Results tagged ‘ Michael Morse ’

Past the First Bowie

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With the Nationals enjoying an early off day Friday following their thrilling, 2-1 victory over the Cubs at Wrigley Field on Opening Day, we decided to make the 20 mile drive northeast from Nationals Park to Price George’s Stadium, home of the Bowie Bay Sox. Why, you might ask, would we do such a thing? We wanted to check in on Rick Ankiel and Michael Morse, both on Major League rehab assignments with the Double-A Harrisburg Senators, who opened their season in Bowie. We also wanted a chance to see a couple of prospects – Destin Hood and Danny Rosenbaum – play in a real game.

Rick Ankiel taking batting practice in Bowie. He would go on to homer on the first pitch he saw in the game.

While we didn’t get a chance to see Rosenbaum, a starting pitcher whose turn of the rotation lands on Sunday, we got more than our fill of Ankiel and Morse, despite each taking only three at-bats. They each looked healthy enough right from the start. Ankiel swatted the first pitch he saw deep out of the park to the opposite field, and Morse followed with a ringing double off the wall in right-center. Morse saved his best at-bat for last, though, blasting a towering shot the opposite way that hung in the air forever and still got out on a chilly Maryland night.

We also saw prospects Eury Perez and Jeff Kobernus each deliver two-hit nights, both using their speed to their advantage. Both put pressure on the defense with bunts and both stole a bag, contributing to the 5-2 victory. While Hood had an off night at the plate, he looked impressive in his batting practice rounds and clearly is a player to keep an eye on over the next couple of years.

Back to big league ball today, as Nationals fans will get their first regular season look at Gio Gonzalez at Wrigley Field. We’ll have more here at Curly W Live following the game.

Open For Business

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Whew. If there was any question of how the Nationals would respond to the pressures of expectation in 2012, they showed some good signs in their first game of the season on Thursday. However, we’ll all have to wait until Saturday before enjoying chapter two.

The quirky schedule gave the team a day off Friday after just the one game. While players might normally want to save that break for a time later in the season, our fans could certainly use the chance to catch their collective breath after a nerve-wracking, gut-checking, come-from-behind victory over the Cubs on Opening Day at Wrigley Field. This is the type of game they should come to expect, though. With the way this Nationals team is built, there are likely to be a good number of well-pitched, tight, low-scoring affairs all season long. And there will be 161 more games in the next 180 days, so brace yourselves.

Stephen Strasburg looked like a seasoned veteran through seven solid innings in his first Opening Day start.

The opener had a bit of everything to make for an exciting affair: great starting pitching, would-be home runs (knocked down by the wind), sparkling defense, and a pair of late rallies, one to tie the score and the other to put Washington in front for good. Many of the offseason storylines were tested immediately. Could the top two spots in the order get on base? Check – Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa combined to reach safely in five of their 10 plate appearances. How would Stephen Strasburg fare in his first Opening Day start? His line – 7.0 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 5 K – suggests he was more than up to the task. And what kind of impact could we expect from Davey Johnson’s revamped bench? Look no further than Chad Tracy’s double, which led to Brett Carroll scoring the game-winning run in the ninth. It’s as strong a first impression as Johnson could have hoped for from this group in its collective debut. So on a day when the team managed just four hits, the rest of the pieces came together to get the Nationals that all-important first Curly W.

We need not worry about Ryan Zimmerman, either, whose 0-for-2 (with two walks) performance would have been a 2-for-2 with a pair of home runs, if not for the sharp, gusting wind coming in off Lake Michigan and directly over the center field wall. The third baseman showed just how deep his value really is, though, with two superb defensive plays. He bailed out Wilson Ramos on a pick and swipe tag to catch Alfonso Soriano stealing in the fourth inning, before reversing roles and gunning down Joe Mather at the plate in the ninth (with Ramos applying the nice tag) to preserve the one-run victory.

Jayson Werth couldn't be happier to be reunited with teammate Brad Lidge.

Jayson Werth also had a potential run-scoring, extra-base hit knocked down by the wind early. However, he came up with a great defensive play of his own and battled back from an 0-2 count to draw a bases loaded walk, forcing in the game-tying run in the eighth inning. That’s what team leaders are supposed to do: find ways to contribute, no matter what the circumstance. Werth is one of the best in the game at finding ways beyond the box score to do that. Don’t take our word for it, though. Pick up the first edition of Nationals Magazine when you’re at the ballpark starting next week and read all about it.

