Rizzo surprises fan-base

Washington Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo speaks during a media availability at their spring training. (Photo courtesy of Fox News.)

Washington Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo speaks during a media availability at their spring training. (Photo courtesy of Fox News.)

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I first picked up on the Kevin Frandsen rumors Tuesday evening (3/25). I remembered seeing him playing with the Phillies last year, but nothing about him had really made a big impression on me. So I was very surprised when it came out that Mike Rizzo had snatched up Frandsen within 2 minutes of when the Phillies gave him his walking papers! I was even more blind-sided when not one but all three of Tyler Moore, Jeff Kobernus and Jamey Carroll were let go.

Where I had been thinking the 5 bench players would be Carroll, McLouth, Lobaton, Kobernus and Walters,……….we now have Espinosa, McLouth, Lobaton, Frandsen and Hairston!

After doing a little research, it does appear Frandsen could turn out to be a good pick. He can play several infield positions and is a tough competitor who never gives up.

Well, at least I got one pick right; Aaron Barrett made the bullpen🙂 And if Doug Fister’s arm turns out to be ok, we will learn who the 5th starting pitcher will be on Saturday, after the game.

I’m still concerned about the bullpen and the bench overall quality. But we are close to Opening Day and maybe it’s time to shut up and see what happens between now and April 15:)

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The Final Roster Decisions

Mike Rizzo, the Nationals' General Manager. (Photo courtesy of ESPN.)

Mike Rizzo, the Nationals’ General Manager. (Photo courtesy of ESPN.)

OK, the Nats are very close to naming the final 25-man roster spots. Here are my predictions:

A. The 5th starter goes to Taylor Jordan.
B. The final bullpen slots are Tanner Roark and Aaron Barrett. Barrett replaces Drew Storen, who gets traded.
C. The final bench slots are BOTH Moore and Carroll. Hairston gets traded. So the total bench is Espinosa, McLouth, Lobaton, Moore and Carroll.

The two trades I’m suggesting above can’t happen in a vacuum of course:) but it could be that Mike Rizzo has been working on them for some time. I’m basing my picks on all the info I’m able to glean on the internet, TV, and radio, as well as the relative amounts of playing time all these guys have been getting (which I think may be the best indicator of the thinking of the team brain-trust). There you have it:)

The Nats are at a crossroads right now, faced with the same type of hype that was buffetting them at this time last year. Are they going to “man up” and start the season in line with expectations or with a white knuckle swoon like the one we saw last April.

Tony Kornheiser’s an idiot!

Jayson Werth at bat. Photo courtesy of Alex Brandon/AP.

Jayson Werth at bat. Photo courtesy of Alex Brandon/AP.

Hope that title catches people’s attention:) I have little use for sports-talk radio or TV; I’m so old I can’t remember what middle school was like, but every time I happen upon one of these programs by mistake the distant memories re-surface, soon to be stuffed back into whatever they escaped from!

So Jason Werth recently was quoted in the media mentioning what all of us lifer ball-players know all to well: that hitting a baseball is one of the hardest things to do well in all of sports. And Tony just had to open his foolish mouth and call Werth “an idiot!” Enough said.

On to the more important things. There are but 3 decisions left for Matt Williams regarding the final 25-man starting roster: one utility bench-man, the 7th relief pitcher and the 5th starting pitcher.

1. It’s between Jamey Carroll or Tyler Moore. Moore’s been hitting better, but Carroll brings many skills he does well. Carroll gets my vote. And if that is what happens, then I think Moore gets traded (to Houston).

2. Number 2 depends on what the decision is for number 3. If Tanner Roark is the 5th starter (assuming Doug Fister is really set to go), then Aaron Barrett is the 7th and final guy in the bullpen. And that is how I think this will play out. But, if Roark does not get a starting pitcher slot, he goes to the bullpen, and jordan would be the likely 5th starter.

Gettin close to decision time for the bullpen

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I think the team brain-trust has been very concerned recently about the bull-pen.  In my opinion. THAT is the Nat’s weakest link right now, and is the main reason for the decision to put Detwiler in that key group.  He has what is needed for that role, experience and high heat.  He also brings the pen a second lefty as well as the ability to play a variety of roles from long-relief as well as possibly closing a game or two.

