Results tagged ‘ Matt Williams ’

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:

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:

He Who Holds The Ball Controls The Game

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by Amanda Comak

VIERA, Fla. — The words sit atop the printed schedule posted in the clubhouse each day. They’re tone-setters, for the most part. Conversation starters, in an ideal world. They are meant to be the first thing the Washington Nationals players see when they check the schedule each morning, and to help put them in the proper mindset each day.

“He who holds the ball controls the game,” read the line atop Saturday’s schedule as pitchers and catchers went through their first workout of the spring, and manager Matt Williams’ first at the helm of the club.

schedule

In a brief morning meeting, Williams made his feelings on the potential for the team clear and he had a simple message: Whatever this season will become for a talent-laden Nationals squad, it started Saturday. 

Matt Williams holds his first meeting as Nationals manager.

Matt Williams holds his first meeting of the spring. (Photo by Donald Miralle)

The quotes have drawn a lot of attention this first week. Players notice them. Members of the media are intrigued by them. Sometimes, Williams has warned, it won’t be a full quote but just a word. That will be their word for the day.

“I want them to talk about it,” Williams said later, during his session with the media. “As an example, today’s quote is, ‘He who holds the ball controls the game.’ I want them to have a conversation about that, and talk amongst themselves. This is pitcher-catcher camp, it starts with the guy who holds the ball — we can control tempo, we can control the game if we do things properly on the mound. I want them to start that conversation.

“That, and I want them to be reminded that that’s the way we think as a staff. We think that everything starts and stops with our pitching staff, and if we do things properly, we’ve got a chance every night. Pretty simple stuff, but it’s just a reminder to get them talking.”

The schedule runs through all 41 days of Spring Training, and right now there are 41 quotes or words of the day printed out.

As Williams’ session with the media went on, and more questions about the quotes followed, he chuckled.

“Really, they’re not that great,” he said with a shrug. “Most of them are not that great. But most of them pertain to our team, what we want them to accomplish, and how we want them to go about it, so it’s kind of (just) for us.”

Nationals acquire catcher Jose Lobaton, LHP Felipe Rivero and OF Drew Vettleson from Tampa Bay

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by Amanda Comak

VIERA, Fla. – The Washington Nationals shored up their catching corps and added more talent to the upper levels of their Minor League system on Thursday, acquiring catcher Jose Lobaton, left-hander Felipe Rivero and outfielder Drew Vettleson from the Tampa Bay Rays.

In exchange, the Nationals sent right-handed starter Nathan Karns to the Rays. To clear space for Rivero on the team’s 40-man roster, right-hander Erik Davis was placed on the 60-day disabled list with a right elbow sprain.

Lobaton, 29, hit .249 with a .320 on-base percentage and .394 slugging percentage in 311 plate appearances with the Rays in 2013. Splitting time with veteran Jose Molina, Lobaton — who is considered an above-average defensive receiver — helped guide the vaunted Tampa Bay pitching staff to the fifth-lowest team ERA in the American League.

The Venezuela native joins countrymen Wilson Ramos and Sandy Leon, along with Jhonatan Solano, as catchers on the Nationals’ 40-man roster and gives Manager Matt Williams a strong layer of depth behind Ramos.

He became an October hero in 2013, crushing a walk-off home run for the Rays off Boston Red Sox closer Koji Uehara in Game 3 of the American League Division Series.

Rivero, 22, went 9-7 with a 3.40 ERA in 25 games/23 starts for Charlotte of the Florida State League in 2013. Rated by FanGraphs.com as the No. 10 prospect in Tampa Bay’s organization, Rivero’s fastball has been clocked as high as 96 mph. His nine wins paced Single-A Charlotte, as did his 127.0 innings pitched.

He participated in the 2012 XM All-Star Futures Game in Kansas City and earned Midwest League mid-season All-Star honors while with Single-A Bowling Green.  Rivero was signed by the Rays on July 30, 2008 and is a native of San Felipe, Venezuela.

Vettleson, originally selected by the Rays in the first round (42nd overall) of the 2010 First-Year Player Draft out of Central Kitsap (WA) High School, was ranked as the No. 8 prospect in the Rays’ organization entering the 2014 season by Keith Law from ESPN.com.

The 22-year old spent the 2013 season with Single-A Charlotte, hitting .274 with 29 doubles, six triples, four home runs, 62 RBI and 50 runs scored.  During the 2012 campaign in which he played 132 games for Single-A Bowling Green, Vettleson set a Bowling Green franchise record with 139 hits and his 15 home runs and 69 RBI were both in the top five among Rays minor leaguers.  In two of his first three professional seasons, Vettleson also stole at least 20 bases.

Following the 2012 season, he was named an MiLB.com Organization All-Star, a Midwest League All-Star and Bowling Green’s Most Valuable Player.

Vettleson, a native of Bremerton, Washington, was cited by Baseball America as being the Best Pure Hitter among high school talents entering the 2010 Draft.

Karns, 26, was the Nationals 2012 Minor League Pitcher of the Year and made three starts for the Nationals in 2013.

In 54 Minor League starts, from the Gulf Coast League up through Double-A Harrisburg, Karns has a career Minor League ERA of 2.66. The hard-throwing right-hander was selected in the 12th round of the 2009 First-Year Player Draft out of Texas Tech University.

Davis, 27, went 1-0 with a 3.12 ERA in 10 games with the Nationals last season, his first in which he appeared in the Major Leagues.

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