Results tagged ‘ Jason Marquis ’

Down on the Farm: Zach Walters

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One of the names flying under the radar a bit in the Nationals Minor League system is switch-hitting infielder Zach Walters. Rated as the organization’s 12th-best prospect by MLB.com entering the season, Walters was acquired straight up from Arizona for right-hander Jason Marquis shortly before the 2011 non-waiver trade deadline. Originally a ninth-round selection from the 2010 First-Year Player Draft by the Diamondbacks, the infielder had not played above the Low-A Midwest League until coming over to the Nationals organization. That didn’t stop Washington from immediately promoting Walters to High-A Potomac, where he finished out the year with solid numbers, earning himself a call to the Arizona Fall League prospect showcase.

Walters had moved up two levels in the Nationals system this year.

That performance earned him a couple of auditions as an extra man, joining the big league club for a few Spring Training games this March. On one notable occasion, Walters accompanied the club on a trip to St. Lucie to play a night game against the New York Mets. After entering the game off the bench in the late innings, Walters made a highlight-reel diving stop up the middle, capturing the attention of the press corps. However, shortly afterward he broke the hamate bone in his right hand, costing him the end of his spring and the first couple weeks of his season.

“It’s been a struggle,” explained Walters of the injury that stalled him early in the year. “Being hurt, you want to get back on the field as quickly as possible, even when you aren’t ready sometimes.”

The Cheyenne, Wyoming native got off to a slow start as he rehabbed from the injury, opening the year just 1-for-22 with 10 strikeouts at Potomac. But he recovered nicely and had a nine-game hitting streak going when he was promoted to Double-A Harrisburg in mid-June. The infielder continued to produce with the Senators, posting a .293/.326/.518 slash line with 21 of his 48 hits going for extra bases in his 43 games played, all at shortstop. That was enough to earn him a second in-season promotion to Triple-A Syracuse, where he is currently playing. Once he processed his time on the Disabled List, Walters was able to make the most out of the experience.

Walters’ versatility compares to Steve Lombardozzi, while his athleticism is reminiscent of Ian Desmond.

“I feel like it was a blessing in disguise,” he says of his early-season speed bump. “I got a chance to go over some little things and really appreciate being out here on the field.”

Still just 22 years of age, Walters does not have any one particular skill that jumps off the page, but he is solid across the board. Standing an athletic 6’2” and just under 200 pounds, the University of San Diego product’s best trait might be his maturity, both on and off the field. While his skill set and versatility profile more like Steve Lombardozzi’s, his build and athleticism are more evocative of that of current Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond. That combination of a solid work ethic, combined with an appreciation for his new organization have helped Walters move quickly through the system and raise his stock as a prospect.

“I’ve been thankful for everything this year,” said Walters. “It hasn’t been ‘work’ at all.”

Several Nationals are worthy of All-Star Nods

With only hours remaining for fans to vote for their favorite players for the 2011 All-Star Game, it’s time to take a look at the Nationals’ candidates for the Midsummer Classic. The Nationals strong month of June has brought more recognition to some of their hottest players and many Nats are making a case to be in Arizona on July 12. Unlike years past, where the team’s lone selection has been pretty clear cut—this year the Nats have a chance to send multiple players to the All-Star Game.

If you’re talking about the potential NL All-Star infield, it’s going to be tough to leave Danny Espinosa out of the conversation. He’s leading all rookies in multiple offensive categories—home runs (15), triples (4), slugging percentage (.465), and OPS (.788). He’s been stellar at second base so far this season, helping provide a wall of defense up the middle. Espinosa is certainly making his case to not only be a Nationals representative in the All-Star Game, but to be Rookie of the Year as well.

Along with Espi, you’ve got Michael Morse leading the Club’s current power surge. Morse has also hit 15 home runs—and with a .550 slugging percentage, he’s currently fifth overall in the NL in that category. After getting off to a slow start, Morse absolutely took off. In May he batted .403 with a 1.196 OPS, and in June he hit more than half of his home runs so far this year and maintained a .299 average. While, admittedly, his position (first base) is going to be tough for him to compete in, he’s at least put his name into the mix. 

Then you’ve got the beast of the bullpen—Drew Storen. Storen is currently 12th in the NL in saves, having gone 19 for 22 in save opportunities. He has a 2.90 ERA with 32 strikeouts. But, better than that, he’s held opponents to a .188 average while posting a WHIP of just 0.99. Matt Capps represented the Nationals in the 2010 All-Star Game and Storen hopes to make it two DC All-Star closers in a row.
 

