Results tagged ‘ Mark Lerner ’

From the Desk of Mark Lerner: Seventh Heaven

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Well, I am on the ground for my seventh spring in Viera, where last week’s cold snap is now a distant memory and sunny and 70+ is the norm. Welcome to Spring Training 2013!

This is the place to be if you are a Nationals fan. I hope that over the next few weeks, I can share some of the sights, sounds and vibe from our camp. If I had to sum up Camp Davey 2013, it would be “professional, but very comfortable.”

And this is the place to be if you are a member of the baseball media. In speaking to our Media Relations folks, they assure me that this team is now officially on the radar. There is not a national baseball writer worth his salt that won’t find our club at some point this spring. MLB Network, ESPN, Sports Illustrated, CBS Sports and Fox are all writing about us, not to mention the increased coverage from nationals.com, the Washington Post and The Washington Times. They’ll all find their way to Space Coast Stadium, perhaps even for multiple visits. This has never been the case, even with gradually rising expectations entering last season.

Both media coverage and attendance are up at Spring Training this year.

Both media coverage and attendance are up at Spring Training this year.

By the way…how about Bryce Harper’s Sports Illustrated cover story last week!?

So, enjoy the extra coverage. Hopefully it helps all of our fans up north escape the cold winter mentally, even if only for a few minutes every day. Thankfully, the exhibition game against the Yankees on Friday, March 29 at Nationals Park and Opening Day on April 1 are just around the corner.

As everyone knows, this is Davey Johnson’s final camp at the helm. He set quite a tone this offseason with his declaration of “World Series or bust.” Has anyone ever carried such overt confidence with the ease that Davey does? That is Davey in a nutshell: he’s unique. How about last year? Remember when he said (paraphrasing) “they should fire me if we don’t make the playoffs?” He and Mike Rizzo obviously knew something about that club earlier than everyone else. It was quite a season.

- Congratulations to Ross Detwiler and Gio Gonzalez, who will represent us on Team USA, and Roger Bernadina who will represent the Netherlands in next month’s World Baseball Classic. What a fantastic honor for them and for our ballclub. Team USA’s pitching staff will feature two of our finest. I suppose this is when nationalism meets NATITUDE?

- Best of luck to our friend Joe Torre, who will manage Team USA in the WBC. From my seat, the WBC gets bigger and better every go around.

Wilson Ramos is healthy and back in camp this spring.

Wilson Ramos is healthy and back in camp this spring.

- My favorite sight of the young spring was Wilson Ramos in a crouch, catching multiple bullpens. Wilson’s spirits are so much higher right now than they were last summer. And for good reason. He is currently in a good place both mentally and physically.

- Speaking of catchers, I was talking to seven-time Gold Glover Bob Boone and he swears that he has never seen a catching corps with as much depth as ours this spring. Our fourth and fifth catchers will be better than some club’s backup catchers when Opening Day hits. Perhaps even a few front-line backstops. And consider, we have traded away a pair of highly thought of catchers in the last 15 months or so in Derek Norris and David Freitas.

- We are still waiting for his Grapefruit League debut, but Dan Haren has lived up to his billing so far. Davey told me that Dan’s initial bullpens were something to behold. He was painting the corners. It will be a shock if he walks more than two batters in any game.

- Lots of media talk about how 23 of the 25 spots on the Opening Day roster are accounted for. I am not sure this is the case, but let’s not forget that injuries hit and hinder baseball more than any other sport. I just looked this up, but last year’s NL East champs used 43 players. We won the division by 4.0 games (over the Braves) and claimed the best record in baseball by 1.0 game (over the Reds). Think we win the NL East without the contributions of Bryce Harper, Tyler Moore, Sandy Leon, Jhonatan Solano or Christian Garcia? It would have been extremely difficult, considering none of the aforementioned players were on the Opening Day roster.

- Who is going to make lasting first impressions this year? Anthony Rendon sure is off to a hot start. Matt Skole, Nathan Karns and Eury Perez look great also. It is early, but we have a lot of great young talent around here.

Until we blog again…

From the Desk of Mark Lerner: Celebrating NatsFest

Happy new baseball season everyone.

As usual, I find myself again counting the days until Spring Training: just 14 more days! Yes, on February 12, our pitchers and catchers will report to Viera to get everything started once more.

I have said it before, perhaps in this blog, but there is nothing quite like Spring Training.

Nearly 8,000 Nats fans young and old turend out for NatsFest last Saturday.

