Results tagged ‘ Nationals ’

Nationals announce 2014 NLDS Roster

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by Amanda Comak

The Washington Nationals announced their 25-man roster for the 2014 National League Division Series on Friday morning, in advance of their 3:07 p.m. game vs. the San Francisco Giants.

The Nationals’ roster will be comprised of 12 pitchers (three left-handed, nine right-handed) and 13 position players (two catchers, seven infielders, four outfielders).

Here is the Nationals’ full roster:

Pitchers

LHP Jerry Blevins
LHP Gio Gonzalez
LHP Matt Thornton

RHP Aaron Barrett
RHP Tyler Clippard
RHP Doug Fister
RHP Tanner Roark
RHP Rafael Soriano
RHP Craig Stammen
RHP Drew Storen
RHP Stephen Strasburg
RHP Jordan Zimmermann

Catchers

C Jose Lobaton
C Wilson Ramos

Infielders

INF Asdrubal Cabrera (S)
SS Ian Desmond
INF Danny Espinosa (S)
INF Kevin Frandsen
1B Adam LaRoche (L)
INF Anthony Rendon
INF Ryan Zimmerman

Outfielders

OF Bryce Harper (L)
OF Nate Schierholtz (L)
OF Denard Span (L)
OF Jayson Werth

Nationals Name Matt Williams Manager

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by Amanda Comak

The Washington Nationals named Matt Williams as the team’s field manager on Thursday, agreeing to terms on a multi-year contract with the five-time All-Star and former Arizona Diamondbacks coach. President of Baseball Operations and General Manager Mike Rizzo made the announcement.

The agreement culminates a thorough process by the Nationals to find a successor to Davey Johnson, whose tenure as the team’s manager came to an end after 2 1/2 seasons.

MW_photo_darker“I am thrilled to welcome Matt to our organization and am confident he is the best choice to lead the Nationals at this time,” Rizzo said. “He is exceptionally prepared for the task. Matt came into the interview process already possessing an extensive knowledge of our organization: our roster, our Minor League system – and our fan base.

“He has genuinely creative, unique ideas on how to increase performance, and on cultivating leadership and team unity.”

Williams, 47, comes to the Nationals after four years on the Diamondbacks’ coaching staff, the last three as their third base coach. A decorated player during his 17-year career, Williams becomes the organization’s fifth manager since baseball returned to D.C. in 2005.

“Matt has a wealth of knowledge and experience as a former player and coach,” said Theodore N. Lerner, Managing Principal Owner of the Nationals. “But what most impresses us is his ability to understand and ably communicate situations and strategies in a disciplined, forthright manner. We think he is the right leader for a Washington Nationals team ready to compete for a World Series championship.”

Williams is a rookie Major League manager, but Rizzo’s relationship with him dates back more than 10 years, to their time together in the Diamondbacks organization – and this is a role in which he long thought Williams could thrive.

“I saw first-hand the leadership qualities he possessed as a player, on the field and in the clubhouse,” said Rizzo, who was a part of the Diamondbacks front office for seven years before joining the Nationals in 2006. “He’s been someone on my radar as a potential manager for years.

“Matt was a great player, but he also understands just how much hard work goes into becoming a great player. In the second phase of his baseball life, he has channeled the intensity he had as a player into becoming an intellectual coach with a calm, confident demeanor.”

Known for his hard-nosed, no-nonsense style as a player, Williams was a career .268 hitter with an .317 on-base percentage, .489 slugging percentage and .805 OPS in 1,866 games. He totaled 378 home runs, including six seasons with 30-plus home runs. Williams earned four Gold Glove Awards and four Silver Slugger Awards as a third baseman.

“I think it’s great,” Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman said of the hire. “He’s a younger guy who was a good player and knows the game. I’m looking forward to getting to know him a little bit… I don’t think we were too far away from where we needed to be, and I think we’re all looking forward to next year.”

A former first-round draft pick, Williams appeared in the top 10 in the Most Valuable Player voting four times in his career, finishing as high as second in 1994, when he clubbed 43 home runs and drove in 96 runs for the San Francisco Giants in the strike-shortened season.

