Results tagged ‘ Rick Ankiel ’

A New York Welcome

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We were back at Digital Domain Park in Port St. Lucie for our second evening affair with the Mets on Tuesday, where we received some true New York hospitality. Right in the middle of the Nationals batting practice, the sprinklers went off around the infield, spraying everything in sight. Most of the players and coaches didn’t bat an eye, and just kept on with their routine, waiting for the water to subside. Only it didn’t stop. Not for a solid five minutes, at which point third base coach Bo Porter, who was on the rail of the dugout, began jokingly chiding anyone and everyone around.

The sprinklers went off during Nationals batting practice in Port St. Lucie on Tuesday.

“What, did the grounds crew take the day off?” he started, then spread the playful blame to his fellow coaches. “Davey, isn’t this your job? I thought you ran things around here.”

Finally, the water stopped, allowing the players to get back to business without getting soaked. We knew unexpected, five-minute showers were commonplace in Florida, but this wasn’t exactly what we had in mind. All kidding aside, it’s a telling sign of the attitude of the players and coaches, the way they handled the situation. Nobody complained or got too bent out of shape, and everyone just went on about their business.

As for the game, the lineup gave Nats fans a good look at how deep this club is up the middle of the diamond. With Steve Lombardozzi and Mark DeRosa playing the corners on the infield and Brett Carroll and Roger Bernadina behind them in left and right, you could argue that Washington was fielding an up-the-middle player at every position Tuesday night. Wilson Ramos, Danny Espinosa and Ian Desmond were in their regular spots at catcher, second base and shortstop, respectively, with Rick Ankiel manning center field behind Stephen Strasburg. Unfortunately, the Mets shut down the Nats, posting a 2-0 win behind starter Dillon Gee.

Strasburg looked as sharp as he’s been this spring, starting at 93-95 on the stadium gun and moving up to 96-97 by the second inning. He struck 97 for the first time as he painted a called third strike on the outside black against Lucas Duda for his first K of the night. Two batters later, he sawed off Josh Thole with a 96 mile-per-hour heater and narrowly avoided the barrel of the bat as it bounced past the pitcher’s mound on a comebacker. In the end, Strasburg allowed a single run on just two hits, walking one and fanning three in five full innings of work, extending his pitch count to 85.

Stephen Strasburg squares off against the Mets in at Digital Domain Park.

One last thought on Digital Domain Park – we couldn’t really put our fingers on it last time we were here, but there’s something funny about the acoustics here. Perhaps it’s the way the seating area is shaped, or the concrete canopy that encompasses the bowl from third to first base, but every ball has that special pop off the bat. It’s a sound that sportswriters are trained to recognize, the one of a ball well struck, that pulls the head away from the computer screen if one is otherwise occupied. As it turned out, there was a lot of head-snapping for what proved to be nothing more than routine fly balls Tuesday night, as neither team recorded a hit until the third inning, when Strasburg hit a one-hop rocket that ate up Daniel Murphy at second base for an infield single. While it takes some time to get used to, it actually makes for an entertaining game experience.

Washington is back at home Wednesday to host the Braves. 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 – Wednesday, 1:05pm

Overall Record: 5-9-3

Ankiel Rolling In St. Lucie

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Digital Domain Park is hilarious. Home to the Mets Spring Training in Port St. Lucie, it is a little slice of New York nestled among the palm trees and endless blue skies. Each of the half-dozen parking attendants or ushers we spoke to responded with a heavy New York accent, clearly late-life transplants to the warmer climate. The park itself is very nice, though we arrived a little late in the afternoon to sample the empenadas stand in right field. The wireless internet signal in the press box was also much improved from years past, we’re told. When you’re on the job and the games have no actual impact on the standings, these things tend to be two of the most important factors in evaluating a ballpark.

The Nationals warm up on a picture perfect day at Digital Domain Park.

Oh, and there’s also a tiki bar down the left field line. So yeah, it’s still very much Florida.

As for the action on the field, Rick Ankiel had an impressive game in more ways than one. He nearly threw out Andres Torres scoring from second on a single in the first, on a play where he looked to have no chance at all. He then got that run back in the top of the second, with a no doubt, opposite-field home run on a 2-0 offering from Dillon Gee. He also drew a walk in his second plate appearance, a good sign for a team looking to improve its on-base percentage this season. Finally, he tracked down a deep fly ball at the wall in center field to finish out his four-inning stint.


“I feel good for where I’m at,” said Ankiel of both his swing and his defensive timing as he watched the end of the game. “It’s still early, but I feel like I’m right where I need to be right now.”

