Results tagged ‘ Doug Fister ’

Daily Wrap: Souza Jr. has a big day, Zimmerman plays first base, & more

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by Amanda Comak

VIERA, Fla. —  For the next two weeks, as the Washington Nationals‘ 25-man roster comes into focus and Opening Day nears, we’ll post a “Daily Wrap” featuring a Player of the Day, Quote of the Day and any other notables to pass along.

So without further ado, here’s our first edition:

Player of the Day: Steven Souza Jr. 

Steven Souza Jr.

Steven Souza Jr.

The Nationals were a split squad today with half the team heading to Kissimmee, Fla., to play the Houston Astros, and the other half sticking around Viera, Fla., to face the Detroit Tigers. While the home game was the one that most were tuned to, as it aired on MASN, our Player of the Day for March 16 comes from the game in Kissimmee: Steven Souza Jr. 

Souza Jr. has been making a strong impression on the Nationals’ during his first Major League camp. While they certainly thought well of him prior to this — the Nationals added the 24-year-old to their 40-man roster this offseason — his performance this spring has, if anything, validated their evaluations. In 17 Spring Training games, Souza has hit .355 with a .429 on-base percentage and .806 slugging percentage.

On Sunday, he went 3-for-3, homered twice, walked once and capped his day with a triple off good friend and former teammate, Brad Peacock.

Quote of the Day: Ryan Zimmerman

Zimmerman moved from third base to first base at the start of the sixth inning in the Nationals’ game against the Tigers, marking the first time the Nationals’ third baseman has ever played first in his Major League career.

“When it comes down to it, you just catch the ball,” Zimmerman said. “You do the same thing you do (at third base) but you have a few different responsibilities. Those I’ll have to learn, but other than that it’s about the same.

“Being a third baseman, shortstop, growing up, I appreciate a good first baseman, so it makes me want to be that much better over there. I know, as a position player, if you can save an error or make them feel confident that if they just get it close over there they’re going to be good, it does a lot for the fielder. That’s the goal: to try to make those guys think that way of me when I’m over there, so they have enough confidence to just let it go and know if they get it close, I got it.”

Video highlights:

Jordan Zimmermann tosses four innings in pitchers duel with Justin Verlander.

Jeff Kobernus scores on a wild pitch.

Notables:

Manager Matt Williams said right-hander Doug Fister, who has been working back from some slight elbow inflammation, is scheduled to pitch in a Minor League game on Monday and Wilson Ramos will likely catch him… Sunday was the Nationals’ final split-squad day of Spring Training… The Nationals and Tigers will be well acquainted by Tuesday as the Nationals will travel to Lakeland, Fla., on Monday for the second time in four days and will play their third game against Detroit in that span.

When Pitchers Hit

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by Amanda Comak

VIERA, Fla. — There was a new notation on the Washington Nationals’ daily schedule Monday morning. The spot that had been filled the past few days by the rundown for live batting practice sessions was replaced.”Pitchers Hitting Game,” it read.

Some Nationals pitchers prepare for a new hitting game during Monday's workout.

Some Nationals pitchers prepare for a new hitting game during Monday’s workout.

Around 11:15 a.m., the pitchers departed from the Minor League fields and moved the rest of their workout back toward Space Coast Stadium. One group, Team Zimmermann and Team Strasburg, made their way onto the auxiliary field just outside the stadium. Another, Team Young and Team Fister, took their places on the field inside the stadium.

The game, made-up in the mind of Rehab Pitching Coordinator Mark Grater, seemed simple. The teams were picked schoolyard style with Doug Fister and Chris Young named captains in one group, and Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann captains in another. The object was to score more runs than your opponent in a nine-inning game. The focus was on bunting, moving runners, and doing the little things that pitchers need to do at the plate but in a competitive atmosphere.

“It breaks up some of the monotony,” said Fister, who has noted his excitement about being in the National League. “There are things that we have to focus on every day that are very important, and hitting and bunting and moving runners are (some) of them. For (Manager Matt Williams) to schedule things like that where we’re able to have fun with it, it’s going to stick in our brains.”

For the teams playing on the field inside Space Coast Stadium, Grater ran the show. As pitchers gathered their helmets and bats, he ran through the rules.