As a player, Williams was no stranger to the postseason. He played on six playoff teams and appeared in the World Series with the Giants (1989), Indians (1997) and Diamondbacks (2001), winning a World Series ring in Arizona. He is the only player in baseball history to hit at least one World Series home run for three different teams.

After retiring from playing in 2003, Williams dabbled in broadcasting for a few years, serving as a color analyst on select Diamondbacks broadcasts from 2005–09, and co-hosting the weekend pregame show for the Diamondbacks with his wife, Erika, in 2007. He joined the Diamondbacks as a first base coach in 2010.

In addition to his coaching duties with the Diamondbacks, Williams managed in the Arizona Fall League in 2012, leading the Salt River Rafters – which included several of the Nationals’ top prospects – to the AFL Championship Game.

Weekly Review (2/27)

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Here at Curly W Live, we will be conducting a weekly review every Tuesday morning of all the storylines from the week that was. If you’re new to the site or have just been too busy to stay current with all the day-to-day storylines, this is your way to get caught up on everything going on with the team.

Spring Training began as Nationals pitchers and catchers reported to Viera. Although the official position player report date was not until midweek, most players were in camp several days early. Senior Director of Media Relations John Dever began his (almost) daily musings on the notable events each day in Spring Training. Anthony Rendon stopped by to showcase his sweet swing and chat for a few minutes about his first big league camp.

We enjoyed a visit from ESPN on campus at Space Coast Stadium, and were even able to snag an interview with Tim Kurkjian about his outlook on the team. Also, a rocket launched from the nearby Kennedy Space Center.

The Nationals proudly hosted the Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Team for a couple days of practice in advance of their April 3 game at Nationals Park (following the Nationals-Red Sox exhibition).

The franchise’s first-ever draft pick and everyday third baseman since the end of the 2005 season, Ryan Zimmerman signed an extension that will keep him in a Nationals uniform through at least the 2019 season, with an option for 2020. Both Dever and Nationals Principal Owner Mark D. Lerner opined their perspectives of the signing.

Next Stop, Viera

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With just nine days left until Nationals pitchers and catchers report to sunny Viera for Spring Training, it was time for the folks back here in Washington to pack everything up for the trek south. This has been an ongoing process, but the actual moving day, or “Truck Day“, took place Friday at Nationals Park. There was plenty of work to do, so everybody was pitching in, even Screech.

You can watch all of the loveable eagle’s antics from a busy day at the ballpark in the video below. Have a great weekend everyone… we’re one week closer to the return of baseball!

Video: Screech Helps Pack On Truck Day

Our Town, Our Time, Our Park

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Ryan Zimmerman celebrates his walk-off grand slam against the Phillies last year.

Earlier today, the Nationals released Take Back the Park, an initiative designed to get as many Nationals fans in the ballpark for this season’s first home series against the Philadelphia Phillies. With anticipation for the upcoming season at an all-time high, Washington fans have an opportunity to create a true home field advantage here at Nationals Park. That starts today, with a chance to shut Philadelphia fans out of the park for what promises to be another exciting chapter in an already contentious rivalry.

Consider last year. While the Phillies have been dominant in the National League East recently, winning the last five division titles, there was a chink in their armor in 2011. The perennial champs ran into a pesky group from the District that just would not give up. The Nationals won each of the final four series against Philadelphia, including a four-game road sweep in September. In fact, the Nats have won 10 of their last 13 against the Phillies.

Our players have turned the tide on the field of play. Now, it’s time for our fans to do the same. To get you fired up, all next week we’ll take a look back at the top five moments against the Phillies from a thrilling 2011 rivalry series. What are your favorite memories of beating the Phillies in 2011? Check out our top 5 below, then vote for your favorite in the poll below!

Moment #5: A Werth-y Opponent (4/12)

April 12 marked Jayson Werth’s first game against his old team after inking a seven-year deal with the Nationals. He took no time to make his presence felt in the rivalry, taking Joe Blanton deep with a solo shot in the fifth inning en route to a 7-4 victory.

Moment #4: A Team Effort (6/1)

John Lannan out-dueled Roy Oswalt, and the bullpen closed out the game with 3.2 innings of one-hit, shutout relief as Drew Storen closed out a 2-1 win with his 10th save of the season.

