Now Harper Out for Two Months!

This latest news is a huge blow to the Nats chances for fighting their way to the playoffs.  Both Zim and Bryce got seriously hurt sliding headfirst.

Doug Fister and Wilson Ramos are on the road back however.  It seems possible that Fister could start a game by about May 7th.  Ramos is practicing “lightly.”  It will likely take him several more weeks to regain the strength needed to bat with power in game conditions.  But he hopes to appear in minor-league games this week.

This is the time for the bench players to step up and show us why they made the roster coming out of Spring Training!  I have to admit, after hoping the Nats would trade Danny Espinosa before Spring Training, that he has made me VERY GLAD he is still here!  I did not think it would be possible to make Danny a major league hitter, but I was wrong:)  I’m impressed with the improved hitting thus far.  And we all know he is a gold glove calibre fielder.  In fact many of the usual suspects posting on the team website are calling for Danny to REPLACE Ian Desmond at SS!

Late breaking news:  Zack Walters has been sent down to Syracuse as well as Taylor Jordan. Ryan Mattheus is back up here.  The last time Mattheus pitched well was in 2012; I hope they don’t have to use him in a critical situation.  Maybe they want to have him in case they need a “mop-up” pitcher in a game that has got out of hand:)  I also hope they bring Souza back.

Opportunity is There!

The Nationals' Zach Walters. (Photo courtesy of David Manning-USA TODAY Sports)

The Nationals’ Zach Walters. (Photo courtesy of David Manning-USA TODAY Sports)

With the recent spate of injuries to the opening day roster, the Nats have called on several new bench players as well as Syracuse call-ups (i.e., Zack Walters– above) to show what they can do!

With the bullpen tired from overwork in the Atlanta series they needed a fresh arm who could pitch long relief if needed.  Blake Treinen filled that need, so space was made on the roster by sending Aaron Barrett down, since he had just pitched in consecutive games.  Treinen has impressed with his ability to remain calm under pressure and get hitters out.  No one doubts that  “Bear” Barrett will return soon though.

Zack Walters and Steve Souza, who both were outstanding in Spring Training, are already seeing playing time against The Marlins.  Zack had his first “bomb” tonight (April 15) and Steve got his first major league hit!  Catcher Sandy Leon is filling the roster spot of the injured Wilson Ramos, and he smacked his first major league homer last night (April 14)!

Kevin Frandsen and Danny Espinosa are red hot with the bat and are seeing significant playing time.  Danny is showing commendable calmness when hitting and has cut way down on strike-outs, compared to 2013.  Though Frandsen has not played much in the outfield prior to this season, he showed his infield experience in Atlanta by back-handing a ground shot to the left-field corner (normally a double) and firing it to second quickly to hold the batter to a single!

Both Tanner Roark and Taylor Jordan are in the starting rotation while Doug Fister comes back from injuries.  They are showing good poise but need to lower their earned run averages.

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.

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!

Whew – The One That got Away

A.J. Burnett (2012 Season). Image courtesy of the Associated Press and msn.foxsports.com

Thank goodness!  I’d been hearing rumors for about a week now that the Washington Nationals (Nats) were talking with pitcher A.J. Burnett about coming to the Nats to be in the starting rotation.  Though I know A.J. is a very good pitcher (gritty, tough, lots of “heart”, etc), I was hoping it would not happen.  Well, today the MLB XM radio station reported he has signed with the Phillies, so I can exhale!  I’m happy for Philadelphia, they need him and he can help them a lot.

A.J. pitched for the Pirates in 2012 and played a key role in helping them make the playoffs.  I watched him pitch several times and he really had everything working!  I have no idea why he did not stay with Pittsburg, but he made it clear he only wanted to play for a team as close to Pennsylvania as possible, and he preferred to play in the National League.  That meant he didn’t want to play for Baltimore.

So why was I hoping AJ would not end up with the Nats?  Because of the shockwaves it would send through the Nats system that prides itself regarding the excellent job it does in developing talent from WITHIN!  Though the Nats have their top four starting pitchers (Strasburg, Zimmermann, Gonzales, and Fister) all set, they have a healthy competition going for the fifth spot from among several young arms who have come up through the Nats minor-league system.  I’m talking about Ross Detwiler, Tanner Roark, and Taylor Jordan.  All three had stretches in 2012 as the fifth starter where they performed like they truly BELONGED in that role.  Roark was arguably the best pitcher on the team over the August-September period!  So while the above “drama” was going on I was thinking “don’t mess with success.”