  • At the start of an inning, they needed to reach base with a hit — a line drive off the L-screen protecting Grater was a single, but one-hop off it was an out. Grater himself decided whether a ball was a hit or an error. Home runs did count, but they were not the goal of the exercise, so if a pitcher hit one, he’d have to run out beyond the fence and get the ball himself.
  • The pitchers weren’t running the bases, but if they “reached” based on their plate performance, the following “hitters” had to follow the proper directions. Number of outs, where the runners were, where the defenses were playing (as determined by the team captains) all played into what the hitter would have to do (bunt, hit a ground ball to the right side of the field, etc). If they couldn’t, they were out. Successful bunts were not outs (as most would be in real games), and those who were able to produce them were allowed to stay in the batters’ box. But if a hitter bunted twice in a row, they were out.
  • If one captain decided that, with a man on second and a line drive hit into the gap, he wanted to “send the runner home,” the outcome would be decided by Grater throwing at a pre-determined target. If he hit it, the runner was out. If he missed, the runner was safe.

There was, of course, one humorous twist. Grater, as the game’s overlord and head umpire, made the rulings — and the rulings were final. Only captains could voice dissent, and others who did were required to run a lap around the infield as penalty. Gio Gonzalez found himself running several laps.

Trash talk, of course, was plentiful. And the competitive juices flowed throughout, as did the watchful eyes.

When Taylor Jordan hit a home run in the late innings, (Telling Grater, “You’re pitching me inside! What do you expect?”) he marched himself only to the outfield fence, picked up a different ball and then returned. Pitching Coach Steve McCatty would have none of that, and sent the young right-hander back down the left field foul line to properly retrieve his home run ball.

Team Fister took a late lead, but Team Young won it in the ninth when, with the “bases loaded” Christian Garcia roped a home run over the left center field fence. As Gonzalez — hands raised in victory pose — sprinted around the bases in celebration and by choice, Grater noted that because Garcia wasn’t supposed to be hitting a home run, his run didn’t count but the first three “runners” who scored would. The final score was 8-6, Team Young.

On the other field, Team Zimmermann topped Team Strasburg.

“Oh yeah,” said one reliever on the Nationals’ 19-game winner’s team. “We dominated.”

And while the purpose of the game was to get pitchers to work on their situational hitting, it also allowed them to think along with a manager and how the game would be run in those various situations.

“You’ve got to put pressure on the defense,” said Fister, who was aggressive in “sending” his baserunners. “That translates into a game. I come from an area where, playing with (Torii Hunter) last year, that’s one thing that he stresses: take that extra base. Try and stretch that single into a double, that double into a triple. It’s amazing how many extra runs you pick up just because of one extra base with that mentality.”

The pitchers enjoyed the exercise so much, that they took an amendment to the rules to Williams.

“They made a new rule,” Williams said. “This was supposed to be, we break the groups up, they play against each other, we have two winners. Now they have a championship game they want to do. So we’ve got to fit that in there, into the (schedule).”

From the Desk of Mark D. Lerner: Hello from Viera

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Hello, everyone.

Greetings from sunny Space Coast Stadium, where the weather started so-so, but spring suddenly arrived on Sunday. We are currently enjoying a gentle breeze and temperatures in the high 70’s. Perfect. I am also glad to read that things are warming up back in DC after a prolonged spate of snowy and cold weather. Sounds like spring is genuinely in the air!

Bryce Harper in the batting cage. (Photo credit: Donald Miralle)

Bryce Harper in the batting cage. (Photo credit: Donald Miralle)

Matt Williams’ first spring camp is already well underway. Pitchers have already been through two or three bullpen sessions and, yes, everyone looks great. I’ll get to that in a moment.

What has impressed me the most is just how many position players reported for duty early. With few exceptions, we have enjoyed full position-player batting practice sessions each of the last three days. So many that we have had to split the BP session over two fields.

Ryan Zimmerman in the cage. Adam LaRoche scooping balls at first base. Ian Desmond working the pivot with Anthony Rendon, Danny Espinosa, Jamey Carroll and Mike Fontenot. Nate McLouth working on his jumps in the outfield. All sights to behold.

  • Camp Williams is crisp, precise, upbeat and full of hustle. With that said, there have been a good number of competitive moments built in that have seized the pitchers’ attention. For example, every team has pitcher-bunting drills. However, here in Viera, pitchers and fans alike have enjoyed a competitive tweak as the pitcher attempt to bunt balls into a pair of strategically-placed ball bags. These competitive drills have resulted in good-natured hooting, hollering and trash talking. But they also demand concentration that at least partially mimics a real game.
  • Sunday morning's first bullpen session featured two decent right-handers...

    Sunday morning’s first bullpen session featured two decent right-handers.

    Nothing new here, but Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann all look fantastic. And I have a suspicion that Doug Fister is really going to have a positive influence on the others. First of all, Fister is an accomplished pitcher in his own right. He won 32 games in two-plus seasons with the Tigers. And, he’s been a part of another vaunted pitching staff. Doug has pitched in a World Series. He watched the likes of Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer win Cy Young awards. There is value in that, and I doubt that it is a coincidence that his locker is located next to/near Stephen, Gio and Jordan.