Moment #3: Double Dose for Espinosa (5/31)

Cliff Lee surrendered only 18 home runs all season long, but three of them came off the bat of Danny Espinosa, including two in the same game. His second blast, deep over the bullpen and into the left-center field bleachers, provided a signature moment in a 10-2 rout of the former Cy Young Award winner.

Moment #2: Down To The Last Strike (8/21)

With Washington trailing 4-3 in the bottom of the ninth, Ian Desmond fell behind 1-2 before turning around a breaking ball from Antonio Bastardo into the left-field bleachers to send the game into extra innings. Jonny Gomes then took one for the team, as he was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded in the 10th inning, forcing in the game-winning run.

Bonus video: The Walk-Off HBP

Moment #1: Zim, For The Win (8/19)

Trailing 4-2 entering the bottom of the ninth inning, the Nationals scored twice on RBI singles by Jonny Gomes and Ian Desmond, then loaded the bases for Ryan Zimmerman with two outs. Mr. Walk-off came through in epic fashion with a two-out, full count, walk-off grand slam, delivering an 8-4 victory for the Nats.

Down on the Farm: Tyler Moore

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Ed. Note: Here at Curly W Live, we will be taking a closer look at some of the top up-and-coming prospects in the Nationals farm system throughout the 2012 season. Make sure to vote in our poll at the end of this article to help determine which player we will profile next.

There have been plenty of heralded prospects making their way up the ranks of the Nationals farm system over the last few years. Strong, talent-rich drafts have stocked Washington’s minor league affiliates to the point that prior to the Gio Gonzalez trade – which sent four of the club’s top 13-rated prospects to the Oakland AthleticsBaseball America had the Nationals ranked as the top overall minor league system in the game heading into 2012. Even after that deal, there are plenty of big names left, led of course by Bryce Harper. Those who keep their eyes on the minors will get their first glimpse of the likes of Anthony Rendon and the first regular season action for Matt Purke, who made his professional debut in the Arizona Fall League. These few will dominate the headlines, but we begin this season’s slate with one of the most promising power hitters in the system, Tyler Moore.

Moore sizes up a blast while with Potomac in 2010. (Steve Mihelerakis)

At the minor league level, where seasons are shorter and younger players are still filling out their athletic frames, large power totals are rare. In fact, only 15 minor leaguers hit 30 or more home runs in 2011, and only two have turned the trick in each of the last two years. The first name may ring a bell: Paul Goldschmidt. He was the rookie phenom who, after swatting 35 longballs for Double-A Mobile, was called up in September and played a key role in the Arizona Diamondbacks’ run to the National League West crown. The other player was Moore, a soft-spoken first baseman who, even after such an impressive two-year run, still does not appear in Baseball America’s top 10 prospect list for the Nationals.

Ranking or no ranking, that kind of power will earn you some respect and, in Moore’s case, some investment from the organization. The slugger was added to the 40-Man Roster in November, along with Eury Perez, Jhonatan Solano and the recently traded Derek Norris, to prevent him from being selected by another club in the annual Rule V Draft.

“This was his protection year,” explained Doug Harris, the Nationals Director of Player Development. “With power being a premium in today’s game, we felt like it was an easy decision for us.”

While Harris was not yet with the organization back when Moore first came into the system, he saw him as an opposing player while Harris was with the Cleveland Indians and Moore was at Low-A Hagerstown in 2008.

“As an opposing scout watching him, he was a guy that could always impact the baseball,” recalled Harris. “When he was in Hagerstown, it was really pole-to-pole power. Really his best power was to right-center, which is a true indicator of a guy who has a chance to come into bigger power down the road. So you saw glimpses of it, and I think a lot of the doubles he hit in Hagerstown got turned into home runs over the last couple of years.”

Moore slides feet first into second. (Steve Mihelerakis)

After hitting 30 two-baggers but just nine home runs in 111 games at Hagerstown in 2009, Moore got off to a rough start his next season at High-A Potomac. In 79 games through July 12, he had collected 47 RBI, but was batting just .191. Moore made an adjustment, though, and turned his season around completely. Over his final 50 contests, he went a staggering 76-for-193 (.394) with 21 home runs and 64 RBI. He would go on to lead the Carolina League in home runs (31), RBI (111), doubles (43), slugging percentage (.552), extra-base hits (77) and total bases (277), earning both league MVP honors and the Nationals Organizational Player of the Year. Moore put together another impressive campaign last year in the pitcher-friendly Eastern League, where he matched his home run total of 31, and again lead the league in RBI, extra-base hits and total bases.

