Results tagged ‘ Roger Bernadina ’

Rounding Out The Roles

Follow @Nationals on Twitter | Like the Nationals on Facebook

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

Show of Good Faith

Follow @Nationals on Twitter | Like the Nationals on Facebook

All week long – or really ever since the Nationals had last won a Spring Training game, a week ago Monday over the St. Louis Cardinals – manager Davey Johnson has been repeating the same line about his offense: give it time. He attributed the inconsistency to the fact that the regulars weren’t playing much. With a few positions still to be decided in camp, many of the potential bench or Triple-A players were getting most of the at-bats and, in turn, a chance to prove themselves. Johnson kept pointing to one day, Sunday, when the team would return to Viera and the regulars would return to the lineup, as the day we would get a better look at the real 2012 Nationals. As we have mentioned before, “Viera” means faith – Johnson had it in his hitters, and they did not disappoint upon returning to their Spring Training home.

The team gathered for batting practice the morning before Sunday's game.

The entire team took batting practice in the cages behind the right field wall here at Space Coast Stadium at 10:30 this morning, and it didn’t take long for that work to translate on the field. With Michael Morse and Adam LaRoche still out of the lineup battling minor injuries, the focus was really on the top four hitters in the lineup: Ian Desmond, Danny Espinosa, Ryan Zimmerman and Jayson Werth. The four combined to go home run, double, double, home run to open the game Sunday, staking Stephen Strasburg to a 4-0 lead before Matt Harvey and the Mets could even record an out. Roger Bernadina added a solo shot to cap a five-run first inning and Washington cruised to a 12-0 shutout.

In all, four Nationals homered and five logged multi-hit games, as they took advantage of the wind, which was blowing strongly out to left field, the reverse of the normal jet stream here in Viera. Werth’s was the biggest shot of them all, a monstrous blast that cleared the wall, the berm, the tiki hut behind that, and evidently hit Werth’s own truck, parked near the outer reaches of stadium property.

“I think that thing landed in a lake, or something,” mused Johnson. “That ball was absolutely crushed. That’s the hardest ball I’ve seen him hit since I’ve been here.”

We’ll follow up with Werth tomorrow and see what kind of damage he did to his own vehicle. Regardless, it provided a major shot in the arm for a team that needed one.

The Nationals filled up the scorecard on Sunday, especially over the first three innings.

Yes, it’s Spring Training. And yes, as Johnson has been saying all week, these games don’t count. Nevertheless, with the skipper pointing time and time again to this day as an indicator, as the time to judge the offense and the team in general, the Nationals couldn’t have picked a better day to snap out of their slide with a statement game. You know, for a Spring Training game.

We’re back at Space Coast again on Monday as Washington plays host to the Houston Astros. Here are the Nats 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 – Sunday, 1:05pm

Overall Record: 6-13-3

A New York Welcome

Follow @Nationals on Twitter | Like the Nationals on Facebook

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

2011 Winter Meetings Q&A with GM Mike Rizzo

Follow @Nationals on Twitter | Like the Nationals on Facebook

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.

The List: 50 things to look forward to in 2011

Nationals Principal Owner Mark D. Lerner will be blogging throughout the 2011 Grapefruit League Season, giving Nats fans a unique perspective of the goings-on at the Nats Spring Training home in Viera, Fla. Check back often for the latest updates.

 

Hey NatsTown. Thanks for again stopping by.

 

Big weekend down here. Two more wins, including Saturday’s 6-5 comeback win over the Yankees in front of a packed house at Space Coast Stadium. We are now 10-5 on the Spring. Only the Braves (11-5) have a better record in the Grapefruit League. Feels good! We lost today’s home matchup with the Tigers, 4-1, but Jason Marquis continued to pitch very well. I think we are beginning to see the “real” Jason Marquis now.

 

Want to change things up today. Peek just about anywhere on television or at your favorite newsstand and you’ll quickly notice that our society is fixated on lists.

Honestly, who does not appreciate a good list after all? They are fun, thought provoking and stir debate.

