Results tagged ‘ Matt Williams ’

Highlights from Max Scherzer’s introductory press conference

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by Mike Feigen

The Washington Nationals agreed to terms with right-handed pitcher Max Scherzer on a seven-year contract on Wednesday, followed by an introductory press conference at Nationals Park.

The event featured Scherzer, President of Baseball Operations & General Manager Mike Rizzo, 2014 NL Manager of the Year Matt Williams and Scherzer’s agent, Scott Boras. In addition, several members of the Lerner family, Nationals outfielder Jayson Werth and Scherzer’s wife, Erica, attended the press conference.

If you missed any of the press conference, we’re here to fill you in:

Opening statement by President of Baseball Operations & General Manager Mike Rizzo:

Well, it’s a big day here at Nats Park. It is my extreme pleasure to introduce to the Washington D.C. community one of the finest right-handed pitchers in all of baseball and a fine gentleman in his own right, Max Scherzer.

These opportunities don’t come up every day with players of this caliber and with an ownership group with the willingness to put themselves out there and acquire us a player of this ilk. It is my extreme pleasure to welcome Erica and Max to the Washington, D.C. family and to the Washington Nationals family. We couldn’t be happier to have Max in the fold.

Scherzer, on why he signed with the Nationals:

MS: It’s pretty easy. And it’s one (reason): winning. I think this team is capable of winning, and winning a lot. So when you look at the at the near term and long term, this is an organization you want to be a part of.

(Mike Rizzo) has been an architect here, creating a team that has been there at the bottom and has now created a team that is poised to be at the top. That’s something, as a player looking from afar, that I was able to see. Obviously, when the Nationals started knocking on your door, this is a team you want to be a part of. You start having conversations with the Lerner family and understand their commitment to excellence and their commitment to winning — that lines up great with what I want to do. I want to win and that’s why I’m here.

Rizzo, on why he wanted to improve an already strong rotation:

MR: I would say that whenever you can acquire a player of Max Scherzer’s ability level, character, and toughness on the mound, those opportunities are few and far between. We saw a player that we were extremely interested in. He fits all the criteria that we’re looking for in a Washington Nationals type of player. He’s good between the lines, he’s a tough guy, he gets after it, he takes the ball, he attacks hitters. In the clubhouse (he’s a) magnificent teammate. In the community, (he) does nothing but impress everybody he touches. He’s a guy who you can’t ask for more from. He’s the type of guy we’re looking for and he’s the guy we went after very aggressively — and we strengthened a strength. Who wouldn’t want Max Scherzer on their club?

Rizzo, on why Max is “the Nationals’ type of guy”:

MR: He’s everybody’s kind of guy. He’s got great ability, he’s got great work ethic, he’s a great teammate and he gets after it. He’s a winner. We like to think that we attract that type of player, and we certainly landed one in Max.

Scherzer, on when he knew the Nationals would be a good fit?

MS: For me, once January came around there were more teams in contact, and there were different opportunities that (arose). However, throughout the contact, when the Nationals started knocking on the door, that was the conversation I had with Scott; this is definitely a destination I want to play in. This is a team that can win now and can win in the future. That’s something that when you’re signing up for seven years that you want to be a part of. Winning cures everything, and this is definitely a type of organization I want to be a part of. I wanted to continue these type of negotiations with the Washington Nationals because I believe in the Lerner family and what they’re committed to.

Rizzo, on when he started pursuing Max:

MR: Well, ’06, he was on my radar, that’s when I started loving him. We have a grand plan coming into each offseason and there (are) different routes to get to where you want to be — we have different options and opportunities. The plan was laid at the beginning of the offseason and came to fruition in the last three, four weeks or so.

Scherzer, on his initial reaction to the contract offer:

MS: It was jaw dropping. You just can’t even fathom it sometimes. You work so hard to put yourself in this position. For me, it’s all about winning. I don’t play this game for money, but yet at the same time when you have an offer like that it just makes you go, “Wow.” I’m very fortunate to be in this position, that they wanted to commit that type of dollar amount to me.

Scherzer, on whether he called people up to tell them about the deal:

MS: (Scott Boras) told me, “You can’t tell anybody.”  So I had to keep it to myself and just tell my wife. It was a wild moment, so I was very happy.

