Results tagged ‘ Edwin Jackson ’

From the Desk of Mark Lerner: Districtly Speaking

Follow @Nationals on Twitter | Like the Nationals on Facebook

Hello Nationals fans,

I figured it was a great time to check in.

Before jumping into our 14-4 start, I want to talk about the Capitals and how their playoff run created its own set of challenges for me personally. I am on the West Coast with the ballclub and Wednesday’s  first pitch came just one hour before the Caps faceoff in Boston. A dilemma for sure, but one that could be overcome by technology.

The Caps moments after their game seven, overtime win. (Washington Capitals/Getty Images)

I had a heck of a time shifting between the game in front of me and the Caps game, which I was watching (between pitches) on my iPad. But, as day gave way to night, all of my hard work was rewarded as both the Nationals and Caps won. Later, I noticed that the Wizards won their 5th straight game for the first time since 2007. What an evening for DC sports fans!

As everyone reading this knows, Game 7s are special no matter the sport. However, it seems as if Game 7s in hockey are almost holy in nature. The Caps play last night certainly matched the game’s stakes.

Intense, physical, smart and concerted is how I would describe last night’s effort in a season-saving, 2-1 victory in Boston. And really, it had to be that way in order to advance.

The Bruins were game. This was hardly the case of a satisfied defending champ going through the motions. My eyes told me that the Bruins played well in each game of the series. But our Caps won the closest playoff series in NHL history against the defending Stanley Cup champions because they played slightly better. One goal better, in fact.

I am so happy for my friend, Capitals Owner Ted Leonsis, General Manager George McPhee, head coach Dale Hunter and all of the players. I don’t think any DC sports fans will forget this series, Joel Ward’s goal or Braden Holtby’s playoff arrival.

Xavier Nady rounds third after his game-tying home run on April 13.

But now comes the hard part. Our Caps work is not done. We only know that they could play, under various scenarios, either the Rangers, Flyers or Devils in the second round. But before looking ahead, I hope for one night at least, the Caps enjoyed their spoils.

Back on the diamond, things are going well on all fronts, outside of the injury bug that has bitten our cleanup hitter (Morse), our closer (Storen), our most experienced starting pitcher (Wang) and now our best player (Zimmerman). Thankfully, we entered the season with depth all around the diamond. 162 games in six months is a grind and it is folly to believe that any club can go injury-free or even close to it.

But the bench has been up to the task. Through just 18 games, Chad Tracy (game-winning hits on Tuesday in San Diego and on April 7 at Wrigley Field), Xavier Nady (April 13 game-tying pinch homer vs. Reds, rally-sparking double on Tuesday at San Diego) and Steve Lombardozzi (4-for-5, 2 RBI on April 16 vs. Houston) have already played integral roles in victories this season.

There is also depth on the pitching staff. While we thankfully have not yet had to call upon our obvious rotation depth, it should be noted that all seven relievers have pitched important innings in close games this season. There really have been no exceptions. Winning streaks will do that and thus far our bullpen has more than held its own in contributing to our early season success.

Stephen Strasburg leads the best starting staff in baseball.

Which brings me to the starting rotation. There has been none better in baseball. And the gap is widening with seemingly every start. There really is not much to say other than Strasburg, Gonzalez, Zimmermann, Jackson and Detwiler have collectively been beyond exceptional.

The formula from my seat has been a healthy share of strikeouts, precious few walks and keeping the ball in the ballpark.

And despite this early-season dominance, Davey knows we are in this for the long haul. The five starters have combined to throw just 110.2 innings this season. That ranks 16th in MLB and does not suggest even a whiff of overuse.

One thing that I have noted about Davey is his innate ability to balance tonight’s result with “tomorrow.” That is, an understanding of where we are in the scope of a game, a series, the season, and just as importantly, where these pitchers are in terms of their careers.

I am looking forward to our series this weekend against the Dodgers, who are playing as well as they have in a few years. I never miss our trip to Dodger Stadium, which really is on any short list of the top venues in all of sports. The place is oozing with history, the backdrop is spectacular and the fans are always knowledgeable.

Tonight’s finale at Petco Park is my 16th straight game. I hope we can finish off the sweep and keep the good vibes rolling.

