Nationals acquire All-Star closer Jonathan Papelbon

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By Kyle Brostowitz  

The Washington Nationals acquired All-Star right-handed pitcher Jonathan Papelbon from the Philadelphia Phillies in exchange for Minor League right-handed pitcher, Nick Pivetta. President of Baseball Operations and General Manager Mike Rizzo made the announcements. Papelbon, a six-time All-Star and one of the most prolific closers in Major League Baseball history, joins the Nationals after spending the last three-plus seasons with the Philadelphia Phillies. He is 2-1 with a 1.59 ERA (7 ER/39.2 IP) and is 17-for-17 in save opportunities this season. He has tallied 40 strikeouts, issued eight walks and has allowed opposing batters to hit .211 against him. He is one of only three MLB closers to be perfect in save opportunities and ranks among National League relievers in ERA (7th, 1.59) and strikeout-to-walk ratio (T10th, 5.00),

ATLANTA, GA - JULY 05:  Closer Jonathan Papelbon #58 of the Philadelphia Phillies throws a pitch in the tenth inning during the game against the  Atlanta Braves at Turner Field on July 5, 2015 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images)

ATLANTA, GA – JULY 05: Closer Jonathan Papelbon #58 of the Philadelphia Phillies throws a pitch in the tenth inning during the game against the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field on July 5, 2015 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images)

Since assuming the closer’s role for the Boston Red Sox in 2006, Papelbon has converted 342 saves, the most in Major League Baseball during the last 11 seasons. His 342 saves are good for 12th in MLB history and are third-most among active pitchers. He also ranks among MLB relievers in strikeouts (1st, 727), strikeout-to-walk ratio (5th, 4.85), walks and hits/innings pitched (6th, 1.00) and ERA (8th, 2.30) since 2006.

In 2014, he became just the fifth reliever in MLB history to convert at least 25 saves in nine consecutive seasons, joining Mariano Rivera, Lee Smith, John Wetteland, and Troy Percival. On June 10 vs. San Diego, he became the 26th pitcher in MLB history to record 300 saves, tying Trevor Hoffman as the second fastest player to reach the 300 save mark.

Papelbon converted 39 saves in 2014, his most since converting a career-high 41 saves for the Boston Red Sox in 2008. He ranked among National League relievers in save percentage (T4th, 90.7%), saves (T5th, 39), walks and hits/innings pitched (8th, 0.90) and opponents OPS (9th, .500). With 66 games pitched, he appeared in 50 or more games for the ninth straight season and 60 or more for the seventh year in a row. On August 26, 2014 vs. Washington, he converted his 100th career save as a member of the Philadelphia Phillies and became the first player in MLB history to convert at least 200 saves in one league (AL, BOS – 219) and 100 saves in another league (NL, PHI – 123).

Papelbon, 34, is 37-30 with a 2.32 ERA over his 11 Major League seasons with Boston (2005-2011) and Philadelphia (2012-2015). He was selected in the fourth round of the 2003 First-Year Player Draft out of Mississippi State University. During his time with the Phillies, he supported youth living in Philadelphia-area foster programs through his participation in “Papelbon’s Pen” charitable ticket program. He and his wife, Ashley, have a daughter, Parker, and a son, Gunner.

Pivetta, 22, was selected in the fourth round of the 2013 MLB First-Year Player Draft out of New Mexico Junior College. He was 7-6 with a 3.02 ERA in 18 games/17 starts between Single-A Potomac and Double-A Harrisburg.

Nationals reinstate outfielder Jayson Werth and first baseman Ryan Zimmerman

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By Kyle Brostowitz

The Washington Nationals returned from rehab and reinstated outfielder Jayson Werth from the 60-day disabled list and first baseman Ryan Zimmerman from the 15-day disabled list on Tuesday. To make room, the Nationals optioned outfielder Matt den Dekker to Triple-A Syracuse and outrighted infielder Emmanuel Burriss to Triple-A Syracuse.

WerthZim

Getty Images

Werth, 36, returns to the Nationals’ active roster after missing 61 games with a left wrist contusion. He appeared in 12 Minor League rehab games with Single-A Potomac (6) and Triple-A Syracuse (6), hitting .333 (12-for-36) with two doubles, one home run, eight RBI, five walks and three runs scored between the two stops.

