Results tagged ‘ Matt Williams ’

Daily Wrap: Detwiler to bullpen, Fister throws in Minor League game, & more

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by Amanda Comak

VIERA, Fla. — The Washington Nationals were rained out on Monday afternoon in Lakeland, Fla., washing away their game against the Detroit Tigers and giving them a little extra time as they head into the lone off day of Spring Training.

But despite the lack of a game there was still plenty of news to go around.

News of the Day: Ross Detwiler will open the 2014 season in the Nationals’ bullpen.

Ross Detwiler

Ross Detwiler

Nationals Manager Matt Williams said on Monday that left-hander Ross Detwiler will open the 2014 season as an integral member of the team’s bullpen. The decision, Williams said, was one based on what the Nationals felt was ultimately the best fit for the team this season, and Williams emphasized that Detwiler’s talents will give them a unique relief weapon.

“We feel like it’s a good move for our team,” Williams said. “He provides something special out of the bullpen for us. We talked to him. I don’t know if anybody would ever be really happy with something like that, but we don’t feel it’s a demotion of any sort. We just feel like we’re a better team with him coming out of our bullpen.

“He offers something that’s special — power lefty, mid-90s (mph) lefty. It doesn’t mean he won’t start at some point in the future, but we’ve asked him to get ready for the start of the season in the bullpen.”

The Nationals have been high on Detwiler’s talent since they selected him in the first round of the 2007 First-Year Player Draft, and his maturation as a starting pitcher was evident in his outstanding performance in Game 4 of the 2012 National League Division Series, as well as his outings early in 2013. But a back injury stole much of last season from Detwiler, and now the Nationals would like to utilize his talents in a way that will make him even more valuable.

In his career, Detwiler has excelled in relief, allowing just four earned runs in 32.1 innings and holding hitters to a .173 batting average against. His heavy sinker, complemented by his hard fastball, coming from a left-hander is exceptionally rare in the Major Leagues. The Nationals simply want to utilize that weapon when it is most favorable.

“He provides something special for us,” Williams said of Detwiler, noting his role in the bullpen will be “fluid.” “I just think it’s a luxury for our team to have a guy in the bullpen who can do (the) types of things (he can).

“I told him, this is something we feel is going to make our team better. We’re here to win games, and here to compete to play meaningful games in September and October, and he’s going to be a big part of that out of our bullpen. For me it’s not a tough decision — it’s a prudent one… There’s a lot of thought and a lot of talk among our staff and our organization in making that move. If I know Ross, he will take that bull by its horns and he will go with it and be really good.”

Williams listed Taylor Jordan, Tanner Roark and Chris Young as remaining competitors for the team’s No. 5 starter job.

Quote of the Day: Doug Fister after pitching two innings in a Minor League game

Fister, who had been previously sidelined with some elbow inflammation, faced hitters on Monday for the first time since March 2. He threw 30 pitches in a Minor League intrasquad game, with Wilson Ramos catching him, and came out feeling positive about his progress. 

“I’m still working out some kinks,” Fister said. “But it’s a lot better… It’s not as sharp as I want it to be, but for being, technically, my first outing in a while, I was fairly pleased with what I had going.”

Notables:

The Nationals will have their only off day of the spring on Tuesday, with players and staff given a day to recoup after several weeks of workouts and games in preparation for the long season… The Nationals will return to action on Wednesday night at home in Viera, Fla., against the Houston Astros. The game will be broadcast on MASN… MLB Network and MLB Network Radio will be on-site at Nationals camp this week, so be on the lookout for some interesting content in the coming days from those two outlets.

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

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by Amanda Comak

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

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

Player of the Day: Steven Souza Jr. 

Steven Souza Jr.

Steven Souza Jr.

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

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

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

Quote of the Day: Ryan Zimmerman

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

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

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

Video highlights:

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

Jeff Kobernus scores on a wild pitch.

Notables:

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

Nationals play first game under new instant replay rules

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by Amanda Comak

KISSIMMEE, Fla. – The Washington Nationals will play their first game with the availability of instant replay Wednesday, joining a number of teams that have already gotten their first crack at the new system. While the squad will be split, with one group headed to Orlando to face the Atlanta Braves, the entire Major League coaching staff will be at Osceola County Stadium for the team’s first game under the new rules.