There should be no lingering questions surrounding Brad Lidge and his stuff at this point, either. One of Johnson’s fill-in closers (along with Henry Rodriguez), Lidge utterly overwhelmed Reed Johnson with a slider and froze Marlon Byrd with a perfectly painted fastball to end the game. He could be the steal of the offseason for Johnson and GM Mike Rizzo, providing veteran leadership to the back end of the bullpen and the occasional save when called upon.

Nevertheless, it will be great to get Drew Storen back, as it will be to have outfielders Michael Morse and Rick Ankiel in Washington again. Morse and Ankiel are both on rehab assignments with Double-A Harrisburg, which is playing just up the road in Bowie this week.

In the meantime, breathe easy and enjoy the day off. There’s been plenty to talk about, but we’re just one game in. At the end of the day, though, the team is 1-0. And that’s as good of a place as you can be one game into the marathon that is the Major League Baseball season.

Rounding Out The Roles

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There will be days like this, in 2012. Days when Stephen Strasburg is not on the mound, when the middle of the lineup, the brand name stars, do not carry the offense. And while it may not feel this way, these games will count just as much as the ones that get all the attention. If the Nationals are to make this season a successful one, they’ll have to win these games too, just as they did on Monday, when John Lannan and Roger Bernadina led the way in a 7-4 victory over the Astros in Viera.

As manager Davey Johnson is still trying to figure out his final outfield roster for Opening Day, Bernadina is making a strong late push for more playing time. After a fairly quiet spring, “The Shark” has flipped the switch over the last two games, combining to go 5-for-6 with a walk, two home runs and six RBI. A suddenly dialed-in Bernadina could go a long way in extending the depth of the lineup with Michael Morse still in question for Opening Day.

MLB Network was on hand for Washington's 7-4 win over Houston on Monday.

Bernadina thanks hitting coach Rick Eckstein for helping him with an adjustment that he credits with the difference in his performance.

“I’ve been working on my direction towards the field,” Bernadina explained after thumping a two-run shot to deep right-center in his final at-bat Monday. “For me, it’s just the key. When I’m coming off, pulling off pitches, I have no chance at breaking balls, off-speed pitches.”

It’s not just the timing of his swing that is on track right now. He couldn’t have picked a better time to start hitting, with just over a week left before the beginning of the regular season.

“It’s always good to get going at the end (of Spring Training),” he admitted. “Definitely.”

As for one of the other most talked-about competitions in camp, the fifth starter role is officially Lannan’s. Johnson made the announcement even before Lannan earned his second win of the spring with five solid innings of work, over which he allowed a couple runs while fanning five. He will give the Nationals a second lefty – along with Gio Gonzalez – to complement righties Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann and Edwin Jackson. The decision also means Ross Detwiler, who followed Lannan’s start on Monday, will come of out the bullpen as the swing-man in April.

We also got our first look at a save situation since Johnson announced Drew Storen may not be ready in time for Opening Day. Henry Rodriguez, who earned a pair of saves last season, put the Astros away quietly to preserve the victory.

We’ll have details tomorrow on the par-3 challenge that a good number of the players and coaches are participating in Monday evening. For now, here are the team’s results to date:

vs. Georgetown (exhibition) – W, 3-0

@ Houston – L, 3-1

vs. Houston – L, 10-2

@ New York (NL) – W, 3-1

@ Atlanta – W, 5-2

vs. St. Louis – T, 3-3

vs. Houston – W, 8-0

@ Miami – L, 3-0

vs. New York (NL) – W, 8-2

@ Detroit – T, 5-5

@ St. Louis – Canceled (rain)

vs. St. Louis – W, 8-4

vs. Detroit – L, 6-3

@ Atlanta – L, 6-5

vs. New York (AL) – L, 8-5

@ New York (AL) – L, 4-3 (10)

vs. Miami – T, 1-1

vs. Detroit – L, 11-7

@ New York (NL) – L, 2-0

vs. Atlanta – L, 3-2 (10)

@ St. Louis – L, 9-0

@ Houston – L, 5-1

@ Baltimore – L, 12-3

vs. New York (NL) – W, 12-0

vs. Houston – W, 7-4

@ Miami – Tuesday, 1:05pm

Overall Record: 7-13-3

Dever’s (Almost) Daily Diary

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Greetings from (partly) sunny Viera, where the temps were expected to reach the 80s today. So far, the weather has been more than agreeable for players, fans and executives alike.