Nearly 8,000 Nats fans young and old turned out for NatsFest last Saturday.

Optimism abounds. And, as the cliché goes, everyone is in first place. Well, at least until the Grapefruit League slate begins on February 23 in Port St. Lucie against the Mets. Incidentally, we begin our home schedule one day later, on Sunday, February 24, hosting the Marlins at Space Coast Stadium.

But before I get ahead of myself, I would like to thank all of our fans, players and staff for what was a first class NatsFest last Saturday at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.

As most of you know, this was our first offseason foray outside of Nationals Park, and honestly, I could not be more pleased. Judging by the crowd of almost 8,000 fans and their enthusiasm, the venue and expanded program were well received. How about our new Racing President William Howard Taft – “Bill” – that we introduced at NatsFest? I see the rivalry between Teddy and Bill picking up where it left off after the election of 1912.

I was delighted to meet and/or reconnect with so many of our wonderful fans. Many of you were longstanding friends. Others were new, having hitched up your wagons during the special 2012 campaign. It was great to rub elbows with such a fantastic group and talk some baseball as we collectively waited out the cold winter.

Incidentally, the players were tremendously excited by the size of the NatsFest turnout. There were too many positive comments to count. I do remember, however, that Denard Span and Dan Haren were both quite impressed. NatsFest gave both gentlemen a perfect opportunity to jump-start their relationships with their new town, fan base and teammates. Rest assured, Denard and Dan are not only terrific ballplayers, but class acts off the field. Our fans will be proud to support both.

Before we can begin our journey in the Sunshine State, we have one more football game to enjoy.

Congratulations to Baltimore Ravens Owner Steve Bisciotti, General Manager Ozzie Newsome, Head Coach John Harbaugh and the entire Ravens organization on their run to the AFC Championship. Sunday’s Ravens-49ers Super Bowl should, as usual, provide great pageantry and theatre. Go Ravens!

I’d be remiss if I did not take this opportunity to congratulate our Washington Redskins on their 2012 NFC East Championship. And best wishes to QB Robert Griffin III on a quick and complete recovery. He is truly an amazing talent and a fine young man.

Please enjoy the Super Bowl everyone and I hope to see many of you down in Viera in the coming weeks.

I am already packed.

From The Desk Of Mark Lerner: Welcome To Opryland

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Greetings from the Opryland Hotel in Nashville.

Baseball’s Winter Meetings are well underway and almost at its halfway point.

But remember, Mike Rizzo made his primary strike last week with the addition of Denard Span.

In the weeks approaching the actual trade, Mike sold us on Denard and his place within our culture in D.C. His intangibles fit. As does his offensive game. As does his left-handed swing. As does his defense in center field, which frees up Bryce Harper from the rigors of that position and nudges Jayson Werth into a lineup spot befitting his talents (although he really was a heck of a leadoff hitter last year).

Davey Johnson got his center fielder and leadoff man in Denard Span.

Davey Johnson got his center fielder and leadoff man in Denard Span.

And when was the last time a Davey Johnson team had a true leadoff hitter of this caliber? I’ll have to ask him later today. Perhaps Eric Young in 1999 with the Dodgers?

As attractive as Denard is, to trade a young pitcher with Alex Meyer’s obvious talents is always difficult. We truly enjoyed having him in our organization and wish him nothing but the best in his future with the Twins.

I again have enjoyed the dialogue and debate that Mike cultivates in our War Room here in Nashville. The expertise and recall that all of our scouts possess on so many players is really remarkable. The stories told can only be described as priceless. It really is a fantastic group that Mike has brought together. Trust me when I say, these guys have it all covered.

I am also very much looking forward to NatsFest (Saturday, January 26 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center), which was officially announced yesterday. We think the timing and venue for NatsFest are the ideal way to celebrate last season and pivot toward what is setting up to be an exciting 2013 campaign. Cannot wait.

Until we blog again …

From the Desk of Mark Lerner: Envious No More

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Just about every night, I remind myself, be careful what you wish for.

For years now, we watched with silent envy as teams played meaningful games late into the season. We were thrilled to play a role — any role — in the season’s outcomes, to affect the standings from the outside.

Some call it playing the “spoiler.” Whatever they called us, it fit at the time.

But when everyone went home at night, all we could do was picture and dream what a pennant race was like from the inside.

Well no longer. Friends, we are in the midst of a real pennant race. And, bonus, this one appears to have started a bit earlier than most.

