Nats Spring Training Notes: Gio, Strasburg, Roster Battles

Spring training is here! After months of waiting, the first signs of the MLB 2013 season are upon us with pitchers and catchers reporting. Barring injury, I would say 23 of the team’s 25 Opening Day roster spots are pretty much a lock. I wanted to detail a couple battles brewing at Spring Training this year. But first let’s cover some big storylines out of the gate.

Among the pitchers reporting was Gio Gonzalez who addressed the Miami New Times report linking him to possibly using PEDs. He denied any use or any connection to the clinic other than knowing his father was receiving treatment. Alot of speculation that the Nationals are looking for an insurance starting pitcher as a result from this report.

Javier Vazquez and Kyle Lohse are names being thrown around. The Nats scouted Vazquez earlier in the offseason but he had minor surgery and probably wouldn’t be ready for Opening Day. As I’ve said before, if he’ll take a minor league deal the Nationals would definitely sign him as a low risk insurance policy. Lohse has struggled to find a home still due to the draft pick that a team must surrender to sign him and the high price tag. I don’t see the Nationals signing him, even on an one year deal as they already gave up a draft pick for Rafael Soriano. The team will more than likely look at internal options for depth like Christian Garcia, who is supposed to be stretched out to a starter.

Stephen Strasburg is back and he says he is ready to be the workhorse of the rotation. He thinks that 200 innings is a realistic goal for him this season after being limited to 160 last year by the team. Strasburg will be more important than ever especially if anything happens to Gio with all this PED drama.

Heading into this spring training, most of the regulars use the time to get back in shape but others are battling to make the 25 man roster. In years past, almost every position on the Nationals team was up off grabs even the Opening Day starting pitcher. This year spring training has a very different feel. Many roster spots are locked in leaving non roster invitees and bubble players to fight for 1 opening.

Pitchers are battling for basically the #7 bullpen position. The rotation was been solidified by the signing of Dan Haren. The closer role now belongs to Soriano and will be set up by Drew Storen, Tyler Clippard, and Ryan Mattheus. The long relief guys will be Zach Duke and Craig Stammen. Now to the Nats use that final spot on a lefty? A guy with no options left? Or a guy that showed great potential late last season? This battle comes down to non-roster invite Bill Bray, optionless Henry Rodriguez, or Christian Garcia.

In previous posts, I’ve talked about how dislike the situational lefty position in a bullpen. I want a pitcher that’s useful for more than a single batter. The Nationals already have pitchers in the bullpen with great numbers vs left handed hitters like Clippard or Stammen. So, unless Bray blows the team away in spring training, he may just be depth in the minors.

Rodriguez at one point was closing games for the Nationals in 2012. A blew quite a few saves. He got velocity on his fastball with very little control. He was hurt for the latter part of the season and there is talk already he is dealing with soreness in his throwing arm. H-Rod is out of options and would be vulnerable to a team claiming him if the team puts him on waivers. He had an ERA of nearly 6.00 last season and I honestly don’t see whatever the Nationals do in him. In theory he’ll just be like #6 or #7 in the bullpen hierarchy but the team has depth to risk exposing him to waivers. He may sneak on to the 25 for one reason.

Christian Garcia came up as a September call up and pitched very well. Now I know its a small sample size but he would be a front runner for the bullpen but the rumors are the Nationals want to stretch him into a starter. That will require a stay down in AAA to begin the season. I would think the team’s best option would be to leave him in the bullpen but maybe the prospects they have at starter do not give the team much confidence currently.

Another battle we could see if for the final bench position. Locks for the bench are Chad Tracy, Roger Bernadina, and Steve Lombardozzi. I assume Wilson Ramos will be ready for Opening Day as well. Although the recent signing of Chris Snyder could be a backup plan for Ramos.

That leaves 1 spot for a position player. Most would assume Tyler Moore would be the final guy but I not too sure. The Nats trusted him in the playoffs in a big pinch hit spot but his play time crashed after Mike Morse return from the DL. There’s no real place for him to get at bats and unless they want him to just be another PH like Tracy; it may be best to let him play everyday in AAA.