 

With this in mind, I am going to list 50 “things” I am interested in, excited about or intrigued by entering the 2011 season.

 

This list is in no particular order, but I hope this spurs some dialogue and/or discussion among your fellow Nationals fans and friends.

Please feel free to send along your own admissions.

 

Let’s get started …

 

1.      Opening Day. Packed house, a big win over the Braves. I had to list this first, right?

2.      Jordan Zimmermann’s evolution in first complete season since having Tommy John surgery.

3.      The buzz at Nationals Park when Henry Rodriguez hits triple digits on the radar gun.

4.      The number of ways Jim Riggleman can pencil in Zimmerman, Werth, LaRoche in the 3-4-5 slots. Or will it be just one?

5.      Witness day-to-day Pudge’s march toward 3000 hits.

6.      The new food options opening up during the season at Nationals Park. This won’t be a small list.

7.      How much has Screech worked out this offseason? Will he again be svelte Screech?

8.      Our outfield defense. You have to think it will be really strong under almost every alignment Rizzo and Riggleman come up with.

9.      Ian Desmond’s defense. With a year of maturity and experience under his belt, and LaRoche’s vacuum-like glove at first base, how many fewer errors will he make without compromising his elite range.

10.  Will Sean Burnett continue to be as good a left-handed middle reliever as there is in MLB? I bet he will be with continued good health.

11.  Jayson Werth’s professionalism and its affect on our clubhouse. And how his presence in the middle of our lineup will positively affect our run production.

12.  Roger Bernadina or Nyjer Morgan, who will have more bunt hits.

13.  Who will lead the team in hustle hits (aka infield hits)? My bet is on Ian Desmond. But watch out for Danny Espinosa, plus he gets more than half his at-bats from the left side.

14.  When will we see Rick Ankiel’s legendary outfield arm pay dividends for the first time. Cannot wait.

15.  Will Tyler Clippard stick with “Peaches” as his intro song. Hope so.

16.  How will Jim Riggleman use his bench, which is as talented and as deep as we have known here.

17.  How many pinch homers will Matt Stairs hit? How many of those will be game-changers.

18.  Does Michael Morse put it all together? His prospects look good, don’t they?

19.  How noticeable and tangible will our renewed emphasis on baserunning be? Should be really fun seeing a lot of first-to-third, first-to-home on a double, etc.

20.  See Livan throw a ‘Bugs Bunny’ changeup that registers in the low 60s on the radar gun?

21.  Will Ryan Zimmerman win his 3rd straight Silver Slugger?

22.  Can Ryan rightfully reclaim his Gold Glove? I bet “yes.” Having Mr. LaRoche as a target won’t hurt.

23.  Interested to see Wilson Ramos’ arm and, for kicks and giggles, ask Bob Boone how it compares to Pudge’s when he was 23 years-old.

24.  With his new mechanics in mind, watch Ross Detwiler take the next step in his career (so far, so good this spring)

25.  Watch who gets the majority of our saves.

26.  Good weather, maybe highs in the 70s with plenty of sun, for Nats Fest on Wed., March 30.

27.  Want to watch the Mel Antonen, Tom Davis, Dave Johnson and Phil Wood pre pre-game show on MASN from 5-6:30pm weeknights. Also excited about Charlie and Dave on 106.7-WJFK FM. Good to be back on FM again!

28.  Multiple All-Stars for the Nationals for the first time since 2005 (Livan, Chad Cordero).

29.  With a small lead in hand, see who will pitch the 9th inning on Opening Day against the Braves.

30.  Can Collin Balester clone his Sept. 2010 performance and reproduce it in 2011?

31.  How many home runs will Bryce Harper hit in the minor leagues?

32.  See who Mike Rizzo and his talented network of scouts pluck with the 6th and 23rd-overall selections in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft.

33.  Excited to experience F.P. Santangelo on MASN 10 times in 10 days during a May road trip.

34.  Time (via a stopwatch) how long it takes our fans to fall in love with Jayson Werth and Jerry Hairston, Jr. Oh, and Todd Coffey and his sprint?