As a member of the non-roster invitee group fighting for one of the final roster spots, he has made a strong opening statement.

Some heads-up baserunning from Eury Perez, who went first-to-third on a single to left by Steve Lombardozzi in the fifth inning, led directly to the second Nationals run of the night, as Mark Teahen plated Perez with a sac fly.

The aforementioned tiki bar.

And it wouldn’t be Spring Training without one of these plays. With one out in the top of the eighth, Brett Carroll skied a ball high in the air to shallow center. Mets center fielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis called off the second baseman, who was parked under the ball, then, after a long run in, dropped it. Carroll was hung about halfway between first and second and made a break for the latter. Nieuwenhuis fired the ball in to shortstop Ronny Cedeno in time to apply the tag at second, but Cedeno dropped the ball. This is why they play these games – to shake off the rust and get ready for the ones that count.

Obscure stat of the day: Waldis Joaquin tossed a pair of scoreless innings to earn the save, which brings us to the obscure stat of the day, which will be a regular feature in our recaps. While at Triple-A Fresno last season, Joaquin was 2-0 with a save and a 0.70 ERA (2 ER/25.2 IP) in the 12 outings in which he pitched at least 2.0 innings.

We’ll be back in Port St. Lucie in a couple weeks. Next time, we’ll have to try the empenadas.

Off to Lake Buena Vista to face the Braves today. Here are the Nationals 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 – 1:05pm

Overall Record: 1-2

The Face Of The Franchise

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John Dever is the Senior Director of Media Relations for the Washington Nationals. As a team employee in close contact with the players, coaches and front office throughout Spring Training, he will bring an inside look at the happenings in Viera in Dever’s (Almost) Daily Diary throughout February and March.

*Yesterday’s contract extension with Ryan Zimmerman really was a benchmark moment for your young franchise. I am not going to delve into the financial specifics, that is not my duty or intention here. But what I can tell you that there is not a player in this game more deserving than Ryan Zimmerman. He endured a list of mental and physical challenges these last seven seasons that would. But through thick and thin, Ryan’s demeanor and professionalism never wavered. He’s a rock.

Zimmerman at his extension press conference.

Ryan is also adamant about seeing this project through. He wants to create magical moments, win big games and end DC’s October baseball drought, which dates to 1933. I think he knows that the toughest times have been weathered and to leave after 2013 would have been silly for all parties involved. The bottom line is that the Face of Our Franchise is here for a LONG, LONG, LONG time. A hearty CONGRATS to him, and to our fans too!

And there is more good news: Ryan is “only” 27 years-old. I think we lose perspective that this is one of MLB’s finest young players for two very good reasons:

  1. He came to us in Sept of 2005. In this world of ours, which is predicated on the immediate, that was a long time ago. Did Facebook even exist then? (answer: yes it did, but one could only join if of high school or college age)
  2. Upon joining our ballclub at the age of 20, Ryan was instantaneously the most mature player in the clubhouse. I think his maturity quotient is that of an average 50 year-old. He is just unflappable. I think that is why, when the moment is right, he’s the guy every Nationals fan wants at the plate.

*One last thought on the extension. I don’t think there is any important person in the current equation that does not want to see Ryan finish his career as a Washington National. And by that I mean Ownership, Baseball Operations, Ryan, his family, his representatives and most importantly the Nationals ever-expanding Fan Base. Everyone understands that baseball in Washington is best served with Ryan Zimmerman manning the Hot Corner. Enough said.

Bryce Harper took batting practice yesterday for the first time in camp.

*On Sat., Davey was asked if he had watched Bryce Harper take his first official batting practice of the spring. Davey scoffed and said that was not on his “to-do” list. Well, Davey was subsequently asked, what was on that to-do list? Davey’s reply was that he wanted to spend some time with Tony Beasley, who will serves has Triple-A Syracuse’s manager this season (and was Double-A Harrisburg’s skipper in ’10). Davey then opined about the mutual trust and understanding that must flow between a big league manager and his Triple-A equal. I thought that Davey offering was quite insightful.

*Look for Mark DeRosa to focus on 1B, 2B and 3B this spring. And oh-by-the-way, judging by Sat.’s BP session, Mark’s wrist is healthy. Rockets galore.

*Not a shocker, but upon being asked what Davey expects from Chien-Ming Wang this spring, his answer was “to be in our rotation.” Short and sweet from the skipper.

*I may have talked about this last spring, and if I did, please forgive me. But as I watch Bryce Harper make his way, I often wonder who can best relate to him right now? Some might say LeBron, but I think that is a bit extreme. Others might offer Stephen Strasburg and they have a legit point. But Stephen was a three-year college pitcher who played for a Hall-of-Famer in college. Lots of similarities, but different nonetheless.