Let’s go CAPS! … Let’s go NATS! …

Ghost Ride the WHIP

Follow @Nationals on Twitter | Like the Nationals on Facebook

With the postponement of Sunday’s game giving us likely the only consecutive days without Nationals baseball until the All-Star Break, we figured it might be a good time to take stock of the team following the first homestand and point out a few truly ridiculous numbers. For those of you well-versed in your statistics, we’ll make the following disclaimer: small sample size alert. After all, we’re only 16 games into a 162-game season (9.9%), and baseball is all about how trends play out in the long run, not a few handfuls of contests. Nevertheless, the following statistics are rather absurd.

Jordan Zimmermann has been downright historic so far this season.

For this discussion, we take a closer look at WHIP (walks + hits per inning pitched), a very useful way of determining how effective pitchers are at keeping opponents off the base paths. Since 1901, only 140 pitchers who have qualified for the ERA title have posted a WHIP below 1.00, or an average of 1.25 pitchers per year. Since the year 2000, just 14 have accomplished the feat, three of which came last year (AL MVP/Cy Young Award Winner Justin Verlander – .920, NL Cy Young Award Winner Clayton Kershaw – .977, and Cole Hamels – .986). Needless to say, to be in the company of those select few puts one in rarefied air, among the top pitchers of the generation, if not all time.

Why is this so important? We all know that the Nationals starting pitching has been superb to this point, but for any to notch sub-1.00 WHIP would be quite a feat, something never accomplished by a qualifying starter since the move to Washington in 2005 (Jordan Zimmermann was the closest last season, at 1.15). As it turns out, there are multiple starters out of the five on this year’s staff currently posting sub-1.00 WHIPs. Specifically, there are five of them.

As a number five starter, Ross Detwiler has been better than most number ones.

That’s right, each and every one of the Washington Nationals starting five has allowed an average of less than one baserunner per inning. Ross Detwiler, who ranks second in the National League in ERA at 0.54, has the highest (aka, worst) of the lot at a 0.94 mark. Stephen Strasburg (0.92) and Gio Gonzalez (0.91) rank slightly ahead of Detwiler. Meanwhile, Edwin Jackson’s mark of 0.84 is even more eye-popping, and Zimmermann’s 0.71 is downright silly.

For some additional historical perspective, only one pitcher has logged a WHIP of under 0.90 since 1996, which was Pedro Martinez (0.74) in his historic 2000 campaign, widely regarded as the greatest single pitching season in the last generation. That year, Martinez notched a 1.74 ERA and 284 strikeouts in 217.0 innings pitched while throwing four shutouts for the Boston Red Sox, all in the midst of a hitter-dominated era.

Right now, Zimmermann is ahead of even that pace. Again, we are working off a small sample size, one that is hardly projectable for the remaining 90% of the season. Nevertheless, wow.

Last week, Curly W Live readers voted that the starting rotation has been the most impressive component of Washington’s hot start. So, we ask you now: who has been the most impressive starter so far? The best part about this poll: there are no wrong answers.

Five Astounding Facts

Follow @Nationals on Twitter | Like the Nationals on Facebook

The Nationals began their 2012 campaign exactly two weeks ago, at the hallowed grounds of Wrigley Field. Since then, they have packed as much gut-wrenching, will-testing excitement into the beginning of their season as any fan could hope for. If you still have fingernails left, scroll down and take a look at five of the most astounding facts of the young season so far, then vote for your favorite in the poll at the end of the post.

The display put on by Jordan Zimmermann and company is no mirage.

Make Your Best Pitch: The Nationals Staff

The pitching staff has a collective 1.92 ERA through the first 13 games, more than a half-run better than the next closest team in the league. Nats pitchers have allowed just two home runs while striking out 121 batters in 122 innings, both best in the game. Edwin Jackson – the author of the most impressive individual outing of the year to date – has the HIGHEST ERA in the rotation at 2.57, which also includes Stephen Strasburg (1.42), Jordan Zimmermann (1.29) and Ross Detwiler (0.90). Fellow newcomer Gio Gonzalez, meanwhile, has been downright unhittable at home in D.C. His modest line through two starts at Nationals Park: 14.0 IP, 4 H, 2 BB, 15 K, 0.00 ERA, 0.43 WHIP.