Williams, on his starting rotation from a manager’s perspective:

MW: To put any of those names down every fifth day is a privilege for anybody. What it does is it just allows us to have a better chance of winning. As Max said, he wants to win, we desperately want to win, Jayson is with us today, he wants to win desperately. We’re glad to have (Max), we’re anxious to get to Spring Training and we know he is.

To give you an idea of the type of competitor Max is, (back in) 2007, he was a young Double-A pitcher and I was his manager. Every Minor Leaguer has a pitch count; his was 100. He was at 97 pitches and I went out to the mound and told him he’s got three pitches to get this last guy out and he was done. He reared back and went 97, 98, 99 (mph) to strike him out. So that’s the kind of guy you see up here. He hasn’t changed since then and he won’t change now. He’s a bulldog and we’re going to be happy to give him the ball every fifth (day).

Scherzer, on wanting the rest of the rotation stay intact beyond this season, including Doug Fister and Jordan Zimmermann:

MS: For me personally, of course you want to see guys like that. You always want good players on your team. When you speak of Fister and Zimmermann, those are highly talented pitchers. Of course you want to see them on your ballclub, but at the end of the day, Mike’s the architect here. He understands what pitchers he has coming on the way and what’s best for the team, so that’s where he’s going to make this type of decision.

Rizzo, on having the flexibility to add Scherzer without moving other pieces:

MR: With the acquisition of Max, ownership has allowed us to do our business in the best way you can, as far as the baseball side goes. They’ve given us all the ammunition that we need to put together a quality team. Nothing has changed with regard to any other player on the roster. We make good baseball decisions based on baseball evaluations and money does not come into play. We love the team that we have right now, we feel that it’s a really good, capable ballclub and we’re looking to better ourselves each and every day.

Scherzer, on talking to other Nationals players before he signed:

MS: After I signed, Fister reached out to me and sent me a couple of text messages. I was happy to rejoin him. He’s a really good pitcher — there (are) a lot of things you can learn from him. I was also working out with Matt Thornton as well … I was picking his brain the previous week, asking about the clubhouse, how are the different things throughout the year. I feel really comfortable about joining this clubhouse.

Rizzo, on what he remembered about Scherzer before the 2006 draft:

MR: I saw Max twice as an amateur, and the first time he didn’t fare that well, but loved the competitiveness, loved the way he attacked hitters and loved the demeanor on the mound. He was pouring fastballs into these right-handed hitters. His stuff was there, it was pretty evident that he had power stuff. But what really affected me in a positive light was I saw a guy that was struggling a little bit but made no excuses and just got after it. The second time when I went back to see him it was a 180 (degree change). It was a very easy game to scout and he was an extremely easy player to take at the No. 11 pick in the draft that year.

Rizzo, on having little concern about Scherzer’s age and duration of contract:

MR: He’s a durable pitcher. If I’m not mistaken, he’s never been on the Disabled List in the past five years. He takes the ball whenever he’s given it — he’s a horse. He’s got the makeup and character to take things deep into games, if asked to. For a 30-year-old pitcher, he’s thrown very (few) innings and pitches for a pitcher that’s had the success he’s had at the age that he’s at. I feel like we’ve got a young 30-year-old arm with a lot of mileage left on the tires and a guy that’s going to take us into competitive games for a very long time … he can really hit, too, by the way.

From the Desk of Mark D. Lerner: Hello from the Winter Meetings

Hello everyone,
I’m writing to you today from our team headquarters at the Manchester Grand Hyatt here in San Diego, where the Winter Meetings have been given a beautiful backdrop to heat up the hot stove.
image

A view from inside our team suite at the 2014 Winter Meetings.