Honestly, my early impression is that it is equal parts pleasure and agony.

As if the late innings of a tight game are not grueling enough, let me tell you that I literally cringe every night about 7:10 p.m. upon checking the out-of-town scoreboard for the first time. Not much changes either during my 62 subsequent glances, as I wait for the scores to flip or turn over at inning’s end.

The man known as “Kurt Klutch” has already made his presence felt with the Nationals.

Honestly, this is so fun and much more invigorating than I imagined during all those blank nights. This is daily drama that only our sport can provide.

The ups and downs … they are amazingly addictive, but as we all know, the nightly outcomes cannot always work in our favor.

And it is in those moments that I remind myself … be careful what you wish for.

*It has been a busy week with the additions of Kurt Suzuki and Cesar Izturis. Suzuki has made an immediate impression in the clubhouse — he is so upbeat and personable, it is as if he’s been with us for 3-4 years, not 3-4 days. I know he’s still feeling his way, trying to learn about our pitchers and their various strengths. But our fans should feel comfortable with not only his talents behind the plate, but also in a one-on-one setting.

*A little bit was made about the Suzuki acquisition being some sort of commentary on the play of Jesus Flores, especially since Wilson Ramos went down in early May. I can assure everyone that Mike Rizzo does not feel this way. This was an opportunity to acquire another front-line catcher. Mike was understandably nervous about the worst case scenario: losing Flores to injury. This trade makes us better and deeper. And as we’ve seen all season long, our depth is a big part of what has set us apart.

Danny Espinosa has played the hero role lately, with the Nationals rookies in support.

*I know I wrote about the agony that comes with a pennant race, but one recent high point was Saturday night’s big comeback win over the Marlins. That was as loud as I have heard our ballpark. The only other moment that could potentially stack up was Ryan Zimmerman’s game-ending homer to open up Nationals Park on March 30, 2008. As up-to-the-task as Danny Espinosa was in Saturday night’s critical at-bat, I genuinely believe that the fans primarily fueled that six-run eighth inning. We’ll need much more of this in the next 2 months.

*I do not think it is any exaggeration to think that Adam LaRoche should be a part of any NL MVP discussion. At the very least, he is the NL Comeback Player of the Year. He carried us in April and has never let up. He leads all big league first basemen in home runs with 23. Yep, that’s one more than even Albert Pujols (22).

*I’d also like to welcome Jayson Werth back to the active roster. And he is not just back and working himself into shape. Rather, he is helping us win games. Wrist injuries are probably the most disruptive ailments that can plague hitters, and for him to come back and to have already raised his batting average above the .300 mark? It is a remarkable testament to his will and determination. His body’s ability to heal quickly is something to behold.

Bryce Harper continues to dazzle with the bat and the glove.

*I’d be remiss if I did not mention the many contributions of our rookies: Bryce Harper, Steve Lombardozzi and Tyler Moore. Go back to Saturday. Bryce, Steve and Tyler accounted for half of the runs in the aforementioned six-run eighth inning. Some say the best thing about rookies is that they become second-year players. Well, in my mind, the best thing about these rookies is that they are not going anywhere any time soon.

I hope to see everyone during our next homestand. Remember, the next homestand includes a big 3-game series against the Braves. I’ve had friends tell me that this might be the biggest baseball series in D.C. since the 1933 Fall Classic. This is what it’s all about.

From the Desk of Mark Lerner: Developing from Within

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Hello everyone. Welcome to another big week here at Nationals Park.

Take a look around you. We have a full-fledged pennant race going on. And like many Nats fans, I have never had so much fun.

Just knowing that every game means something – every division game essentially constitutes two games – this race has taken my scoreboard watching ups and downs to new levels. Can you imagine this in September?

How about witnessing history on Sunday afternoon as Steve Lombardozzi and Bryce Harper became the first pair of rookie teammates in modern-day MLB history (since 1900) to begin a game’s first inning with back-to-back home runs.

Rookie Steve Lombardozzi has found a home at the top of Manager Davey Johnson’s lineup.

These two young guys seem to provide a thrill or two every night. Even though the Braves came back to win Sunday’s finale, I took solace in knowing that Steve and Bryce are homegrown products. Is there anything better for fans than cheering for players unearthed, drafted and developed in your own system?