In my mind, there is another former phenom in this Space Coast Stadium clubhouse who weathered similar ups and downs as an extremely young professional. Remember Rick Ankiel? Our center fielder for much of 2011 and vying for a similar role in 2012. Well, grab your nearest time machine and let’s jet back to 1998. That summer, he led all minor league hurlers with 222 strikeouts. In a 2-year span from ’98-99, he was named the best pitcher in both the Midwest, Carolina, Texas and Pacific Coast leagues by Baseball America. Then in 2000, he won 11 games and posted a 3.50 ERA in 31 games/30 starts for the Cardinals as a 20 year-old rookie. Yep, Ankiel can empathize with Harper’s current plight.

Henry Rodriguez returns, Rick Ankiel’s arm and Lineups

The Nats reinstated right-handed pitcher Henry Rodriguez from the 15-Day Disabled List and placed right-handed pitcher Chad Gaudin on the 15-Day DL, retroactive to April 26, with right shoulder inflammation.

 Rodriguez missed 22 games after beginning the season on the DL, retroactive to March 22, with right shoulder inflammation. The 24-year-old posted a 0.73 ERA and .190 batting average against in nine games/one start during rehab assignments with  Triple-A Syracuse and Double-A Harrisburg. Rodriguez recorded 16 strikeouts and a 2.67/1 strikeout-to-walk ratio (16 K/6 BB) in 12.1 innings. Rodriguez is a flame thrower and went 1-0 with a 4.26 ERA in 32 career relief appearances with the Oakland A’s.

 In news that is less relevant but still fascinating: Last season, Adam Dunn often showed off his arm before the team stretched. It was a competition between a few teammates and the rules were simple. Who could throw the ball furthest up into the 400 level of the seating bowl? Dunn usually won. It was fun to watch and pretty impressive how far he could throw the ball but Rick Ankiel might have just passed him on the “how did he do that scale.” Of course, Rick is known for his arm—he was a former pitcher—but today during BP he nonchalantly picked up a ball on the right field foul line, roughly 100 feet from first base and threw the ball on a line about seven rows up into the red porch seats. With a little quick math, the ball traveled approximately 370 ft—give or take a few feet, probably take—but thank you Pythagorean Theorem. There was one player that noticed this and he started clapping. It pretty much went unseen and that might be the biggest tragedy.

 You will notice Wilson Ramos is in the lineup for the third straight game. This is the first time he has started three consecutive games this season—that’s the power of going 3-for-4 with two home runs and three RBI the night before.


Jose Reyes – SS

Justin Turner – 2B

David Wright – 3B

Carlos Beltran – RF

Jason Bay – LF

Ike Davis – 1B

Scott Hairston – CF

Mike Nickeas – C

R.A. Dickey – P


Danny Espinosa – 2B

Rick Ankiel – CF

Jayson Werth – RF

Adam LaRoche – 1B

Wilson Ramos – C

Michael Morse – LF

Jerry Hairston – 3B

Alex Cora – SS

Tom Gorzelanny – P

Rubber Game Lineups


 LF Martin Prado

CF Nate McLouth

3B Chipper Jones

C Brian McCann

2B Dan Uggla

RF Jason Heyward

SS Alex Gonzalez

1B Freddie Freeman

P Tim Hudson


 SS Ian Desmond

RF Jayson Werth

3B Ryan Zimmerman

1B Adam LaRoche

LF Michael Morse

CF Rick Ankiel

2B Danny Espinosa

C Ivan Rodriguez

P Jordan Zimmermann

 *In his one career outing against Atlanta, Jordan Zimmermann won, going five innings, allowing only one earned run with five strikeouts.

*Against the Nationals, Tim Hudson is 10-2 with an ERA of 1.91. However, Jayson Werth has proved to be a thorn in Hudson’s side—he’s got a batting average of .350 with a pair of doubles and a home run against the Braves’ hurler.

*Rick Ankiel, who was yesterday’s Nationals Player of the Game, has also fared well against Hudson, going three-for-six with an RBI in six plate appearances.

*Today is your last day to vote for the Fans’ Choice Bobblehead. As of this posting, Danny Espinosa is in the lead with 5616 votes, and Drew Storen in second with 4400 votes.

Day 13 in Viera: Grapefruit League Opener Eve

Grapefruit League Opening Day Eve here on the Space Coast.