35.  Further good health and prosperity for Jesus Flores, who deserves both.

36.  Fewer trips to the mound for Steve McCatty as our starting pitchers consistently go 7 innings.

37.  Danny Espinosa and Ian Desmond become the best and most athletic middle infield tandem in the NL. Heck, why stop there. Let’s say best in MLB.

38.  Adam LaRoche to be named as one of the sneaky-good signings of the 2010-11 offseason.

39.  Perhaps have a young opposing player swing twice when seeing a vintage Tyler Clippard changeup for the first time.

40.  With most of Taiwan watching, have Chien-Ming Wang make the first of his 20+ starts for us in May.

41.  Read about an opposing player like Chipper Jones, Chase Utley or David Wright lauding the consistent hustle and effort of your 2011 Washington Nationals.

42.  Require a calculator to tally the number of errorless games we string together in 2011.

43.  Watch to see how we grow as a franchise through the prism of social media.

44.  See if Nyjer Morgan can regain his 2009 Mojo.

45.  Watch Danny Espinosa homer from both sides of the plate in the same game.

46.  Have Livan Hernandez rightfully claim his first Gold Glove.

47.  See Tom Gorzelanny make 30 starts and regain his status as a double digit-game winner.

48.  See winning records and postseason berths in Syracuse, Harrisburg, Potomac, Hagerstown, Auburn, Viera and the Dominican Republic.

49.  Be present as Stephen Strasburg pitches in mid-September, a la Jordan Zimmermann in Sept. 2010.

50.  Will Teddy win? I sure hope so! Maybe I’ll ask Todd Coffey if he can work with Teddy on the fine art of sprinting.

 

Again, please don’t hold back. Send in some of your own ideas.

Thanks so much for your time and continued enthusiasm for the Nationals.

17 more days until the opener…

 

I will be in touch again soon.

 

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

A
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
show)?:
None. I do watch the Discovery Channel a lot. Favorite show is “Deadliest
Catch.”

* LOTS of fog this morning, but it burned off around 9 a.m. and it set the
stage for another beautiful day. According to weather.com,
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.

Day 2 in Viera: Pitchers Take Center Stage

Hi again. I hate to rub it in—as I heard that it’s cold again in DC—but the temperature reached 72 here in Viera today. In fact, the highs for the next four days are slated to be 73 (Thu.), 74 (Fri.), 73 (Sat.) and 73 (Sun.). Now that’s baseball weather! To be more specific, that’s San Diego baseball weather.

Spring Training really is a unique time. No other sport can even touch it. I hope everyone reading this blog can someday experience firsthand the warmth, rhythm and optimism that is nearly palpable at a big league Spring Training camp. Let’s just say you have an open invitation to joins us anytime here in Viera!

I’m John Dever, the PR Director for the Nationals baseball operation, and I will be posting some miscellaneous observations (along with those of my trusty sidekicks, Mike Gazda and Bill Gluvna) over the next week or so that will hopefully appeal to all of you Nats fans out there. But really, the three of us are just saving Mark Lerner’s spot. Mark will be blogging about his Spring Training experiences starting next week. He began blogging during the ’10 Winter Meetings and he is eager to restart his blogging engines.

So here’s a run-down of today’s happenings:

*Saw Stephen Strasburg today. He looked … great. His core is noticeably stronger. And as good as he looked physically, his spirits appeared higher. While I’m sure he is bummed he won’t be throwing his first bullpen this week, I have a feeling he long ago accepted his fate and began channeling his energies toward a successful return. The media will meet with Stephen on Thursday, so I’m sure you will be reading more on his outlook directly from him by this time on Thursday. But here’s the bottom line: as anxious as we all are for the return of Stephen Strasburg “the pitcher,” it was fantastic to see Stephen Strasburg “the person” today.


102572427.jpg*Please note that no matter what you read, Jim Riggleman yesterday did not name Livan Hernandez our Opening Day starter. But Riggs did indicate that Livan is the leading candidate, and that he earned that dubbing via his performance last season (10-12, 3.66 ERA, 22 quality starts in 33 starting assignments). This would not be Livan’s first Opening Day nod. He’s earned that honor seven times during his career. Not many pitchers can say they have toed the rubber seven times on Opening Day.