In fact, in 189 games played since his remarkable turnaround, the 6’2”, 210-pound righty has swatted 52 home runs and driven in 154.

“When you break down the 2010 season that he had at Potomac…he really came into his own in the second half,” explained Harris. “It’s a credit to him. He’s a tireless worker, he never wavered in his approach or his intent day-to-day, and it really speaks volumes about who he is.”

Like many sluggers with such impressive power numbers, Moore also racks up his fair share of strikeouts, averaging 125 K’s over the past three seasons. However, he has also batted a very respectable .277 over that same stretch and it’s hard to argue with the run production.

Clearly, the Nationals have seen something in Moore’s potential ever since he was just a prep player at Northwest Rankin High School in Brandon, Mississippi. They actually drafted him on three separate occasions: in the 41st round straight out of high school in 2005, in the 33rd round after a year at Meridian Junior College in 2006, and finally in the 16th round after two years at Mississippi State in 2008. Moore signed at last, and has spent each of the last four seasons at a different level of the farm system, slowly playing his way up to Double-A in 2011. Now, as he enters his first big league camp in Florida, Moore will face new pressures and expectations from the Nationals staff. So, just how high is Moore’s ceiling?

Moore's power continued at Harrisburg in 2011. (Will Bentzel)

“I think a lot of that is really up to Tyler,” said Harris. “He’s obviously put together two very productive years back-to-back. He’s going to be given an opportunity at a higher level and a chance to continue to show what he’s capable of doing. I know that our Major League staff is excited to get a glimpse of him in Spring Training.”

As for how Moore will respond to the challenge, Harris is not worried.

“Tyler is a very high-character young man, a tremendous teammate,” said Harris. “He’s an early-to-the-ballpark kind of guy. He blends with every mix of player. He’s a quiet leader, not a big-time vocal leader, but he’s got a great presence and he’s very well-liked amongst his teammates.”

Those traits should serve him well, as Harris suggested that the coaching staff may try Moore out at several defensive positions to see where he can best fit into the Nationals’ future plans. Originally drafted as a third baseman, he has played exclusively at first base (or been a designated hitter) in his 448 career minor league games. Harris said the staff has tried him in the outfield a bit as well, and that they will continue to “kick the tires” on that experiment moving forward. Either way, it will just be one more adjustment, something Moore has shown that he’s good at making.

“There’s an adjustment period going to a new level each year,” said Harris. “I know that he’s preparing himself to be ready to go out of the gate this year. He’s a kid that’s had to earn everything he’s got.”

While Moore seems destined for Syracuse in April, if he is able to find similar success at the Triple-A level in 2012 as he has the past two years, fans in the District may get a glimpse of him before the year is out.

Video: Moore goes deep for Harrisburg

The Rush to Rushmore

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Are you a born leader? Do you consider yourself “presidential”? Has anyone ever told you that you have Kennedy hair? Do you have what it takes to literally “run” for the highest office in the land?

If you believe you have it in you to lead our great nation – or at least lead three of y our cohorts from the center field gate to the finish line in front of the Nationals’ dugout – perhaps you are fit to be a Racing President. The Nationals will hold tryouts for the 2012 crew of George, Tom, Abe and Teddy on (fittingly) Presidents Day Weekend. If you would like to join in the fun of the award-winning entertainment team, make sure you meet the following qualifications:

Tom and George team up for a tandem victory.

-          Stand between 5’7” and 6’6”

-          Have the ability to run from center field to home plate (approx. 200 yards) in 40 seconds or less

-          Have the ability to wear a costume weighing up to 45 pounds for several hours

-          Be available for at least 35 Nationals home games

If you meet the criteria and would like to apply, send a photo, resume and cover letter to entertainment@nationals.com. Tryouts will be by invitation only, and will be held on Saturday, February 18 at Nationals Park.

You may never have your likeness carved into the side of a mountain, but you could have the opportunity to gloriously cross the finish line first, to the delight of thousands of adoring fans.

