Results tagged ‘ Davey Johnson ’
Well, I am on the ground for my seventh spring in Viera, where last week’s cold snap is now a distant memory and sunny and 70+ is the norm. Welcome to Spring Training 2013!
This is the place to be if you are a Nationals fan. I hope that over the next few weeks, I can share some of the sights, sounds and vibe from our camp. If I had to sum up Camp Davey 2013, it would be “professional, but very comfortable.”
And this is the place to be if you are a member of the baseball media. In speaking to our Media Relations folks, they assure me that this team is now officially on the radar. There is not a national baseball writer worth his salt that won’t find our club at some point this spring. MLB Network, ESPN, Sports Illustrated, CBS Sports and Fox are all writing about us, not to mention the increased coverage from nationals.com, the Washington Post and The Washington Times. They’ll all find their way to Space Coast Stadium, perhaps even for multiple visits. This has never been the case, even with gradually rising expectations entering last season.
By the way…how about Bryce Harper’s Sports Illustrated cover story last week!?
So, enjoy the extra coverage. Hopefully it helps all of our fans up north escape the cold winter mentally, even if only for a few minutes every day. Thankfully, the exhibition game against the Yankees on Friday, March 29 at Nationals Park and Opening Day on April 1 are just around the corner.
As everyone knows, this is Davey Johnson’s final camp at the helm. He set quite a tone this offseason with his declaration of “World Series or bust.” Has anyone ever carried such overt confidence with the ease that Davey does? That is Davey in a nutshell: he’s unique. How about last year? Remember when he said (paraphrasing) “they should fire me if we don’t make the playoffs?” He and Mike Rizzo obviously knew something about that club earlier than everyone else. It was quite a season.
- Congratulations to Ross Detwiler and Gio Gonzalez, who will represent us on Team USA, and Roger Bernadina who will represent the Netherlands in next month’s World Baseball Classic. What a fantastic honor for them and for our ballclub. Team USA’s pitching staff will feature two of our finest. I suppose this is when nationalism meets NATITUDE?
- Best of luck to our friend Joe Torre, who will manage Team USA in the WBC. From my seat, the WBC gets bigger and better every go around.
- My favorite sight of the young spring was Wilson Ramos in a crouch, catching multiple bullpens. Wilson’s spirits are so much higher right now than they were last summer. And for good reason. He is currently in a good place both mentally and physically.
- Speaking of catchers, I was talking to seven-time Gold Glover Bob Boone and he swears that he has never seen a catching corps with as much depth as ours this spring. Our fourth and fifth catchers will be better than some club’s backup catchers when Opening Day hits. Perhaps even a few front-line backstops. And consider, we have traded away a pair of highly thought of catchers in the last 15 months or so in Derek Norris and David Freitas.
- We are still waiting for his Grapefruit League debut, but Dan Haren has lived up to his billing so far. Davey told me that Dan’s initial bullpens were something to behold. He was painting the corners. It will be a shock if he walks more than two batters in any game.
- Lots of media talk about how 23 of the 25 spots on the Opening Day roster are accounted for. I am not sure this is the case, but let’s not forget that injuries hit and hinder baseball more than any other sport. I just looked this up, but last year’s NL East champs used 43 players. We won the division by 4.0 games (over the Braves) and claimed the best record in baseball by 1.0 game (over the Reds). Think we win the NL East without the contributions of Bryce Harper, Tyler Moore, Sandy Leon, Jhonatan Solano or Christian Garcia? It would have been extremely difficult, considering none of the aforementioned players were on the Opening Day roster.
- Who is going to make lasting first impressions this year? Anthony Rendon sure is off to a hot start. Matt Skole, Nathan Karns and Eury Perez look great also. It is early, but we have a lot of great young talent around here.
Until we blog again…
Before Monday night’s Nationals-Mets tilt in Port St. Lucie – the second between the two clubs in the same location in just over 48 hours – skipper Davey Johnson mused aloud that teams with good Minor League depth often posted strong Spring Training records. If the game itself was any indication, Johnson, who relishes the opportunity to see such players in person, must have liked what he saw.