*Newest arrival among position players: Roger Bernadina (who flew in on the Amsterdam-Viera express). Roger spent a good chunk of his offseason in The Netherlands, but as he told me, he gets plenty of work in there, as there is more baseball played there than any other European country. He works out with other pros there at an indoor facility, so that might give you an indication of The Netherland’s place in the baseball universe.

*Chien-Ming Wang is back and, like Strasburg, his spirits are high after spending the majority of his offseason working out and strengthening his right shoulder in Phoenix. There will be no limitations placed on Wang as tomorrow we embark on the first formal workout of the spring.

*Hair update: Strasburg’s beard that you may have spied in the offseason is gone. He’s back to the familiar chin patch.

*Local Nationals coverage reminder: Jordan Zimmermann will be on “Overtime” with Bill Rohland on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. on 106.7 fm The Fan.

Quote Sheet: Jim Riggleman from Winter Meetings

We interrupt your regularly scheduled Curly W Live programming to bring you some insights from Manager Jim Riggleman on the signing of Jayson Werth and the state of the rest of the roster. Keep checking back for more musings from Principal Owner Mark D. Lerner throughout the week.

More: Blog Entry #1 | #2 | #3 | #4 | #5 | #6 | #7 | #8

JIM RIGGLEMAN:  Actually when I got here, I knew that we had made this trade.  Mike and I talked a lot about players like Jayson and others, and you know, I knew who Mike had his sights on.  You know, we had expressed it thoughts on a lot of players, but you know, it was very much under the radar, kept quiet, and so I basically found out when I got here.

 

            Q.  How does it feel for the first time in your career to have money to spend on players?

            JIM RIGGLEMAN:  I don’t know if it’s the first time.  I felt that I’ve been fortunate to manage in places and owners have always been generous in trying to put the best players we can out there.

            Sometimes your ownership group is trying to get players, and the players don’t take the money.  You know, you offer good money and they find something else somewhere.  But you know, in this case, I think it’s very encouraging, not only with Jayson, but with Bryce Harper and the commitment to Ryan Zimmerman a few years ago; I think that there’s a history here of trying to go out through the ballclub, whether it’s through trades, free agents, whatever, but there’s a great commitment to player development.

            I think this is a great sign for the organization and our fans that the ballclub is serious about having a better future for this organization.

 

            Q.  You talk about messages, in terms of the money that you’re paying Jayson says that you believe we can be a middle of the lineup, superstar‑caliber player.  In Philadelphia, he had other bats around him.  Do you feel he can be that kind of guy?

            JIM RIGGLEMAN:  I don’t think that ‑‑ we are not really approaching it as, okay, you have to be the centerpiece of this organization.  You know, we just feel like he’s a very good player that has done some great things in Philadelphia.

            And you’re right, he’s around a lot of good players, but we can put players around him.  We still have Ryan Zimmerman there and we have Willingham there and we have a first baseman that will drive in runs one way or another.  He’s not going to feel that he’s alone there in the lineup.

            His athleticism and his talent, he’s surrounded by other good athletes, and you know, we just want to play baseball.  We are not looking for him to come in redefine his numbers.  If he does what he’s done in the past, that’s a great thing and if he does a little more, a little less, it’s still going to be a great thing, because he’s really done some great things last few years.

 

            Q.  Have you had a chance to talk to him at all?

            JIM RIGGLEMAN:  I have not talked to him yet, no.

 

            Q.  Assuming you get a first baseman, your outfield looks a little crowded; do you feel like there are enough at‑bats for everyone there and do you feel that you have an excess there and maybe need to make a move to open spots for other guys?

            JIM RIGGLEMAN:  You know, I think we want to have about five guys there, and if you add up what we have got there now, that’s about what we have.  Will something else happen?  Yeah, it might happen.  There might be another acquisition, might be a trade that clears it up.  We really are early into not just the Winter Meetings, but we are still early into the off‑season.  A lot of things can still happen.  I’m not sure how it will shake out exactly.  But you know, we just try to divvy up the at‑bats as best we can and keep guys as productive as we can.