Lombardozzi is literally homegrown, as he hails from Atholton High School in Columbia, Maryland.  Upon Lombardozzi hitting his first big league homer, I was able to congratulate his father, Steve, on his son’s big moment. His urge was to run out to the bullpen to get the ball, but I told him we had it under control.

Speaking of homegrown, on Monday night we drafted righthander Lucas Giolito from Harvard-Westlake School in Los Angeles with the 16th pick in the 2012 Draft.

In talking to Mike Rizzo, Roy Clark and Kris Kline, they conveyed to me that Lucas is the epitome of what a high school power pitcher should look like. He’s already 6-foot-6, 220 pounds and has not turned 18 yet.

Entering the new year, Lucas’ talents had him on a short list of players to be considered for the draft’s top overall selection. Lucas unfortunately strained his right elbow during his senior season at Harvard-Westlake. But he was immediately examined by some of this country’s foremost doctors who happen to reside in the L.A. area. We have been made privy to all of his medicals and felt totally comfortable calling his name at pick #16.

Then, in the second round, Rizzo took Cal-Berkeley second baseman Tony Renda, who is said to have strong offensive skills (he was the Pac-10 player of the Year as a sophomore) and even better intangibles. In the third round, we tabbed Brett Mooneyham, a lefty out of Stanford University who is 6’5″ and 225 pounds. Power pitching!

The beauty of this is that despite Lucas’ supreme talent, there is no urgency on our part. Remember, we have a fleet of young power pitchers in place for the next 4-5 years. Their names: Strasburg, Gonzalez, Zimmermann and Detwiler. So, when Lucas and his power arm are good and ready to ascend to the big leagues, we’ll find the space.

Adam LaRoche is among the leaders in All-Star votes at first base in the National League.

Most scouts will tell you that Day Two of the Draft is a much better reflection of a club’s scouting department and its depth than Day One, which is overflowing with high-end talent. I am always excited to chat with our scouts who really are the vanguards of the sport. There is no ‘tomorrow’ in this game without a scout nearby.

I am looking forward to getting up to Fenway Park this weekend as interleague play restarts. I am also even happier that Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann are slated to face Boston’s deep lineup. Should be a fun weekend test for Davey and the boys.

Reminder to get out and vote for your favorite Nationals as part of MLB’s All-Star Vote, whether it be at Nationals Park or online.

I have already punched a few ballots and am especially hopeful that Adam LaRoche can get some much-deserved traction. And don’t forget you can vote for both Harper and Lombardozzi as write-in candidates.

Enjoy the games everybody … and see you soon at Nationals Park.

From the Desk of Mark Lerner: NATITUDE Park

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Hello again Nats fans,

I hope everyone is well and enjoying the season thus far.

I’d like to start with last weekend’s crowds at ‘NATITUDE Park.’ I am very proud to say that over 100,000 were in attendance for the three-game set against the rival Philadelphia Phillies. D.C. baseball fans left little doubt that they take their baseball seriously. Taking two of three from the Phillies is always welcome, but to do so in front of back-to-back-to-back large crowds made the weekend memorable for all.

Bryce Harper has provided an extra spark for the Nats lineup.

Being a part of ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball was a thrill for all of us. It was our first ESPN Sunday Night game since Nationals Park opened on March 30, 2008. Everything looked fantastic, as usual, in HD and the entire atmosphere was electric.

How about Bryce’s steal of home on Sunday? Not only won’t that moment be forgotten, it’s likely to be talked about with reverence for years to come. I have had friends tell me this week that the swipe was Bryce’s “arrival” on a national stage.

I know that Jayson Werth and Bo Porter both had a hand in educating Bryce on Cole Hamels’ pickoff tendencies. That was a true team effort. All in all, everything about last weekend went perfectly, Sunday’s result and especially Jayson’s wrist injury notwithstanding.

As I write this, the Nationals are caught in a three-game losing streak. The bats have been a tad flat, but that should be temporary, especially with Ryan Zimmerman and Adam LaRoche now back in the lineup. And Mike Rizzo tells me that Michael Morse and his Beast Mode are progressing quite well. We can really use that jolt in the middle of the lineup.

I’d also like to recognize the strong play of LaRoche thus far. He’s leading the club in the Triple Crown categories: a .316 batting average, five homers and 19 RBI. After an injured left shoulder hindered his play last season, I am glad to he is back this season and playing at the levels he expects for himself. Rizzo calls Adam a two-way player. In my mind, he is a three-way player, as there is also no finer gentleman or community advocate in our clubhouse.