The way I see it right now, six of the seven bull-pen spots are set.  Here are my picks for those six:  Soriano, Storen, Clippard (photo above), Detwiler, Blevins and Stammen. Unfortunately only two of this group have put up good numbers in spring training thus far: Blevins and Clippard.  Soriano, the nominal “closer,” has looked like anything but that!  The same goes for Drew Storen, the very effective closer a couple of years ago.  So the chances are good that we may see Clippard closing games soon.

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So, are you wondering who has the inside track on the remaining bull-pen slot?  Glad you asked:) Aaron Barrett.  Aaron was the closer last year for the Harrisburg Senators, the Nats’ AA team.  He had a great season in that role.  He also played in the Arizona Fall league for the team Matt Williams managed!  A look at the outstanding numbers Aaron has put up this Spring, and I expect to see him throw an inning in today’s game; it will be televised:)  The team brain-trust is talking a lot among themselves about this guy, trust me!

p.s. Click here to read about Clippard and the bobblehead campaign.

It’s my story and I’m stickin to it! A chihuahua?

The newest AAA Baseball Team - the El Paso Chihuahuas.

The newest AAA Baseball Team – the El Paso Chihuahuas.

I heard a rumor the other day that caught my attention.  Not sure as to the veracity, but here’s the gist.  The El Paso Chihuahuas are the San Diego Padres AAA team.  One of their backup infielders is Guglielmo H. Espinosa (I’m checking his heritage to see if there is a familial connection to The Danny).  Anyhow, he’s batting .172 currently in ST camp in the Cactus League.  Last week he belted 3 HRs in one game, so Mike Rizzo calls his scout who is out in AZ now and asks him to go check the guy out.  A couple days of silence follow.  Then four days later the scout walks into Rizzo’s office in DC, and there’s a little Chihuahua peeking out of his coat pocket!  Mike says “what’s the ____ is this?”  The scout’s response supposedly went something like this:  “Well this Espinosa guy didn’t show me much.  He’s leading the team in Ks at the plate, always swings at the first pitch, etc, etc (sound familiar?).  But I got a brilliant PR idea about the Nats adding a little chihuahua to the Presidents Race and training him to nip at Teddy’s heels so Teddy has a shot at winning once in a while!  Whaddya think boss?”

p.s. Single game tickets for the Chihuahuas’ first season went on sale yesterday. To learn more about the story behind their mascot, click here.

OK, it’s time to stir the “SOUP”

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AP Photo

This is the time in Spring Training (ST) for reckless prognosticators (like me for example) to just throw caution to the wind and do the impossible:  predict who (when I know it’s too early for a sane person to make any predictions:) will make the 25 man roster as position player subs.  First, a little math:  assuming the Nats carry 12 pitchers (5 starters and a 7-man bullpen) and 8 starters at the 8 positions in the field besides the pitcher, that leaves 5 bench-warmers.

So here we go:

1.  Jose Lobaton, catcher.  This is a given since the team made it clear when they traded for him that they expected Jose to be the backup to Ramos.  Every team has to carry a backup catcher.  The Nats will have plenty more of these at Syracuse and Harrisburg, should something happen to upset the plans.  Note:  Jose is not impressing anyone yet with his lack of hitting!

2.  Jamey Carroll, infielder extraordinaire.  He reminds me of myself, low on talent and size, but a 100% “gamer.”  He does all the little things very well.  Also, Matt Williams knows him well (from their days together with the Diamondbacks) and clearly likes him a lot, just look at the playing time he’s getting!

3.  Jeff Kobernus, OF AND (!) INF.  Like Jamey except he is even more versatile in that he can hold the fort in both the infield AND the outfield.  He has been hitting consistently since day one of ST.

4.  Zack Walters, infielder.  He played well last September and has shown me he is ready for prime time this Spring.  Note:  there have been several other youngsters who have shown great talent this ST but Zach (like Ryan Zimmerman several years ago) is the most “ready” of them all, with an OBP (on-base-percentage) well north of .500 at this point!