From the starting rotation, Jason Marquis is making a strong case to go to Arizona for the All-Star Game. He’s currently leading the team in wins, with seven, and is in the midst of a rebound season having recovered from the arm surgery he had last season. He’s posted an ERA of 3.62 with a WHIP of 1.39 and has been one of the team’s most consistent starters.

Jordan Zimmermann is also rebounding from injury in his first full season since going under the knife for Tommy John surgery in 2009. Zimmermann is currently seventh in the NL in WHIP (1.07) and fifth in the NL in ERA (2.63). He’s had trouble getting run support and is currently only 5-7, but it’s clear he’s a force to be reckoned with when he’s on the mound, having recorded a quality start in 13 of his 16 outings. JZ is also worthy of a trip to the Midsummer Classic.

The fan vote most-likely won’t determine the Nationals’ selection(s) but we’ll find out which Nats stars will be All-Stars very soon.

Nats Seek a Seattle Sweep

The Nationals won the series last night with a 2-1 victory over the Mariners, thanks to solid pitching performances by John Lannan, Henry Rodriguez, Sean Burnett and Drew Storen. They’ll attempt to sweep the series and get a game over .500 today.

Here are today’s lineups:

 

Mariners:

Ichiro Suzuki – RF

Dustin Ackley – 2B

Adam Kennedy – 3B

Justin Smoak – 1B

Miguel Olivo – C

Mike Carp – LF

Franklin Gutierrez – CF

Justin Wilson – SS

Michael Pineda – P

 

Nationals:

Roger Bernadina – CF

Jayson Werth – RF

Ryan Zimmerman – 3B

Michael Morse – 1B

Danny Espinosa – 2B

Ivan Rodriguez – C

Jerry Hairston – LF

Jason Marquis – P

Ian Desmond – SS

 

*In three career starts against the Mariners, Jason Marquis is 1-0 with a 2.45 ERA. He’s struck them out 13 times while allowing only one home run.

 

*With last night’s victory, this has been the latest in any season since the end of the 2005 season (when they ended the season at 81-81) that the Nationals have been at .500. The last time they were even this year was May 11.

Nats open four game series vs. Giants

Last night, new dad Ian Desmond made an immediate impact on his return from paternity leave. Desmond led the offense with a triple in the fourth and launched a long ball into the visitor’s bullpen the following inning en route to a thrilling 4-3 win over the Mets. The win snapped a short-lived three-game losing skid and hopefully will serve to garner momentum into the series against the defending World Champion San Francisco Giants, who are in town for the first and last time for a four-game series starting tonight.

 Giants:

Aaron Rowand – CF

Freddy Sanchez – 2B

Aubrey Huff – 1B

Buster Posey – C

Pablo Sandoval – 3B

Pat Burrell – LF

Miguel Tejada – SS

Cody Ross – RF

Tim Lincecum – P

 Nationals:

Danny Espinosa – 2B

Rick Ankiel – CF

Jayson Werth – RF

Adam LaRoche – 1B

Wilson Ramos – C

Laynce Nix – LF

Ian Desmond – SS

Alex Cora – 3B

Jason Marquis – P

 *Jason Marquis, tonight’s starting pitcher, is 4-3 in 10 career starts against the Giants. He’s struck out 42 over 74.2 career innings with an ERA of just 2.77.

 *Throughout his career in the NL, Adam LaRoche has seen a lot of the Giants. In 200 plate appearances against San Fran, he’s hit for a .302 batting average with 21 doubles, one triple and 10 home runs. He’s also maintained an on-base percentage of .370 against the Giants.

 *Against Tim Lincecum specifically, LaRoche has knocked out two home runs and a double for four RBI. Jayson Werth also has two homers against the multiple Cy Young Award-winner and has batted .267 in his career against him.

Nats look to sweep series and doubleheader

Happy sixth birthday Screech.

Thanks to a strong outing by Jason Marquis—just two runs over seven-plus innings—and some heavy hitting, the Nationals took the first game of today’s doubleheader. Here are the lineups for Game 2:

Brewers:

 Rickie Weeks – 2B

Carlos Gomez – CF

Ryan Braun – LF

Prince Fielder – 1B

Casey McGehee – 3B

Yunesky Bentancourt – SS

George Kottaras – C

Erick Almonte – RF

Marco Estrada – P

 Nationals:

 Danny Espinosa – 2B

Rick Ankiel – CF

Michael Morse – LF

Adam LaRoche – 1B

Wilson Ramos – C

Laynce Nix – RF

Ian Desmond – SS

Jerry Hairston – 3B

Livan Hernandez – P

 *In his career against the Brewers, Livan Hernandez is 8-6 with a 3.66 ERA and 114 strikeouts in 21 shots.