Adam’s homer in the ninth inning on Tuesday night in Pittsburgh was the 1,000th home run hit by the Nationals since arriving in Washington in 2005. I remember being at the Nationals first game in Philadelphia and watching Terrmel Sledge launch our first homer at Citizens Bank Park. Why does that initial game in April of 2005 seem like such a long time ago? And at the same time, why does it seem like yesterday? I suppose that is the nature of this game.

Stephen Strasburg returns to the hill for the Nationals Thursday night.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the continued excellence of Steve McCatty’s starting rotation. Collectively, Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann, Edwin Jackson and Ross Detwiler are the best rotation in the game right now. I don’t think anyone can objectively argue this point. Consider, in 16 the last games, the rotation has posted 15 quality starts and allowed one run or less 8 times. That’s sustained dominance.

Tonight, Strasburg takes the mound at PNC Park. Here’s to this three-game slide being temporary!

The NHL playoffs, and the Capitals series with the New York Rangers, also have my attention.

Game 6 was really something last night. I attended the game with Drew Storen as my guest. Drew along with many of his teammates, are really enjoying the Caps and their march through the Eastern Conference. Incidentally, Drew’s elbow is feeling fantastic and he is very anxious to get back on the mound.

As for the game, Ovechkin’s early goal really set the stage for loud evening at the Verizon Center. In between the pipes, Braden Holtby played with a grace and poise well beyond his years. He’s been just fantastic.

After further review, I just noted that the Nationals play in Cincinnati on Sat. at 7:05 p.m. And the Caps play Game 7 that same night at Madison Square Garden at 7:30 p.m.

Nearly simultaneous starts, again? That’s two straight weekends! Not that I am counting!

We will start at our homestand Monday night against the San Diego Padres. Please come out and support the team. They are playing great ball and as we all know they are fun to watch.

Let’s go Caps!

Let’s go Nats!

Please enjoy the weekend and Happy Mother’s Day!

From the Desk of Mark Lerner: Welcome to The Show

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Hello again Nationals fans,

As everyone undoubtedly knows by now, tonight is a special night. Bryce Harper will be making his MLB debut as we continue our series at Chavez Ravine.

As I talked about in my last blog, Dodger Stadium is one of the iconic venues in all of sports, and it is fitting that a 19 year-old kid from Las Vegas will be making his much-anticipated big league entrance on this stage.

All eyes - and cameras - will be on number 34 in red at Dodger Stadium tonight.

As “Hollywood” as this script seems, this was not how it was supposed to happen. Sure, the scenic backdrop, the 50,000-plus fans and the A-list celebs will be fantastic for the history books, but Bryce is here tonight on someone else’s terms.

Unfortunately, Ryan Zimmerman’s shoulder soreness has prompted a DL stint. Thankfully, this won’t be a prolonged absence for Ryan, but it does leave an immediate void in Davey’s lineup.

So, Mike Rizzo and Davey Johnson talked. And they talked again. Ultimately, it was determined that they needed another left-handed bat in the lineup, and an outfielder if possible.

So, Mike went to chilly, Rochester, NY and watched Bryce play three games. He saw enough to know that this is what he had to do. He diverted from his plan. But how many of us see our best laid plans executed exactly as we scripted? Not nearly enough. That’s just reality.

So, when Mike called me yesterday with the news that he planned to recall Bryce on Saturday, I was taken aback. Like most, I did not see this happening so quickly.

Mike told me that Bryce was the best fit for what Davey needed, especially with Zimmerman and Michael Morse on the shelf.

He also told me that Bryce’s development plan is still not finished. There is a good chance that he’ll need more time, more reps and more at-bats at Triple-A. But that is a discussion for another day.

Bryce should not be seen as a panacea. He’s not our run-production savior. That would be unfair.

But Mike does think – and I agree – that Bryce can provide our roster a healthy jolt.

So, let’s see what he can do. Let’s dig deeper than his batting average, his power output and instead keep our eyes open for his total game – the base running, the defense, the throwing arm. Let’s resist the urge to make grand conclusions based on ridiculously small sample sizes.

But, at the same time, let’s have fun. On a personal level, I am thrilled that I am in Los Angeles and will be at Dodger Stadium tonight.

Tonight’s tilt is going to be memorable. But, so is Tuesday’s DC debut at Nationals Park against the Diamondbacks. And his first matchup next weekend against the Phillies.

It all starts for Bryce tonight, fittingly in Tinseltown.

