Results tagged ‘ Yunesky Maya ’
Anxious. Anticipation. Cannot. Wait. For. Monday. Grapefruit. League. Opener.
Just two more workouts. Just two more bunt drills. Just two more PFPs (pitchers fielding practices). Just two more pitchers cover first base drills.
It will be darn nice to …
* Hear “play ball” instead of Bobby Henley yelling “rotate.”
* To see a foul ball fly into the stands and not into the net on a BP cage.
* To see a pitcher field a comebacker instead of it rattling off a protective “L” screen.
* To hear the rattle of cleats on dirt or concrete instead of running shoes on grass.
* To taste a ballpark hot dog instead of tuna fish from the clubhouse.
When was the last time on a Friday afternoon I was dreaming about Monday? I am willing to bet that I am not the only Nationals fan doing so this afternoon.
Okay, now that I have waxed poetic about Monday, let’s fill you in about today’s festivities…
* Today was our annual Photo Day, which is everyone’s favorite day in/around baseball (sarcasm alert, this is NOT TRUE). 75 Nationals (60 players, 15 or so managers, coaches, instructors) took part. Along the way, they provided footage or photos to MASN, MLB, the Nationals (NatsHD), Baseball America, AP, Getty Images, The Washington Post, MLB.com (nationals.com), CBS Sports, Topps and one other baseball card company to be named later. MASN takes the honor for most pyrotechnics of any media outlet – OK, so they were the only ones with any pyrotechnics, but their smoke machine was met with a number of “ooh’s” and “aah’s” from the guys as they filmed their various segments.
Every player spent about 30 minutes doing the annual circuit, which began at 7:20 a.m. and wrapped up at 9:31 a.m.
* Twitter pic of the day from Bill Gluvna @NationalsPR: people seemed to get a kick out of this shot. How tall is Ross Detwiler? When he is healthy, here is guessing the downward tilt on his slider is something fierce to contend with.
* In Monday’s aforementioned Grapefruit League opener, Chad Gaudin gets the starting nod. From there, look for Brian Broderick, Adam Carr, Todd Coffey, Shairon Martis, Doug Slaten, Craig Stammen, Josh Wilkie and Tim Wood to pitch. On the position player side, look for Jesus Flores, Wilson Ramos, Ian Desmond, Danny Espinosa, Michael Morse and Nyjer Morgan to be on the bus to St. Lucie. You may be wondering about that youngster, what is his name? … Bryce Harper? Yes, he will also make the trip and Jim Riggleman said he hopes to get him an at-bat.
* I am not going to pontificate on this, but I will tell you that Stephen Strasburg is working VERY hard on his conditioning and strength while coming back from last season’s Tommy John surgery. He simply has to be in the best shape of his life.
* Word around camp today was that Yunesky Maya looked very good while throwing live BP. I also heard Maya speak a bit of English, as he told me “you’re welcome” after I thanked him for his participation in Photo Day. Hey, that’s progress. Also noticed that Josh Wilkie can speak (nearly) fluent Spanish, which is something that Latin players appreciate. I don’t know if Wilkie honed his Spanish skills during his winter ball stint in Venezuela, but I’m sure it didn’t hurt. Wilkie is an impressive well-rounded person.
* Very nice day in Viera today. Mostly sunny. Lots of beautiful clouds. Very windy, with gusts around 30 mph. But it was 80 or so and very comfortable.
We are going to cut today’s blog a tad short, but keep an eye on us this weekend. Special thanks to Mike Gazda and Bill Gluvna for their consistent contributions. Reminder, look for Mark Lerner to blog right here at Curly “W” Live starting on Mon., Feb. 28.
Hello everyone. We were glad to hear that things warmed up in/around DC today, someone said it got above 60 degrees. Well, it hit 83 today at the complex. Sunblock is mandatory, so if you come visit, please don’t forget your SPF 50.
My name is John Dever and I am your guest blogger for the next week or so. I am the PR Director for the Nationals and I will be drawing on the eyes and ears of Mike Gazda and Bill Gluvna. Mike and Bill have been around for many years and have forged hundreds of relationships and watched thousands of ballgames. Collectively, the three of us are holding down the fort for Mark Lerner, who will inherit this blog on Monday, February 28. Mark is looking forward to resuming the blog experience he began during the 2010 Winter Meetings.