 


            
Q.  Would you feel comfortable with the infield now, or do you feel like you need another utility‑type guy for insurance or just to have another body?

            JIM RIGGLEMAN:  I think maybe in a perfect world, maybe is that player will be able to do a little bit of both, move around.  In the National League, it’s nice to have guys who can go in the infield and outfield and have a guy or two like that.  So that might be something to look at.

            No, I’m very happy with Gonzalez, Espinosa, Desmond right now. 

 EspinosaGonzalez.jpg

            Q.  Is your first impulse, where to bat Jayson; the Phillies were reluctant to bat him in the 3‑hole, he batted 5 and sometimes in the 2‑hole.  What are your thoughts of him and Zimmerman and how you might do that?

            JIM RIGGLEMAN:  I think it depends on who plays first base and where that person hits and what kind of protection that person can give for either Ryan or Jayson.

            My recollection is there were times where Howard and Utley were both hurt at the same time and Jayson did fill that spot in the middle pretty good at third or fourth and productive.  If that is where he is at, that will be fine.

            I think what happens, if Willingham is out there, he’s good protection for Ryan.  If it’s a left‑hand hitting first baseman, it might be protection there in that way.

 

            Q.  How important is it to you to acquire the kind of bench guys, that can play infield, outfield, that have more versatility from multiple guys to give you options late in the game, and was that a problem last year?

            JIM RIGGLEMAN:  No, it really wasn’t a problem.  I don’t ‑‑ again, I think we might have put Gonzalez out there a couple of innings one time, at least we talked about it.

            I think Gonzalez could do that.  But you know, Willy could do that last year, he could go in the infield or outfield last year.  It just so happens we had so many infielders, we didn’t use him in the infield very much.

            It’s comforting to know, as the game plays out, and you have to do certain things in the game, the way the lineups turn over, that you have somebody that can fill a lot of different roles.

            It’s nice to know that Jayson is a very comparable center fielder as well as right fielder.  We are getting more athletic, is what it amounts to.  We are getting a little more versatile, a little more athletic.

 

            Q.  Is Nyjer your center fielder or is it a competition between him and Roger going into the spring?

            JIM RIGGLEMAN:  I think Nyjer is our center fielder.  I think Bernie played his best baseball defensively in left, did okay in right, did fine in center but I thought he really excelled in left field.

            You know, Josh is out there, so Bernie is going to be fighting for at‑bats.


Bernadina.jpg
 
           Q.  You mentioned left‑handed hitting first baseman provides protection; how much does Pena fit that bill?

            JIM RIGGLEMAN:  We are like a lot of teams.  We like Carlos Pena.  We really liked Adam Dunn.  Adam Dunn did a great job for us and we appreciate everything he did.  We made what we feel is a good offer to Adam and Adam and his agent did a great job; they got a better deal.  But that left‑handed bat there was nice to have, and you know, we feel like Carlos is a guy who can do that.  There’s three or four other names, you know, that can do it. 

            Whatever comes up, I’m sure it’s going to be a good option.

 

            Q.  A lot of people were surprised that Jayson got as much money as he did.  What’s your reaction to that?  Were you in on the dollars?  Did you have any idea?

            JIM RIGGLEMAN:  No, I’m not in on that.  But the thing is, the money, you know, when you’re managing, the players play.  The money doesn’t play.  You put a ballplayer out there.  You don’t put the money out there.

            You know, one of our brightest spots on our team last year was a minimum‑salary guy in Ian Desmond.  We had great things out of our higher‑paid players, also.

            You know, when you’re managing the players, you just feel fortunate to have them and you don’t look at how much money they make and judge it.  You just evaluate the talent that you have, and sometimes the guys that don’t make much money play good and sometimes the guys that make a lot of money have a down year.

            You just try to make the best acquisitions that you can and have the best player development that you can have feeding your big league club and hopefully it all comes to fruition.