The Nationals will play five games with the use of instant replay this spring, giving the players and the coaching staff a chance to get accustomed to a system that will be in place for all 162 regular season games.

Nationals Manager Matt Williams could get his first chance to challenge a call on Wednesday.

Nationals Manager Matt Williams could get his first chance to challenge a call on Wednesday.

“It’s good practice for us — for everybody,” said manager Matt Williams. “If there’s a questionable call we are going to challenge that call during the course of our spring games, so we get a sense of what it is and how we go about doing it. There’s also the opportunity to talk to (the umpires) and not have to use a challenge. The umpires have told us they’re willing to do that because they want to get it right as well. (But) we’re here (in Spring Training). We might as well do it and get accustomed to it while we’re here.”

On Wednesday, the Nationals planned to have Advance Scouting and Video Coordinators Erick Dalton and Chris Rosenbaum at their posts in front of the same feed that the MLB offices in New York will be getting. If a call arises that the team would like to replay, Dalton and Rosenbaum will communicate with bench coach Randy Knorr and they’ll go from there.

The instant replay system is still in its infancy, and everyone will have to go through a process of getting accustomed to the various procedures. One of the main ones for teams to consider is that if a manager uses his challenge in innings one through six, and he is wrong, he loses the ability to challenge again. But if he is correct, and the call gets overturned, he will keep his ability to challenge.

To read more about the new rules, click here.

How a team will use its challenges will be one of the more interesting items to watch in the early going, and Williams shed a little light on his thinking in that regard.

“I think if it means something to our team, we’re going to use it,” Williams said. “And if we’re confident that we’re right, we’re going to get another one. In any situation where something like that comes up, I would imagine I’d ask the umpires to take a look at it. If we have to get to a situation where we challenge, then we’ll challenge, but we’d have to be confident we’ll get it changed for our team. It’ll be fluid with every game because every game presents something different.

“If you’re sure the call should go your way, you might as well use it because you’re going to get another opportunity. The sticky one is the one that is questionable, where it’s not conclusive one way or another — and there are those calls, even with slow motion and all the technology. You want to be right. If you are right, you get another one. So we’ll see how that goes.”

A lot will go into each decision to decide to challenge a call, starting with the video coordinators, funneling through Knorr, and ultimately ending with Williams’ decision to use the word “challenge” in a conversation with the umpires. Game situations will be considered, along with the team’s confidence in the fact that an errant call was made. It adds a new layer to the game, without question, but the ultimate goal of everyone involved is the same: to get the calls right.

“It doesn’t hurt to go have a look,” Williams said. “This game is played with emotion, and it’s played with eyes, and the want to win. That being said, often times we get clouded, too, in our view of things, because we want our team to win. It’s going to allow us to have clarification and to be clear about what we’re seeing.

“We always think when your pitcher’s throwing it, it’s a strike, and when our batter’s taking it, it’s a ball. But this gives us clarification in (other) scenarios.”

The rain was falling steadily at Osceola County Stadium late Wednesday morning, so there was some question whether or not the Nationals would indeed get their first replay opportunity on this day. Whenever it comes, though, they’ll welcome it.

“I’m looking forward to it because it is what it is,” Williams said. “It’s part of our game right now and we have to do it so I’m excited about that… I’m looking forward to the opportunity for us to potentially get a call changed our way and win a game.”

From the Desk of Mark D. Lerner: Checking in from Spring Training

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Hello, everyone.

Let me start by stating that things could not be better here in Viera. The weather is wonderful, the workouts are crisp and the results have been encouraging. Yes, a team’s Grapefruit League winning percentage can, at times, be misleading, but winning games is always better than the alternative.

Ian Desmond is off to a strong start this spring.

Ian Desmond is off to a strong start this spring.

Seven wins, four losses and a tie. But what is most encouraging is how Manager Matt Williams has them playing the game. I love the aggressive base running. Taking an extra base. How fantastic was it to see Danny Espinosa score from second base on Saturday on a dribbler back to the pitcher? This brand of baseball really is infectious.

Fifteen home runs in 12 games. Only five allowed. That’s a good ratio.