Rendon and Meyer highlight 2011 MLB Draft

Anthony Rendon, 3B, Rice University

Audio from the conference call with Rendon: Anthony Rendon

In a first round dominated by pitchers, Anthony Rendon stands out. The Rice University third baseman was taken with the sixth overall pick in this year’s First-Year Player Draft by the Nationals.

Rendon hit .371 with 52 homers and 194 RBI in 187 games during his time at Rice. He posted an on-base percentage of .505 during his career. Given those stats, it should come as no surprise that he’s a semifinalist for both this year’s Howser Trophy and Golden Spikes Award. Rendon won the Howser Trophy last year after hitting .394 with 26 home runs and 85 RBI as a sophomore. He was rated the top position player in this year’s draft by Baseball America.

Rendon was previously drafted out of high school by the Atlanta Braves in the 27th round, but turned that down in order to attend Rice.

What’s curious about Rendon is his position—third base. With Gold Glove and Silver Slugger-recipient Ryan Zimmerman at the hot corner for the foreseeable future, it’s hard to imagine anyone else taking over that position. As soon as he was drafted, there was immediate speculation that Rendon would be shifted to second base—but with Danny Espinosa providing solid defense so far and some pop in his bat, do Nationals fans really want to lose him?

Regardless of his position, it’s obvious that Rendon will succeed both offensively and defensively. During his sophomore year at Rice he made only four errors for an astounding .978 fielding percentage and scouts have made it clear in their reports that he’ll be able to hit Major League pitching. Rendon will hopefully develop into the kind of impact player that Washington needs as they strive to become a contender.

 

Alex Meyer, RHP, University of Kentucky

 Audio from the conference call with Meyer: Alex Meyer

Adding to a farm system already rich with strong arms, the Nationals selected right-handed pitcher Alex Meyer 23rd overall. The University of Kentucky pitcher was Washington’s second draft pick after power-hitting third baseman Anthony Rendon was taken sixth overall. Many had speculated that the Nationals would take Meyer with that No. 6 pick. Seventeen picks later, they got their man.

With a fastball clocked in the upper 90s, Meyer garnered interest from scouts this past college season when he struck out 110 batters in 101 innings while posting a 2.94 ERA. In 10 starts against his conference competition this season, he won five decisions and pitched three complete games. Meyer is an intimidating figure on the mound, standing at 6-foot-9—but if he makes the Majors with the Nationals, he’d still only be the third-tallest pitcher in Nats/Expos franchise history (behind Jon Rauch and Randy Johnson, who both stood at 6-10). Aside from his scorching fastball, he also has a plus slider and changeup.

Meyer was first drafted out of high school by the Red Sox in the 20th round in 2008, but he opted to go to college instead.

NATIONALS’ SELECTIONS IN 2011 MLB FIRST-YEAR PLAYER DRAFT

RD  PICK     PLAYER                          POS      B/T       HT       WT        DOB         SCHOOL

  1        6     Anthony Rendon              3B       R/R       6-0      190       6/6/90           Rice Univ. (TX)

  1      23     Alex Meyer                      RHP     R/R       6-9      220       1/3/90           Univ. of Kentucky

  S      34     Brian Goodwin                 OF       L/L        6-1      195      11/2/90        Miami Dade College (FL)

  3      96     Matt Purke                       LHP      L/L        6-3      175      7/17/90          Texas Christian Univ.

  4     127     Kylin Turnbull                 LHP      L/L        6-5      200      9/12/89          Santa Barbara CC (CA)

  5     157     Matt Skole                        3B       L/R       6-3      230      7/30/89          Georgia Tech Univ.

  6     187     Taylor Hill                      RHP     R/R       6-3      225      3/12/89          Vanderbilt Univ. (TN)

  7     217     Brian Dupra                    RHP     R/R       6-3      205     12/15/88         Notre Dame Univ. (IN)

  8     247     Greg Holt                        RHP     R/R       6-2      200      6/19/89          Univ. of North Carolina

  9     277     Dixon Anderson              RHP     R/R       6-6      225       7/2/89        Univ. of California-Berkley

10     307     Manny Rodriguez            RHP     R/R       6-2      225      1/12/89          Barry Univ. (FL)

11     337     Caleb Ramsey                  OF       L/R       6-3      210      10/7/88          Univ. of Houston (TX)

12     367     Blake Monar                    LHP      L/L        6-2      205      6/16/89          Indiana Univ.