 *Former Nat Nyjer Morgan, who was traded to Milwaukee towards the end of Spring Training, is still not in the starting lineup for the Brewers.

 *Marco Estrada, a former sixth-round draft pick by the Nationals, will be facing his former franchise for the first time. He had been claimed off of waivers by the Brewers in February of last year.

Day 25 in Viera

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

Good afternoon NatsTown. Time to quickly blog again leading into tonight’s game against the Astros here at Space Coast Stadium. Of course, we are on MASN the next 2 days, so I urge everyone to tune in and gain a glimpse of your 2011 Nationals.

If you can join us at Space Coast Stadium tonight, don’t be late. At 5:57 pm, NASA is launching a Delta 4 – NROL27 Rocket from nearby Cape Canaveral. So, it should be up in the air right around the time the National Anthem is played. Details on this rocket launch can be found here: http://spaceflightnow.com/tracking/index.html.

The winning ways have largely continued. Since my last entry, your Nationals are 2-1.

An 8-4 win on Wednesday at Florida was quickly followed by a 6-5 home victory over the Mets. Last night in Kissimmee, the Astros scored late to edge us, 6-5.

Let’s start with Wednesday in Jupiter. This really was our best game of the spring. As you might have guessed, the winning vibe began with the starting pitcher. Vintage Jason Marquis. His 4.0 scoreless innings included 3 strikeouts and, more importantly, a ton of ground balls. Marquis was followed by Todd Coffey, who was in control, striking out the side in the 5th inning. He has looked strong this spring. More strikeouts than you’d expect too. The bats matched the arms as we led, 7-0, after 7 innings. Danny Espinosa went 3-for-3 with a double, his second homer of the season and 4 RBI. Michael Morse had 2 more hits and a walk. Not much went wrong in this contest.

Thursday afternoon’s 6-5 victory had a familiar feel, that is until things got a tad hairy in the 9th inning. But no matter, as Tyler Clippard recorded the game’s final 2 outs to push the winning streak to 4. Chad Gaudin turned some heads with his start. In 5.0 scoreless innings, he struck out 6. Our 3-run first inning was highlighted by Adam LaRoche’s bags-loaded 2-run (automatic) double to center field. Adam’s ball would have been a grand slam in most parks, but a fierce cross wind knocked that ball down a bit.

I was not able to attend last night’s game at Houston, more good pitching from the arms of Collin Balester and Cole Kimball, who tossed 1.0 scoreless inning apiece. At the plate, Jerry Hairston had 3 hits in the loss. Can’t win them all.

I just had our PR official John Dever run the numbers on our starting pitchers through 12 games. In those 12 games to date, our 8 starters have combined on a 2.60 ERA, 12 walks and 32 strikeouts in 38.0 innings. I am quite sure that Mike Rizzo, Jim Riggleman, Steve McCatty, Teddy, Screech and our loyal and ever-growing fan base would gladly take those numbers over 162 games.

We know it is not that simple, but it is hard not to like what we are seeing. I get the feeling we have some pitching depth to work with. Let’s maintain some standard health and I think there is something to work with.

Looking toward next week, we are expecting ESPN and the good folks from Baseball Tonight to bring their bus to Viera and Space Coast Stadium on Tuesday, March 15. I cannot wait to ask Tim Kurkjian what it has been like living the life of John Madden for the last 3 weeks or so. No doubt that Big John put on hundreds of thousands of miles on his Madden Cruiser, but he never had to bunk with John Kruk! It will be good for the ESPN folks to get a first-hand look at our guys (even though we play that evening at the Mets).

As you read various season previews, you should be aware that most of the national baseball writers who choose to write about us do so after watching us play road games. Viera is a bit more isolated than most of the other camps in/around Florida (and Phoenix for that matter). Writers understandably like to cluster their visits. See 6 or 7 camps in a week. They like those types of ratios, as do their employers. This keeps travel costs down.

One of the flaws in this practice is that these writers rarely (if ever) get to see our “A” lineup unless they trek to Viera. At this juncture of the spring (we are nearing the midpoint), you will not see Ryan Zimmerman, Jayson Werth, Nyjer Morgan, Pudge, Adam LaRoche, Ian Desmond, etc. playing together on the road. And when you think about it, why would Jim Riggleman exhaust them? It does not make sense. Each of these guys will play in multiple road contests, but these road appearances are staggered for a reason.

So, I offer this info so that you gain some perspective when reading some of the season previews that are readily available all over the internet.

