Bring Back Steve Lombardozzi?

This is a follow-on to yesterday’s posting.

Listening to yesterday’s game against the Marlins, when Drew Storen was announced as he was coming in to CLOSE the game in the bottom of the 9th, I was not at all surprised after what happened Monday night (see my posting of yesterday:). And Storen did help seal the win! No, it was not pretty, but let’s admit the Marlins are a very tough team to beat this year. And Storen was throwing excellent stuff at them; his slider, when he gets it where he wants it, is deadly.

Trade deadline issues: I expect at least one Nats trade today. Rizzo’s top priority is a lefty reliever. But a strong “bench-player” who can handle 2B and hit better than Danny or Frandsen might tickle his fancy:) Lombo is one guy who can and is a fan favorite around the DC area (he’s a local boy!). Darwin Barney was another until he was just traded by the Cubs a few hours ago. Chase Utley has a no-trade clause and wants to stay in Philly, but DAMN (!) he’d look great in a Nats uniform!!

stay tuned folks!

Strasburg’s “Achilles Heel”

I’ve mentioned this before, but we continue to see how Stephen Strasburg can become rattled and loose his focus when events occur during games (errors by his teammates for example, or a plate umpire with a strike zone not to Stephen’s liking).  Last night in the 3rd inning Jason Werth dropped a routine fly ball in foul territory that would have been the third out.  Right after that Stephen threw a fastball right across the middle of home plate to a good hitter, Marlon Byrd, who hit it for a 3-run homer.

Those were the only runs Strasburg gave up in his 6 or 7 inning stint, so he was able to settle himself down after the home run.  My point is these episodes seem to affect Stephen’s pitching more than they do most pitchers.  I’m sure the Nats coachs are trying to work with him to increase his ability to stay focused on “grinding” through opposing team’s lineups while tuning out adverse events that are not under Stephen’s control.

Interesting footnotes:

1.  Former Nat (a very popular one!) Mikey Morse (“The Beast”) hit the game winning home run as the Giants beat our nemesis, the Atlanta Braves.  That was the Braves 4th straight loss!

2.  Another former Nat, Steve Lombardozzi, hitting .292 for the Orioles was sent down to AAA in order to make room for star third baseman Manny Machado as he came back from injury to play yesterday for the first time in 2014.  There were other Orioles that in my opinion should have been sent down instead of Lombo.  Note to Mike Rizzo: Get Lombo BACK!

Zach Says I Ain’t Going Back to Syracuse!

With two four-baggers in his first two major league games Zach Walters is making a statement with his bat.  His pinch-hit blast in the 8th inning last night (April 16—my birthday) was the icing on the cake of the fifth come-from-behind win for the Nats of the young 2014 season.  And it was a no-doubter; hitting half way up the tall foul pole!  Zach explained in the after-game interview with Dan Kolko that he and the pitcher he hit it off (Mike Dunn) played on the same team in high school 🙂

I think Zach has a good chance now of sticking on the 25-man roster for a while.  It doesn’t hurt that he and Matt Williams have a history going back to when both were in the Arizona Diamondback’s system.

In the “Ex-Nats News Department” I watched local guy Steve Lombardozzi (from Columbia, Md) play with the Orioles yesterday.  He got a base hit and has been starting at 2B a lot this year, due to Manny Machado’s injury.  Steve is hitting .298 so far.

 

A Preview of the 2014 Nationals

Compared to the 2012 Nats, the 2013 team was a disappointment. They won the most games in the majors in 2012, but 12 fewer last season. What’s worse, they did not get to the playoffs. Former manager Davey Johnson, who retired just after the 2013 season (and is a Trinity University grad), predicted before the season that the Nats would get to the World Series. I think this created needless pressure on the players, and led to the offense taking almost half the season to really get rolling. (Note: The most important thing that affects batting is being very RELAXED! I’ve been playing this game for 60 years and it has taken me a big chunk of that to be truly relaxed at the plate.)

They aim to improve in 2014. Matt Williams, the new manager, appears to be an exciting upgrade. Though this is his first crack at managing, I think the team could not have made a better choice. Matt is a no-nonsense, hands-on type. As a player (and I watched him play frequently) he worked hard to excel, setting the bar pretty high for himself, and he is likely to expect the Nats to do the same.

Going into the 2014 season, the team needed a better no. 4 starting pitcher, a better “bench” and a better bull-pen (especially left-handers). They recently acquired Doug Fister from the Detroit Tigers as the 4thstarter. He is likely to be more effective than Dan Haren, last year’s 4th starter. Doug is young, did well in Detroit, and has the potential to get even better with time. Tyler Roark and Ross Detwiler will likely compete for the 5thstarter spot. There is a chance Ross could be used as another lefty in the bullpen too.

The Nats also acquired Nate McLouth, a very capable, fast outfielder from Baltimore to bolster the bench. The fact that Nate bats from the left side is good as the other bench outfielder, Scott Hairston, bats right-handed. Nate is also a potent base-stealer, so he could do lots of pinch-running! The Nats still need at least one more backup infielder. They lost Steve Lombardozzi in the Fister trade, and he will be greatly missed, I predict. In a “stealth signing” just before Christmas, the Nats picked up veteran infielder Emmanuel Burris. He grew up and played high school ball here in the nation’s capital.

The bull-pen has added one new left hander, Blevins, but needs one more. They also need to replace Ryan Mattheus, who was not very effective last year.

The coaching staff so far has not changed much from last year, but the new manager has added a new position, that of defensive coordinator, staffed by Mark Weidemaier. I think this is a great idea.

Besides the remaining moves I have recommended, another issue Matt Williams needs to address in Spring Training is the glaring inability of the team’s pitchers to hold runners on base–this is simply unacceptable in the major leagues.

I predict the Nats will win 88-92 wins, depending on what additional moves they make. Two very significant things that happened last season are reasons for optimism: (1) the Nats were the best team in baseball over the last 6-8 weeks of the season (they almost made the playoffs); and (2) the new hitting coach, Dick Schu, who was hired mid-season in 2013. He likely was one of the reasons Jayson Werth almost won the national League batting title!

And then we have the “Racing Presidents“. They added one more in early 2013, William Howard Taft. “Teddy” Roosevelt needs to work harder on the basics.

P.S. The price of beer at Nats Park is outrageous! I’m contemplating trying to get in with a hiking “flask” under my shirt.

P.P.S. If anyone is wondering whether the Nats will seriously enter the circus-like chase to grab the Japanese star pitcher, Tanaka, I say “no way.”