  • It’s been great to be back talking baseball with Nationals President of Baseball Operations & GM Mike Rizzo and his staff as we look forward to 2015 and focus on building our club for another 162-game — and beyond — challenge. That’s not to say that we’ve pushed 2014 out of our minds. I still haven’t recovered from the abrupt end to our season — but it has only served to fuel Mike, manager Matt Williams, and the rest of our organization to put together another great team so we can make another run at a World Series championship next season.
  • The task in front of Mike and his staff is not an easy one. As an organization, and with Mike at the helm, we’ve always taken the approach that we must focus on improving our ballclub for the immediate, and long-term, future. That’s never been more important than now, as we enter a new situation for our team with many of our young, talented players having reached the Major Leagues at the same time, and obviously now potentially reaching free agency at the same time. But the way Mike has built the organization the last several years, depth has been of extreme importance and that allows us to be in a position where building our team — for 2015 and beyond — can mean that anything can happen. That’s one thing I always love about the Winter Meetings in particular: the excitement, anticipation and buzz in the air. Everyone is curious to see what each team will do, and where free agents will land.
  • For us, the Winter Meetings are also a chance to get our entire baseball operations department together, and especially all of our professional scouts, for really the only time all year. It’s always so great to catch up, meet some of the new people that we’ve brought into the organization, and have so many wonderful baseball minds in the same room. Our front office staff has been working all year to prepare for this week, and it’s exciting when the ideas really start bouncing around the room.
  • I’d be remiss if I talked all about the excitement of this week without mentioning NatsFest this Saturday, Dec. 13, at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. We are so thrilled to be bringing NatsFest back into the District and back at the Convention Center.This is always one of my favorite events of the offseason. It’s always so wonderful to see all of our players after a few weeks apart, and of course to get a chance to interact with all of you, our great fans. I know, from all of the planning that has gone into it, that this will no doubt be our best NatsFest yet. From the new games and programs they’ve been prepping to the new space that we’ll be utilizing inside the convention center, I just can’t wait to get there on Saturday morning and to enjoy a full day of Nationals spirit with all of you.

I look forward to seeing you all soon and think NatsFest will be the perfect kickoff to the holiday season.

Mark

Winter Meetings 2014: Catching up with Matt Williams, Tommy Shields joins Minor League staff & more

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by Amanda Comak

The Washington Nationals play the Atlanta BravesAs the 2014 MLB Winter Meetings head into their second day, Washington Nationals Manager Matt Williams will meet with the media this afternoon in San Diego. The National League Manager of the Year enters his second season at the helm looking to help the team improve on what was a very successful 2014 season.

Before Williams meets with the media, he spent a few minutes catching up on the year that was and more:

From where you were last year at this time, how do you reflect on how everything has gone?

I think it was a successful season for us. I think it was satisfying, yet unsatisfying at the same time because we weren’t the last ones standing — and that’s why we’re all here. So, a very positive step in the right direction and hopefully many more steps to come. 

Do you feel more focused or sure of what you’re looking for at these meetings than maybe you were in 2013? 

I think I’m a little more comfortable because I know everybody. Last year was a sort of “getting-to-know-you” process. This year, I’m a little more comfortable with our group and our fantastic group of scouts and front office folks. But I still have butterflies, like everybody else does, in anticipation of the upcoming season so I’m excited and looking forward to February.

What do you think your biggest accomplishment of the past year?

I just think the ability to understand our players, and help them, and put them in a position to succeed. We had a lot of guys who had great years and I think that’s probably the biggest accomplishment I can point to — and ultimately my job is to put them in a position to succeed and do the best they can. If each individual can do that then we have a very good chance of succeeding as a team.

What are you most looking forward to in 2015?

Just the opportunity to get back to the postseason. We want to play meaningful games in September and October. We had a little bit of a taste of it this year and we want to certainly get back there and see if we can go further this time.

What was your reaction to being named the 2014 BBWAA NL Manager of the Year?

I’m extremely proud of the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) Award as well. It means to me that we have a fantastic organization and that everybody is on the same end of the rope, pulling as hard as they can to have success and be a championship club. I’m proud to be able to go to New York in January and represent us and accept that award on behalf of our organization.

***

The Nationals have added Tommy Shields to their Minor League staff, naming him co-field coordinator on Tuesday. Shields, a Fairfax, VA, native, joins Jeff Garber in that role.

Shields comes to the Nationals after spending three seasons as the manager of the Burlington Royals in the Kansas City Royals’ chain. Shields earned the Appalachian League Manager of the Year honors in 2012.