Prior to suffering the injury on May 15 at San Diego, Werth had hit safely in 10 of his previous 14 games, going 14-for-53 (.264) with two home runs, eight RBI, seven walks, and 13 runs scored. He had appeared in 27 games prior to the injury. In five seasons with the nationals, Werth has hit .278 with 110 doubles, five triples, 68 home runs, 265 RBI, 46 stolen bases, 271 walks and 297 runs scored.

Zimmerman, 30, appeared in 56 games for the Nationals before being placed on the disabled list with plantar fasciitis in his left foot on June 11. He missed 49 games due to the injury. Zimmerman appeared in five Minor League rehab games with Double-A Harrisburg, collecting one hit in 15 at bats.

Zimmerman is Washington’s all-time leader (2005-present) in runs scored (712), hits (1370), doubles (307), home runs (189), RBI (744) and games played (1254).

Nationals reinstate infielder Anthony Rendon and option pitcher Abel de Los Santos

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By Kyle Brostowitz

The Washington Nationals returned from rehab and reinstated infielder Anthony Rendon from the 15-day disabled list and optioned right-handed pitcher Abel de Los Santos to Double-A Harrisburg on Saturday.

Rendon, 24, returns to the Nationals’ active roster after missing 25 games with a left quad strain. He appeared in six Minor League rehab games with Single-A Potomac, hitting .471 (8-for-17) with two doubles, one RBI, three walks and two runs scored.

The Nationals’ first-round selection in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft, Rendon is coming off a superb 2014 season in which he took home the National League Louisville Slugger Silver Slugger Award for third basemen and finished fifth in the National League Most Valuable Player Award voting.

Getty Images/Mitchell Layton

Getty Images/Mitchell Layton

Rendon, who is an exceptional defender at second and third base, hit .287 with 39 doubles, six triples, 21 home runs, 83 RBI, 58 walks and 111 runs scored in 153 games in 2014. The gifted infielder ranked fourth in the Major Leagues (second in the NL) in wins above replacement (6.6), according to FanGraphs.com, at the conclusion of the season.

de Los Santos, 22, appeared in two games for the Nationals allowing one earned run on two hits with three strikeouts and one walk in 1.2 innings of relief. He made his Major League debut on July 21 vs. New York.

Nationals recall RHP Joe Ross to start vs. Mets Tuesday night

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by Amanda Comak

The Washington Nationals recalled right-handed pitcher Joe Ross from Triple-A Syracuse on Tuesday and optioned infielder Wilmer Difo to Double-A Harrisburg. Ross will start for the Nationals against the Mets on Tuesday night.

Ross, 22, returns to the Nationals for his second Major League stint of the season. The Nationals selected Ross’ contract from Double-A on June 6 and the rookie right-hander dazzled in three starts for Washington, going 2-1 with a 2.66 ERA. The first Major League assignment of Ross’ career included eight innings of two-run baseball over the Milwaukee Brewers on June 13 and one run over 7.1 IP in his next start, June 19 vs. the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Ross, who has posted a 2.6 walks/9.0 IP mark over the course of his Minor League career, faced 51 Major League batters before he issued his first walk, a new Nationals (2005-present) record.

Since returning to the Minor Leagues, Ross has worked to a 3-1 record with a 2.19 ERA over five starts in his first experience at the Triple-A level. With Syracuse, Ross has never allowed more than three earned runs in a start.

Ross was acquired, along with infielder Trea Turner, from the San Diego Padres in a three-team trade that sent outfielder Steven Souza Jr. and Minor League left-handed pitcher Travis Ott to the Tampa Bay Rays on December 18, 2014. He was originally selected by the Padres in the first round (No. 25 overall) of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft.

Difo, 23, is 1-for-8 (.125) in the Major Leagues this season. The Nationals’ No. 8 prospect, per Baseball America’s mid-season rankings, is hitting .296 with a .343 on-base percentage and a .416 slugging percentage in 63 Minor League games this season across High Single-A and Double-A.

Nationals select contract of RHP Abel de Los Santos, option RHP Blake Treinen to Triple-A

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by Amanda Comak

The Washington Nationals selected the contract of right-handed pitcher Abel de Los Santos from Double-A Harrisburg on Monday and optioned right-handed pitcher Blake Treinen to Triple-A Syracuse. Left fielder Jayson Werth was transferred to the 60-day disabled list to clear space for de Los Santos on the 40-man roster.

de Los Santos, 22, is 4-4 with a 2.65 ERA in 26 appearances (31.1 IP) for Double-A Harrisburg this season. The Dominican Republic-native has not allowed a run since June 8 – a 15-inning stretch (nine appearances) in which he has held opposing batters to a .104 average and struck out 15.