Crazy 8’s: Runs in 8th inning or later

Washington has scored 17 of its 49 runs this season (35% of the offense) in the eighth inning or later. The Nationals used the eighth inning to power themselves to victory once again on Wednesday, scoring the decisive pair of runs to flip a 2-1 deficit to a 3-2 victory.

One-Run Fun: Plenty of one-run games

The Nationals have played 13 games so far in 2012. Eight of those contests have been decided by a single run, with Washington owning a 5-3 record in such

affairs. Washington did not play its eighth one-run game in 2011 until May 12, the 37th game of the season. The experience gained from these pressure-packed battles should serve the club well as the season unfolds.

The first two weeks of the season have been nothing, if not exciting.

Comeback To Me: Come-from-behind wins

The Nationals have trailed early and come from behind in half of their 10 wins thus far. That’s right, five of the team’s 10 wins have been of the come-from-behind variety. In fact, the team has led at some point in all but two games so far – the near-comeback on the third day of the season against the Cubs, after trimming a four-run deficit to one, and the near-sweep of Cincinnati, when Washington climbed out of a five-run hole to force extra innings, only to fall in 11 frames.

First!: Quickest team to 10 wins

As Henry Rodriguez took just seven pitches to close out the Astros in the ninth inning on Wednesday, the Nationals finished off their 10th win before the Texas Rangers could put away the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. That meant that Washington was the first team in Major League Baseball to hit the double-digit win mark. As the Dodgers lost Wednesday night in Milwaukee, the Nationals own the best record in the National League.

Weekly Review (4/16)

Follow @Nationals on Twitter | Like the Nationals on Facebook

Here at Curly W Live, we will be conducting a weekly review every Tuesday of all the storylines from the week that was. If you’re new to the site or have just been too busy to stay current with all the day-to-day storylines, this is your way to get caught up on everything going on with the team.

Despite continued production from Adam LaRoche in the cleanup spot, the Nationals dropped their series opener against the Mets by the same 4-3 margin as their finale against the Cubs to open the week, leaving them at 2-2 following their consecutive wins to open the 2012 season. However, a trip to the MLB Fan Cave seemed to lighten the mood, and the team responded behind dominant outings from both Ross Detwiler and Stephen Strasburg. In all, the pitching staff allowed just two runs combined in the final two games of the road trip as Washington earned its second series win in a row to start the season.

The Nationals celebrated consecutive, extra-inning, walk-off Curly W's to start the home season.

The team returned to Washington for the home opener on Thursday against Cincinnati and continued its winning ways, as face of the franchise Ryan Zimmerman scored the game-winning run in extra innings on a wild pitch. As impressive as Gio Gonzalez was on the mound in the victory, it was his first Major League hit that provided the afternoon’s most memorable moment. The Nationals made it two straight extra-inning, walk-off wins on Friday as Jayson Werth finally concluded the four-hour, four-minute affair with and RBI-single in the 13th frame. Edwin Jackson ran the Nats win streak to five with one of the best performances of his career, a bullpen-saving, 92-pitch masterpiece in which he surrendered just two hits and retired 22 of the final 23 batters he faced. Despite coming back from a five-run deficit to force extra innings on Sunday, the Nationals could not quite pull off a victory, settling for the 3-1 series win over the Reds following an 8-5, 11-inning defeat.

The 7-3 record marked the best 10-game start since the franchise relocated to Washington, and the four-game attendance of 129,034 on Opening Weekend was nearly 20,000 fans more than the first four home games in the park’s inaugural year in 2008. We celebrated by eating (all of the) new menu items available at the Miller Lite Scoreboard Walk.