My name is John Dever and I am the Nationals Senior Director of Baseball Media Relations. Over the next week and a half, I am going to blogging about the various sights and sounds … and storylines of the Nationals 2012 Spring camp. I hope these insights prime your appetites for the upcoming 2012 season, which – I think it is fair to say – is the most-anticipated since your Nationals landed in DC in 2005.

Let’s get started:

*Yesterday was Michael Morse’s first full day in camp. Morse showed up the day before and dropped off a few things, but yesterday he was present early. Judging from the gaggle of Taiwanese reporters talking to him today, he is still basking in the afterglow of his tour of Taiwan with an MLB All-Star Team last November. For those of you unaware, Morse participated in MLB’s five-game tour of various Taiwanese ballparks. Morse’s jovial demeanor, size and especially his batting stance were big hits on the trip.

Chien-Ming Wang throws at camp in Viera.

I was told by some MLB staffers that Morse was the tour’s second-biggest draw, behind only … (surprise!) Chien-Ming Wang himself. In fact, during the pregame introductions to Game One, Morse was introduced by the P.A. announcer as “Washington Nationals first baseman, and a good friend of Chien-Ming Wang’s, No. 38 Michael Morse.”

In chatting with Morse later in the day, he said the Taiwanese media had asked him about his memories of the Tour, the special glove made in Taiwan, Wang and … of course … Jeremy Lin.

*I noticed that one of the groups to make the mound yesterday included Edwin Jackson, John Lannan, Ross Detwiler and Jordan Zimmermann. Not a bad quartet. Let’s just say that if these four comprised our rotation any season from 2006-11, we all would have been thrilled. Then I remembered that Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Wang threw yesterday. Boy, Davey Johnson and Steve McCatty have their work cut out for them.

*Had a nice chat with Ryan Perry today. Physically, I’d describe him as sturdy. OK, that is an understatement. He’s strong. Perry’s fastball will play, as it reportedly sits in the mid-90s. He’s a former first-rounder of the Tigers in 2008. Perry is thrilled to be here. The trade (in exchanged for RHP Collin Balester on Dec. 9th) presented Perry a new opportunity. As we chatted, Perry was very interested to see Strasburg perform. Perry has obviously heard a lot of great things, but he wants to see how his power and repertoire compares and contrasts to that of Justin Verlander, who was his teammate with the Tigers for three years.

Edwin Jackson chats with pitching coach Steve McCatty.

*I’d like to close my first Diary of the Spring season by recognizing the seemingly never-ending efforts of our catchers, including our bullpen catchers. We have five catchers in camp, plus two bullpen guys: Wilson Ramos, Jesus Flores, Jhonatan Solano, Sandy Leon, Carlos Maldonado, Nilson Robledo (bullpen) and Julian Martinez (bullpen). These seven guys catch all 25 guys in camp. And when they finish, they practice blocking balls in drills that can only be described as brutal. Then they work on conditioning. And then they hit. All in about 2.5 hours.

As physical as the catchers’ tolls can be, they all have to remain sharp mentally. Today, for instance, Davey Johnson spent an extended period of time questioning Ramos about Jackson and his delivery. Davey never misses an opportunity to talk to catchers and batters about what they are seeing, because that is one vantage point that he cannot account for.

Well, thank you for joining me. I’ll be in touch again soon with another installment.

43 Days until Opening Day at Wrigley Field. And we are just 50 shy of Opening Day at Nationals Park!

Return Of The “Pack”

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Preparation for the upcoming season extends to every facet of the organization, including our gameday staff. One of our most important teams of staff members, which you will most certainly recognize if you have ever been to a game at Nationals Park, is the NatPack.

Have you ever wondered just who these young men and women are who come together to help make your in-park experience as fun as possible? Have you ever wished you were one of them? We will hold a two-day tryout – Saturday, January 28 and Sunday January 29 at Nationals Park – to find the best of the best for this year’s NatPack. With the excitement building around the 2012 season, these tryouts promise to be full of Nationals fans looking for a chance to represent their favorite team on the field.

Do you think you have what it takes to make the team? NatPack vets Katie and Kenny share their experiences, their advice and what they are looking forward to in 2012.

Curly W Live: What does it take to be a member of the NatPack?