He played parts of eight Minor League seasons in the Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Chicago Cubs’ organizations. A left-handed-hitting infielder, Shields made his Major League debut in 1992 with the Baltimore Orioles but earned his first MLB plate appearance with the Chicago Cubs in 1993.

***

The MLB PR Directors announced their annual Winter Meetings auction on Monday, with a litany of incredible, unique experiences up for bid with all of the proceeds going toward LUNGevity, the largest national lung cancer-focused nonprofit.

The charity, which was the personal cause of Orioles PR Director Monica Barlow, who passed away in February at age 36 after a lengthy battle with lung cancer, works to change outcomes for people with lung cancer through research, education, and support.

The Nationals have two great experiences up for auction this year: lunch with Matt Williams and his coaching staff inside the Nationals’ clubhouse one day this upcoming season, and a grounds crew experience. You can bid on these, and many other great items here. And all of the donations will go to a fantastic cause, and in Monica’s memory.

Nationals announce return of entire coaching staff

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by Amanda Comak

On the heels of Washington Nationals Manager Matt Williams taking home the 2014 BBWAA National League Manager of the Year award, the Nationals announced Wednesday morning that they will welcome back all of their coaches from the 2014 staff.

In keeping bench coach Randy Knorr, pitching coach Steve McCatty, hitting coach Rick Schu, third base coach Bobby Henley, first base coach Tony Tarasco, bullpen coach Matt LeCroy, and defensive coordinator/advance coach Mark Weidemaier in the fold for 2015, Williams will have stability and continuity on his staff as he enters his second year at the helm.

McCatty, the longest-tenured member of the Nationals’ Major League staff, returns for his seventh season. Knorr returns for his fourth season as the Nationals’ bench coach, and sixth year on the staff, while Tarasco and Schu will begin their third seasons on the coaching staff. Henley, LeCroy and Weidemaier will all be back for their second campaigns.

Six of the Nationals’ seven coaches had experience coaching in Washington’s system before earning their Major League assignments, making the Nationals’ an exceptionally “homegrown” staff.

This marks the first time since 2007-2008 that the Nationals have returned their entire coaching staff in successive seasons.

Nationals Manager Matt Williams named 2014 BBWAA NL Manager of the Year

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by Amanda Comak

After leading the Washington Nationals to their second National League East title in the last three years, Nationals manager Matt Williams was named the 2014 National League Manager of the Year Tuesday night by the Baseball Writers Association of America.

Williams received a total 109 points, including 18 first-place votes. Pittsburgh Pirates manager Clint Hurdle finished second in the voting, and San Francisco Giants Manager Bruce Bochy was third.

Williams, who joins Davey Johnson to become the second manager in Nationals history to earn this honor, had an exceptionally successful rookie season in the dugout as he led the Nationals to an NL-best 96 victories and the division title.

“On behalf of the Lerner Family and the entire Washington Nationals organization, I want to offer heartfelt congratulations to Matt on this well-deserved award,” said Nationals President of Baseball Operations and General Manager Mike Rizzo. “His first year in the dugout was excellent, and it was a pleasure to watch him grow throughout. He is a respected leader, and the steady hand that navigated our team through many challenges this season.

“What we accomplished this season would not have been possible without the right man at the helm. That was Matt this season, and we’re all looking forward to 2015.”

National League Division Series Game OneSince the inception of the award in 1983, Williams is just the fourth first-year manager ever to win it. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, he joins Hal Lanier (Houston Astros, 1986), Dusty Baker (San Francisco Giants, 1993), and Joe Girardi (Florida Marlins, 2006).

“I am incredibly honored and humbled by this award,” Williams said. “This was a very special year for us, and I am proud of what we accomplished in my first season at the helm. For me, as a newcomer to the managerial fraternity, it is a privilege just to be considered amongst the best in our game. Clint and Bruce are certainly that.

“While this is an incredible acknowledgement by the writers, I know we have bigger goals to accomplish in Washington and I look forward to the challenge that the 2015 season will bring.”