Led by a bevy of rising stars, the Nationals impressed at the plate and on the mound as they notched their first Grapefruit League win, by a 6-4 final.
The logic behind Johnson’s reasoning stemmed from the heavy innings that non-regulars log during the Grapefruit League season, and never was that circumstance more on display for the Nats. With a starting nine featuring just one 2012 Opening Day roster member in Steve Lombardozzi (plus Gio Gonzalez pitching), Washington’s youngsters peppered New York pitchers all around Tradition Field to the tune of 17 hits in a victory that was never as close as the final score indicated.
Outfielder Eury Perez leaned on his strongest tool – his speed – to accumulate a trio of infield singles and a stolen base, scoring from first on a double in the third and from second on a single in the fourth. Anthony Rendon, vying for a home run for the second straight day, was robbed of a longball at the center field fence, but later lined a seed the opposite way for a single. Eight of the nine starters pitched in hits, with Nationals 2012 Minor League Player of the Year Matt Skole demolishing a double to the wall in right-center in his first at-bat.
On the mound, Skole’s counterpart Nathan Karns – Washington’s Minor League Pitcher of the Year – turned in perhaps the most noteworthy performance. Following two hitless innings from Gonzalez in his first spring start, Karns fanned Ike Davis, Mike Baxter and top Mets prospect Travis d’Arnaud, allowing only a David Wright flare single over two scoreless innings.
“He’s got a great future,” said Johnson of Karns, whom he saw live in game action for the first time Monday night. “He had an explosive fastball, threw first pitch strikes. Very impressive for the young man.”
Karns overthrew a couple of curveballs early, but settled in and spun a beauty to put away d’Arnaud. He attributed the early inconsistency on the pressure of facing Major Leaguers for the first time.
“Yeah, I was a little nervous in the ‘pen, I’m not going to lie,” Karns said of the experience, but he took Johnson and pitching coach Steve McCatty’s advice between innings. “Breathe, breathe. I guess I was a little red in the face, a little sweaty.”
Karns’ stuff played just fine, his fastball sitting 93-96 with great life. When asked if that was a normal velocity range, he was non-committal, but referenced his offseason conditioning program.
“I was around there last year,” he said of his fastball velocity. “This year I felt like I did a lot in the offseason to strengthen my lower body, give me some more endurance. So if I get a couple more ticks on the radar, that’s a bonus.”
One veteran in the clubhouse within earshot took notice.
“A couple more ticks?” interrupted Ryan Mattheus, who earned the save with a scoreless ninth, incredulously from the corner of the clubhouse. “What do you want, to throw 105?”
The radar gun at Tradition Field actually misfired and flashed 143 miles-per-hour after one high fastball out of the 25-year-old’s right hand.
“Yeah, I can say I threw 143,” Karns said nonchalantly.
It’ll be a story for the grandkids.
The Nationals hit the road again Tuesday afternoon, where they will face the division-rival Braves for the first time this spring at 1:05 p.m. in Lake Buena Vista.
2/23 @ New York (NL) – L, 5-3
2/24 vs. Miami – T, 2-2
2/25 @ New York (NL) – W, 6-4
Top Nationals prospect Anthony Rendon showed impressive gap-to-gap power last spring in Viera, but hit just six home runs over 133 at-bats in an injury-plagued 2012.. Since his arrival in camp this year, though, the ball has been jumping off Rendon’s bat more, as was evidenced by a home run he hit in batting practice prior to Sunday’s contest at Space Coast Stadium– a moonshot that that ricocheted off the base of the scoreboard, a solid 40-50 feet up the berm behind the left field wall. Just a few hours later, he showcased that power again, off a legitimate Major League reliever in Miami’s Ryan Webb.
With the wind blowing out to left in the fifth inning – following a rain delay of over an hour – Rendon hit an opposite-field shot out to right-center field, plating Steve Lombardozzi to give Washington a 2-1 lead. It was the only run-scoring hit of the day for either team, as both Marlins tallies came via RBI-groundouts in the top of the third and ninth in a 2-2, 10-inning draw.
Rendon was the only member of the Nationals starting lineup not to be pulled during the delay, as both he and manager Davey Johnson wanted the young prospect to have another opportunity at the plate.