13     397     Blake Kalenkosky             1B       R/R       6-0      204     10/28/89         Texas State Univ.

14     427     Cody Stubbs                    OF       L/R       6-3      215      1/14/91          Walters State CC (TN)

15     457     Zach Houchins                 SS       R/R       6-3      185      9/16/92          Louisburg JC (NC)

16     487     Deion Williams                 SS       R/R       6-3      185     11/11/92         Redan HS (GA)

17     517     Esteban Guzman             RHP     R/R       6-4      220      2/15/90       San Jose State Univ. (CA)

18     547     Nicholas Lee                   LHP      L/L        6-1      190      1/31/91       Weatherford College (TX)

19     577     Hawtin Buchannan          RHP      L/R       6-8      245      4/29/93          Biloxi HS (MS)

20     607     Josh Laxer                      RHP     R/R       6-1      190       6/7/93        Madison Central HS (MS)

21     637     Todd Simko                    LHP      L/L        6-4      225      12/5/88       Texas A&M Univ.-C.C.

22     667     Travis Henke                  RHP     R/R       6-6      250       7/9/88    Univ. of Arkansas-Little Rock

23     697     Khayyan Norfork              2B       R/R      5-10      190      1/19/89          Univ. of Tennessee

24     727     Kyle Ottoson                   LHP      L/L        6-2      165      7/11/90          Arizona State Univ.

25     757     Erick Fernandez                C       R/R      5-11      190     11/30/88         Georgetown Univ. (DC)

26     787     Shawn Pleffner                 OF       L/R       6-5      225      8/17/89          Univ. of Tampa (FL)

27     817     Bobby Lucas                    LHP      L/L        6-4      220      8/12/87      George Washington (DC)

28     847     Kenneth Ferrer                RHP     R/R       6-1      220     12/13/89         Elon Univ. (NC)

29     877     Sean Cotton                      C       R/R       6-2      210     11/15/88         Tusculum College (TN)

30     907     Bryan Harper                   LHP      L/L        6-6      210     12/29/89         Univ. of South Carolina

31     937     Josh Tobias                     SS       S/R       5-9      200     11/23/92     Southeast Guilford HS (NC)

32     967     Billy Burns                       OF      R/R       5-9      170      8/30/89          Mercer Univ. (GA)

33     997     Trey Karlen                      2B       R/R      5-11      195      4/23/88     Univ. of Tennessee-Martin

34   1027     Calvin Drummond           RHP     R/R       6-3      200      9/22/89          Univ. of San Diego (CA)

35   1057     Alex Kreis                       RHP     R/R       6-1      210       1/1/89         Jamestown College (ND)

36   1087     Ben Hawkins                   LHP      L/L        6-0      180      11/4/89          Univ. of West Florida

37   1117     Derrick Bleeker               RHP     R/R       6-5      220      3/11/91          Howard College (TX)

38   1147     Brett Mooneyham            LHP      L/L        6-5      245      1/24/90          Stanford Univ. (CA)

39   1177     Peter Verdin                     OF      R/R       6-0      205      3/19/90          Univ. of Georgia

40   1207     Stephen Collum               OF      R/R       6-3      185       3/7/92           Cartersville HS (GA)

41   1237     Bryce Ortega                    3B       R/R      5-10      165      9/22/88          Univ. of Arizona

42   1267     David Kerian                    SS       S/R       6-2      185       2/9/93           Bishop Heelan HS (IA)

43   1297     Mitchell Morales               SS       L/R      5-10      150       3/3/93    Wellington Community HS

44   1327     Matt Snyder                      1B       L/R       6-6      210      6/17/90          Univ. of Mississippi

45   1357     Ritchie Mirowski             RHP     R/R       6-2      190      4/30/89          Oklahoma Baptist Univ.