The Nationals, though besieged by injuries, won their division by the largest margin (17.0 games) of any in the Major Leagues under Williams’ watch. Over the course of the season, the Nationals saw 948 total games missed due to stints on the Disabled List, with Bryce Harper, Ryan Zimmerman, Wilson Ramos, Doug Fister, Gio Gonzalez, Adam LaRoche and Denard Span – all key players — accounting for 284 of those games.

While the Nationals withstood that barrage, Williams’ guided them toward steady improvement as the season progressed.

After playing to a .500 record (27-27) through the season’s first two months, the Nationals were at least four games over the .500 mark in each remaining month of the season, finishing 69-39 from June through September. That stretch included a 19-10 month of August that featured a 10-game winning streak from Aug. 12-21, the longest winning streak in the National League this season.

On Sept. 16, the Nationals clinched their second National League East Division title, and they finished the regular season with a 96-66 record.

Williams, 48, was named the fifth field manager in Nationals history on Oct. 31, 2013. The five-time All-Star third baseman was also voted by his managerial peers as the 2014 Sporting News Manager of the Year.

Nationals visit DC Public Libraries

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The Washington Nationals are honored to sponsor the DC Public Library’s Summer Reading program. And as part of that sponsorship, Denard Span, Drew Storen, Scott Hairston and Matt Williams were at local libraries on Saturday morning to read to kids.

The Nationals are honored to be a part of this program, and Span, Storen, Hairston and Williams were thrilled to participate. Here are a few photos from the events:

Running Men: A Nationals coaching staff routine

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by Amanda Comak

Nationals Manager Matt Williams, left, and third base coach Bobby Henley at the tail end of one of their runs this season.

Nationals Manager Matt Williams, left, and third base coach Bobby Henley at the tail end of one of their runs this season.

Inside the visitors’ clubhouse at AT&T Park, the music blared. High-fives and fist bumps were exchanged all over the room. Positive energy pumped through the locker stalls.

A long west coast trip had gotten off to a terrific start for the Washington Nationals with five wins in their first six games, including three straight against the San Francisco Giants — who came into the series playing better than any team in the National League.

Inside the manager’s office, Matt Williams smiled, and then groaned. Mere hours separated the Nationals from their next game, a 12:45 p.m. start locally, and then the next city on the trip beckoned.

“We have to run tomorrow,” Williams said late that night, massaging his left calf. “We’re killing ourselves.”

The “we” to which the Nationals’ manager referred was the coaching staff. And the runs, between 30-40 minutes or three to four miles of torture, well, they’ve become quite a routine among the Nationals’ coaches.

“It’s entirely superstitious,” Williams said in early July. “If we take a day off and we don’t win, then we definitely have to run the next day. If we run and we play like we did (in a 13-0 victory over the Chicago Cubs on July 5), then we have to run the exact same route.”

Williams, who used to run with the Diamondbacks coaching staff in previous years, brought the daily runs to the Nationals when he took over as manager. They’re all named, and folks of all fitness levels are welcome. They won’t leave any man behind, Williams said, but “we keep it sane, too.”

In D.C., they have three main runs: The River Run, featuring views of the Anacostia and the Potomac Rivers, the Capitol Run, which is up to and around the Capitol Building, and the Power Run, a jaunt to the Capitol Building, by the Supreme Court and past the Library of Congress.

It’s not hard to see how that one got its name.

“That’s the power of our country, right there,” Williams said.

But the road trips provide opportunities for other routes. Williams ticks them off with obvious enjoyment.

Attachment-1In San Francisco, they have the Embarcadero Run. In San Diego, it’s the Midway Run or the Airport Run (“Depending on how we’re feeling,” the manager explains). In Philadelphia, they leave from the hotel and do the Rocky Run. In Miami, the South Beach Run. St. Louis features the Arch Run, and in Milwaukee, from Miller Park, it’s the Graveyard Run. The list goes on. And everywhere the Nationals visit, they’ll have at least one running route to tour.

Williams, while the most enthusiastic about the runs, said the coaches have mostly jumped on board. It’s a time for them to build camaraderie and bond, while also (hopefully) bettering their own health.  Williams singled out third base coach Bobby Henley as one who has really taken to the runs and improved. Plus, there’s the aforementioned superstitions.