My name is John Dever and I’m the Baseball PR contact for your Nationals. To write this blog, I get lots of guidance and observations from Mike Gazda and Bill Gluvna, my PR confidants, so I thank them for their contributions.

Lots happening… so let’s get started.

* Today’s high will reach 86 degrees. Almost toasty, yes, but comfortable thanks to a gentle breeze. So, the perfect spring continues. Last year, it may not have hit 70 degrees during the February workouts. This year, at least since pitchers and catchers reported on Feb. 15, the temps have not dipped below 70, with temps comfortably in the high 70s during the late-morning workouts.

* Jim Riggleman brought up a good point this morning during his session with the assembled media. This spring’s perfect weather to date has allowed the Nationals to get everything that they needed in. Every drill that Jim Riggleman and Spring Training Coordinator Bobby Henley scheduled went off without a hitch. Every one. That NEVER happens. And this should give the Nationals a sense of comfort heading into the Grapefruit League schedule, which begins tomorrow. The team is ready. [VIDEO: More Riggleman]

* Rick Ankiel is an interesting guy. Most know his story. A stud-pitcher-turned-outfielder who signed with the Nationals in December without a guaranteed starting spot. Well, one of the drawing cards for Ankiel was likely his preexisting relationship with Nationals hitting guru Rick Eckstein. After retiring as a pitcher, Ankiel immediately jumped back into St. Louis’ Minor League system in the hopes of becoming an outfielder. Ankiel and Eckstein worked together in Triple-A Memphis in 2008, things “clicked” and the results were phenomenal. Ankiel hit 32 home runs in 102 Pacific Coast League games before being summoned by the Cardinals on August 9, 2008. The hot streak did not end there, as Ankiel hit 11 more bombs in 43 games with the Cardinals. In fact, that summer, Ankiel’s 43 homers led the Cardinals entire organization, as Albert Pujols only (only?) hit 37. So, here’s hoping things “click” again for Ankiel and Eckstein and that they can regain their momentum from the summer of 2008.

91010-202 danny espinosa.jpg* We’ve “talked” a lot about Danny Espinosa’s conversion from shortstop to second base. Which begs the question: who made a similar conversion early in their career? The two best-case scenarios for Nationals fans to salivate over are Alfonso Soriano (a shortstop in the Yankees’ organization, converted to second base in 2001) and Brandon Phillips (a shortstop in the Expos’ organization, converted to second base in 2003). Now, both are All-Stars and Espinosa is not yet at that level, but it does go to show that this type of position change has occurred before and the results have been favorable both offensively and defensively (especially in the case of Phillips).

* With Davey Johnson in camp as an advisor to Mike Rizzo, it’s hard to believe that this is the 25th Anniversary of the iconic 1986 Mets. Where has the time gone. Well, actually, Nationals fans and Beltway baseball junkies likely best remember Davey for his playing days and later his successful managerial stint with the Orioles.

* Today’s “Four Questions” victim will be first baseman Chris Marrero, but before we channel our inner-Marrero, let’s take a look at his career. Marrero, as most know, was the Nationals’ first-rounder in the 2006 First-Year Player Draft. He was drafted out of Monsignor Pace High School in Miami Gardens, Fla. His assent through Washington’s system has not been as rapid as some outsiders would like, but it has been steady. He has averaged a long ball every 29.6 at-bats in five seasons as a pro. That is not a number to sneeze at. Yes, the level is dramatically different, but here are three National Leaguers who averaged a homer every 29-or-so at-bats last season: Jason Heyward (28.9), Justin Upton (29.1) and Casey Blake (29.9). All three are very good ballplayers, and in the case of Heyward and Upton, two of the great young players in the game. Marrero, who had Lasik surgery in the offseason, has immense power and his career is trending in the right direction. Alright, back to “Four Questions”…

Favorite Team/Player as a Youth?: Marlins, Frank Thomas (wonder if he knows that Mike Rizzo signed Big Frank?)

Favorite Game Show of all-time?: Deal or No Deal (he attended a taping of this show a few years back)

Favorite Superhero?: Spider Man (might help him with some errant throws at first base)

Most apt to watch CNN, Food Network or Travel Channel (and list favorite show)?: None of the above. My favorite show is re-runs of “Vegas” on TNT (with all of the bad shows on network TV, why was this show canceled. Seriously perplexing).

OK, that’s a wrap for today. Tomorrow, look for Mark Lerner to jump into the blogging fray as the Nationals travel to St. Lucie to take on the Mets. He will be your primary blogger going forward, but I may jump back in here and there. Thanks for your interest in the Nationals and see you at the ballpark. Oh, you can also follow us on Twitter (@NationalsPR).