“I told him I wanted him to have one more at-bat and he said ‘I want one more at-bat,’” explained the skipper. “He certainly made it count.”
Johnson went on to stress that Rendon is all-but Major League ready, needing just repetitions and an opening on the roster to play in Washington.
Injuries have sidetracked what appeared to be an express lane path to the Major Leagues for Rendon. The Rice University product broke his ankle in just the second game of the season last year, costing him the first half of his year. After rehab, he became the most well-traveled man in the system, making stops with the GCL Nationals, Short-Season Auburn, High-A Potomac, and Double-A Harrisburg, finally culminating his campaign with an impressive stint in the Arizona Fall League.
Entering the season as the top-rated prospect in the system according to Baseball America, MLB.com and every other major outlet assigned to such rankings, the pieces are finally coming together for the 22-year-old considered by many to have the top bat in the 2011 Draft.
“I’ve had the same approach for a while now, I guess it’s just clicking,” said Rendon of his health and his improved power, especially to the opposite field. “That’s a good thing.”
Yes, yes it is.
The Nationals travel back to Port St. Lucie to take on the Mets for the second time in three days tonight at 6:10 p.m., and will once again be televised live on MLB Network. Gio Gonzalez is scheduled to make his first start of the year for the Nats, who are searching for their first Grapefruit League victory.
Here are Washington’s spring results to date:
2/23 @ New York (NL) – L, 5-3
2/24 vs. Miami – T, 2-2
With Spring Training games beginning on Saturday, we’re taking the final few practice days of camp to take a closer look at some of the more interesting stories among this year’s Non-Roster Invitees. We wrap up our series with story of pitcher-turned-position-player Micah Owings.
The story of Rick Ankiel’s conversion from a former top prospect pitcher to a successful Major League outfielder is well known to fans of the Nationals. Ankiel played his past two seasons in a Washington uniform, patrolling center field with his cannon arm and showing flashes of the pop that led him to 25 home runs back in 2008. But the main reason that Ankiel’s transition was so notable was how rarely it has ever been accomplished. In Micah Owings, the Nationals have another player making the leap this season.
Owings showed promise on the mound, though he compiled a fairly average 32-33 record and 4.82 ERA over his six years. But the signs of his potential as a hitter have always been there. He still holds the Georgia state high school record for career home runs as a prepster, and carried that success at the plate with him into the professional ranks. Owings burst onto the Major League scene with a .333/.349/.683 line, blasting four home runs and seven doubles in just 64 plate appearances in his rookie campaign of 2007 to win the Silver Slugger Award.
In fact, despite generally receiving only a couple of plate appearances every five days, he owns a career .283 batting average and .503 slugging percentage, both marks higher than many Major League regulars. Now 30, Owings has decided to try to get the most out of what his body has left and make an honest run at converting to an everyday player.
“It was just to find out what kind of abilities I really have,” he explained of his decision to make the permanent switch. “I don’t want to look back 15-20 years from now and say ‘what if I would have tried it?’”
The idea for the change was in the works for a while before Owings finally pulled the trigger. But with a number of familiar faces from his Arizona days in Nationals camp – both on and off the field – the Nationals seemed like a perfect club to take the leap with.
“There are a lot of great guys, and they’ve been receptive,” said Owings of his new teammates easing his transition. “Even being in a different Spring Training zone. I’m used to being in Arizona for Spring Training. So totally being able to separate, being down here in Florida has been great. I’m really looking forward to it as camp develops.”
As for a position in the field, Owings is content to fit in wherever he can. Manager Davey Johnson has been impressed with what he’s seen so far, and obviously has no concerns about his new project’s arm strength. But at 6’5” and 220 pounds, don’t expect Owings to follow in Ankiel’s footsteps in center field any time soon.
“I don’t want to compare myself to him – he’s a great athlete,” said Owings of Ankiel, though he has tapped the trailblazer for his advice. “I was able to pick his brain last Spring Training, when I was kind of chewing on it. He shed some insight. I didn’t even have to say anything, he just said “Do it,” because he knew what I wanted to talk about.”