Katie shows her support for Michael Morse as a candidate in the 2011 All-Star Game Final Vote.

Katie: You have to be outgoing, personable and enthusiastic so you can give the fans a memorable and positive experience every time they come to the ballpark. You also need to be able to handle the pressure of working a live event because things will not always go as planned.  At any moment, you need to be ready to step up and handle what is thrown your way.

Kenny: You have to be comfortable talking to people and have an outgoing personality. You also have to have a positive outlook on things and circumstances, as certain situations such as the final score or other factors may not turn out your way during a game.

CWL: What has been your favorite moment at the ballpark?

Katie: I had the opportunity to work the game where Stephen Strasburg pitched his Major League debut.  I have never seen the stadium buzzing with that much energy and it made my role even more exciting!

Kenny: My favorite moment at the ballpark last season was the concert that featured Lifehouse after the game.  It was the first time be a part of. It’s always good to say that you witnessed something or were a part of something the first time it occurred.

CWL: What has been your favorite off-the-field memory?

Katie: The unveiling of the new jerseys.  We had the chance to help advertise the new look of the team.

Kenny: The road trip to the Pittsburgh Pirates stadium (PNC Park) and taking the Racing Presidents with us.  This has been an annual trip for the last few seasons, but this year we were able to take some of our new NatPack members and Racing Presidents.  It’s nice to interact with fans from a different team and just see how other entertainment teams operate.

CWL: What keeps you coming back to be a part of the NatPack year after year?

Katie: The whole team we work with. They are all so amazing, and we have created many memories together as a family. Everyone is so dedicated to their jobs and it makes it a fun experience for all. Mingling with fans and keeping them happy is just part of my everyday job and it gives me a lot of satisfaction at the end of the day to know that they are going home happy.

Kenny escorts Olympic gold medalist Dominique Dawes.

Kenny: I keep coming back to be a part of the NatPack year after year because I have unfinished work to be completed. I have been a part of the NatPack since the very beginning in 2005 but I have not been able to see the team make it the playoffs or make it to the World Series. With all that I have seen, and all that I have accomplished with the Nat Pack I feel as though seeing my team make the playoffs and win the World Series would be perhaps the final hurdle.

CWL: What is something you didn’t know about the Nat Pack until you arrived?

Katie: It is a job that involves a lot of teamwork and loyalty to your fellow NatPackers. If you can’t work together and communicate with each other, the job will not be easy.

Kenny: I didn’t realize how long a baseball season could be, especially when you’re working 50% or more of the games. I have gotten used to it and very much enjoy spending a good portion of my spring and summer entertaining fans and watching baseball. 

CWL: What is your best piece of advice for all aspiring NatPack members?

Katie: Be yourself and don’t hold back.

Kenny: For any and all aspiring NatPack members my best piece of advice is to be as creative as possible.  As a member of the NatPack you have to have a winning attitude and you have to be on top of your game at all times, as the fans expect nothing but the best from you.

Auditions for the 2012 NatPack take place on Saturday, January 28 and Sunday, January 29 at Nationals Park. Send a photo, resume and cover letter here by Monday, January 23 for your chance to join in on the fun.

So This Is The New Year

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There is something refreshingly cathartic about the cycle of years and seasons. The end of the old always brings with it the beginning of a new era, another chance to be better than before. While this is true of every baseball season, it is no stretch to say that the buzz — the excitement, the energy, the hope — that is floating around the 2012 Nationals is unlike anything that Washington has seen since the team moved to The District in 2005.

This hope does not come without good reason. There is the prospect of a healthy Stephen Strasburg electrifying the top of the rotation every five days. He will be followed by two more dynamic, budding stars in Jordan Zimmermann and the recently acquired Gio Gonzalez, all three 26 years-old or younger. Solid, sturdy veterans Chien-Ming Wang and John Lannan will be in the mix with the promising Ross Detwiler, bringing stability to the back end of the starting staff.

Drew Storen will look to follow up on a rookie season in which he saved 43 games.

From there, another set of power arms takes over in the bullpen, led by 2011 All-Star Tyler Clippard and anchored by closer Drew Storen, who in his rookie campaign became just the second National ever to notch 40 saves in a season. Add in flamethrower Henry Rodriguez, who regularly touches triple digits on the radar gun, and you’ve got three more exciting arms, again all under the age of 27.