The hard-throwing right-hander has struck out 8.4 batters per nine innings this season in the Eastern League (career K/9: 9.1) and has posted a 0.884 WHIP. He has allowed only nine extra-base hits (7 doubles, 2 home runs) and walked just eight while striking out 35.

de Los Santos was acquired from the Texas Rangers, along with second baseman Chris Bostick, in exchange for left-handed pitcher Ross Detwiler on Dec. 12, 2014.

Though he made eight appearances to begin 2014 with Single-A Hickory of the South Atlantic League, de Los Santos spent the majority of his season with Single-A Myrtle Beach (33 games), where he was 5-2 with a 1.97 ERA. Signed out of the Dominican Republic by the Rangers in 2010, de Los Santos worked to a 0.959 WHIP and struck out 10.4 batters per nine innings in 2014.

Treinen, 27, is 2-2 with a 4.39 ERA in 32 appearances (41.0 IP) out of the Nationals’ bullpen in 2015. His 44 strikeouts rank 16th in the National League and he has walked 21 batters this season.

Nationals recall INF Wilmer Difo and reinstate RHP Aaron Barrett

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by Amanda Comak

The Washington Nationals recalled infielder Wilmer Difo from Double-A Harrisburg, and returned from rehab and reinstated right-handed pitcher Aaron Barrett from the 15-day disabled list on Friday. Center fielder Denard Span was placed on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to July 7, with back tightness and right-handed pitcher Jordan Zimmermann was placed on the paternity list.

Difo, 23, joins the Nationals for the third time this season. Most recently recalled on June 28 as the 26th-man for Washington’s doubleheader at Philadelphia, Difo has appeared in six games at the Major League level in 2015. He collected his first Major League hit in his first MLB at-bat, May 19 vs. New York Yankees.

Difo entered 2015 rated by Baseball America as the No. 7 prospect in Washington’s chain and was cited as the “Best Defensive Infielder” in the Nationals’ Minor League system by the same publication. In 63 games between Single-A Potomac and Double-A Harrisburg this season, Difo is hitting .296 (74-for-250) with 19 doubles, one triple, three home runs, 32 RBI, 14 walks, 14 stolen bases and 34 runs scored.

Barrett, 27, returns to the Nationals after missing 24 games with a right bicep strain. The right-hander did not allow a run and surrendered just three hits in 3.0 IP over four rehab games with Single-A Potomac. Before his injury, Barrett was 3-2 with a 5.06 ERA in 30 games out of the Nationals’ bullpen.

Since his Major League debut on Opening Day in 2014, Barrett’s 11.18 strikeout-to-walk ratio is the 15th-best mark among National League relievers.

Span, 31, ranks 10th in the National League in batting average at .304 through 59 games this season. He’s collected 15 doubles, five home runs, 22 RBI, 24 walks and 37 runs scored while going 11-for-11 in stolen base attempts.

Zimmermann, 29, is 7-5 with a 3.05 ERA this season. The two-time All-Star has been particularly strong of late, allowing just one earned run in his previous three starts, a 0.40 ERA (1 ER/22.2 IP). Zimmermann and his wife, Mandy, are expecting their second child.

Nationals RHP Max Scherzer named to 2015 NL All-Star team

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by Amanda Comak

Washington Nationals right-handed pitcher Max Scherzer was named to the 2015 National League All-Star team on Monday night. Scherzer joins right fielder Bryce Harper, who was announced Sunday as a fan-elected starter, as the Nationals’ selections to the National League squad. The 2015 AL and NL All-Star rosters were unveiled during the “Esurance All-Star Selection Show” on ESPN on Monday night.

Washington NationalsScherzer, who has now received three consecutive All-Star nods, is 9-6 with a 1.82 ERA in 16 starts thus far this year. The right-hander earned his first National League honor via player vote.

“We are thrilled that Max and Bryce will be representing our team at this year’s All-Star Game in Cincinnati,” said Nationals Managing Principal Owner Theodore N. Lerner. “The performance of both of these players during the first half of this season has not only contributed directly and significantly to our team’s success, but it has been historic in nature as well.

“We are so fortunate to get to watch both of these talented players on a nightly basis, and we are honored to call them ours. We can’t wait to see them get the credit they so richly deserve on a stage with so many of baseball’s brightest talents.”