That reassurance, plus the confidence he will build with every game, every at-bat, every swing here in Spring Training has Owings optimistic about the process. He also looks forward to bringing a more mature approach to learning the other half of the game at the highest level.
“I’m just focusing in on the things I can control,” he said. “A lot of those things that we can’t control as players – umpires, calls, errors – those ate me up from a pitching standpoint early on. Hopefully I can remember that heading into this path.”
Owings won’t have to wait long for his first opportunity. He’s slated to DH, bat ninth, and play the full nine innings in Washington’s spring opener against the Mets Saturday afternoon.
Believe it or not, Spring Training games begin tomorrow.
That’s right, in less than 24 hours, the Nationals will begin their Grapefruit League season with a 12:10 p.m. start at Digital Domain Park, the spring home of the New York Mets in Port St. Lucie. And the man slated to start that game on the mound for the Nationals? None other than Stephen Strasburg.
“It’s been a good spring so far, and I’m ready to play games,” said Davey Johnson from his office Friday. “I think they are too.”
The Mets will piggyback new acquisition Shaun Marcum and promising prospect Zack Wheeler (rated eighth overall by MLB.com and 11th by Baseball America), looking to break camp with the team for the first time. The game will be televised nationally on MLB Network, the first game of the spring to get the royal treatment.
As is the usual custom for road games in Spring Training, especially early in camp, when the Major League-side clubhouse is still crowded, there will be few regular position players making the trek south to Port St. Lucie. The only projected members of the Opening Day lineup (other than Strasburg, possibly) slated for the trip are Ian Desmond, Bryce Harper and Denard Span, who will be joined by Goon Squaders Steve Lombardozzi and Chad Tracy.
That will give minor leaguers like Anthony Rendon, Matt Skole and Zach Walters a chance to shine in the spotlight. Catchers Sandy Leon, Carlos Maldonado, Chris Snyder and Jhonatan Solano, infielders Chris Marrero, Micah Owings, Will Rhymes, and Carlos Rivero, and outfielders Corey Brown and Eury Perez will also make the trip.
The pitchers in the fold behind Strasburg include Craig Stammen, 40-man roster members Cole Kimball and Erik Davis, and NRI’s Fernando Abad, Bill Bray and Pat McCoy. Stay tuned to the Nationals on Twitter for updates live from Florida throughout day.
It’s been one heck of an offseason for Ross Detwiler. That trend continued Tuesday, as the Nationals starter was extended and accepted an invitation to pitch for Team USA in this year’s World Baseball Classic.
“The little kid in me wanted to say yes right away, without thinking it through,” said Detwiler, who immediately took the offer to manager Davey Johnson and pitching coach Steve McCatty to get their nod of approval.
Both coaches encouraged his participation. Nationals EVP of Baseball Operations and General Manager Mike Rizzo also spoke Tuesday, throwing his support behind Detwiler’s decision to play.
“This will be a good step in Ross’ developmental curve,” Rizzo explained. “These kinds of opportunities don’t come along very often, and we think it’s vitally important that Team USA is well represented.”
This will not be Detwiler’s first stint in a Team USA jersey, as he also pitched as an amateur for the 2006 squad that won the championship in Cuba. He said that his ring from that tournament still rests on his nightstand at his offseason home in the St. Louis suburbs as one of his proudest career accomplishments.
Ever since his strong performance in Game 4 of the NLDS last October, the left-handed starter has been whisked in one direction, then another, his life a whirlwind of activity. First, the 26-year-old married his college sweetheart Keri on December 1 and the two took to Hawaii for their honeymoon. However, before they could even return from that trip, the next big event in Detwiler’s life presented itself.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin E. Dempsey – who had met Detwiler when he threw out ceremonial first pitches twice during the 2012 season – personally invited the pitcher on his USO holiday tour. Faced with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, Detwiler jumped at the chance, departing the warm, sunny beaches of Hawaii for the war-torn middle east.
As the calendar flipped to January, Detwiler’s newly minted Twitter handle earned the nod as the most creative in baseball. Now, just as he was settling into his first week of Spring Training, the opportunity to represent his country has come knocking once more.