In the lineup, the Nationals will look for a healthy year from Ryan Zimmerman. DC’s under-the-radar superstar began last season hot before suffering an abdominal strain that hampered his production throughout the year. Still just 27 years of age, the third baseman will look to return to his form of the previous five seasons, during which he averaged 37 doubles, 23 home runs and 89 RBI while playing in an average of 145 games.

Jayson Werth, meanwhile, will look to reestablish himself as the player who received MVP votes in each of his two seasons prior to joining the Nationals. While he reached the 20-home run plateau for the fourth consecutive season in 2011, a return to form across the board in his numbers would make the middle of the Nationals lineup that much more formidable to opposing pitching staffs.

Mike Morse was one of the National League's best hitters in 2011.

Joining that pair will be 2011’s breakout star, Michael Morse. The numbers don’t lie — Morse hit .303 with 36 doubles, 31 home runs, 95 RBI and a .550 slugging percentage. But to understand just how good Morse’s season was, consider the following: he had more doubles and home runs than Troy Tulowitzki, and a higher slugging percentage than Albert Pujols (see for yourself). In fact, besides the NL MVP, Morse was the only player in the National League to bat over .300 with 35 or more doubles, 30 or more home runs and a slugging percentage of .550 or better. The return of “The Beast” to the middle of the lineup should be a welcome sight for Nats fans everywhere.

Another returnee for 2012 who impressed last year was rookie infielder Danny Espinosa, who will look to build on the power potential he flashed during his 21-home run performance last season. Coupled with the slick glove work he often showed at second base, the former Long Beach State shortstop may just prove he owns that rare combination of being a versatile middle infielder with pop from both sides of the plate. Oh, and he won’t turn 25 until after Opening Day.

Even after trading four prospects to the Oakland Athletics in the Gonzalez deal, there is still plenty of talent waiting in the wings, ready to contribute in the future. Top prospects like lefthander Matt Purke and infielder Anthony Rendon are poised to join Bryce Harper in the years to come, but that discussion is for another time.

Bryce Harper headlines the next wave of Nationals prospects.

While the future remains very bright for this team, make no mistake, the window has officially opened. With the Gonzalez trade, EVP of Baseball Operations and GM Mike Rizzo not only added one of the premiere left-handed power arms in the game, he announced that he is not waiting for some distant tomorrow to contend.

“Gio’s ample talents are well known and chronicled,” said Rizzo after inking the lefty to a five-year extension on Sunday. “Now both Gio and our fans can shift their focus and excitement to his debut in DC knowing that their relationship won’t be ending in the short term.”

Of course, the road will not be easy. With the flurry of acquisitions made by the new Miami Marlins, the NL East has improved to the point of challenging its American League counterpart as the toughest division in baseball. And speaking of that AL East, the Nats will draw the perennial powerhouse in Interleague Play this year, making the schedule that much tougher. The good news is, should Washington survive this gauntlet and (gasp!) force its way into the picture for the potentially expanding postseason field, this young Nationals squad will have already faced the toughest teams in the league.

If you’ve been following the Nats from the beginning, your best days certainly appear to be ahead of you. If 2012 marks the beginning of your fandom, then welcome. Strap yourself in and enjoy the ride.

2011 Winter Meetings Q&A with GM Mike Rizzo

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You asked, and Nationals EVP of Baseball Operations and GM Mike Rizzo is ready to answer. We gathered questions from Nationals fans far and wide for this exclusive fan Q&A with the man tasked with shaping your Washington Nationals.

From Facebook, Bryce J. wants to know: Higher priority, finding a dominant #2 to follow Strasburg in the rotation or a positional player to shore up the 3-4-5 while Harper learns the ropes?

Mike Rizzo: I think it’s imperative to find both. We feel we have in-house candidates for the number two starter behind Stras’. Jordan Zimmermann had a terrific year last year, really a breakthrough year for him. We expect bigger and better things – it will be his first full season off of Tommy John surgery – so we’re excited for big things from him. We’re always looking to improve the rotation. You can never have enough good, quality starting pitching in this division, so we’re always in the market for that.

A big bat would be something that would really jump-start our offense. We feel like we’re going to be stronger and better than we were last year with the current players that we have. We feel like a year of experience for our young, middle-of-the-field guys like Wilson Ramos, Danny Espinosa and Ian Desmond is going to do nothing but help them. We’re looking for another outstanding season from Michael Morse, a healthy season from Ryan Zimmerman and Adam LaRoche, and a bounce-back season from Jayson Werth, so we feel like we’re going to be better in that regard. But you can never have too much offense, and good, young two-way players – offensively and defensively with athleticism – are always what we’re looking for.

