Results tagged ‘ Dever’s (Almost) Daily Diary ’

Dinner With Davey

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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.

Another beautiful day today, highs in the low 80s. Potentially 88 on Saturday for the Grapefruit League opener at Houston.

Busy day, so let’s get started …

*Davey Johnson has been asked many times in the last months months to list some similarities between Ryan Zimmerman and his former teammate, Hall-of-Famer Brooks Robinson. Davey’s answer ALWAYS starts with “they both have soft hands.”

*Enjoyed having Danny Knobler from CBSsports.com visit us this week. He wrote a piece yesterday about Bryce Harper and the Nationals eye toward winning. You can read the piece here.

To me the best part of the article is when Knobler, who covered the Tigers for years, asks Bryce about Al Kaline. Bryce then proceeds to ace his history test, letting Knobler in on a “secret” that I’d bet no current player in any camp outside of perhaps Lakeland knew. Kaline won a batting title at the age of 20! Bryce’s reverence for the game of baseball and its history is remarkable and rare, especially among modern players, many of which remember watching Cal Ripken as a kid playing third base for the Orioles.

Manager Davey Johnson has seen it all in the game of baseball.

*I had dinner with  Davey, Mike Rizzo, Harolyn Cardozo and Mike Gazda on Sunday night at Amici’s, which is located only about 2-3 miles from Space Coast Stadium. Great authentic Italian food, excellent hospitality and the company was even better. Around the middle of the meal, Mike Rizzo really got Davey going, so we all were privy to various stories about his ’86 Mets, Sadaharu Oh, Ted Williams and even John Havlicek, who is a good fishing buddy of his. Davey can spin a tale like few I have ever met, he has just a fantastic cadence that really draws the listener in. I wish I had that skill.

*On Saturday, the Nationals trek to Kissimmee for their Grapefruit League opener and will face the club’s all-time leader in wins (44) … our buddy and yours … Livan Hernandez! While it will be a tad strange to be on the other side of Livo’s arsenal of changeups, slurves and swingback fastballs, we cannot pretend this has not happened before. Between his two stints in DC, Livo pitched against the Nationals while repping the D-Backs, Rockies, Twins and Mets.

We are all excited for Livan and know that he will be an excellent resource, both on the rubber and in the clubhouse, for a young Astros ballclub.

*Well, MASN and our fans will see Stephen Strasburg and lefthander J.A. Happ square off on Sunday. After a long off-season, it’ll be great to see Bob Carpenter and F.P. Santangelo back in Viera for MASN’s debut telecast of the season.

*Other pitching probables for the Nationals: Mon. at NYM (LHP John Lannan), Tue. at ATL (LHP Gio Gonzalez).

The Face Of The Franchise

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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.

Ready For Launch

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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.

Friday was another beautiful, beautiful day here in Viera. If anything, it might have been a tad too hot. I think temps topped off at either 84 or 85 degrees. By sunset, it was perfect as a small-yet-comfortable breeze kept everyone company. And the sunset was something too.

We also enjoyed the blast off of a NASA Atlas V Rocket about 5 pm. Footage can be seen here: http://www.floridatoday.com/section/SPACE2011

With the Space Shuttle program newly retired, we are left with these impressive rocket launches to remind us why this area is known as the Space Coast.

*Matt Purke threw an impressive bullpen yesterday and afterwards Davey was asked about it. In reference to Purke, he spoke to the organization’s philosophy when it comes to integrating college pitchers, who regularly throw one game a week, into the professional game, which is obviously predicated (at present) on a 5-man rotations. Well, the man in charge of this integration is Spin Williams, and knowing him a bit, there is not a better person for the job.

As Davey explained, Spin takes all of our college starters and asks them to join 6-man rotations in the lowest levels of our system. They look at the 6-man rotation as a mid-way point. Then after that initial summer (3 months or so) as a pro, these starters begin to train for a 5-man rotation in the spring entering their first full season. This is where Purke is right now – the first week of his initial Spring Training as a pro.

*You have probably read that Edwin Jackson will get the start for the Nationals’ SPRING opener on March 3 at Houston. Definitely newsworthy. But Davey also mentioned that Edwin took his bullpen “up a notch” on Friday. That made me blink, because during his bullpen on Wednesday, I could have sworn he was throwing 93-94.

*Folks, this pitching staff’s collective talents, velocity and stuff is REAL. This is beyond hype. Let’s ground ourselves a bit, but sum it up this way. When talking about “stuff,” I think that the any our top four starters (Strasburg, Gio, J-Zimmermann, Edwin) would have been our Opening Day starter in any season from 2005-11. Think about that.

*Proof that baseball is full of changeups. Davey has decided to stage the final 3-4 days of camp back here at Space Coast Stadium and Field 5, which is located just adjacent to SCS. Traditionally, the club had worked out at the 4.5 cloverleaf fields located a quarter mile down the road at the Washington Nationals Training Complex. But Davey’s feeling is that the players need to get as accustomed to SCS and its various nuances ASAP. I like it.