Detwiler compared the honor of the USO and Team USA invitations, joking that perhaps the highlights of his year were coming a little earlier than he expected.
“I feel like I’m peaking a little early,” he joked. “But it’s kind of the same feeling, being able to wear ‘USA’ across my chest and represent my country.”
Detwiler will join Team USA in Arizona for the first round of games in the first week of March.
Here at Curly W Live, we rarely – if ever – discuss politics, despite residing at the epicenter of our nation’s government. We’re far more likely to engage with you in a debate on the latest exploits of George, Tom, Abe or Teddy than any sitting President. But as The District and the country as a whole catches its collective breath following Inauguration Weekend, there is no time better than the present to take inventory of the transformation of our national pastime here in the Nation’s Capital since the last inauguration.
Four years ago, a 23-year-old Gio Gonzalez had just been traded – from the Chicago White Sox to the Oakland Athletics. Stephen Strasburg was halfway through his junior year at San Diego State. And a 16-year-old Bryce Harper had enrolled at Southern Nevada College, but had yet to see a pitch from anyone other than a high schooler.
My, how far we’ve come.
The Nationals became the first team to add 10 or more wins in three consecutive seasons over a span that did not include any strike-shortened campaigns. Coming off their 59 victories in 2009, they improved to 69 in 2010, 80 in 2011 and a Major League-best 98 last year.
Given the previous franchise high-water mark of 81-81 during their inaugural campaign, any winning season at all in 2012 would have marked the best in the franchise’s annals. Needless to say, the Nationals exceeded everyone’s projections, except perhaps for skipper Davey Johnson, who guaranteed a playoff berth all the way back in Spring Training.
But the past was all about potential. The present and future are about raised expectations.
Now, Washington has added defensive wizard and leadoff man Denard Span, the most tested, capable fifth starter in the league in Dan Haren, and one of the game’s premier closers in Rafael Soriano. One could make the argument that each of the Nationals units – the starting rotation, bullpen, catching corps, infield, outfield and bench – rank among the best in the game.
Johnson returns for his second term with a core group of rising stars, many of which are just entering their prime. In fact, 10 players – Danny Espinosa, Gonzalez, Harper, Steve Lombardozzi, Tyler Moore, Drew Storen, Strasburg, Jayson Werth, Ryan Zimmerman and Jordan Zimmermann – are under team control through at least 2016: four more years.
The last four years of Nationals baseball have brought plenty of change. The next four promise an equal amount of hope.
But whether you identify as red or blue, as long as you’re rocking the Curly W, you’re wearing our colors. And regardless of your interest or involvement in politics, everyone can agree on one self-evident truth: with pitchers and catchers reporting for the 2013 season in just 20 days, it’s good to be a Washington Nationals fan.
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 look at another of Washington’s impressive rookies from 2012, Tyler Moore.
Amidst the impressive crop of Nationals rookies, perhaps none rose as suddenly into the collective fan consciousness from 2011 to 2012 as Tyler Moore. The soft-spoken Mississippi State product let his bat do the talking throughout his two prior seasons in the minors, where he was one of just two players to hit 30 or more home runs in back-to-back seasons. Despite largely coming off the bench for the Nationals in 2012, Moore showed that power streak was no fluke by blasting 10 roundtrippers in only 156 at-bats. Moore also had nine longballs in just 101 Triple-A at-bats over his two stints with the Syracuse Chiefs last year, giving him a combined home run rate of one per 13.5 at-bats, better than either of his previous two seasons (16.7, 16.2).
Moore’s Major League call-up was somewhat overshadowed. After all, Bryce Harper’s debut came less than 24 hours earlier, and Moore’s initial showing wasn’t his strongest, as he managed just three singles in 19 at-bats, striking out seven times without a walk before he was sent back to Triple-A. But in his second showing, Moore more than made up for his slow start. In his fourth game back with Washington, the 25-year-old blasted his first two Major League home runs, driving in five to key a 6-2 victory in Toronto that capped the Nats 6-0 road trip. He stuck in the Majors, and went on to post a .277/.349/.562 line with 19 of his 38 hits going for extra bases (nine 2B, 10 HR) following his second call-up. Moore’s bat, combined with his ability to play first base and his growth in left field made him a versatile option off of Davey Johnson’s bench as a member of the “Goon Squad.”