I think Carlos Rivero or Will Rhymes may be able to take the final spot. Rivero hit .303/.347/.435 in AAA for the Nationals last year. He also played SS, 3B, and 1B. He gives versatility as a backup infielder and allows the team to also use Lombardozzi in the corner outfield if needed. Rhymes provides the same versatility with some major league experience.

Send me your thought on the Nationals and Spring Training in general.


The 1st Annual Nationals Season Outlook Extravaganza

With just 6 days until pitchers and catchers of the Washington Nationals report to spring training, I wanted to take a look at 5 key storylines heading into this season. I will also give my “expert” prediction what the team’s 25 man roster will look like on Opening Day.

1. Will the Nationals build off their 2012 season?

The league’s best record, 98-64, belonged to the Nationals last season and won their first NL East Championship in Washington. They are predicted by many to win the NL East again and are a top contender for the World Series. That’s alot of pressure on a team that is only one season with a winning record since moving to DC in 2005. They were a strike away from defeating the Cardinals and moving on to the NL Championship. The key pieces of the 2012 squad are back in red, white, and blue this year with a few replacements.

It’s hard to say a rotation that features four returning starters with ERAs no hire than 3.40 got stronger this offseason. The Nationals went out signed veteran Dan Haren to fill out a rotation that includes: Gio Gonzalez, Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, and Ross Detwiler. The starting pitching was a huge factor to the team’s sucess in 2012 and must continue to perform at a high level.

The team addressed the biggest concern in their lineup this offseason acquiring centerfielder and lead off man Denard Span. This allows the team to slide Jayson Werth down to the middle of the lineup (although I have a different idea) and shift Bryce Harper to leftfield. Adam LaRoche resigned with the team and will be slotted in the middle of the lineup with Ryan Zimmerman and Ian Desmond.

The team solidified the bullpen by getting veteran closer Rafael Soriano. I talk about bullpen in detail in a previous post here.

2. What will the investigation on Gio Gonzalez and others yeild?

Gio Gonzalez was recently to an anti-aging clinic, in an article by the Miami New Times,  down in Florida that allegedly supplied PED’s to MLB players that includes Alex Rodriguez, Melky Cabrera, and Nelson Cruz. MLB is conducting their own investigation into the matter currently. Although it may be difficult to suspend players without a failed tested, teams like the Nationals have to worry if a 50 game suspension could come. That’s 10 starts without your ace, about a third of his starts. Losing a 21 game winner will hurt any team. Early this offseason the team was scouting Javier Vazquez, who wants to play only for a contender. I doubt he would really want to accept a minor league contract. Gio’s name was never really linked directly to any banned substances in the article so hopefully this stays an unneeded distraction and nothing more.

3. Can Bryce Harper avoid the Sophomore Slump?

NL Rookie of the Year and Allstar playing outfield for the Nationals last year, Harper hit 22 HR, 59 RBI with a .270/.340/.477 line. You always have to worry about a player regressing as pitchers make adjustments against Harper. Hoepfully Harper is able to adjust his approach and build off his rookie season.

4. How will Stephen Strasburg perform?

Last we saw of Strasburg pitching, he was shut down after 159.1 innings by GM Mike Rizzo. After having Tommy John surgery, the team planned to limit his innings as they did with Jordan Zimmermann. It began a huge story while the Nationals were leading the division as many wondered how they could shut Strasburg down during a playoff run. Stephen did struggle in his last few starts so we shall see if he’s able to pitch an entire season of maybe 200 innings without issue.

5. What is the health status of Danny Espinosa?

At Natsfest, Danny Espinosa revealed he had a rotator cuff injury late in the 2012 season. He batted .247 last season and struck out a NL leading 189 times. He also struggled badly in the playoffs going 1 for 15. Is his shoulder ok or will we be seeing more Steve Lombardozzi? The team may want to carry an extra middle infielder to begin the season like Carlos Rivero or non roster invite Will Rhymes.