5.  Nate McLouth, outfielder.  Nate had a helluva comeback year with the Orioles last year.  He can hit, play OF and run the bases much better than average.  He would possibly be the best 4th outfielder in baseball.

Who does this leave on the outside looking in?  Tyler Moore and The Danny.  The Nats have been very patiently giving both many chances to make the team, but I say time has run out for both.  Neither one is looking good with the bat.

This Blog is not about The Danny (not much)

A lot of Gnats fans are wondering how the competition to fill the fifth starting pitcher slot is likely to be resolved.  Well, here is my humble opinion.  And I’ll preface it (as an experienced gamer) by saying such competition is very healthy and the Nats are extremely lucky to have so much talent in Spring Training Camp!

Ross “Det” Detwiler:  I think this is his to lose, and I say this for several reasons.  First, he has the most quality major league experience.  Second, he is out of options (he can’t be sent back to the minor leagues–there is a rule limiting the number of times a player can be sent down to the minor leagues).  Third, he was VERY EFFECTIVE early last season, until he got injured.

Roark pitching last season. Photo courtesy of Getty Images

Roark pitching last season. Photo courtesy of Getty Images

Tanner Roark:  Many will argue he should get the nod, as he was arguably the Nats best pitcher over the last 6 weeks of the season last Fall.  I too was impressed with his success last year.  And this will likely mean that if Det is the fifth starter, Tanner Roark will be the “long man” in the bullpen.  So the team wins either way!

Taylor Jordan:  With the least amount of major league experience, unless Jordan really lights up the scene in Florida, the best thing for his development would be to start the season with the Nats’ AAA team in Syracuse , pitch a lot and be ready if someone gets hurt on the parent team.  This is a talented kid with beaucoup upside potential who may actually be ready for THE SHOW if the team had a space!

On to the “Danny Watch.”  Whoopee, he got his first hit yesterday.  It’s only Spring Training, and the new manager has to give Danny Espinosa a chance, but I think the hand-writing is out there.  After 2+ seasons in the bigs, Danny just cannot hit big-league pitching.  Meanwhile, among the infielders in camp, Zach Walters can, Anthony Rendon and Jamey Carroll can, and some of the other “kids” are looking good too.  I recommend Mike Rizzo call Bo Porter (Houston manager and former Nats’ third-base coach) and work something out to ship Danny to Houston.  They need lots of new blood in Houston!

No, I’m Not In Bed With Las Vegas!

Michael Taylor in centerfield. Photo courtesy of Curly W, the official blog of the Washington Nationals.

Michael Taylor in centerfield. Photo courtesy of Curly W, the official blog of the Washington Nationals.

I noticed recently that Las Vegas has the Gnats (ooops, I meant Nats) winning 88.5 games this year. This seems right in line with my own guesstimate of 88-92 wins in my initial post. Everything will have to go right, I think, for them to reach 92 wins–no major injuries; the bullpen performs better than it did last year; Espinosa learns how to hit major-league pitching; Harper and LaRoach improve against lefties; and all the pitchers finally learn how to hold runners on base.

That last point is a real sore-point with me (as a former pitcher in college and semi-pro who LOVED picking sleeping base-runners off). Since early January I’ve been participating in indoor baseball practice with about 30-40 local players and I was chatting this week with our infield coach (who is a former professional minor-league player who is about 30 years old) and the conversation went like this: I asked him what he thought about how bad the Nats pitchers are at holding runners. He reacted by rolling his eyes, then told me he had played with a few of the very Nats pitchers I was referencing. And after he muttered a few choice, unmentionable, epithets I got the clear impression he was as annoyed about this as I was!

It was wonderful to watch parts of the first Nats Spring Training game yesterday!  Not much to say other than that. But one thing really made an impression on me. I had had no idea what all the chatter about Michael Taylor was about, and now I KNOW. His triple, to win the game in the 9th inning, let me know in dramatic fashion that this is a player to keep an eye on!  Taylor will likely be playing this year with AAA Syracuse, but he may be making an appearance with the big boys in September.