Here are some of our observations from today …
*Every morning, 31-32 pitchers begin their workout with stretching and a game of simple catch. One of the pairings the last two days has been Livan Hernandez and Yunesky Maya. Obviously most know that both are from Cuba, and some of our most ardent fans may have read that Maya was a bat boy on Hernandez’s Cuban Industrial League team back in the early 90’s. So they know each other well. What caught my eye today was that they begin their throwing sessions with one another by throwing a “regulation” softball for the first 10-15 tosses. Their theory is that this exercise helps them gain better command of the baseball when they do switch over. Knowing Hernandez’s well-established pinpoint control, it is hard to argue with the notion.
*Today we saw Maya, John Lannan, Craig Stammen, Chad Gaudin and Sean Burnett, among others, debut with their bullpen sessions. Let’s just say, I cannot wait to see Maya in games next month.
*Big arrival today among position players as Adam LaRoche rolled in with his nine-year-old son, Drake. LaRoche jumped right into the cage with the likes of Ryan Zimmerman, Rick Ankiel, Laynce Nix and Nyjer Morgan. LaRoche looked refreshed and ready to go. Meanwhile, Drake will likely be hosting his own talk show within two to three years. He had a lot of people laughing all afternoon around the complex. He has quite the personality.
*When contemplating the future of Wilson Ramos, remember who he has been learning under. Pudge Rodriguez and Joe Mauer. Wilson told Mike Gazda today that he has had and continues to have a strong relationship with Mauer, and that his interaction with Pudge late last season was fantastic. Both players shared their experiences and knowledge freely and their encouragement toward Ramos did not go unnoticed. Who wants to bet that someday down the line Ramos will have a similar relationship with a young up-and-coming catcher? What comes around will undoubtedly go around.
*Little known fact: Sean Burnett is actually right-handed. Yes. That is no misprint. Sean does EVERYTHING (eat, drive, write) right-handed except pitch, bat and golf. Per Burnett, his theory is that he mimicked his left-handed father, Rich Burnett, his entire childhood. One of the interesting aspects of this discussion was that Sean says he can’t throw a football left-handed at all. He says he likely could not throw a football 10 feet. But he can hurl a football pretty well from the right side in case you were wondering.
*Book Club Note of the Day: Ross Detwiler is currently reading “When Men Win Glory,” the Pat Tillman story written by Jon Krakauer. Maybe we’ll have him file a book report for us next week.
We’ll be back tomorrow with more on the eve of the report date for position players.
Greetings again. OK, weather check. It was a bit cloudy for most of the morning today, but temps reached 71. The wind was light and pleasant. Not perfect, but in the realm of really comfortable. The sun came out in earnest in the afternoon. I am in the midst of my eighth Spring Training in Viera and this is the best weather we’ve had right from the get-go. Usually things get very nice in March, but this year’s sunny skies seem to have come a bit early. No one is complaining.
So who is this guy who’s in his eighth Spring Training in Viera? My name is John Dever and I’m the PR Director for the Nationals baseball operation. With the help of Mike Gazda and Bill Gluvna, I’m stringing together some ideas, sights/sounds, and vignettes from the Nationals 2011 Spring Training camp. As I’ve said before, we are merely batting leadoff on this blog for another few days before Mark Lerner jumps into the captain’s seat to share his own views on what’s happening with the Nationals during their stay in Camp Riggleman.
* Today we saw baseball players actually playing baseball in uniform as part of the first workout for pitchers and catchers. We heard balls popping into new leather gloves. A nice sound no doubt, one trumped only by the distinctive bat-on-rawhide vocals we will begin to hear next week. But we are officially underway.
* Before the workout Jim Riggleman gathered everyone together to remind the pitchers that “no one is making the ballclub today.” In essence, Skipper was telling them not to risk injury by coming out of the chute too hard and too fast. That does no one any good. Let’s keep our fingers crossed for an injury-free season for all.
* 15 pitchers from Group A threw their first bullpens of the Spring. We saw, among others, Livan Hernandez, Chien-Ming Wang, Collin Balester (who threw gas BTW!), Jordan Zimmermann and Tyler Clippard take the hill.
