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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.
Good afternoon NatsTown. Yet another picturesque morning in Viera. Looking forward to hosting the Astros today at Space Coast Stadium.
Before we delve into baseball talk, many of our fans who have made the trip down to Spring Training have been stopping by before and after games to say “hello.”
Please know, we love seeing you all and want to impress on everyone just how much we appreciate your never-ending support of the Nationals. It does not go unnoticed.
We are just coming off a big Grapefruit League weekend, including Sat.’s 10-8 victory in a slugfest over the Yankees. It is always interesting to play the Yankees, always fun to beat the Yankees. With 27 World Championships, they are the standard against which teams measure themselves. Sure, we know Saturday’s win came in a Grapefruit League contest and we did not face some of their star players.
But our lineup fared well against C.C. Sabathia and Joba Chamberlain, two mainstays of their rotation and bullpen, respectively. Ryan Zimmerman (2 doubles, 2 RBI) and Ian Desmond (2 hits, RBI) both appeared to be in midseason form. And what a thrill for Jeff Frazier, who grew up in New Jersey, to homer against his hometown Bronx Bombers. And with family and friends in the stands? Great story for Jeff.
Despite some daunting skies in the late morning, we hosted a huge and boisterous crowd of 6,250 on Sunday at Space Coast Stadium. That made for a fun atmosphere reminiscent of a regular-season game. Kenny G. performed a rendition of the National Anthem that culminated with a 60-second note near the end of the tune. Everyone was simply wowed by the performance. I won’t forget it.
Although our bats stalled against the Braves, I think it is fair to say that Ross Detwiler’s superb outing is the key performance going forward. Ross looked very strong as he struck out 5 in 3.0 scoreless innings. And this was a Braves lineup that featured the vast majority of their big names (Heyward, Chipper, Uggla, Prado). I know Steve McCatty was beaming afterwards about the outing.
Don’t look now, but Detwiler, Livan Hernandez, Jason Marquis, Yunesky Maya and Jordan Zimmermann have combined to allow just one earned run in 16.0 innings this spring. These performances are in stark contrast to last spring, when the majority of our pitching staff struggled in Florida. So, things appear to be trending in the right direction on the pitching front. Oh, and those numbers do not include 4.0 businesslike innings out of Livan in a Minor League game yesterday. I could watch Livan pitch anywhere, anytime. After his start yesterday, Livan told me that he was pleased, especially compared with his first start, during which he did not feel like he was in synch.
Scary moment Sunday when Wilson Ramos was struck by a foul tip. He is alright, but it gave us all pause for a minute or so there as he was being tended to by our athletic training staff. Wilson is a special talent who is going to help our pitchers, our lineup and our defense. He can really throw and he has some power in that bat. And he is still learning. There is not much that Wilson cannot do on the baseball field.
I took a few calls late yesterday from family and friends in DC and the F. P. Santangelo reviews were all positive. We are happy to have F.P. and his family on board for 2011 and beyond. It is great to have all our broadcasters—Bob Carpenter, Charlie Slowes, Dave Jageler, Debbi Taylor—on the ground with us here in Viera.
Quick reminder that MASN will telecast two games next weekend, Friday vs. Houston (6:00 pm) and Saturday vs. NY Yankees (1:00 pm).
I am also pleased to say that Saturday’s game against the Yankees is sold out. Should be fun. I will be in touch again soon.
This could be the year of John Lannan. While everyone has been focused on Stephen Strasburg’s every move and pitch, Lannan has done what he has always done best–traveled under the radar like a stealth bomber. The cool-headed, hard working pie master, low maintenance man is having his best Spring to date: 1-0 with a 2.45 ERA (3 ER/ 11 IP), one walk, six strikeouts and a .190 BAA. The kid that keeps defying odds is entering his third full season in the Majors–not even he thought he would ever make it to the pros– and he could be the Nats first 15-game winner since Livan Hernandez in 2005.
A few thoughts from Lannan…
On the additions of Jason Marquis and Chien-Ming Wang:
“We got a lot of guys that have won and know how to win. Of course I am happy with what the front office has done.”
Marquis and Lannan are the only two Native New Yorkers to beat the Mets and Yankees in the same season:
“There is something about pitching in front of your family and against the team you grew up watching. It is a great feeling just to pitch there and have your whole family and friends cheer you on. That’s a pretty cool fact.”
(Every pitcher has pitched well enough to get a victory but for whatever reasons walked away with the loss. It seems to happen to Lannan more frequently than others though. The sum of his outings weren’t indicative of his overall record last season. First, he had a 3.71 run support average, the second-worst RSA in the Majors last season with at least 200.0 IP. Second, just look the numbers between CC Sabathia and himself. It begs the question: how many wins would have Lannan had if he pitched for the Yankees in 2009?)
Number of games started allowing three earned runs or less:
Sabathia: 23 Lannan: 23
ERA in those games:
Sabathia: 1.78 ERA (32 ER/ 161.2 IP) Lannan: 2.24 ERA (39 ER/ 156.2 IP)
Individual Record in those games:
Sabathia: 18-0 Lannan: 9-5
Team Record in those games:
Sabathia: 20-3 Lannan: 12-11
“I am taking my lumps right now. It doesn’t really get to me. There have been plenty of times when I have given up more than three runs and have walked away with the win. It evens out. You can’t really look too deep into that. You want to go out there and put up wins. But you have to look at how many games the team wins when you are out on the mound. That overall record is more important than my individual record.”
(As you probably could have guessed, it doesn’t quite even out. During his two-plus seasons in the Majors, he has just two wins when he has allowed four runs or more and he has 13 losses when he has allowed three runs or less. In the losses, he has a 3.10 ERA but a 1.22 run support average and that explains it all.)
On being the de facto ace last season and how he sees himself entering 2010:
“I am just going to do what I do… the title of ace didn’t really fit my attitude with where I was with my game last year. But hopefully one day I can feel comfortable with that title, but right now I am comfortable with where I am at.”
On losing the twitter battle–first person to garner 1,000 followers–to teammate Collin Balester:
“He had a two week head start. I lost and I will give him that but look at who has more followers now.”
On 2010 goals:
“You don’t want to put a cap on what you can do. No one has won 33 games but you don’t want to say you can’t do that. That mentality has really helped me out. As far as numbers go, I just want to improve on last year, little by little and just have fun. Go out there and compete and just improve every year.”
The rain continues to fall in Viera but after the 2009 season which saw 22 games affected by rain… it doesn’t really come as a surprise that a Nationals Spring Training game has been cancelled for the second straight day. Today’s 1:05 p.m. Nationals-Yankees Grapefruit League contest at Space Coast Stadium in Viera, FL has been cancelled due to rain.
If you are holding tickets for either March 11 vs. Houston or March 12 vs. New York (AL)–both games were cancelled by rain–you can exchange those tickets for any other Nationals 2010 or 2011 Spring Training contest, subject to availability.
Nationals Spring Training season ticket holders will be notified in the coming days as to policies affecting their tickets for both March 11 and 12.
The Nationals’ next home game is Sunday, March 14 vs. St. Louis. First pitch is scheduled for 1:05 p.m.