46   1387     Tyler Thompson              OF       L/R       6-1      185       8/4/89           Univ. of Florida

47   1417     Timothy Montgomery       LHP      R/L       6-5      195      3/13/93          Rockmart HS (GA)

48   1447     Michael Bisenius              OF       L/R       6-3      215     10/29/88      Wayne State College (NE)

49   1477     Hunter Cole                     OF      R/R       6-1      185      10/3/92          Dorman HS (SC)

50   1507     Anthony Nix                     OF      R/R      5-10      185     2/3/1989    Univ. of California-Riverside

News and Notes from the 2011 First-Year Player Draft

Greetings from the Nationals 2011 Draft War Room. I am John Dever, the Nationals Sr. Director of Baseball Media Relations and I am collaborating with Principal Owner Mark Lerner and Mike Gazda (Dir. Baseball PR) on various observations gathered in/around the Nationals’ Draft efforts. Tonight promises to be an exciting event.

 In talking with friends and colleagues in this room and around the game, one underlying theme is that the 2011 Draft class is extremely deep. One cohort outside our organization told me that individually, each of the top 6 or 7 picks in this year’s Draft would have gone second—behind our own Bryce Harper—if they were somehow eligible for the 2010 Draft. So, while no one in this room wants to annually pick in the top 10, we also feel that there is an opportunity here to grab impact players at #6, #23 and #34.

 By the way, the Nationals second (23rdoverall) and third (34th) selections in the 2011 Draft were granted as a result of Adam Dunn signing as a free agent with the White Sox. Also, understand that Washington forfeited its standard second-round selection with the signing of Jayson Werth. That is why and how your Nationals have three picks among the Draft’s top 34 selections.     

 We are in the same room, the Media Interview Room, we have used since 2009. We are located adjacent to the Lexus Presidents Club, just down the concourse from the Nationals Clubhouse.

 I am going to attempt to draw a visual for those of you who are not glued to the telecast on MLB Network (seriously, how did Seamheads survive before this fantastic network was born three years ago?).

 First and foremost there is the Draft Triumvirate of Mike Rizzo (GM), Roy Clark (Asst. GM, VP of Player Personnel) and Kris Kline (Director of Scouting). This is THE biggest day of the year for these gentlemen. This is what they live for. This is when they thrive. These three are located in the middle of the room, essentially at a 10-foot long table that serves as the War Room’s Epicenter. They are our Sun and everything else revolves around them.

 Think of Mike Rizzo as an orchestrator. Mike’s been a scout for 30+ years. He’s run Draft rooms before, but now he is a GM. Yes, Mike  engages in trade talk on an almost daily basis. Sure, he adds and subtracts players from the 40-man roster on a weekly basis. Indeed it is true, he’s signed players to eight-figure contracts. But if you cut Mike open, he’s a scout. Always has been, always will be. This is what gets Mike’s blood pumping. But, he is also smart enough to know he cannot be everywhere at once. So, he hired…

   Clark and Kline. Both of whom I’d put on a short list of the nicest folks I have met in this game. But to see these gentlemen in DC is rare. To see them together… that’s as rare as a solar eclipse (wow, do I get paid by the solar reference or what?). Why are they “never” around. Because they are out beating the bushes. Watching high school talent in rural Georgia (Clark’s nook) or taking in a junior college game in Florida (Kline). Meeting with coaches, a parent, school administrators, fellow scouts, perhaps a pastor. Their eyes just DON’T deceive them like they may for you and I. But just in case, they do their homework on hundreds (thousands?) of players. Their breadth of knowledge is downright scary.  

 Beyond the Triumvirate, picture two rows of tables orbiting the Sun. The inner orbit consists of the three cross checkers (Jeff Zona, Jimmy Gonzalez, Mark Baca) and a few choice area scouts (Mitch Sokol, Reed Dunn, Eric Robinson). The coordinated efforts of these guys set the table for the likes of Clark and Kline. Their knowledge and roles are respected because they do their jobs, gladly, with little coming their way in terms of frills. We are talking seemingly never-ending 8-, 10- or 12-hour drives from the lower reaches of Michigan to the interior of Arkansas. Do they sleep? Do they have families? The answer to both of those questions is most often “yes,” but understand these are the truest form of emissaries in our game. Just think about it, they do all this, and they may not have a player drafted by the Nationals from their territory.