My 2013 Opening Day Roster and Lineup

Denard Span, cf
Jayson Werth, rf
Ryan Zimmerman, 3b
Adam LaRoche, 1b
Ian Desmond, ss
Bryce Harper, lf
Danny Espinosa, 2b
Kurt Suzuki, c


Chad Tracy, 3/1b
Roger Bernadina, of
Steve Lombardozzi, util
Wilson Ramos, c
Carlos Rivero, if

I left out Tyler Moore because I feel the team needs a backup middle infielder and Lombardozzi has been used alot elsewhere. Moore could get to play everyday in AAA at OF or 1B.


Gio Gonzalez
Stephen Strasburg
Jordan Zimmermann
Dan Haren
Ross Detwiler


Rafael Soriano
Drew Storen
Tyler Clippard
Craig Stammen
Ryan Mattheus 
Zach Duke
Christian Garica

All the bullpen spots are pretty much a lock. Soriano, Storen, Clippard, Stammen, Mattheus and Duke aren’t going anywhere unless an injury. I picked Garica as the 7th because he performed so well in September. There has been rumors of stretching him out to a starter. If so, look for Henry Rodriguez or Bill Bray to battle for the final spot. Rodriguez is out of options and for some reason the team has confidence in him despite blowing saves earlier in 2012 and an ERA close to 6.00.

With the season around the corner, it looks to be another exciting season in DC. April 1st is Opening Day for the team at Nationals Park as they look to defend their NL East title.

Any thoughts on the roster? Or a storyline I didn’t cover? Or any MLB storyline in general? Leave a message or hit me up on Twitter.

Say it ain’t so Gio. And my Super Bowl Prediction.

I’m sure many of you have already read the Miami New Times article linking multiple players to an anti-aging clinic in Miami. Unfortunately for the Nationals, ace Gio Gonzalez is one of the names included in this investigation.

Gonzalez is also linked to another man listed in the report, University of Miami strength and conditioning coach Jimmy Goins. Gio has reported done offseason work outs at the university with Goins.

This all looks really bad for Gio, especially when the other names included on the list Alex Rodriguez and Melky Cabrera who are already linked to PEDs.

Gonzalez has already said he “never met or spoken with” Anthony Bosch, the man who ram this clinic. He has denied any use of PEDs. His father has also been included in this story but he has said he went there for weight loss and said his son is as clean as “apple pie.”

With pitchers and catchers reporting in less than two weeks, this plans to be a huge distraction for the team leading into the season. Gonzalez was never linked directly in the article to a substance banned by MLB but Goins is listed to have purchased testosterone and a Winstrol/B-12 mixture.

MLB will be investigating all these findings and if found to be true possible suspensions could be held against players listed. The Miami New Times released a handful of images of handed notes reportedly from Bosch that include Gio’s name, seen here. On one page, pitching stats are written under his name and next to this is mention of “pink cream” and what appears to be a list of ingredients. It looks like testosterone is listed.

Alex Rodriguez is being absolutely destroyed by the media over this new claim of PED use. He was linked to use previously and admitted to use during his tenure with the Rangers. Alex claims he has not used since that time and signed a massive 10 year, $275 million deal in 2009 with the Yankees. A contract that I was furious the Yankees gave him (I grew up in NJ and am a Yankee fan). Now he could be out the season due to hip surgery and is still owed $114 million. Everyone is basically calling for his head and the Yankees are trying to void is contract. There’s also many saying A-Rod could retire and have a doctor say he can not play due to this hip. That way he gets his money and the Yankees are off the hook for 85% of the value. Good luck with all that. That would immediately be investigated and Alex has said he wants to return. He’s all denied these new reports of PED use.