On Twitter, @gonastynats asks: So what IS #RogerBernadina’s future w/ the #Nationals? Is he our CF next year, or what?

MR: Roger is a terrific talent, he’s got great skills. He’s a guy who can play defense at all three outfield positions, gives us some pop from the left side of the plate, can steal you a base when he has to steal a base, and he’s got great versatility. He’s going to be a big part of our ballclub and is going to compete for the CF job. In the worst-case scenario, he’s going to be a terrific fourth outfielder for us that who can fill in for extended periods of time. He brings great energy on the baseball field and a great attitude in the clubhouse.

Our email inbox was overflowing as well. Don B. has an interesting idea for the starting rotation: Since there are a number of promising young arms, could it be possible to have a six-man rotation of Strasburg, Zimmermann, Wang, Peacock, Milone, and Lannan, perhaps keeping Zimmermann on a five-day schedule?  In addition to getting a longer look at the young prospects at the major league level, it would cut down on Stephen Strasburg’s starts and consequently, his innings.  If he is on an innings limit, this could allow him to pitch deeper into the season.  Is this a possibility?

MR: We’re not going to go to a six-man rotation. What we’ll do, we’ll keep the traditional five-man rotation and we’re going to protect Stras’ whenever we can and whenever possible. And we’re going to have two or three quality pitchers in the Minor Leagues that are ready to come up and ready to pitch extended and important innings in the Major Leagues. We’re going to extend our pitchers out, but be prudent about it knowing in the back of our minds that we’ve got really good quality pitchers to summon from the Minor Leagues when need be.

While Danny B. writes in about the outfielders: What outfielders are being targeted by the Nationals?

MR: We’ve overturned every stone. We’ve talked to every team where we think a center fielder fits for us. The trade market is very difficult for such a quality position; they are in high demand. We’ve kicked the tires on many center fielders via the trade route, we’ve looked internationally for some international talent and we’re looking at all aspects to try and improve our ballclub.

We feel that we do have an in-house candidate with Jayson Werth. He can always move and play center field, if we have to have him play there, which opens up a whole different pool of players for our corner outfield position.

Jim W. surely has his wish list, but wants to know what are the top priorities for the Nats this offseason: What are the top three needs in acquisitions going into the 2012 season?

MR: We certainly would like to upgrade our rotation with an arm that could fit in with Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann and give us a real potent top three guys in the rotation – to go along with Chien-Ming Wang, Ross Detwiler, John Lannan, Brad Peacock and Tommy Milone. We like to have great depth and versatility there. So that’s our number one priority.

Number two is probably to find an answer in the outfield, going the center field route, or moving Werth to center field and going the corner outfield route.

And lastly, to strengthen our bench. We need good veteran players off the bench to allow Davey Johnson to do what he does best, which is to strategize and control the game at the end with pinch hitters and really out-managing the guy in the other dugout.

Our loyal readers here on the Curly W Live blog also chimed in with some great questions in the comments, led by Donald L. He wants to know, what’s the word on Yoenis Cespedes?

MR: Cespedes is a big, powerful center fielder with a great skill set. We scouted him extensively in world competitions with our scouts. I personally went down to the Dominican to see a private workout with him. He’s an impressive young man with great physical skills. He’s got great strength and great speed, and shows flashes of being a five-tool player. With our knowledge of him and his skill set, he’s a guy that we’re monitoring seriously.

Meanwhile, Dan D. wonders if a familiar face from the past could fill a hole in the Nationals outfield plans. Could Josh Willingham fill in as RH bat, 5th OF and 1B? Great pop, good guy, fans like him.

MR: Josh is a terrific talent. He’s way over-qualified to be a fifth outfielder or a right-handed bat off the bench. This is a guy who came off last season with 29 homeruns and 98 RBI’s in a tough Oakland ballpark to hit in. He’s going to get an everyday job somewhere and he’s going to be a guy who fits in somebody’s outfield as a regular. He’s a great quality person, and a great human being, and a guy we really like around here.

That’s it for the Winter Meetings Q&A, thanks for all of the great questions! Check back throughout the offseason for the inside scoop on your Washington Nationals.