* It is true, Stephen Strasburg played catch today with Head Athletic Trainer Lee Kuntz. In all, Strasburg made 70 throws with Kuntz from 30-45 feet. It was a natural motion, one that I’m sure you can see tonight on the local TV sportscasts. BTW, look for one-on-one interviews with Strasburg tonight on WUSA (Brett Haber) and Comcast Sports Net (Kelli Johnson). On a side note, Stephen won a lucrative $100 bet today from his pitching coach, Steve McCatty. The bet hinged on Strasburg’s assertion that he would have “six-pack abs” by the first day of Spring Training. Word from the clubhouse is that McCatty is eating Ramen Noodles tonight because his meal money is now in Strasburg’s pocket!
* Early Bird Gets the Worm Award to RHP Cole Kimball, who showed up at Space Coast Stadium this morning for his first day in Big League camp at 5:25 a.m. He beat everyone to the park, including Special Assistant Pat Corrales, who is a bit ticked off he wasn’t first. Cole is a workout warrior who throws very hard. Very excited to see him perform in games in a few weeks.
* Truly incredible performance this morning from RHP Yunesky Maya, who threw his body around like a rag doll while fielding comebackers off the bat of Rick Schu. Granted, this drill entails the use of padded baseballs, but Maya made some truly dazzling stops. Must be something about Cuban pitchers because in my mind, countryman Livan Hernandez is the best fielding pitcher I have ever witnessed.
* Book Club Note of the Day: Tyler Clippard spent the dying weeks of his offseason reading Men’s Health Muscle Chow by Gregg Avedon. 150 meals to feed your muscles and fuel your workouts. I wonder how many of those 150 meals contain “Peaches?” In true bachelor fashion, Tyler told us that he prepared none of those meals himself, but rather had a personal chef to fix the meals for him.
That’s it for now – ’til we meet tomorrow, when we chronicle Yunesky Maya’s first bullpen session in Viera, and more.
Yunesky Maya came to the Nationals with a lot of questions surrounding him. Through 10 games–five Minor League and five Major League starts–many of those questions still remain and will have to wait until the upcoming season to be answered.
This is what we do know about him:
*Scouts from teams such as the Red Sox, White Sox, Yankees and, of course, the Nationals picked up on Maya’s talent while he was stringing together successful performances for the Cuban National team and the Cuban National Series, the country’s MLB counterpart.
*Maya finished the 2008-2009 season second in the National Series with a 2.22 ERA and second in strikeouts behind Reds pitcher, Aroldis Chapman–yes, the guy with the 105-mph, record-breaking fastball.
*Maya won the league’s equivalent to the Cy Young Award. Yes, over that same person named Chapman and Maya would not play another season in Cuba.
*Last year, Maya defected and found himself in a holding ground of sorts–the Dominican Republic–where he would have to wait nine months before being cleared to sign as a free agent in the Majors. The Nationals signed him on July 31.
Maya lives without his family, who remains in Cuba, and he is still adjusting to the new culture and language barrier. His lack of knowledge of the English language dictates that a fellow player translates every time Pitching Coach Steve McCatty or a member of the media would like to speak with him. His name was misspelled once on his own locker room name plate in the Minors but he didn’t have a way of telling anyone. But through the difficulties, Maya has gotten what he wanted–a four-year, $6 million contract and a September call-up after a quick month zipping through the Minors.
He’s now experiencing a completely new life, new language and new league–all of which vary greatly from how he was brought up for 28 years of his life. But those in the Nationals front office and on the coaching staff believe once he becomes accustomed to these outside factors, he will be able to adjust his game quickly as well.
“He’s got to try and play catch-up,” McCatty said. “The culture shock, everything that he’s been through to get to this point, it’s been a lot. It’s a tough adjustment. He’s changing his whole idea how to pitch. Learning in the Big Leagues can be a tough thing to do. You get exposed fairly quickly.”
Despite international experience, Maya is not used to the patience of Major League hitters, who won’t swing at pitches slightly outside the strike zone. The Cuban National Series, while Cuba’s top professional league, is often compared to Double- or Triple-A ball in the States, where hitters are decidedly less patient. On one particular occasion while pitching in the Minors this season, Maya acknowledged that he was not used to walking batters and allowed it to shake him up.
He finished 0-3 with a 5.88 ERA (26.0 IP/ 17 ER), 12 strikeouts and 11 walks in five Major League starts. In his three losses, he would pitch a solid game, save for one inning. In that one inning, he would walk batters, give up runs and look like a completely different pitcher. These stretches of success show us the pitcher he can become, but his shaky innings lend to questions of sustainability. It’s also important to note that through Maya’s five starts, the Nationals scored just two total runs, both on solo home runs, while he was in the game–run support that only Cliff Lee could appreciate.