The first page of what we believe will be a special Hollywood script.

Up goes the curtain: it’s time to enjoy the show.

From The Desk Of Mark Lerner – Heading Home

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Hello Nationals Fans,

Is everyone counting backwards, like I am? Only three days until the April 5, 2012 Season Opener on Chicago’s north side.

But before we indulge ourselves with grandiose visions of Wrigley Field, Opening Week and of course our April 12 home opener against the Reds, I also want to mention how happy I am personally – as is my entire family – for our dear friend Stan Kasten, who along with Magic Johnson and Guggenheim Partners, agreed to purchase the Dodgers last week.

Upon getting word that this transaction was going through, I immediately called Stan, who was in New York signing the first wave of legal documents. He was elated and for good reason. Stan in Hollywood…a PERFECT match!

The Dodgers are a crown-jewel franchise with a special place historically in our game. Baseball is a better sport when the Dodgers are prominent. I am looking forward to seeing Stan – and hopefully meeting Magic – when we head west to Los Angeles to visit one of my favorite places in baseball, Dodger Stadium, starting on April 27.

The cherry blossoms in bloom can mean only one thing: it's time for Opening Day.

Now, let’s put a wrap on the ‘12 Grapefruit League season, Davey Johnson’s first camp as Manager of the Nats.

Remember, Davey is a baseball lifer whose baseball life began as a Spring Training bat boy with our Senators in the early 1950’s. He had a vision and by spring’s end, I think it is safe to say this was the most competitive camp in Nationals history. And that competition stemmed largely from the strongest crop of minor leaguers we’ve ever had.

Davey knows that everything great in this game starts in Spring Training. Sure, there were some bumps along the way, and perhaps a few more injuries than we’d like to see. Prominent players like Michael Morse, Drew Storen, Chien-Ming Wang, Adam LaRoche and Rick Ankiel have all been a little banged up.  But, the way I see it, better now than in May or June, right?

At the end of the day, a lot did go right. Easily, the best news of the spring came on Feb. 26 as the Nationals signed Ryan Zimmerman to a long-term contract extension. Ryan’s playing abilities are obvious, but he is also a true gentleman.

There is wonderful symmetry in knowing that the first draft selection (2005) in the history of the Nationals will be playing in D.C. for a long time, perhaps his entire career. There are just not enough star athletes that stay with one club, in one town, their entire careers.

The games started on March 2 with a 3-0 victory over D.C.’s own Georgetown University. Even with the loss, the young Hoyas were provided with a challenge and thrill they will never forget.

Rick Ankiel got his spring off to a great start as he hit an opposite-field homer against the Mets in his hometown of Port St. Lucie. I know it must have been gratifying for him to perform in front of family, friends and some of his former high school teachers and coaches.

Even though he will start the season in Syracuse, Corey Brown seemed to emerge from an injury-riddled 2011 season with a strong spring showing (.318, one homer, 4 RBI in 10 games). I bet he continues his good play in Syracuse.

Mark DeRosa showed everyone that his wrist was healthy, hitting .400+ for the spring. He also (jokingly) claims he set a Grapefruit League record with 10 walks in less than 50 plate appearances. I don’t know about that, but he was on base 2-3 times a game. He is going to be a real weapon for Davey.

Bryce Harper performed well on the field, but a minor injury temporarily slowed his momentum. That said, he showed all of the maturity needed to excel off the field. He managed loads of media requests and was always ready to play, the calf injury notwithstanding.

Bryce handled his option to Syracuse with true class, but at the same moment, he was charged up by Davey’s challenge to play center field. I have a feeling we will be seeing Bryce in D.C. in the not-too-distant future.

This spring, we enjoyed meeting Gio Gonzalez and watching him perform in our uniform for the first time. That curveball will be something I look forward to seeing once every five days for a long time to come. And the remainder of his repertoire was not too shabby either.

Jordan Zimmermann and Edwin Jackson will round out one of the hardest-throwing staffs in baseball. Both are quiet, both are competitors. Both are healthy and slot quite nicely into our rotation. And let’s not forget John Lannan who pitched very well this spring and Chien-Ming Wang, who was throwing so well prior to his hamstring injury. He is recovering nicely and will be another major piece for us as the season goes on.

And how about our bullpen? They picked up where they left off last season and now we have added Brad Lidge, one of the most accomplished relievers in the game today. I’d also like to note just how well Henry Rodriguez pitched. He was consistently outstanding from Day 1 of camp.