We are expecting a lot of fans and friends to visit us this weekend, mostly from DC. No doubt that Saturday’s Yankees game is a big drawing card. The weather looks good for tomorrow, sunny and in the mid-70s. Cannot wait.

I will be in touch early next week. Please have a great weekend…

Day 18 in Viera: Happy Friday

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

 

Hello NatsTown. I am writing to you from sunny and warm Viera, Fla. Today is very windy and comfortable.

 

Since my last blog, your Nationals have topped the Mets (5-3 on Wednesday at home) and lost a 7-5 decision to the Cardinals on Thursday in Jupiter. So, we stand 3-1 and host the Braves today here at Space Coast Stadium.

 

Today’s 1:05 p.m. contest will likely be a bit strange without Bobby Cox guiding the Braves. Bobby is going to be missed. He is the ultimate ambassador, for not only the Braves, but the game of baseball. I wish him all the best in his retirement, but I bet we run into him at a ballpark or two over the next few years. Bobby’s never going to leave the game entirely. At least I hope not.

 

I took in a 2-inning Minor League contest down the street at the Washington Nationals Training Complex. The game was set up for Tom Gorzelanny, Chien-Ming Wang and Ryan Mattheus to ease themselves into game conditions in a controlled setting. Wang pitched well during his 15-pitch inning, during which he threw in the mid-80s and induced 3 outs (one out was negated by a fielding error). Tom Gorzelanny looked good too. He recorded 5 outs in 30 pitches (a pair of 15-pitch innings). Tom retired the side in order during his 2nd inning. Lastly, righthander Ryan Mattheus struck out 2 in a scoreless inning. He is the pitcher Mike Rizzo acquired from the Rockies in July of 2009 in exchange for Joe Beimel. He is returning from July 2009 Tommy John surgery and is essentially on the same time line as Jordan Zimmermann.

 

Speaking of Zimmermann, his performance yesterday in Jupiter was especially pleasing. 3.0 scoreless innings against the Cards lineup that featured Albert Pujols. I’ll take that in a heartbeat, especially in a Grapefruit League debut. I see Jordan as a silent-killer type. He is a quiet and polite guy when you meet him, but the coaches tell me that he is as fierce a competitor as we have on the pitching staff. Like Marquis, I can hope for nothing more than full health for Jordan, because that is all he’ll need to succeed. His arm is electric and other teams know it.     

 

This morning, Rizzo, Jim Riggleman and Steve McCatty reassigned Shairon Martis, Matt Chico and Joe Bisenius to Minor League camp. Hopefully this move affords the trio more innings, but I think it also speaks to our ever-increasing pitching depth. McCatty has a lot of good arms to look at in a relatively short amount of time. It is going to be tougher than ever to earn a spot on this pitching staff. We are getting there.

 

I am very excited to see our guys face the Yankees tomorrow. As previously disclosed here, we will face C.C. Sabathia, but word came out yesterday that Joba Chamberlain is also likely to pitch for the Yanks. Should be fun.

 

I was anxious to see Jason Marquis’ spring debut today. The wait was worth it, as he allowed just one hit in 3.0 scoreless innings (he just finished up a moment ago, score still tied 0-0 after 3 innings). Jason struggled with injuries last year, but everyone knows he is better than that with full health. We saw a good number of ground balls today (6 outs on the ground). That’s a good clue that Jason is on track for an improved performance in 2011.

 

Please, everyone have a good weekend! Oh, don’t forget to tune into Sunday’s game against the Braves on MASN and/or on our new flagship radio station, 106.7 WJFK-FM.

I will be in touch again soon.

30 Players in 30 Days: Wilson Ramos


Wilson Ramos.JPGBuy low, sell high. That’s exactly what the Nationals did at the trade deadline when they turned a non-tendered, All-Star closer Matt Capps into one of the game’s top catching prospects–Wilson Ramos. The Twins solved a short term problem while the Nats could have their catcher of the future. Ramos went from learning from arguably the best catcher in the game today, Joe Mauer, to being mentored by the best catcher of the past 20 years and his childhood idol, Pudge Rodriguez. It isn’t a bad way to get prepared for the Majors.

 

“When I came here, I couldn’t believe it,” Ramos said. “Me and Pudge?”

 

He didn’t make it a secret either. On the first day with the Nationals, he told Pudge he was his favorite player. The two formed an immediate bond in September and the two talked about the intricacies of catching, calling a game, how to attack certain hitters and working with the pitchers.

 

“He’s special back there,” Jason Marquis said. “He’s definitely got a bright future. Real big target, real soft hands. He’s confident in what he’s doing back there. It makes you a little more confident on the mound. I enjoyed throwing to him.”