Maya’s fastball tops out in the low 90s–he’s not exactly going to intimidate hitters with his speed, but he commands a dominant curveball and slider. “There’s a lot of guys that pitch at that velocity, right around 90 mph in and out, change speeds, good breaking ball, good changeup and fearless,” Manager Jim Riggleman said of Maya’s pitching style. “The guy down there in Florida that beats us a lot, [Marlins starting pitcher Anibal Sanchez], he reaches back and gets 93 mph now and then, but he pitches at 90 mph, right around that area, and just continues to baffle you, and I see a little bit of that in Maya.”
He’s got time to develop and adjust to new a style and reveal his full ability, but how long will fans be patient while Maya tries to convert his international success to success for the Nationals?
“I have a lot more to show, to prove here,” Maya said. “This is the best baseball in the world. Every day, I feel more comfortable. There’s always room for improvement. You’ve got to be positive. I believe I can be successful up here.”
The 2011 season will hopefully show fans what Maya is all about.
Cuban right-hander Yunesky Maya makes his Major League debut tonight. Many years ago, Maya was the bat boy for the team Livan Hernandez played for in Cuba. They are teammates once again.
Maya went 1-1 with a 0.87 ERA (1 ER/10.1 IP) in two starts with the Chiefs. The 28-year-old made five Minor League starts this season, going 1-2 with a 3.38 ERA and a .225 batting average against.
Maya signed with Washington on August 3, 2010, after a stellar career in Cuba. He went 13-4 with seven complete games and a 2.22 ERA last season with the Pinar Del Rio Vegueros of the Cuban National Series (Cuba’s equivalent of Major League Baseball) en route to being recognized as the circuit’s top pitcher.
During his six-year career in Cuba, Maya went 48-29 with a 2.51 ERA. He went a combined 1-1 with a 0.87 ERA in six games/one start pitching for Cuba in the 2006 and 2009 World Baseball Classic.
“I’m very happy for anybody who comes over from Cuba,” Hernandez said. “I was in the same situation in ’95. I heard they were going to sign him. I’ve seen him pitch in Puerto Rico. I think he’s got everything he needs to pitch in the Big Leagues.”
In other notes:
The Nationals recorded their 60th win yesterday, significant in the sense that it bested the ’08 and’09 win totals of 59. The Nationals won 73 games in 2007 and 81 in 2005. It seems unlikely that the Nats will win 81 games but with 15 home games remaining it isn’t out of the question to finish the season 14-10 and win 74 games–a 15 game improvement.
Today’s lineups are a glimpse of the future…and the past. The game features two starting pitchers making their Big League debut. The last time that happened in Washington, DC was over 100 years ago. Dixie Walker Sr. of the AL Nationals and Bill McCorry of the St. Louis Browns faced off on September 17, 1909 at American League Base Ball Park–the first time either starting pitcher had stepped on a Major League mound.
1. Angel Pagan – RF
2. Luis Hernandez – 2B
3. Carlos Beltran – CF
4. Ike Davis – 1B
5. Mike Hessman – 3B
6. Lucas Duda – LF
7. Henry Blanco – C
8. Ruben Tejada – SS
9. Dillon Gee – SP (0-0, MLB Debut)
*Josh Thole plated two of New York’s three runs yesterday, going 1-for-2 with a walk and two RBI in the loss.
1. Nyjer Morgan – CF
2. Ian Desmond – SS
3. Ryan Zimmerman – 3B
4. Adam Dunn – 1B
5. Roger Bernadina – LF
6. Michael Morse – RF
7. Danny Espinosa – 2B
8. Wilson Ramos – C
9. Yunesky Maya – SP (0-0, MLB Debut)
*With yesterday’s 13-3 mauling of the Mets, the Nationals have won seven of their last 11 contests, dating to August 26. In that same span, Washington has outscored its opponents, 85-55, and has led MLB in runs (85), runs per game (7.7), batting average (.316) and OPS (.876). The 85 runs also account for more runs scored than in any other 11-game span of the Nationals history since the move to Washington (2005-present).
*Danny Espinosa is 9-for-16–a ridiculous .562 batting average–in his first five games as a Major Leaguer. He is the first Nationals rookie to register more than five RBI in a single game.