 Tis almost time to get started as we approach 7 p.m. ET. But before we get there, let me inform you of the days culinary treats. For lunch, the staff feasted on steak, shrimp and crab cakes from Jerry’s Seafood (did I say no frills?). Delicious. Dinner consisted of 10-12 pizzas, while snacks consist of Red liquorish, granold bars, oreo cookies, gum, mints and M&Ms (plain, peanut, almond). You can gain eight here if not extremely careful.  

 Alright the draft is underway … hello Commissioner …

 *The Pirates take UCLA RHP Garrett Cole. No shock there.

*Ok, Draft shock waves just hit DC as the Mariners draft local product, UVA LHP Danny Hultzen, second overall. He attended St. Albans in DC before becoming a Cavalier. Back story is that Danny’s brother, Joe, is interning for Mike Rizzo in baseball operations. Joe has a smile on his face as wide as the day is long. Lots of good cheer for Danny, Joe and the entire Hultzen clan. What a proud day this must be. Back to work…

*The D-Backs take RHP Trevor Bauer. Some draft experts had us selecting Bauer. Won’t be the case.

*Royals take prep OF Bubba Starling, who makes sense as he is from Kansas.

 With the Starling-to-KC announcement, Mike Rizzo decries “Rendon.” There was a lot of talk before the Draft about being “true to the board,” to use the 6th selection on the top name left remaining. And Rendon is that name. Everyone in this room is excited. But there are also equal parts surprise. No one, not even the Triumvirate, expected the consensus top hitter in the draft to fall to number 6.

 I just caught Mike’s eye and he laughed at me. Why? Because over the weekend, he gave me four names and asked me to put together some press releases so we are ready and prepared at No. 6. I will not be disclosing those names, and they did not reflect the order of our board, but that foursome were all selected during the Draft’s first 5 picks. I am scurrying, BIG TIME!

 Ok, I am back, briefly. Mike Gazda just conducted a press gathering with Rizzo to talk about Rendon. Mike freely admitted that he was “surprised” we were able to secure Rendon at No. 6.

 No time to gloat, I just put out the Rendon release, about 25 minutes after the actual selection. And that leaves me only 9 or 10 picks until we get to #23. And #34 will not be far behind.

 Now, after some internal info gathering, I was given the names of RHP Alex Meyer (Univ. of Kentucky) and OF Brian Goodwin (Miami Dade College). Somehow, (make that THANKFULLY) we were able to select both players. Roy Clark has a country grin on his face. Like he stole something, has it and knows he got away with it.

 The funny back story here is that I finished the Meyer-Goodwin press release, which contained both Meyer and Goodwin, around the 27th selection. I was on the verge of sending this release to both Mark Lerner and Mike Rizzo for approval when my computer froze. I had to re-write the entire Meyer portion from memory, while Gazda had actually written the two paragraphs on Goodwin, so I was able to retrieve those from my email once I rebooted. Boy, I was hot for about 10 minutes there. Still simmering to be honest.

 As we wait for the sandwich round and MLB Network Coverage to finish, everyone in the room is in a mood that reminds me of how I felt every year in college when I finished my last final exam. Time to slap some backs one more time as we depart, head home and get some sleep. There is more work to be done here in this room once the sun comes up.

Nats-Phillies: Rubber game

After the Nationals crushed the Phillies 10-2 in last night’s victory, they’ll look to take the rubber game and the series this afternoon. John Lannan, who was Mr. Efficiency in his last outing, will take the mound against Roy Oswalt.

 Phillies:

Placido Polanco – 3B

John Mayberry – CF

Chase Utley – 2B

Ryan Howard – 1B

Ben Francisco – RF

Raul Ibanez – LF

Carlos Ruiz – C

Wilson Valdez – SS

Roy Oswalt – P

Nationals:

Roger Bernadina – CF

Ian Desmond – SS

Jayson Werth – RF

Laynce Nix – LF

Michael Morse – 1B

Danny Espinosa – 2B

Wilson Ramos – C

Alex Cora – 3B

John Lannan – P

 *Today is the last day of the homestand. Following this game, Washington hits the road for an 11-day West Coast road trip before returning home on June 14.

**Danny Espinosa hit homers No. 9 and 10 in Tuesday’s 10-2 win vs. the Phillies. In doing so, Espinosa became the first rookie second baseman in MLB history to hit 10 homers before the end of May.

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