 

Ramos is a defensively sound, power-bat backstop and was the Twins best trade chip due to Mauer being entrenched behind the plate in Minneapolis. Ramos is regarded as one of baseball’s top prospects and entered 2010 rated as the Twins’ best power hitting prospect, best defensive catching prospect and No. 2 overall prospect according to industry insider Baseball America.

 

The 24-year-old batted .241 with 14 doubles, five home runs and 30 RBI in 71 games with Triple-A Rochester but he hit .316 with three home runs and eight RBI in 20 games with Triple-A Syracuse. Ramos debuted at the Double-A level last season and paced all Twins full-season farmhands in batting average (.317). He threw out 42 percent of would-be basestealers and was subsequently named the Eastern League’s No. 8 prospect.

 

The 6-foot-0, 220 pound Ramos is built like a linebacker and has legs like Secretariat. He made his Big League debut with Minnesota in May and went 4-for-5 and followed it up going 3-for-4 the next night. He will enter the spring as part of the Nats’ catching platoon with Rodriguez, much like how they rotated starts in September but he could become the No. 1 catcher.

 

“Ramos will come to Spring Training with an opportunity to be with Pudge,” Jim Riggleman said. “As the season would go, the hope would be that Ramos would get more and more playing time as the season goes next year and evolve into the No. 1 guy.”

 

Right now he is focused on playing winter ball in Venezuela for the Tigres de Aragua. He just started on Tuesday but he went 4-for-5 with two doubles and four RBI in his debut.

30 Players in 30 Days: Jason Marquis


Jason Marquis Opening Day.JPGIt only took one word for Jason Marquis to describe the 2010 season–”weird.” His choice word is pretty accurate considering all the oddities and career firsts he faced this season.

From 2007-2008, Marquis won 23 games for the Cubs, trailing only Ted Lilly and Carlos Zambrano in wins. He compiled six consecutive seasons of double-digit win totals from 2004-2009, the only pitcher in the National League to do so. His 80 wins during that time were third in the NL, behind only Roy Oswalt and Carlos Zambrano. He was the only player in the Majors whose club has reached the postseason each of the last ten seasons. From 2004-2007, he pitched at least 190 innings each season. He’s been the epitome of a reliable, healthy pitcher throughout his career. That’s exactly why the Nationals signed him to a two-year, $15 million contract this past offseason–not to mention the veteran leadership he can bring to a young rotation or his reputation as one of pitching’s best hitters.

Fast forward to this year and a lot has changed. His ERA spiked, he underwent elbow surgery that landed him on the DL for three and a half months and he registered just two wins the entire season.

It didn’t take long for Marquis to realize he wasn’t steering towards the season of his dreams. In his first three starts, he went 0-3, allowing 19 runs in 8.1 innings. At his lowest point, he faced seven batters and allowed seven runs without recording a single out. That would be his last game before having bone chips removed from his elbow and transferring to the DL. But he doesn’t judge his season by the atrocities of April. “I judge it off all my starts I made after the surgery,” Marquis said. “The numbers are what they are, but I was pitching hurt coming out of Spring Training. So I don’t judge it off of how I was before the surgery. That’s the first time I went through a situation like that. I had to battle back. Start by start, day by day, I started feeling more and more like myself. I worked hard to get better, and the work has paid off.”

Upon his August return, Marquis salvaged the year by going 2-6 with a respectable 4.29 ERA, striking out eight in one appearance and seven in another. He did not garner a decision in his final two starts, but he worked six innings in both games, allowing a total of three runs. This is still the guy who manufactured wins in St. Louis and Chicago, who helped lead teams to the postseason year after year and who won the Silver Slugger Award in 2005. One tough year is not going to change that. Expect Marquis to come back matured and more resilient than ever in the final year of his contract.

Detwiler and Marquis

Ross Detwiler and Jason Marquis make their way to the weight room now. Earlier in the day, Coach had told us that Jason is especially disciplined about his workout regimen and that as one of the players to have arrived earlier to get some extra work in on his own, he had fulfilled his requirements for the day.

 

So now he is here to shoot the breeze with Coach, but more so to razz Ross about his form and the light weight he is using. Coach employs a lot of “manuals” as he calls them–this means the players actually use very light weights, but Coach applies “manual” resistance at the appropriate points in each rep to maximize the effectiveness of the exercise. Since the guys’ lifting programs are generally only 20 minutes or so each day, it’s critical to make each rep count. In this instance, Marquis enjoys a laugh at Ross’ expense, but to the young lefty’s credit, he focuses in on the task at hand, and diligently completes his workout, with Coach lending support throughout.

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