Scherzer joined the Nationals this past offseason, signing as a free agent on January 21, and the 2013 American League Cy Young Award winner has had quite a memorable start to his career in a Nationals uniform. Scherzer threw the second no-hitter in Nationals history (2005-present) on June 20 vs. the Pittsburgh Pirates, carrying a perfect game into the ninth inning before pinch hitter Jose Tabata was hit with a pitch on his left elbow with two outs in the frame.

The no-hitter was one of three consecutive games in which Scherzer took a perfect game into at least the sixth inning, including his start ahead of June 20 (June 14 at Milwaukee) and the one that followed (June 26 at Philadelphia). Combining his no-hitter with his complete-game, one-hit shutout at Milwaukee, Scherzer became the fifth pitcher in the Modern Era, and the first since Jim Tobin (Boston Braves, 1944) to allow one hit or fewer in back-to-back complete games.

All told, Scherzer faced 54 batters between hits allowed (7th inn. at MIL on 6/14 – 6th inn. at PHI on 6/26), and opponents were 0-for-52 in that stretch (BB, HBP). Scherzer also ran his personal consecutive scoreless innings streak to 24.0 during that three-start stretch. He completed his third game of the season on Thursday night in Atlanta, despite suffering the loss.

Twice named the National League pitcher of the Month (May and June), Scherzer was also the National League Player of the Week for June 15-21.

The 2015 All-Star Game will be played at Great American Ball Park on Tuesday, July 14th. The 86th All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX Sports; in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS; and worldwide by partners in more than 160 countries.

Nationals RF Bryce Harper breaks NL voting record en route to starting spot in MLB All-Star Game

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by Amanda Comak

Washington Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper was announced Sunday night as a starter in the 2015 Major League All-Star Game. Harper earned his selection to the National League team by garnering 13,964,950 fan votes, the most votes of any player ever to appear on the National League ballot and third-most votes for any player in MLB this season.

GettyImages-472862308Harper, 22, entered Sunday night’s game against the San Francisco Giants hitting .344 with a .470 on-base percentage and a Major League-best .719 slugging percentage. In 75 games this season, Harper has hit 25 home runs to go along with 19 doubles and one triple. He has walked 60 times in 319 plate appearances.

The Nationals’ right-fielder, who won back-to-back National League Player of the Week awards in May, as well as the National League Player of the Month Award for the same month, currently leads the Major Leagues in on-base percentage (.470), slugging percentage (.719) and on-base plus slugging percentage (1.189). He ranks tied for second in the Major Leagues in home runs (25), third in walks (60) and fourth in RBI (60). His batting average (.344) ranks fourth, and his 57 runs scored slot in fifth.

With his 25th home run, hit on Saturday vs. the Giants, Harper became just the seventh player in Major League history, age 22 or younger, to hit 25 home runs in the season’s first 81 games. He joined four Hall of Fame players (Harmon Killebrew, Eddie Mathews, Joe DiMaggio, Mel Ott) on that list, along with Alex Rodriguez. On May 6 vs. the Miami Marlins, Harper became the 10th-youngest player in MLB history to hit three home runs in a single game.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, only two other players in Major League history have hit .340 or better with at least 25 home runs, 60 RBI and 60 walks through July 4th – Hall of Famers Frank Thomas (1994 and 2000) and Babe Ruth (1921, 1926-27, 1930).

While Harper’s home runs have drawn him significant praise, as well as placed him in some elite company, Harper’s .470 on-base percentage is more than .100 points higher than any of his previous career marks. Harper has reached base safely (including on errors) in 68 of the 75 games he’s played in this year, and hasn’t been held hitless in back-to-back games since May 4-5.

This will be Harper’s third career All-Star Game selection and his second career All-Star start. Harper, who previously attended the 2012 and 2013 All-Star Games (in Kansas City and New York-NL), started in center field for the National League team in the 2013 contest. Harper, the first three-time All-Star in Nationals history (2005-present), is also the first Nationals player to claim multiple fan-elected starting assignments. He is the fourth player in franchise history to accomplish the feat, joining Hall of Famers Gary Carter (1981-84) and Andre Dawson (1981-83), as well as Tim Raines (1982-83).

The rest of the 2015 Major League All-Star participants will be announced Monday night at 7 p.m. during the “Esurance All-Star Selection Show” on ESPN. The 86th Major League Baseball All-Star Game will be held at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati, Ohio, on Tuesday, July 14.