Mon @ NYM: L, 3-4

Tue @ NYM: W, 6-2

Wed @ NYM: W, 4-0

Thu vs. CIN: W, 3-2 (10)

Fri vs. CIN: W, 2-1 (13)

Sat vs. CIN: W, 4-1

Sun vs. CIN: L, 8-5 (11)

Weekly Record: 5-2

You Complete Me: Another Look at Edwin Jackson’s Gem

Follow @Nationals on Twitter | Like the Nationals on Facebook

When Drew Stubbs singled home Miguel Cairo in the top of the second inning of Saturday’s Reds-Nats affair in Washington, it looked like this might finally be the day the offenses broke out and delivered a high-scoring game. Following consecutive extra-inning games, in which the two teams combined for just eight runs in 23 innings, the early sign of life seemed to indicate a shift, the 74-degree first pitch temperature and out-blowing breeze priming the afternoon for an offensive explosion.

Who knew in that moment, with the Reds still threatening to add on in the inning, that Cincinnati would not log another hit the rest of the afternoon against Nationals starter Edwin Jackson. The hard-throwing righty retired 22 of the final 23 batters he faced, polishing off a two-hit shutout by inducing a weak pop to shallow center field from Joey Votto, one of the most feared power hitters in the game.

In many ways, Edwin Jackson's performance Saturday was more impressive than his no-hitter.

Jackson is perhaps best known around the baseball world for his bizarre, 149-pitch no-hitter, which he threw with Arizona against the Tampa Bay Rays on June 25, 2010. He walked eight batters in that contest while striking out just six, but gutted out a marathon performance to earn his place in the baseball history books. In many ways, though, his performance on Saturday in front of 35,489 frenzied fans surpassed his no-no from 16 months prior.

First, there was that lone baserunner after the second inning, a four-pitch walk to Chris Heisey to open the eighth inning. As dominant as Jackson had been, there suddenly appeared to be a crack in the armor, the crowd that had given him multiple standing ovations quieted to a nervous murmur. Tyler Clippard scrambled to get warm in the bullpen as pitching coach Steve McCatty paced out to the mound for a chat. What did the coach have to say?

“It’s your game,” said Jackson, recounting McCatty’s pep talk after the game. “Just get these people out. Throw every pitch with conviction.”

Manager Davey Johnson, the lifelong baseball man, actually found himself nervous in the moment.

“When I’m seeing a gem and we need it, lights out, it makes me nervous,” Johnson said. “I usually don’t get nervous. But when you see something like that – he had a low pitch count, just a dominating game. From a manager’s standpoint, you don’t want anything to go wrong. You kind of protect against all contingencies.”

Jackson got the support he needed from Jesus Flores and the rest of the offense.

After all, even though Jackson was the only National who pitched on Saturday, this game meant something to everyone on the staff. Following those back-to-back extra-inning games, both bullpens were spent, leaving few options for the skippers. Perhaps the biggest number of the night was 92: the total number of pitches it took Jackson to finish what he started, a full 57 pitches fewer than his no-hitter.

Meanwhile, the offense did its part, responding when Jackson needed it to by tying the game in the bottom of the second. Jayson Werth – fresh off his game-winning hit in the fifth hour of the game the night prior – legged out the back end of a double play and eventually scored the game-tying run with two outs to level the score at one apiece. An inning later, Adam LaRoche came through again, following a walk to Danny Espinosa and a single from Ryan Zimmerman, with a two-run double into the right-center field gap. The Nationals would only add one more tally the rest of the way, but it was more than enough for Jackson.

After all, Jackson has had plenty of experience finishing off a masterpiece, going back again to his no-hitter in 2010. For all the grief he has received for that non-conventional feat, Jackson nevertheless got the outs he needed – all 27 of them – while pitching with just one run of cushion the entire game. And who, do you suppose, plated the lone run in that game? Why, Adam LaRoche, of course. His solo shot in the second inning was the lone score in a 1-0 game. Both players have looked very much at home, united once more in Washington in the season’s opening stretch.

A Tale Of Two Cities

Follow @Nationals on Twitter | Like the Nationals on Facebook

Alright, alright, so we admit we’re not actually comparing Washington D.C. and Viera to London and Paris, even if Viera does sound vaguely French (it’s actually Slovak). Besides, in our scenario, it was the best of times for Nats fans in both cities. At 10:00 this morning, single game tickets went on sale for the most anticipated season in Nationals history, bringing fans out to the ballpark for the first time since last fall. Meanwhile, the Nationals played their best all-around game of the spring to date, shutting out the visiting Houston Astros by a count of 8-0.