Day 6 in Viera: A Closer Look at the 2011 Outfield

brief preface: my name is John Dever and I have the pleasure of being the PR
Director for your Nationals. With the assistance of Mike Gazda and Bill Gluvna,
here are a few vignettes and observations gathered from around camp today:

* Many folks have drawn parallels between the careers of Jayson Werth and
Michael Morse. Both are listed as 6-foot-5 and possess wiry strength that is
not a given with long-armed players. How does the 29-year-old Morse stay fit?
He trains for the NFL Combine. Almost literally. He trains at the Bommarito
Performance Systems facility in Miami with a bunch of Miami Hurricane NFL draft
prospects. Lots of running, lots of lifting. Those of you who have stood next
to Morse know that he could pass as an outside linebacker or tight end. He
might weigh 25 pounds less than those guys, but my guess is that he did not
embarrass himself in those workouts.

* We wrote yesterday about the Nationals’ three-shortstop defense (Desmond,
Espinosa and Zimmerman all have spent considerable portions of their playing
career playing shortstop). Well, let’s expand on the notion, but in the
outfield. There is a very good chance that you will see a 3-center fielder
alignment this summer in DC. Nyjer Morgan is a center fielder last time I
checked. In right field, we have Jayson Werth, who many believe could do a fine
job patrolling CF on a daily basis, if given the opportunity. Meanwhile, Roger
Bernadina, Rick Ankiel and Michael Morse are vying for playing time in left
field. Bernadina and Ankiel have extensive experience in center field. So the underlying
point is, the potential of an Ankiel/Bernadina-Morgan-Werth alignment in the
outfield will severely shrink the gaps and make our pitching staff that much
better. Oh, and we still have a 13-time Gold Glover behind the plate. If you
like defense, I have a feeling we have just what you are looking for.

* Congrats to Chien-Ming Wang, who ran the mile in 6:58, tops among 28 pitchers
to be timed this week. Wang, who stands 6-foot-4, is a big guy, so it is pretty
impressive that he was able to turn in a sub-seven-minute mile. Other
noteworthy times turned in came from Cole Kimball (6:59), Jason Marquis (7:00),
Josh Wilke (7:07), Adam Carr (7:26)  and John Lannan (7:30). By the way,
in my estimation, these guys ran a tad further than a mile, as they did four
laps around the warning track of a Big League field. There is ample foul
territory too. I have always thought that a lap around the average Big League
field is a bit longer than a run around a 1/4-mile track.

* Transaction News today: RHP Luis Atilano cleared waivers and was assigned
outright to Triple-A Syracuse. Atilano will now report immediately to the
Nationals’ Big League camp.

* I asked Stephen Strasburg what he did with the ball from his lone hit last
season, a June 23 single off the Royals’ Brian Banister. The back story was not
legendary, he still has the ball at his house, but Strasburg did perk up a bit
and smile at the memory. There was irony in the hit’s location too, as it was a
well-hit grounder through the 5.5 hole, which is primarily where Tony Gwynn
made a living and earned a spot in Cooperstown. Gwynn was of course Strasburg’s
head coach at San Diego State.

* Danny Espinosa had his hook of hamate bone removed from his right hand around
Thanksgiving. Don’t look for this injury to hinder Espinosa, who says his grip
strength in the right hand is already stronger than it was last season, when he
was one of three Minor Leaguers to reach the 20-homer, 20-stolen base plateau.
I can assure you that Espinosa would pass any “handshake” test. So, don’t be
worried about his hamate bone affecting his offense in 2011 or beyond.

* Let’s launch a new feature called Four Questions with _______. Our intent
here is to introduce you to a player you might not know too much about. So,
Ryan Zimmerman and John Lannan will likely be spared. Today’s initial victim subject is
RHP Cole Kimball (who is the Nationals’ No. 7 prospect per Baseball America
entering the 2011 season).

Favorite Team/Player as a Youth?: Yankees, Don Mattingly
Favorite Game Show of all-time?: Who Wants to be a Millionaire?
Favorite Superhero?: Spider-Man
Most apt to watch CNN, Food Network or Travel Channel (and list favorite
None. I do watch the Discovery Channel a lot. Favorite show is “Deadliest

* LOTS of fog this morning, but it burned off around 9 a.m. and it set the
stage for another beautiful day. According to,
here are the highs we can expect this week (Mon-80, Tue-77, Wed-72, Thu-75,
Fri-76, Sat-76, Sun-77). No rain between now and Thursday! If you are not here,
you are missing out. Enough said.