized possession and that’s why GM Mike Rizzo decided to send Strasburg to the 15-day disabled list. It was obvious Strasburg was in pain on Saturday in the bottom of the fifth inning after he grimaced and shock his right arm following a 1-1 change-up to Phillies Domonic Brown. Strasburg, 21, is 5-3 with a 2.91 ERA in 12 starts with Washington.

Balester is 0-1 with a 5.40 ERA in five relief appearances with Washington this season. The 24-year-old is 4-12 with a 5.85 ERA in 27 games/22 starts during his Big League career (2008-10). After beginning the season in the Syracuse rotation, Balester went 1-0 with a 3.92 ERA and .209 batting average against in 25 relief outings with the Chiefs.

Don’t mess with the mustache


Collin Balester mustache.jpgNeil Armstrong walked on the moon. Al Gore invented the internet. Joe Dirt made the mullet fashionable and Collin Balester created the molestache.

The always talkative, video game guru, tweeting machine–aka Collin Balester–redefined what it means to have a manly mustache. It is still debatable if the overgrown, food snatching, bushy, brown mustache should be classified as a mustache or squirrels nest.

He has been called Jeff Foxworthy, Cornel Mustard and Jeff Kent. At the same time, this isn’t your Dad’s mustache. People with a mustache as dense as the rain forest typically mean business. This mustache is the reason why parents tell their kids not to accept candy from strangers. Granted there is nothing inherently evil about a mustache, but there is something the players find eerie about it.


Collin Balester mustache upclose.jpg“Everyone loves it,” Balester said. “They think it’s funny… it just lightens the mood. Of course, we are all serious and it isn’t going to change the way we go about doing our business.”

He is the same pitcher he always was–trying just to make an impression with his pitches not his antics–he just happens to have a big stache and an even larger number.

Last year, Balester spent the majority of the 2009 season with the Triple-A Syracuse Chiefs. He went 7-10 with a 4.44 ERA (53 ER/ 107.1 IP) and 71 strikeouts. He made a brief stint with the Nats in July and August and started seven games going 1-4 with a 6.82 ERA.

Those types of numbers don’t typically provide job security let alone number security. When the Nats signed Chien-Mien Wang on Friday, Balester was forced to surrender the No. 40.

He had the choice between the numbers 29 and 70. That’s like asking someone what soap opera do you want to watch, Young and the Restless or Days of our Lives-bad or worse. Can I just watch paint dry? As far as the number hierarchy is concerned, those two numbers might sit at the bottom unless you are a starting running back and left tackle.


Collin Balester mustache sitting down.jpgBalester tried to wear the No. 99 last year but the Nats said no. After he was given the option between the two numbers, he texted the equipment manger and asked if he could wear the always available No. 99. His persistence paid off.

“It keeps people guessing,” Balester said.  “When they look at the number on my back they’ll think, ‘That guy had no shot. He is wearing No. 99.’”

You might think of 99 on a baseball uniform the same way you think of 65 on a wide receiver but Manny Ramirez is 99 for the Dodgers. And let’s not forget no one has kept 99 more groovy than Rick “The Wild Thing” Vaughn… then again Wayne “The Great One” Gretzky admirably wore 99 too.

And we are back to square one with what Shakespeare famously said, “What’s in a number?”… or was it a name?

“It doesn’t matter what number you get or what you look like,” Balester said. “It just matters if you get it done.”

Balester has proved he can get it done when it comes to growing a mustache. The only question remaining is can he get it done on the field and earn a roster spot out of Spring Training?

Nationals add Chien-Ming Wang to rotation


Chien-Ming Wang PC 2.JPGThe Nationals entered the offseason looking for two veteran pitchers to bulk up the starting rotation. Mission accomplished. The Nats have added two proven sinker ball pitchers to the top of their rotation: Jason Marquis in December and Chien-Ming Wang today. They finally made the news from earlier in the week official on a chilly afternoon in Viera at Space Coast Stadium.
The Nats introduced Chien-Ming Wang on the field instead of the small media room to accommodate the large international media contingent–at least 40 people.

The 29-year-old Wang is an extreme sinker ball pitcher and has a career 55-26 record with a 4.16 ERA in 109 games (104 starts) spanning five seasons with the Yankees. He is best known for posting consecutive 19-win seasons for the Yankees in 2006 and ’07. During the same two-year span, Wang led MLB with 38 wins and a .745 winning percentage while pacing the American League with 864 ground balls induced and a 2.9/1 ground ball-to-fly ball ratio.


Chien-Ming Wang PC 1.JPGWang was plagued by injuries in 2008 and ’09 and he
still recovering from arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder. The Nationals aren’t worried and hope he can pitch in the Majors by June 1st. They know they took a risk but the rewards could be plentiful. And like Matt Capps, if Wang didn’t struggle in 2009, he wouldn’t have been available in 2010.

Teammates such as pitchers Matt Capps, Tyler Clippard, John Lannan and Collin Balester were all in attendance. Balester gave up his uniform number, 40, to Wang and posted the following tweets on his twitter account here:

“Went to the Wang press conference and got thanked for giving up my number. I got 99 problems but Balester ain’t one hit me.”

“I am Now Number 99″

“Wang will wear #40, Balester #99. Back-story: Wang was assigned #40 by NYY. Prior to his arrival in New York, he hadn’t worn #40.”

You might think of 99 on a baseball uniform the same way you think of 65 on a wide receiver but Manny Ramirez is 99 for the Dodgers. And let’s not forget no one has kept 99 more groovy than Rick “The Wild Thing” Vaughn… then again Wayne “The Great One” Gretzky admirably wore 99 too.

The Storen Identity – 12/1

Drew Storen, 22, might be done playing for the Phoenix Desert Dogs in the Arizona Fall League but he isn’t done writing for Notes for NatsTown. Be sure to follow the tenth overall pick in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft as he writes for Notes from NatsTown and gives you an inside, behind-the-scenes look at his climb to the Major Leagues. Here is his post…

 

Welcome back, it’s good to be back blogging again. I have a little more time now that I am home celebrating the holidays, an undefeated Colts team and the return of Stanford football back in my hometown of Brownsburg, Indiana. It is great to be home and nice to relax after the Arizona Fall League, although I am already excited for Spring Training and gearing up for that.

 

Now that I am a week out of the fall league, it is easy to look back and see what a great time I had playing down there. It’s tough to complain about playing in such a beautiful place against the top competition. I was a little sad we came up short in the last game, but that’s just how things go. It was an unforgettable experience and I am so thankful that I got the opportunity to go down there and compete. Wearing the Nationals uniform was pretty awesome, and it was also very cool seeing the Big League unis for every other team.

 


Storen060208_01KT.jpgAs for the offseason, I am concentrating on actively resting my body and getting ready to build it back up for Spring Training. I believe this blog will be ongoing throughout the offseason, so keep an eye out if you want to hear what I am up to! I will be heading down to Viera on Wednesday and then to Stanford next week to visit some old friends so it should be exciting! As usual, feel free to tweet at me or leave a comment on what you would like to hear about
HERE. Also, Collin Balester is now on Twitter and is a great follow, so check him out at http://twitter.com/ballystar40.

 

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