Placing 3rd in NL Cy Young voting this year after a 21-8, 2.89 ERA season, Gonzalez finds himself trapped in the cloud that is the Steriod Era. I hope it turns out to be untrue but his name is next to a guy that served a 50 game suspension last year in Cabrera and a guy who’s admitted to steriod use and also has the biggest contract in MLB history.

MLB will now have HGH testing during the season as they continue to try to crack down on cheaters. But hey, Cabrera got suspended last year and still managed to sign a two year, eight figure deal. ARod signed that massive disgusting deal back in day after admission use PED use. MLB says there’s no room for cheaters in their league or Hall of Fame but teams keep signing known offenders.

Gio signed a big deal with the Nationals after being traded to them last year. Let’s hope he comes out clean. Besides what he adds on the field talent wise, he adds in clubhouse as a leader with his energy. He’s never failed a drug test but many he is already guilty. I choose to he naive now until I know more.

I read someone call this the East Coast Balco, which is kind of a stretch but it’s definitely the worst PED related news the Nationals have had to face. I’m still convinced when all the info was uncovered, the Bosch’s notebook was titled “Not a listed of drugs I sold Alex Rodriguez and other famous athletes by Anthony Bosch.”

I debated talking some Super Bowl but honestly I don’t care at all about this game. I’ll watch probably but I’m done with the battle of the brothers in the HarBowl. I’m done with the Ray Lewis traveling retirement circus. If your a leader of a team why do you announce your retirement right before playoffs and make it all about your ride into the sunset? Insert deer antler spray comment here. I pains me to hate the Ravens because of Lewis when I want to root for fellow Rutgers alum Ray Rice so much.

Anyway enjoy the Super Bowl, prediction the biggest highlight from the game involving Ray Lewis will be Colin Kaepernick making him look foolish.

Welcome Rafael Soriano, Goodbye Mike Morse. Another Upton? Hockey’s Back!

Wow, so I haven’t posted about the actual Nats for a while (2+ weeks) and a lot of big news for the team and NL East. New closer, new (old) prospects, the Beast heads west, Atlanta is the new city of brotherly love? Also let’s laugh at Phillie and Met fans and complain about the Caps. This could be my longest post ever so settle in and enjoy the ride.

The Nationals decided that losing a draft pick was worth Rafael Soriano. They have also paid him $28 million for 2 years with a $14 million option on a third depending on games finished. Now I will admit at first I was angry with this signing. A team that has made a living off building a farm system and drafting well is now acting like the Yankees and buying up a bunch a veterans to fill out their roster. Then the more I thought about signing Soriano, it was a solid pick up that helps fill an important role on a team that can win now.

Soriano recorded 42 saves last year with a 2.26 ERA for the Yankees. It feels strange to talk about a closer for the team that isn’t named Mariano Rivera. But Rivera hurts himself shagging flyballs during batting practice and Soriano gets to be a closer again and shows why the Yankees paid him that much to be Rivera’s understudy. Soriano opts out of his deal after his big year in pinstripes and decides to travel down 95 to DC.

From what I’ve read, Nationals owner Ted Lerner was heavily involved in Soriano’s signing. I guessing a guy who’s 87 and saw his team’s season end as bad as it did he was willing to pay a guy who good at closing a game. Drew Storen missed the first half of the season to injury. Then Ted to watch blow saves all over the place from Henry Rodriguez and Brad Lidge before Tyler Clippard took over the role. Then he seemed to run out of gas and Storen was reinserted only to blow the biggest game of the franchise. So if the owner wants to pay for a stable 9th inning pitcher, I’m going to guess the GM will make it happen.

Looking at a bullpen where on a night you can go Clippard, Storen, Soriano; a starting pitcher will really only need to go 6 innings and let that row of arms take care of the rest.

I’ve heard people say Clippard is now tradable and that the team needs a lefty or two to fill out the bullpen. Why? Don’t get me wrong I like seeing my fellow lefties get some work but I hate the whole left handed specialist role in the bullpen. Nothing makes me angrier than watching a lefty warm up for what feels like 30 minutes to prepare for that one lefty hitter sandwiched between to righties. Then watch the guy walk him on four pitches and be pulled from the game! Why are we wasting a roster spot on that! Anyway to get back to the point I was about to make, if you look at the guys currently in the Nationals bullpen, most have good numbers against left handed batters.