 

            Q.  Did you have a chance to watch Bryce Harper in the Fall League?

            JIM RIGGLEMAN:  I only saw him in the instructional league, very impressive.  Bryce, he’s met every challenge.  He met the challenge of going into college early; the challenge of playing in the instructional league and in the Fall League as a young guy.  He’s met every challenge tremendously.  He’s fit in well with his teammates.  He’s done everything that could be asked of him, and you know, he’s just on a time frame of, go play baseball and sooner or later, he’s going to be in the big leagues.

 

            Q.  In Spring Training, what is sort of the plan, just in terms of ‑‑ does he get a locker in the big league clubhouse or is he a Minor League guy?

            JIM RIGGLEMAN:  You kind of forget.  He’s on the 40‑man roster, so he’s in the big league ‑‑ in that case, he’ll be there.

            He’ll get a lot of attention, I’m sure, just as Stephen Strasburg did last year.  But he’ll be in big league camp and get some at‑bats.  If the at‑bats look like they are starting to get too infrequent, we will get him down to Minor League camp where he’s pitching every day.

 

            Q.  But he’ll get at‑bats in the big league exhibitions?

            JIM RIGGLEMAN:  Yeah, we’ll get him some at‑bats.

 

            Q.  Can you talk about Stephen, how is he progressing?

            JIM RIGGLEMAN:  You know, my understanding is he’s doing very well, but the process is what it is.  It’s a 12‑ to 18‑month process, and each goal that he tries to reach with his rehab, he’s meeting those goals.  We anticipate it’s going to be 12 to 18 months just like originally said.


Strasburg.jpg
 
            Q.  If you guys are not able to get that big name pitcher that might still be out there, how comfortable are you with what you have in your rotation at the moment?  Is it set in stone already, are there spots up for grabs or how would you look at that?

            JIM RIGGLEMAN:  Our rotation, there’s 5‑ to seven starters there right now that Mike wanted to add somebody to it.  But that’s very difficult to do.  And Mike’s made great efforts to do it.  As I said, there’s been one or two guys who were offered nice contracts that they got something somewhere else and stayed where they were at originally or whatever.

            So it’s been difficult to add a quality starter.  So as Mike continues to look for that and that opportunity to add there, we are really focusing on some bullpen stuff.  We feel like our bullpen did a good job last year but maybe we can strengthen our strength.

 

            Q.  What would that look like, adding another guy who could fill a specific role or a closer?

            JIM RIGGLEMAN:  I don’t think we would add a closer.  I think as Mike has indicated, ideally we would get somebody who maybe has had some experience in the ninth inning but not necessarily a classic closer.  Those guys are just not going to show up.

            So I think with Clifford and Storen and Burnett, we have got guys there that are not intimidated by the ninth inning, but if we can add another guy or two, that is also comfortable pitching in the 7th; that on a given day, needs to pick up the slack and go into the ninth for us, and again, he’s not ‑‑ the ninth inning isn’t too big of a situation for him to handle.

 

            Q.  Do you see deciding on one of those guys as your closer or is it going to be maybe just all three of them will pitch the ninth inning depending on circumstance?

            JIM RIGGLEMAN:  In a perfect world, you have a guy who does it, but our guy who we kind of look to do that down the road is Storen and that being the case, we want to allow him to gravitate towards that.

            If it happens sooner than later, it’s great, but if he gets some help doing it in the meantime, again, I’ll point to a couple of the best closers, really, didn’t pitch the ninth inning until they were about 25, 26 years old; Mariano Rivera and a few others.  They kind of found their way in the seventh and eighth inning for a couple of years and when Wetteland moved on, Mariano took it over and others have done the same thing.

            I think that that has proven to be a real good way for a guy to acclimate himself to that ninth inning is to get a little history behind him in the seventh and eighth, and Drew has got a little of that.  He’s pitched some in the ninth.  But again, we are not going to deny him if he’s clearly that option there, but we are not going to force it to happen, either.

 

            Q.  This off‑season, we have seen four managers hired, that have been with teams before.  You’ve been through that experience, I wanted to ask you, what is it like to try to get that second, maybe third job, what the process is like?