“They don’t gripe,” Williams said, smiling. “I hear little snippets, but no griping. Secretly I think they like it.”

But do they really?

“I absolutely hate ‘em,” said bench coach Randy Knorr. “But I go.”

Highlights from the Nationals comeback win in Arizona

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“What we were (Monday night) is how we’ve been all year. We’re resilient. We keep fighting.” — Kevin Frandsen

“We just don’t stop. There’s no reason to stop, just keeping going. Just because you’re down doesn’t mean the game is over. Just keep going.” — Danny Espinosa

Nationals Game Notes — May 12 at Arizona Diamondbacks

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Game #38: Washington Nationals (19-18) at Arizona Diamondbacks (15-25) | 6:40 p.m. PT; 9:40 p.m. ET | Chase Field
Pitching Match-Ups: RHP Jordan Zimmermann (2-1, 2.92 ERA) vs. RHP Josh Collmenter (1-2, 3.44 ERA)
Washington Nationals right-hander Jordan Zimmermann is 2-2 with a 2.70 ERA in four career starts (all quality starts) against the Diamondbacks. In his two losses to Arizona, Zimmermann did not receive any runs of offensive support while pitching in the game. Zimmermann (2nd round) and Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Josh Collmenter (15th round) are both products of the 2007 First-Year Player Draft.
Radio: 106.7 FM / 1500 AM, also on nationals.com (for subscribers to MLB.tv)
TV: The game will be televised on MASN2
Live Statsnationals.com

Of note:

Washington Nationals Manager Matt Williams is returning to Chase Field for the first time as a visitor after spending the final six seasons of his career with the Diamondbacks and serving the organization from there as an executive, minority owner, broadcaster and, finally, a coach on Diamondbacks Manager Kirk Gibson‘s staff for the last four seasons.

“It’s odd,” Williams said of making his return to Arizona and coming over to the visitors’ side. “But that’s part of it. I signed up for this.”

The Diamondbacks still use Williams’ likeness during their home games, as he is one of their “Racing Legends” (akin to the Presidents Race at Nationals Park) that runs each game.

Here are tonight’s game notes, courtesy of the Washington Nationals PR department. Enjoy!

Bryce Harper comes through surgery on left thumb

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by Amanda Comak

HOUSTON —  Bryce Harper underwent surgery on Tuesday to repair the ulnar collateral ligament in his left thumb. The Washington Nationals outfielder is expected to begin his rehab immediately.

040913-348 bryce harperHarper, who injured his thumb sliding into the third base bag on Friday night, visited the Cleveland Clinic on Monday for a second opinion. It was determined there that surgery was the best option for the 21-year-old slugger.

“We got a little message from Bryce about getting back to (batting practice) post-surgery, so it went fine,” manager Matt Williams said before the Nationals played the Astros on Tuesday night.

“We’ll have to see how long that takes. We expect him to heal fast. He’s young and, given his history, he’s healed pretty fast. We’re optimistic about it but unsure at this point how long exactly it will take.”

The injury adds to the talented list of walking wounded currently on the Nationals’ roster as Harper joins Ryan Zimmerman (finger), Wilson Ramos (hand), Doug Fister (lat) and Scott Hairston (oblique) on the Disabled List – though all are progressing well in their individual returns to the active roster.

Harper was batting .289 with a .352 on-base percentage and .422 slugging percentage at the time of his injury, but it appeared he was just starting to find his groove. In his last 62 at-bats, Harper is hitting .339 with a .406 on-base percentage and .516 slugging percentage.

“It hurts a lot,” Williams said of losing Harper for a significant amount of time. “He’s a fantastic player and we’ll certainly miss him but we’ve got to step up and play well. At this point he’s going to be out for an extended period and we’ll just have to play and win our games.”

With Harper out, the work the Nationals did to overhaul their bench in the offseason will be brought to the forefront.

Nate McLouth, Kevin Frandsen, Tyler Moore and — when he returns from the DL — Hairston, will likely share the responsibilities of filling that spot in left field.

McLouth, who posted a .258 average, .351 on-base percentage and .459 slugging percentage in 2013 with the Baltimore Orioles, hit his first home run of the season on Sunday.

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