  • Lots of emphasis on defense and defensive fundamentals. It was also interesting to see that Matt has some of his pitchers moonlighting at different positions during some bunt plays. There is a belief that the multi-position perspective will help fine tune the execution. At the very least, it’ll give our pitcher’s some perspective they may not have experienced since their days playing prep baseball.
  • Incidentally, Livan Hernandez used to work out almost daily at shortstop and he was the best fielding pitcher I have ever seen. I cannot express how fantastic it is to have Livan on hand as a coach. The players are really enjoying his presence and he is a heck of a teacher. Livan is a true gem who has a fantastic feel for our fans and for baseball in DC.
  • I was talking to some of our player development folks and there is great enthusiasm for the projected rosters/lineups/rotations in Triple-A Syracuse and Double-A Harrisburg. It is too early to know where various players will be assigned, but there are very real layers of talent in the upper reaches of our system that will be inevitably be called upon as the season progresses. The Opening Day 25 is important, but it is really only a fleeting glimpse of the talent assembled.
  • There are ex-Expos everywhere you look around camp: Luis Ayala, Jamey Carroll, Ian Desmond (last player left who was drafted by the Expos), Randy Knorr and Bob Henley. Ayala and Carroll were inaugural-season Nationals.
  • Matt Williams’ coaching staff is filled with a lot of former catchers, which is never a bad thing. Randy Knorr, Bob Henley and Matt LeCroy. Those catchers understand the game from all angles.
  • Rafael Soriano looks good. And so do his pitches. I think there is a certain comfort that comes with a second season.
  • The local DC media has descended upon Viera this week. (Photo credit: Kyle Brostowitz)

    The local DC media has descended upon Viera this week. (Photo credit: Kyle Brostowitz)

    The local DC television media has descended upon Viera, so be sure to tune into all the local channels for in-depth interviews with Matt Williams and all of your favorite Nationals. Earlier today, we hosted ESPN and the Baseball Tonight Bus at Space Coast Stadium. Karl Ravech and Tim Kurkjian were on hand. Both are great ambassadors for their network and the game of baseball. Matt Williams and Bryce Harper were their main guests, so you will be seeing both on SportsCenter tonight.

  • Little more than a week until our Grapefruit League opener (Fri., Feb. 28 at Mets) and our Grapefruit League home opener (Sat., March 1 vs.  Braves). There is still plenty of time to plan a great family trip for Spring Training baseball in Viera. At the risk of dating myself, I still remember childhood trips to Pompano Beach to see the likes of Mike Epstein, Frank Howard, Eddie Brinkman and all of the old Senators. Great memories.
  • If you do make it down to Space Coast Stadium for a visit, please don’t hesitate to stop me and say ‘Hello.’ Our fans’ enthusiasm and spirit are infectious and I am always impressed with everyone’s knowledge of not only the Nationals, but baseball in general. Isn’t this the best time of year? Well, outside of a busy October I suppose.

Until next time …

Mark

State of the Nationals

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The Washington Nationals’ Baseball Operations staff is about to descend upon Viera, Fla., next week as another Spring Training gets underway.

With the bulk of his offseason work done, Nationals President of Baseball Operations and General Manager Mike Rizzo has a personal message for fans on the State of the Nationals entering a promising 2014 season.

Take a look:

A NatsFest Thank You

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There were more than 8,400 Nationals fans who packed the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center on Saturday afternoon.

And because of them, it was an unforgettable day.

We can’t say “Thank you” enough to those of you who were able to join us, and share in our excitement for the 2014 season.

Here is a small glimpse into the day that was, and with just 17 days remaining until pitchers and catchers report, hopefully this will warm your baseball-loving souls for just a little bit longer.

Enjoy!

From the Desk of Mark D. Lerner: Gearing Up For NatsFest

Hello, everybody.

Nationals Principal Owner Mark Lerner, right, along with President of Baseball Operations and GM Mike Rizzo at NatsFest, 2013.

One of the Washington Nationals’ Principal Owners,  Mark Lerner, right, along with President of Baseball Operations and GM Mike Rizzo at NatsFest, 2013.

I hope everyone is dealing well with this cold and wintry week here in the Nation’s Capital. When it gets cold like this, I usually calculate the days remaining until pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training (21 days!). This week is a bit different as we are just hours away from NatsFest.