Strong offensive starts from stalwarts like Ian Desmond (.286, 2 HR, 3 RBI), Adam LaRoche (2 HR, 4 RBI), Wilson Ramos (.474, HR, 10 RBI) and Ryan Zimmerman (.389, HR, 2 RBI) among others.

And many of our young players are making their marks. Zach Walters is hitting .615 with four extra-base hits and five RBI. He is as hot as anyone. Brian Goodwin and Michael A. Taylor have each made memorable catches in the outfield. Matt Skole hit .357 and four of his five hits went for extra bases before he was assigned to Minor League camp earlier this week so that he can get additional at-bats.

  • I have not even mentioned the pitching. There truly are too many to name, but I’ll risk mentioning three standouts: Taylor Jordan (team-leading 11 strikeouts), Jerry Blevins (3.2 hitless innings) and A.J. Cole (6.2 scoreless innings).

    Taylor Jordan has performed exceptionally well in his first Major League camp.

    Taylor Jordan has performed exceptionally well in his first Major League camp.

  • Forgive me if I think it is 2005 all over again watching Jamey Carroll and Luis Ayala perform admirably as they battle for roster spots. Jamey’s approach at the plate (.333 OBP), base running and defensive versatility are all a real plus. Meanwhile, Luis can throw a strike whenever he needs to. He has that same veteran savvy gene our friend Livan Hernandez had during his playing days.
  • And Matt Williams? What’s not to like? Crisp, precise and purposeful baseball usually yields wins. I love what Matt brings to our dugout and clubhouse. I especially like how our team has taken to his aggressive nature.
  • I was pleased to see President of Baseball Operations and General Manager Mike Rizzo sign Michael Gonzalez to a Minor League deal last weekend. Gonzalez was a big part of our bullpen’s success in 2012 and there are very few southpaw relievers who can match his experience in tight situations. Welcome back Michael!
  • I just counted. Only three of the club’s 18 errors have been committed by players who were “regulars” in Washington last season. And one of those miscues was charged to Mr. Perfect, Denard Span! Remember, Denard did not commit an error last season. As I have said before, he should have won a Gold Glove!
  • I’d like to thank all of our fans in Central Florida, but especially those from our local area on the Space Coast (Viera, Melbourne and Rockledge). The crowds for the Cardinals and Yankees games in the last week were the two largest we have ever enjoyed hosting.
  • As for our fans from back home, I’ve had quite a few friends remark upon arrival in Viera about the significant pockets of Nationals fans on their flights from DC to Orlando. It’s hard to ignore all the smiles and Curly W shirts, sweaters and hats. It is great to see so many of our fans catching on to just how special Spring Training is.

Until next time …

Mark

Tyler Clippard wins Nationals Fan Choice Bobblehead Vote

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by Amanda Comak

The votes are in.

After almost five full days of voting — via Twitter, Facebook and text — we have a winner for the seventh and final bobblehead giveaway of the season.

Right-handed reliever Tyler Clippard will be immortalized in bobblehead form and will be honored with a bobblehead night on Sept. 27 when the Nationals play the Miami Marlins at Nationals Park. The first 25,000 fans will receive Clippard’s bobblehead, so make sure you’re in attendance to nab one: www.nationals.com/tickets

Thanks to all the fans who participated — with special kudos going to David Salzberg and Jeanne Henderson, who were two of our contest winners. We counted up every single vote and you propelled Clippard over first baseman Adam LaRoche and manager Matt Williams with 65 percent of the votes.

Clippard’s response to winning was pretty simple: “It’s happening!”

Without further ado, a thank you from the bobblehead winner himself:

And the winner of the #NatsBobbleVote is…

A video posted by @nationals on

Need help deciding who to vote for in the Fan Choice Bobblehead contest?

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by Amanda Comak

VIERA, Fla. — On Monday, the Washington Nationals announced three finalists for their Fan Choice Bobblehead contest: right-hander Tyler Clippard, first baseman Adam LaRoche and manager Matt Williams. The winner will receive the honor of a bobblehead night on Sept. 27 when the Nationals play the Miami Marlins, and the first 25,000 fans will receive the winning bobblehead.