            JIM RIGGLEMAN:  Well, you know, these jobs are precious.  It’s hard to get a Major League managing job.  Just as Terry Collins spoke about that last week.  I completely understand what he’s saying.  These jobs, Major League coaching jobs, these are precious positions.  You work your whole life in baseball once you’re not a player to get into a position to coach and/or manage.

            So you know, quite often what happens is you get a job because the ballclub is struggling.  The Giants job ain’t going to be open, you know what I mean; Bruce Bochy has got that.  There are many capable people who have gotten the opportunity to manage these clubs, and many capable people who have not gotten the opportunity to manage these clubs.  When you get the opportunity, you are fortunate to get it.  You don’t really reflect on, you know, whether you were lucky or whatever.  You just appreciate the opportunity.

 

            Q.  As far as getting that second or third opportunity, what was the process like?  Was it a matter of staying in touch with general managers?

            JIM RIGGLEMAN:  No, I never stayed in touch with any general managers.  I just stayed in the game.  I went from ’99 to really middle of ’08, and never spoke to any general managers.  I just was working in the game and had various positions in the game and a position to manage arose, and I took it.

            It’s not a job you apply for.  These things evolve.  You don’t ‑‑ people know that ‑‑ we all know each other in the game.  Everybody knows what everybody wants to do.  But when I was coaching, I really appreciated the opportunity to coach.  Again, those are precious positions, and so I felt very fortunate to be coaching.  When I got the opportunity to manage, I took it.

 

            Q.  If Adam wasn’t signed and went to Chicago, there were stories written that Zimm was upset; has Mike talked to him since?

            JIM RIGGLEMAN:  I’ve talked to him and we have texted a lot here lately.

            My message to Zimm was before Adam left, I hope we get Adam left, but if we don’t, Mike is going to have something there.  So when this has happened, with Jayson being there, it’s got be to comforting for Zimm to know that we are not tossing in the towel.  But there are going to be other examples between now and Opening Day that Zimm will be encouraged by.

 

            Q.  How challenging is it with turnover one year to the next in terms of free agency and trades in terms of how to handle that?

            JIM RIGGLEMAN:  I think we’ll have four or five guys from our bullpen last year that I have a lot of history with and I know maybe what the limits are that they can go to.  When you get new guys there is an adjustment period that you can go through and hopefully figure that out through conversations and through Spring Training and watching them work and how they respond on a second day and how they respond on three out of four days work or something.

            Spring Training is a pretty long process in today’s world.  By Opening Day, you have a pretty good feel for what a guy can handle.


NyjerThrow.jpg
 
            Q.  What improvements would you like to see in Nyjer?

            JIM RIGGLEMAN:  I think that, basically, the thing that we want Nyjer to do is get on base, a little higher rate, and to be there to be knocked in.

            The game is full of statistics, and there’s so many numbers out there.  But when it comes to offense, you’re either knocking them in or you’re scoring.  The rest of it is a little bit of eyewash.

            We want Nyjer to score and to score, he’s got to be on base.  We know he can do it.  He’s shown he can do it.  We just hope that he’s getting on base at a little higher clip, and that’s going to mean a little improvement against left‑handed pitching basically.

30 Players in 30 Days: Roger Bernadina


Roger Bernadina takes flight.jpgIt all clicked for Roger Bernadina on May 12 (see above). It was a dreary day in New York and the Nationals were preparing to play the rubber match of a three game series against the Mets at Citi Field. The conditions were far from perfect and maybe that’s why they were just right for Bernadina whose ascension through the Minors was anything but seamless.

The Nats’ coaching staff gathered like they do before every game and concluded that Bernadina was ready to show he was a Major League player. Manager Jim Riggleman boldly predicted Bernadina would hit a double and a triple in the afternoon’s game–not just record two hits but a double and a triple. It was like bravely betting the house on green in roulette–the odds were next to nil. Bernadina was batting .212 (7-for-33) with three runs and one RBI in 12 games.