  • Just as a reminder, NatsFest is on Saturday, January 25, 2014 from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center. New venue. We hope you can join us. I am so excited to welcome Matt Williams and an impressive roster of players to DC. Stephen Strasburg, Bryce Harper, Jayson Werth, Gio Gonzalez, Tyler Clippard, et al. Come early, stay warm, talk baseball.
  • We are also expecting a special visit from arguably our most beloved Nationals alum, … Livan Hernandez. Livan, who threw the first pitch in the history of the Nationals, completed his 17-year big league career in 2012 with 178 wins, 44 of which came as a member of the Nationals. It will be fantastic to sit down and catch up with Livan.
  • Speaking of Livan, it will be fun to have another inaugural-season National in camp with us upon arrival in Viera. In case you missed it, we signed infielder Jamey Carroll earlier this month and he’ll be competing for a spot on Matt Williams’ bench. Jamey also played for the Expos, so he should have some interesting perspective on how far this organization has come as we enter our 10th season in Washington.
  • As we reach the late stages of the offseason, I think it is worth remembering that most of Mike Rizzo’s key moves came quite early: Doug Fister, Nate McLouth, Jerry Blevins. Mike and his crew are still hard at work searching for the right fits. Always looking to improve.
  • We recently signed four-year Player Development Contracts with both Triple-A Syracuse and Double-A Harrisburg. Through the years, we have really valued our relationships with the Chiefs, Senators and their respective fan bases. There is a sense of organizational satisfaction in being able to establish roots in both Syracuse and Harrisburg.
  • I would like to offer my deepest condolences to the family and friends of Frank Ceresi, who passed away recently. For those that are not aware, Frank played an integral role in developing the art program that we collectively enjoy at Nationals Park. He was an enormous baseball/Nationals fan and he will be sorely missed.

I hope to see everyone on Saturday at NatsFest.

Mark

Nationals Acquire Doug Fister in Four-Player Trade with Tigers

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by Amanda Comak

The Washington Nationals took a significant step toward deepening their starting rotation on Monday night, acquiring right-hander Doug Fister from the Detroit Tigers. In exchange for Fister, the Nationals sent infielder Steve Lombardozzi, left-handed reliever Ian Krol and left-handed Minor League prospect Robbie Ray to the Tigers.

The 29-year-old slides into a rotation that already includes three All-Stars in Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann and Gio Gonzalez, and brings with him a track record of durability and significant playoff experience. In 2013, Fister went 14-9 with a 3.67 ERA for the American League Central champions.

“This is an exciting day for the Washington Nationals,” said President of Baseball Operations and General Manager Mike Rizzo. “We feel we’ve added a talented, young veteran to our starting pitching corps. Doug is battle-tested through playoff experiences, and the depth he brings to our staff is exceptional. We are thrilled to welcome him aboard.”

In a Major League career that has spanned parts of five years, the 6-foot-8 right-hander has thrown over 200 innings in two of the last three seasons, and pitched in the postseason in each of the last three years. He is 3-2 with a 2.98 ERA in eight postseason games (seven starts).

Since 2011, the right-hander ranks 10th among Major League starting pitchers in WAR (13.1, per FanGraphs.com), ninth among MLB starting pitchers in walks per nine innings (1.82), and walk rate (4.9). He is fifth among Major League starting pitchers in home runs per nine innings (0.62) in that span, and 20th in all of the majors in ERA (3.30).

In 2012, while helping the Tigers reach the World Series, Fister set an American League record for consecutive strikeouts when he struck out nine Kansas City Royals in a row on Sep. 27.

A native of Merced, Calif., Fister was drafted by the Seattle Mariners in the seventh round of the First-Year Player Draft in 2006, and was acquired, along with David Pauley, by the Tigers on July 30, 2011, in exchange for Charlie Furbush, Francisco Martinez, Casper Wells and Chance Ruffin.

A second-year arbitration-eligible player, Fister is under contract through the 2015 season.

Lombardozzi, a Columbia, Md., native, served in a utility role for the Nationals the past two seasons – appearing at third base, shortstop and in left field, though his natural position is second base. In 257 Major League games, Lombardozzi is a career .264 hitter. The Nationals selected him in the 19th round of the 2008 First-Year Player Draft.

Krol, 22, was acquired by the Nationals in March as the Player to Be Named in the three-way trade that sent Michael Morse to Seattle and brought the Nationals pitching prospects A.J. Cole and Blake Treinen from the Oakland Athletics. The left-hander enjoyed a meteoric rise once joining the organization and made his Major League debut on June 5 vs. the New York Mets. He did not allow a run in his first nine appearances (9.2 innings).

Ray, 22, posted a 3.36 ERA between Single-A Potomac and Double-A Harrisburg. Baseball America ranked Ray as the fifth-best prospect in the Nationals’ system. Washington selected him in the 12th round of the 2010 First-Year Player Draft out of Brentwood (TN) High School.

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