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:)

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.

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!

The 2014 Nationals Bullpen

Pitcher Luis Ayala in 2008 (AP Photo/John Raoux, File)

Pitcher Luis Ayala in 2008 (AP Photo/John Raoux, File)

There’s more good news for the bullpen of the Nationals (Nats); the weakest part of the 2013 roster. Apparently Mike Rizzo is still “wheelin and dealin” trying to continue upgrading. They are rumored to have offered pitcher Luis Ayala a minor league contract. He was with the Nats from 2005-2008, and initially was one of the mainstays of the pen. In his nine years pitching in the majors he has a 3.34 ERA. He was very effective last year for the Atlanta Braves. I think Ayala may have a shot at replacing Ryan Mattheus. Ayala would be the second returnee from the 2005 roster (Jamey Carroll was the first). The 2005 Nats bullpen was excellent, with Ayala usually pitching in the 7th or 8th inning for a “HOLD.”

I think all they need is another utility player/pinch hitter.

Breaking News: Washington Nationals’ 2014 Roster

In the past week, there has been a minor flurry of meaningful activity that will bolster the Washington Nationals’ propects for success in 2014. While Anthony Rendon will be the likely starting second baseman, every team needs backup players. Former Nat, Jamey Carroll, was signed to a minor league contract. I predict this master utility infielder will make the major league roster. Besides having all the tools to really help the Nats, the team is far from confident infielder Danny Espinosa will make the roster; he cannot hit big league pitching.

Meanwhile a former teammate of Ryan Zimmerman at University of Virginia, slugger Mark Reynolds, was rumored to be a possible Nationals’ addition. That would have been a mistake (but an understandable one since Nats General Manager, Mike Rizzo, had signed Reynolds for the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2004). Reynolds has proven to be a human strikeout machine, setting several all-time major league records in that department! Luckily for the Nats, Reynolds signed Friday with the Milwaukee Brewers.

Also on Friday, January 17, the team reached agreement on two-year contract extensions with Ian Desmond and Jordan Zimmerman. Desmond will also get another $500K bonus if he wins the National League MVP award (he was considered for the award last year). Both players had been negotiating for longer-term deals, but ran out of time as the arbitration deadline loomed. Four others were also signed by the deadline to one-year deals: Drew Storen, Ross Detwiler, Wilson Ramos and new relief pitcher Jerry Blevins.

Apparently General Manager Mike Rizzo agrees with me that the bullpen needs more. He is talking with Grant Balfour, who is expected to decide any day now which team he will play for this season. Balfour was the closer for Oakland in 2013 and saved 38 games. If the Nats grab him, the move may presage a trade of Drew Storen.