First to D.C., where fans expressed their excitement for the beginning of the 2012 season. With the home opener just 34 days away, here’s what fans were saying as they waited in line to get their tickets:

Nationals fans line up at the box office in D.C. this morning to purchase single game tickets.

“I can’t wait to see all the talent come together.” – Andrew P.

“This is the most optimistic I’ve ever been.” – Rick P.

“This is the biggest year for D.C. baseball.” – Tommy V.

Needless to say, Nationals fans understand what is going on with this team right now. If you haven’t had a chance to pick up your tickets yet, make sure you hop online and grab them soon, especially for the big matchups with the Yankees and Phillies.

Now, back to Viera. They may have played together for a couple of seasons, but Livan Hernandez can’t be too happy with Ryan Zimmerman after today’s game. Not only did the Nationals third baseman take Livo deep in the first inning, he literally knocked him out of the game with a rocket comebacker off the veteran righty’s shin in the bottom of the third. After a short discussion with the training staff, Hernandez exited the game in favor of Lucas Harrell.

Zimmerman had a nice game, hitting the ball hard all three times at the plate. He singled home Anthony Rendon in his third and final plate appearance with a solid line drive to right field.

The Nationals piled on late in an 8-0 shutout of Houston on Thursday.

Meanwhile, Edwin Jackson continued to impress in his second start of the spring, allowing just two ground ball singles in four shutout innings, striking out three. He has now tossed six scoreless frames – all against the Astros – allowing just three hits over that span. Ross Detwiler followed up by retiring all nine batters he faced, also striking out three.

The offense came alive as the game wore on, plating two runs in the fifth, three in the sixth and one in the seventh. When the day was done, Washington had piled up its highest run total of the spring, while allowing just three hits in the shutout.

Off to Jupiter (the city, not the planet) tomorrow evening for our first look at the new Miami Marlins. Here are the Nationals results to date:

vs. Georgetown (exhibition) – W, 3-0

@ Houston – L, 3-1

vs. Houston – L, 10-2

@ New York (NL) – W, 3-1

@ Atlanta – W, 5-2

vs. St. Louis – T, 3-3

vs. Houston – W, 8-0

Overall Record: 3-2-1

Ready For Launch

Follow @Nationals on Twitter | Like the Nationals on Facebook

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

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/

Dever’s (Almost) Daily Diary

Follow @Nationals on Twitter | Like the Nationals on Facebook

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

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

Let’s get started:

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

Chien-Ming Wang throws at camp in Viera.

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

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

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

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

Edwin Jackson chats with pitching coach Steve McCatty.

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

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

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

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

Spring Training – Day 1

Follow @Nationals on Twitter | Like the Nationals on Facebook

Greetings from the unassuming center of the Nationals baseball universe. I say unassuming, as the town that houses Washington’s spring complex is something of a reflection of the team itself heading into the 2012 campaign. For those who have experienced other Spring Training venues before but have never been to Space Coast Stadium, it is a quiet, quaint ballpark on a largely undeveloped strip of land just outside of the sleepy town of Viera.

Baseball has officially begun in 2012.

Smack in the middle of Florida’s east coast, about 10 minutes from the Atlantic, the town of just over 17,000 is unassuming, to say the least. In stark contrast to the history-steeped monuments and cathedrals of Washington, everything is new here. The first developments did not break ground until the ‘90s, and the major commercial development did not arrive until the new millennium. For those used to a standard of city life that may seem boring, but it also means there is plenty of room to grow.

As I checked into the hotel last night, I asked about dinner options in the area. The desk clerks began excitedly rattling off all the new options in town. From Japanese food to Chicago-style pizza, it was true – there was a little bit of everything here. And with all these new options there was an excitement, a hope for what their town was becoming.

Sound familiar? It ought to. The excitement is tangible around camp, as this team comes together for the first time since last year’s inspired September run and an offseason full of exciting new additions. The players have not been shy to admit it, either. Edwin Jackson likened the youth and swagger of this club to what he saw during his time with Tampa Bay in 2008. He won a career-high 14 games that year as part of a young, dynamic pitching staff that led an up-and-coming team all the way to the World Series. For those that have already forgotten – understandable, due to the Rays’ recent success – the franchise had never enjoyed a winning season prior to that year.