It goes without saying, Riggleman was wrong in his prediction but he was right in the outcome. He just underestimated Bernadina a little bit. Bernadina went 3-for-5 and hit two home runs–including a two-run blast to right to win the game 6-4 in the top of the ninth. He also showed off his range in the outfield by robbing Jeff Francoeur of a three-run double in the fifth inning with a gravity-defying, highlight reel catch.

The break on May 12 was much different from the break he got in 2009–a type of break that ruins career not propels them. Bernadina fractured his right ankle while making a leaping catch in center field on April 18. Before his season could really begin–his first start–it was over. He would return to full strength and he proved it on that fateful day.

Bernadina had finally arrived. He was now more than a raw athlete with potential. In one day, he raised his batting average 51 points and solidified a spot as the everyday right fielder.

“He’s just scratching the surface of his ability level,” General Manager Mike Rizzo said. “He’s come up here and has shown flashes of that everyday corner outfielder that he can be.”

Ian Desmond has never been short on hyperboles or stories but he has watched Bernadina develop since their days together in Savannah, Ga., with the Single-A Sand Gnats in 2005. He has some unforgettable memories of Bernadina making “unbelievable” catches and throws. Desmond knew he was capable of this and knew it was only time before everyone else witnessed his skills.

“I’ve just been telling everybody the whole time this guy is going to be really good,” Desmond said at the time. “Just watch. Let him play and watch. People are like, ‘Eh, we’ll see.'”

So can Roger Bernadina be any everyday player? The sample size grew a little bit–one full season in the Majors–but the verdict is still out. Succeeding in baseball is all about being consistent–anyone can be great for a day. At his best on June 28, Bernadina was hitting .291 (46-for-158) with five home runs, 23 RBI and a .354 OBP. In the beginning of the season, he only played when right-handed pitchers started but towards the end of the season he showed he can hit left-handed pitching, but began to struggle at the plate against lefties and righties. From August 13 until the end of the season, he batted .201 (32-for-159) with four home runs and 16 RBI.

“He’s scuffed results-wise,” Manager Jim Riggleman said. “The game is not physically demanding on him. He’s just a physical specimen. He could be playing football. The guy is not going to be worn down physically. The grind is mental. He’s had some ups and downs. He’s had times where he’s really looked like he’s ready to go to the next level. Then he got in a little funk where he struggled. He’s passionate about it. He doesn’t say much, but he’s really upset with himself when he makes outs. He’s worked very hard.”

He really could be playing football. He looks like a wide receiver in a baseball uniform. There isn’t an ounce of fat on his body and if there is you are going to need a magnifying glass to find it. Josh Willingham and Ryan Zimmerman call him T.O.–short for the NFL wide receiver Terrell Owens who is famously known for doing sit-ups shirtless in his driveway in front of camera crews during a contract dispute in 2007. Bernadina is T.O. without the drama or baggage. He is reserved in the clubhouse and has a smile as bright as the Curacao sun. He chews gum like it is his second job–he has a piece in his back pocket at all times–and competes with Adam Dunn for the best bubble-blower on the team.

It took him seven years in the Minors and a broken ankle, but he finally got his chance to play in the Majors. It wasn’t easy but it has never been easy.

“He’s got power,” Adam Dunn said. “When he puts everything together, he’s going to be a special player. He’s a young kid, but he’s figuring it out.”

He is still a work in progress but if he figures it out he could be a staple in the Nats’ outfield.

“He’s a guy we’re trying to get as much information on as we can, because we’ve got to see about next year,” Riggleman said. “Do we anoint him as one of our three outfielders, or do we have to look further?”

Capture the Caption… and win FREE tickets to game 1 of Battle of the Beltways

Capture the Caption: Submit your caption to natstown@nationals.com or in the comments section for one or both of the photos below. The winning caption will receive TWO FREE TICKETS to tomorrow’s game against the Baltimore Orioles. 


Livan Hernandez triple vision 1.JPGThird-eyed blind.


Morgan and the guys jumping.JPGGuys…. Guys… wait for me.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 556 other followers