And you, the fans, have a chance to impact who that winner will be. Unlimited voting runs through Friday, Feb. 28, and the winning bobblehead will be announced on Monday, March 3. All of the information on voting, along with some of the fantastic prizes you’ll be entered to win just for casting your vote, can be found here: nationals.com/bobblevote.

But just in case you were having a little trouble deciding which of the worthy candidates to vote for, we’ve got a few videos to help make the candidates’ cases. Check ‘em out!

#ClippardBobble

#LaRocheBobble

#WilliamsBobble

Everyone who votes will be entered to win prize packages featuring the winning bobblehead, game tickets or an on-field batting practice viewing experience. You have three different ways to cast your vote for pitcher Tyler Clippard, first baseman Adam LaRoche or manager Matt Williams.

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

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Hello, everyone.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time …

Mark

Wrapping up the final day before the full squad reports

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by Amanda Comak

VIERA, Fla. — Wednesday morning, for the final time this spring, the Washington Nationals pitchers and catchers took to the backfields at the team’s training complex without their position player teammates. The full-squad workouts will be upon them beginning Thursday morning and they wrapped up another pristine day under the Florida sun by welcoming everyone into the clubhouse at Space Coast Stadium.

Everyone, including outfielder Bryce Harper, who spent a few minutes with the local media discussing the health of his knee and his readiness for the 2014 season.

“I’m good,” Harper said. “I’m solid. Solid as can be… My knee is completely fine.”

“We worked hard all offseason,” Harper added, telling reporters he is down to 220 pounds after weighing in at 236 in mid-January. “I worked my tail off to get to this point. I feel like I’m where I need to be. I’m excited to start games and feel how I slide and run and hit in games. Just that feel on there will help me pass some things, and I feel good about.”

Harper, along with the other 61 active players in this year’s Major League camp, will be on the fields on Thursday for the first time together as this unit.

Until then, hopefully a few snaps from the past few days of workouts will tide you over:

Exclusive footage from the Nationals’ quadcopter

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by Amanda Comak

Viera, Fla. — There was a buzz about Washington Nationals camp this week as pitchers and catchers got on the field for the first time in 2014. A literal buzz.

It was coming from photographer Donald Miralle’s latest toy, a quadcopter with a GoPro camera inside it, capturing video and still footage from high above the team’s workout.

“Everybody is always looking for a new opportunity to get the different angle, right?” said Nationals Manager Matt Williams, who, like many members of the Nationals, was intrigued by the device. “So it was good. I can’t wait to see the footage. It’s quiet enough that guys don’t really notice it when they’re out there. I asked them not to throw any baseballs at it or anything like that. And they said, ‘Okay, skip, we won’t do that.'”

Miralle, a San Diego resident, was happy to explain what he was using. He spent a few minutes with right-hander Stephen Strasburg showing off the equipment, along with past photos he’d taken with it — including an incredible shot from above the Pacific Ocean showing the sharks gathering. 

“Technology is crazy,” Strasburg later told reporters. “I guess you can go down to the hobby store and get one yourself.”

With all the attention being paid to the quadcopter, the question was asked numerous times if there might be some analytical value to the footage that the Nationals’ scouting department may be able to utilize. So far, it’s simply art.

“They’re just gathering footage of camp,” Williams said. “It was cool. I’d like to fly it. I’d like to clear everybody out of the stadium and see if I could do it.”

Photo by Donald Miralle.

Photo by Donald Miralle.

Recapping the first two days of Spring Training

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by Amanda Comak

The first two days of Spring Training 2014 have gone off without a hitch. And as more and more position players roll into camp, the pitchers and catchers continue on their head start toward the season. Here are a few snaps from the first two days of workouts here in Viera, Fla., along with some live video below.

Ross Detwiler, Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann all worked in the bullpen during Sunday morning’s first session:

Craig Stammen, Gabriel Alfaro and Blake Treinen followed in the second group:

Tyler Clippard, Jerry Blevins and Drew Storen rolled in with the third group:

Back at Space Coast Stadium, where a few of the early-reporting position players worked out, Nate McLouth, Matt Skole and Anthony Rendon took a little batting practice:

Manager Matt Williams even got in on the fun, hitting grounders to the infielders and, as seen here, throwing some batting practice of his own to Jamey Carroll:

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