Looking at last year’s stats:


vs. L: .166/.260/.259
vs. R: .234/.307/.418

Craig Stammen

vs. L: .197/.274/.331
vs. R: .219/.309/.346

Clippard has better numbers than the departed Sean Burnett and comparable to Michael Gonzalez. I feel like Davey Johnson is an old school type manager that sees a lefty hitting and wants a lefty pitching late in games and doesn’t rely on numbers. I’ve also had to deal with Joe Girardi overusing numbers as he runs to his Hitchhikers Guide to MLB Managing everytime he sees a lefty up to bat in the 6th+ inning. So there’s a balance to all things.

What was I talking about again? Oh right, Rafael Soriano. Yea, was mad, but he’s cool. Our bullpen has great depth and although we lost our 1st round pick, it’s like it’s a number one overall where the Bryce Harper’s and Stephen Strasburg’s roam. One lost pick isn’t going to cripple a franchise with as much young MLB talent as the Nationals have now.

We sadly say goodbye to the Beast, Mike Morse, as the Nationals him back to Seattle after four seasons in DC. Over the span of his time with the Nats, Morse played 378 games hit 67 HR 208 RBI while batting .294/.343/.514.

In a three team trade between Washington, Seattle, and Oakland, Morse heads to the Mariners and the Nationals get minor leaguers Blake Treinen and AJ Cole from Oakland. Cole, many may remember was traded from Washington to Oakland last year to bring in Gio Gonzalez.

After the addition of Denard Span and the resigning of Adam LaRoche, there was nowhere for Morse in the Nationals line up. Now I was actually writing an article about how the Nationals could keep Morse and have a rotating committee with off days for Span, Harper, LaRoche, and Morse. Well I was typing away, pointing out lefty righty splits, looking at strikeout and walk precentages, and making my case; my girlfriend casually announced from the couch a few feet away that Morse had been traded. How this didn’t show up in my stat compiling process I’ll never know but I deleted my draft, defeated.

I wish Morse the best of luck out in Seattle where he will be a core player in a team rebuilidng post Ichiro. He will be missed by Nats fan especially for his weird yoga pre at bat routine or whenever we hear the song “Take On Me.” My girlfriend will also miss his taste in techno dance music he uses for his at bat song.

I’ll end my baseball thoughts looking at some of the other teams in thr NL East. Let’s start looking at the team I fear the most, the Atlanta Braves.

The offseason started with the Braves signing BJ Upton and apparently one Upton wasn’t enough so they went and traded for Justin. They now have an outfield that has two Uptons and Jason Heyward, who bounced back from a sophmore slump. That’s not an overpowering outfield but definitely a scary outfield. Add a good starting rotation and solid bullpen, the Braves look to contend again. Although they traded Martin Prado, subtracted Michael Bourn, and saw the retirement of Chipper Jones so I do see a huge upgrade overall to the line up. Maybe if they convince Jones out of retirement will I worry about them a little.

The Phillies made a head scratcher of a signing this week with Delmon Young. If you do not recall, when in the minors Young got angry once and threw his bat and hit the umpire. So he will definitely fit in with Phillies fans. I can’t wait to see what happens when they start booing him. A friend my mine, Mike Baumann, writes about this signing as only a Phillies fan can over at Crashburn Alley. Him and the rest of the guys there do a great job writing about the Phillies and other stuff. Whether you like the Phillies or just love seeing furious at their own team go take a look at what Crashburn has to offer.

And finally the Mets signed a player this offseason. Shaun Marcum joins a team that will probably compete for last place against the Marlins.

Lastly, hockey has return! Anyone who knows me, knows I knowledge of hockey is all from playing NHL 13. I announced my commitment to getting into hockey this year and immediately the NHL went into a lockout. Sorry everyone, my fault. I also said I’d try to adopt the Captials as my new team… Again sorry everyone.