A former 16th-round draft choice, Moore received exactly one Postseason at-bat, and made the most of it. Washington trailed St. Louis 3-2 with two outs in the top of the eighth inning of Game 1 of the NLDS, but had Michael Morse at third and Ian Desmond at second. Johnson called upon Chad Tracy to pinch-hit, prompting Cardinals manager Mike Matheny to counter with his lone lefty reliever, Marc Rzepczynski. Davey re-countered with Moore, a righty. The rookie made Matheny pay for his strategy, driving a 2-2 fastball off the outside corner the opposite way for what would prove to be the game-winning, two-run single.
The 6’2”, 215-pound Moore will not be arbitration eligible until 2015, and he remains under team control through the 2018 season.
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 take a closer look at another of Washington’s impressive rookies, Steve Lombardozzi.
While Bryce Harper captured the lion’s share of attention among Nationals rookies in 2012, there were a number of other first-year players who left an indelible mark on the campaign. One such player was Steve Lombardozzi, who as a 23 year-old broke camp with the big league club for the first time, following a September call-up the year prior.
Primarily a middle infielder, the Nationals called upon the Fulton, Maryland native to fill a number of roles early in the season when injuries had left the club short-handed. He played both left field and third base on multiple occasions in April and May, sparking the team when he got his opportunities. In his first home start of the year on April 16, he notched a career-high four hits and drove home the game-winning RBI in a 6-3 win over Houston. Lombardozzi also had three hits in each of the two wins over the Phillies during NATITUDE Weekend.
The former 19th round draft pick proved to be a huge part of the Nationals success. He batted .348/.392/.435 over 23 games in the month of May, when Washington leaned on him the most. But Lombardozzi really made his mark and secured his spot on the squad by posting a .308/.379/.385 line as a pinch-hitter as part of the Goon Squad. Factor in his defensive versatility, and he afforded Davey Johnson a myriad of options in late-game situations.
Lombardozzi’s impact in 2012 did not end in October, though. He teamed up with his dad – a former big leaguer himself – to spearhead Hurricane Sandy relief efforts. Through their hard work, the affectionately nicknamed “Lombo Combo” collected and donated 27,784 pounds of food and supplies to the Community Food Bank of New Jersey.
A local boy made good, Lombardozzi quickly grew into a fan favorite this year. He will not become arbitration eligible until 2015 and remains under team control through the 2017 season.
The game-ending walk-off is one of the most exciting plays in baseball, as evidenced by five Nationals walk-offs making our Top 12 of ’12 list to this point. A game-ending defensive gem, one that robs the opposing team of a walk-off hit, happens far less frequently. Roger Bernadina’s August 7 play – simply known as “The Catch” – was one such moment that Nats fans won’t soon forget.
Nine games into a stretch of 17 contests in 16 days, the last thing the first-place Nationals were hoping for was a second consecutive extra-inning affair with the 36-74 Houston Astros. But after needing a three-ring circus to end an 11-inning contest the night before, the Nationals and Astros took a 2-2 game into the 12th inning before Danny Espinosa singled home Cesar Izturis to give the Nats a one-run lead. Davey Johnson summoned Tyler Clippard to close out the game, but the righty ran into trouble after a leadoff single and a two-out walk put the tying and winning runs on base for Brett Wallace.
On the fifth pitch of their battle, Clippard grooved a fastball over the middle of the plate and the left-handed hitting Wallace barreled it up, driving the ball deep toward the wall in left-centerfield. With both runners on the move with two outs, the only thing separating Houston from victory was The Shark. Bernadina raced at full throttle toward the alley – then, in a gravity-defying instant, leapt, glove outstretched, and met the ball at its apex before disappearing behind a padded concrete pillar in front of the visitor’s bullpen. After a heart-stopping moment, Bernadina emerged with the ball securely in his glove while reliever Craig Stammen celebrated in the ‘pen behind him. The Nationals won the game, went on to sweep the series from the Astros and cemented “The Catch” as the signature defensive play of the 2012 season.