Max Scherzer named NL Pitcher of the Month for June

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by Amanda Comak

Following a month that featured his first career no-hitter and in the midst of one of the most dominant stretches in Major League history, Nationals right-handed pitcher Max Scherzer was named the National League Pitcher of the Month for June on Thursday.

Washington NationalsScherzer, 30, is the first Nationals (2005-present) pitcher ever to earn the honor in back-to-back months, as well as the first Washington pitcher to take home the award twice in one season.

The Nationals’ right-hander was 3-2 with a 2.33 ERA over the course of the month, but after allowing four earned runs in each his first two June starts, Scherzer carried a perfect game into at least the sixth inning in all of his final three outings.

Scherzer threw the second no-hitter in Nationals history (2005-present) on June 20 vs. the Pittsburgh Pirates at Nationals Park, and that feat only came after 8.2 perfect innings were interrupted when a slider hit pinch hitter Jose Tabata on the left elbow. That bit of history happened one start after Scherzer allowed just one hit and struck out 16 in a shutout over the Milwaukee Brewers on June 14.

Scherzer became the fifth pitcher in the Modern Era, and the first since Jim Tobin (Boston Braves, 1944), to allow one hit or fewer in back-to-back complete games (6/14 at MIL; 6/20 vs. PIT). All told, Scherzer faced 54 batters between hits allowed (7th inn. at MIL on 6/14 – 6th inn. at PHI on 6/26). Opponents were 0-for-52 in that stretch (BB, HBP) and Scherzer went 24.0 consecutive innings without surrendering a single run.

The month also included Scherzer’s 100th career victory, making him the third pitcher to notch that milestone while in a Nationals uniform. He joined Livan Hernandez (5/9/05 vs. ARI) and Jason Marquis (5/10/11 vs. ATL).

Scherzer is the first National League pitcher to take home back-to-back Pitcher of the Month awards this season, and the first since Los Angeles’ Clayton Kershaw did so in June and July, 2014. Houston’s Dallas Keuchel got the nod in the American League in April and May this year.

Since the award’s inception in 1968, 19 National League pitchers have secured back-to-back awards, including September of one year and April of the next, and just 17 have done it in the same season.

The only other pitcher in franchise history to win this award in back-to-back months was Jeff Fassero, who earned the distinction with the Montreal Expos in June and July of 1996.

This is the ninth time a Nationals player has been honored with a monthly award. Scherzer and Bryce Harper swept the awards in the month of May and they joined Chad Cordero (June, 2005), Stephen Strasburg (April, 2012), Gio Gonzalez (May, 2012), Jordan Zimmermann (July, 2012) and Jayson Werth (July 2013, July 2014) as honorees.

Nationals select contract of INF Emmanuel Burriss, place INF Anthony Rendon on 15-day DL

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by Amanda Comak

The Washington Nationals selected the contract of infielder Emmanuel Burriss from Triple-A Syracuse on Friday and placed infielder Anthony Rendon on the 15-day disabled list with a left quadriceps strain, retroactive to June 25. Outfielder Reed Johnson was transferred to the 60-day disabled list.

Burriss, a Washington, D.C. native and a graduate of Woodrow Wilson High School in the Tenleytown neighborhood of Northwest D.C., joins the Nationals for his first Major League assignment since 2012 (San Francisco).

The 30-year-old infielder is coming off one of his finest professional seasons, posting a .300 average, .377 on-base percentage and .412 slugging percentage in 116 games for Triple-A Syracuse in 2014. In 62 games with Syracuse this season, Burriss is hitting .278 (66-for-237) with eight doubles, five triples, three home runs, 25 walks, 10 stolen bases and 21 RBI.

A versatile infielder, Burriss has Major League experience at all four infield spots (183 games at second base, 62 games at shortstop, eight games at third base and two games at first base), and has appeared in four games in the outfield as well. Over the course of his Minor League career, Burriss has primarily played shortstop (470 games) and second base (146 games).

Over parts of five Major League seasons, all with the San Francisco Giants, Burriss is a career .243 hitter with 14 doubles, one triple and one home run.

Rendon, 25, returns to the disabled list for the second time this season. The Nationals’ dynamic infielder missed the first 52 games of the season as he worked through a left knee sprain as well as a left oblique strain. Rendon is hitting .290 (20-for-69) in 18 games this season with a .375 on-base percentage. He’s clubbed five doubles, walked nine times, driven in five runs and scored nine runs.

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