But hockey has returned and the Caps are 0-3 and losing badly every game. They have looked overmatched and underenthusiastic as they head to NJ to play the Devils tonight. The last time I really tried to follow hockey back in Jersey, Martin Brodeur was a rookie and my dad was telling me a story of a Devil player he pulled over for speeding. His name escapes me. Anyway hopefully the Caps can turn it around tonight and avoid going 0-4.

Well I think that covers everything I.wanted to discuss. I going to try to write once week from now on. Spring training is around the corner and I’m there will be alot to talk about soon. We can also talk about the Caps unless they continue to lose and I get bored.

Be sure to leave a comment to start a discussion. Or follow me on Twitter perhaps? I have about 6 followers… And 8 tweets… Maybe I should use that more…

Enjoy the snow this weekend in DC and anyone who is going to Natsfest tomorrow let me know how it was!

Adam LaRoche Resigns with the Nationals

Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post has reported that the Nationals and Adam LaRoche have agreed to a two year deal today. The deal will be worth $24 mil and include a mutual option for 2015.

LaRoche, 33, batted .271/.343/.510 for the Nationals last season with 33 hr and 100 rbi. He also won the NL Gold Glove and Silver Slugger at first base and placed 6th in MVP voting. He had been pursuing a guarenteed three year deal this offseason and the Nationals did not want to go higher than two.

When the Nats traded for Denard Span earlier this offseason, the team sounded like they were comfortable playing Mike Morse at first base in 2013. Now with the resigning of LaRoche, Morse is a man without a position.

Rumors are already flying about possible landing spots for Morse as the Nats look for pitching prospects or maybe a lefty for the bullpen. Morse finished the season with 18 hr and 62 rbi in 102 games. He was limited early in the season by injuries. By resigning LaRoche, the team’s line up is pretty locked down, as is the rotation.

Rumor Report: Javier Vazquez a National?

I just read a report from Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post, that the Nationals have beem scouting Javier Vazquez.

This is an interesting development as the Nationals rotation is already looking set with the addition of Dan Haren earlier this offseason. Reports are saying Vazquez will only return if it is for a contender. The Nationals are reportly willing to offer a minor league deal with a dated opt out. It is unknown if Vazquez would sign a minor league deal or only interested in a Major league contract.

Vazquez, 36, last pitched for the Marlins in 2011. He sported a 13-11 record with a 3.69 ERA and 162 Ks in 192.2 IP.

If he returns and pitches to his 2011 form, I think he would add great depth to the rotation. One wonders if Mike Rizzo is worried about Dan Haren’s health and wants a backup plan. The farm pitchers are thin since trading top pitching prospects last offseason for Gio. If he is willing to sign a minor league contract, I’m all for it. I do have horrible flash backs to his Yankee days though….

Rumor Mill: Adam LaRoche, Red Sox?

ESPN’s Jim Bowden is reporting that the Boston Red Sox are talking with free agent first baseman Adam LaRoche. The Sox agreed to sign Mike Napoli almost a month ago to help fill the void at first but the deal still has not been finalized. Talks have been stalled over Napoli’s knee issues and how it has been written into the contract. Plan B seems to be signing LaRoche.

I see this as a bargaining chip over Napoli rather than interest in LaRoche really. Boston is trying to put the pressure on Napoli’s camp. The Nationals have an offer out to LaRoche for awhile now on a two year length but LaRoche is looking for a commitment of three years min.

The market for the Gold Glover has been fairly quiet which could be due the draft pick a team must forfit to sign LaRoche.

As much as I would like to see Adam LaRoche return, I feel the Nationals have the pieces to endure his loss. The team will lose alot defensively using Mike Morse at first but the move keep Morse healthier. Tyler Moore is another option for the Nationals.

Do you guys think LaRoche goes to Boston? Does his end up back in Washington in 2013?