Screech and the Nats Head to Taiwan

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In mid-October, the Washington Nationals were excited to learn that Major League Baseball had selected Screech, the team’s official mascot, as the only MLB mascot to travel to Taiwan with a team of MLB All-Stars for the 2011 Taiwan All-Star Series the first week of November.

Screech will accompany Nationals players P Collin Balester, P Ross Detwiler and 1B/OF Michael Morse, who were named to the MLB team roster, and P Chien-Ming Wang, who will play for the Chinese Taipei National Team, for the exciting weeklong trip to Taiwan.

To prepare for his trip, Screech stopped by the historic Twin Oaks Estate in Northwest D.C. earlier this week to visit with Ambassador and Mrs. Jason Yuan of the Taipei Economic & Cultural Representative Office, both of whom offered to teach Screech about traditional Taiwanese customs.

From learning basic Chinese phrases and greetings to mastering the art of using chopsticks, Ambassador Yuan and his wife ensured that Screech was well-versed in Taiwanese culture so that he can fully understand and enjoy his experience abroad.

In addition, the Ambassador recommended several landmarks for Screech to visit – including the Taipei 101 tower, which, at 1,671 feet tall is the second tallest building in the world – and invited Screech to sample a traditional Cantonese dim sum, which included delicious dishes such as shrimp dumplings and spring rolls in oyster sauce. 

Check out footage from the visit here:

Screech will meet up with his old friends Ballester, Detwiler, Morse and the rest of the MLB All-Star Team in Los Angeles before making the 14-hour journey to Taiwan this weekend. The Nationals players will be joined by 25 players from 16 other MLB clubs, including Pablo Sandoval (San Francisco Giants) and Curtis Granderson (New York Yankees).

The 2011 Taiwan All-Star Series will consist of five games played in three different cities – New Taipei City (XinZhuang Stadium) on November 1, Taichung (Intercontinental Stadium) on November 3 and 4, and Kaohsiung (Chengcing Lake Stadium) on November 5 and 6.

MLB Network will televise all five games of the series, while Nationals fans can keep up with Screech’s adventures on his blog and on his Twitter at @ScreechTheEagle.

Mr. Walk Off, Nats, Do it Again in Opener vs. Astros

There’s a reason why he’s called Mr. Walk-Off. Ryan Zimmerman, seemingly prone to late-inning theatrics, scored the winning run in Friday night’s 5-4 victory over the Houston Astros. Zimmerman and Michael Morse started off the bottomof the 11th inning by drawing walks. When Jayson Werth’s hard-hit ground ball couldn’t be handled by the Astros infield, Zimmerman came around to score setting off a dug-out clearing celebration in the infield, with Zimmerman in the middle of the action. It’s a scene that’s become all too familiar, especially this year, with the Nats’ 12 walk-off wins pacing all of Major League Baseball.

Zimmerman has had eight walk-off home runs in addition to numerous other walk-off hits. Just last week, he had a game-ending broken bat bloop single to drive in the winning run against the New York Mets. His eight game-ending home runs are more than any other Major Leaguer since Zimmerman made his debut at the end of the 2005 season.

Be sure to keep checking in with the Curly W Live blog for more updates on the Nationals’ third baseman, game previews and more.

Nationals Go for Two in a Row vs. Dodgers

With light rain falling, the Nationals will try to take the field against Los Angeles for Game 2 of a four-game set. The Nationals won Game 1 last night, 7-2, behind John Lannan and a power surge from Ian Desmond (HR no. 7), Jayson Werth (18) and a pair from Michael Morse (25 and 26).

Here are tonight’s lineups:

Dodgers:
Dee Gordon – SS
James Loney – 1B
Matt Kemp – CF
Juan Rivera – LF
Andre Ethier – RF
Aaron Miles – 3B
Rod Barajas – C
Justin Sellers – 2B
Ted Lilly – P

Nationals:
Ian Desmond – SS
Jayson Werth – CF
Ryan Zimmerman – 3B
Michael Morse – LF
Jonny Gomes – RF
Danny Espinosa – 2B
Chris Marrero – 1B
Wilson Ramos – C
Stephen Strasburg– P

*Michael Morse, who had two home runs for 3 RBI in last night’s victory over the Dodgers, has hit .324 since the All-Star Break. He is also .400 with a double and a home run against Ted Lilly.

*Ryan Zimmerman has six home runs and 21 RBI against the Dodgers in his career.

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