With all that said, I think the best sight of all this spring was Wilson Ramos behind the plate.  I know how excited I was in seeing him for the first time, so I can only wonder how emotionally taxing his first week of camp was. There is something about the atmosphere created by teammates in a clubhouse setting. Wilson is back where he belongs, with us and in a Nationals uniform, safe and sound.

I sense Mike Rizzo’s off-season acquisitions, Davey’s confidence, and the unusually warm temps this spring have generated a strong buzz for Nationals baseball in D.C.

A strong start in April would certainly help the equation, but I keep reminding myself that it is a long season.

Thanks for your continued support Nats fans. Let’s play ball! It is finally time.

I’ll look forward to seeing everyone all season long at beautiful and picturesque Nationals Park.

Weekly Review (3/26)

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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.

After enjoying their lone off day of the spring, the Nationals headed back to the Grapefruit League home of the Mets, where they were greeted with a New York welcome. We listened to the pulse of the fans, and brought you a full report on up-and-comer Michael Taylor.

Back in Washington, Nationals Principal Owner Mark D. Lerner accepted a major award on behalf of the organization. Meanwhile, in Jupiter, Gio Gonzalez saw his sparkling start washed away and only his disappointing one counted against his stat line, but kept everything in perspective. When the Nationals traveled to Sarasota to face their Beltway rivals, we witnessed possible mascot cannibalism and had a celebrity sighting, but still no fortune for Washington.

After enduring an 11-game winless streak, manager Davey Johnson put the situation in context, but also showed his sense of humor. “I don’t want (our guys) peaking too early,” Johnson said, then quipped, “they’re not.”

The team finally broke out of its slump in a big way with a 12-0 thrashing of the Mets behind Stephen Strasburg. The Nationals hit three first-inning home runs, including one by Jayson Werth that hit a palm tree and landed in his own truck.

Record for the week: 1-5

A National Honor

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Few professional sports teams are as involved with their communities as the Washington Nationals are with the U.S. Military. That commitment to our nation’s armed forces extends beyond the In-Game Military salute at each home game, also including the Me and a Friend Program, the Washington Nationals Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Team and team visits to military hospitals.

On Thursday night, the USO of Metropolitan Washington (USO-Metro) recognized the club for its efforts with a very special award at its 30th Annual Awards Dinner. The event – which featured a black tie dress code for civilians and full formal dress for all military members – was held at The Ritz-Carlton, Pentagon City in Arlington, and featured high-ranking officials from both the military and the private sector. More than 500 guests in all packed the sold-out gala, which helped raise more than $630,000 for USO-Metro.

Mark D. Lerner accepts the Legacy of Hope Award from Congressional Medal of Honor Recipient Jay R. Vargas, U.S. Marine Corps.

The Nationals were well represented at this special event, which also marked the 150th anniversary of the Medal of Honor. Screech and the Racing Presidents were present, and each place setting featured a baseball with the date of the gala as well as both the USO logo and the familiar Curly W. The Lerner family was in attendance, not only to commemorate the occasion but also to accept the Bob Hope Legacy Award, named after the legendary entertainer for all he did for America’s military.

Nationals Principal Owner and Vice Chairman Mark D. Lerner accepted the award on behalf of both the Lerner family and the entire Nationals organization. He shared the following words of gratitude with those in attendance upon receiving the honor:

Thank you everyone. On behalf of the Washington Nationals organization and the entire Lerner family, I’d like to thank the USO of Metropolitan Washington for recognizing our team with this year’s Legacy of Hope Award. 

My parents Annette and Ted Lerner grew up in the D.C. area, and my sisters Marla Tanenbaum and Debra Cohen and I were raised here. It’s impossible to live here and not be aware of the sizeable contributions made by our military members and their families. Few of us can ever comprehend how much each service-member – as well as their wives, husbands, children and parents – sacrifice in order to serve our country.

As the stewards of the national pastime in the Nation’s Capital, we believe that making a difference in the lives of the men and women who fight for our country is one of the most fulfilling things we can do, and we are always looking for new ways to pay tribute and support them and their families. 

Bob Hope’s generosity and dedication was legendary. I’m pleased that the Nationals can – in whatever small way – continue his tradition and hopefully inspire future generations to support our service men and women.

I am humbled to be among so many Medal of Honor recipients and their families here tonight – and, on behalf of my family and the Washington Nationals, I want to thank you once again for your service.

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