Wilson Ramos signs for fans between rounds.

Of course, nobody is running to make proclamations about pennants and World Series appearances. Nothing has been won yet. This is still a team with humble beginning, just now coming into its own. But just like the town that surrounds camp, it is growing up in front of our eyes, and there is plenty to be excited about.

We’ll be chatting more with other members of the team this week as they filter into camp. Many have reported ahead of schedule, though, and are already patrolling the cages, bullpens and practice fields around Space Coast Stadium.

Throughout the spring, we’ll have regular posts from both John Dever, Senior Director of Baseball Media Relations, as well as Principal Owner frequent Curly W Live contributor Mark Lerner.

For now, we’ll leave you with this final thought. Viera means “faith” in Slovak, the native language of the Duda family that first developed the area. It’s hard to think of a more fitting word for this year’s Nationals squad, as preparation begins in earnest this week for a new season.

From The Desk of Mark Lerner – What A Week!

Follow @Nationals on Twitter | Like the Nationals on Facebook

Hello everybody. What a great week to be a Nats fan!

Yesterday was Groundhog Day. With Bill Murray’s 1993 classic movie in mind, I would like to relive some of the excitement that the last week has offered.

Consider:

*Last Thursday, Jan. 26, we signed one of the era’s best closers to pitch for us in the MIDDLE INNINGS.

*Earlier this week, Baseball America announced that they have rated our minor league system as the finest in game.

*And just yesterday, we agreed to terms with right-handed pitcher Edwin Jackson on a one-year contract.

Let’s take a look at these accomplishments by starting with our newest pitchers, Mr. Lidge and Mr. Jackson.

From my understanding, Brad had multiple offers. But at the end of the day, he liked the story we were writing and his place in that storyline. His four years with the Phillies gave Brad a good vantage point to watch the evolution of our ballclub. Brad is a smart guy and I think his instincts told him that it is an opportune time to join the upstart Nationals.

While on the mound, Brad can dominate with his slider alone, but I expect his professionalism, demeanor and experience will influence our entire pitching staff on a nightly basis.

A strong draft class including Alex Meyer, Anthony Rendon and Brian Goodwin (left to right) helped the Nationals farm system earn Baseball America's top ranking.

By inking Jackson yesterday, we added one of the finest players on this year’s free agent market. It is remarkable that Edwin has already accomplished so much in this game and he just turned 28 in September.

Edwin is perhaps best known for throwing a no-hitter on June 25, 2010, but his talents have been well known long before his historic night. He throws hard and HARDER. His potential is enormous, but perhaps his most prized quality is durability. This is a 30-plus start, 200-inning guy. This is a consistent tool at Manager Davey Johnson‘s disposal.

With Jackson, we have unrivaled depth (eight quality starting pitchers), power (Strasburg, Gonzalez, Zimmermann, Jackson, Detwiler and Gorzelanny all throw well into the mid-90s) and youth (seven of the eight starters are in their 20s) in what is now considered the hardest-throwing rotation in the National League.

As for the key ranking by Baseball America, it was a gratifying moment for our franchise.

When I got the call from Mike Rizzo, I could hear the pride in his voice as he shared the news. I couldn’t help but think that this type of independent affirmation would mean a lot to any baseball executive, but even more so to a third-generation scout like Mike, who still talks shop with his father, Phil, on a daily basis.

When Baseball America ranked us 30th in 2007, we deserved it. We were in a big hole. We had inherited what was no better than an expansion franchise. Many of our own evaluators called it worse. To go from worst to first in four years is something that we’re all immensely proud of. While many of our fans have watched us put together the pieces of our Major League club, the work that’s really going to pay off for the team in the long term was going on behind the scenes, down in the minors.

We did not officially win any games this week, but it certainly feels good to know that  Baseball America - the publication widely regarded as baseball’s bible – has recognized and lauded the stellar work of our scouting and player development.

So, I ask that you indulge me as I share in Mike’s pride and offer my heartfelt thanks to him, his scouts and his player development personnel. You guys are the best.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 537 other followers