*I hope you were able to see some of ESPN’s coverage of your Nationals as part of their Spring Training bus series. I had a couple of conversations with Tim Kurkjian and John Kruk and both apologized that the developing Ryan Braun storyline would squash some of their Nationals focus. They were not happy about it, but breaking news is breaking news. They did assure me that The Mothership (hat tip: Dan Patrick) is more than aware of our various storylines and steady assent as a franchise. Tim K. promised me (us!) they would be paying your Nationals more attention this summer than we’ve been accustomed to. Tim K. is a fantastic journalist, and it is an added bonus for us that is lives locally and is therefore exposed to our tales more so than others who don’t live in The DMV.

*Interesting glimpse into how your manager thinks:

“Anyone in this camp with us, I am under the assumption that they could help us this year.” – Davey, Feb. 24th

This soundbite caught my ear especially in reference to his recent comments that—outside of unforeseen injury issues (knock on wood)—there are only 3 roster spots available this spring. With all of the up-and-coming talent in that clubhouse, this seemed like a pragmatic approach. Every glimpse we see here in the Grapefruit League should not be taken solely in context to April 5 at Wrigley Field. If you are thinking along with our manager, you’ll be watching or reading with an eye on the not-too distant future.

*The Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Team began their Spring workouts on Friday at our complex. This group of soldiers/ballplayers are simply terrific human beings we should all be proud of. They will be touring our country this spring, summer and fall sharing their message and providing free jolts of inspiration. The Nationals are honored to be hosting the 2012 Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Classic at Nationals Park on Tue., April 3rd following the exhibition game against the Red Sox. For more information about the WWAST, please visithttp://www.woundedwarrioramputeesoftballteam.org/

Worldwide Leader In Viera

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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.

Well, it started out gray and misty here on Thursday, but by the time workouts started (10am) and ended (Noon-ish), we were all enjoying partly cloudy skies and temps approaching 80 degrees. No complaints from here.

*Our third base coach, Bo Porter, is fantastic in every sense of the word. He is a great person. Engaging. He’s passionate. And he eats better than all of us. How do I know? He walked into Davey Johnson’s meeting this morning at around 8 a.m. with a plate of (are you ready for this?) … broccoli. Yes, I said breakfast. I gawked. I was stunned. So, later in the day, I asked him about it. He confirmed that when at all possible, he eats broccoli during breakfast AND asparagus for dinner. I got the idea this is most days. Remarkable! This made me realize that I might be playing from behind even with my bowl of Special K in the mornings.

The folks from ESPN are in Viera today.

*Today, we welcome Tim Kurkjian and John Kruk to Viera as the ESPN Spring Training Bus rolls through town. So look for updates tomorrow on ESPN’s various platforms. On the way to work today, I heard “Timmmay” being interviewed as part of ESPN Radio’s Mike and Mike Show. Tim was reporting from Mets camp, but when Mike Greenberg asked Tim about the competitive and improving NL East, he mentioned only the Phillies, Braves and Marlins. Tim began his answer with a gentle reminder that (paraphrasing) the Nationals have improved quite a bit too…”

*ESPN’s aforementioned Bus Tour arrival also reminds me that in 2010, as part of the same Tour, Tim became the first national journalist to conduct a one-on-one interview with Stephen Strasburg. I remember it vividly, as both Mike Rizzo and I surmised that that Tim was the perfect person to help usher Strasburg into this portion of his profession. I hope to remind both Tim and Stephen about this later today.

*Speaking of Strasburg, as yesterday’s P+C workout was coming to its conclusion, I could not help but notice that #37 was leading the charge during a significant portion of our conditioning drills, especially the pole runs, which take place as the pitchers run (at a brisk pace) from foul pole to foul pole along the warning track (130-150 yards?). They do this same drill 3-4 times. There are many other agility type drills, but as a runner myself, I always like to see which pitchers stand out at that distance.

*You have to love baseball lingo. On multiple occasions today when talking to the press, Johnson referred to Gio Gonzalez’s curveball as a “Snapdragon.” Or is it “Snap Dragon?” Either way, it just sounded good and folksy coming from Davey. This note also serves as a forewarning, as Gio’s “Snap Dragon” is a true weapon. It’ll be interesting to see how he uses that pitch against the fleet of NL hitters who have never seen him before. Should be fun to watch.

Oh, later in the same media session, Davey, when speaking to Gio’s strong build, said he “looks relatively normal for a lefthander.” I bet that was Davey’s bias as a former position player coming through.

*Did a little research last week and I noticed something that amazed me. And fans of Danny Espinosa (now No. 8) should take note: No switch-hitter representing the Nation’s Capital (AL Nationals, Senators, expansion Senators or NL Nationals) has ever hit a homer from both sides of the plate in the same game.  It is about time this ends! I say that 2012 is the year.

*The following local stations are in town now and I bet they are capturing the positive vibe that continues to permeate Nationals camp: Comcast SportsNet, WJLA (Tuesday), WRC-4 and WTTG-Fox. WUSA is scheduled to be in town next week, and Channel 7 will return next week too.

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