Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Lannan, Capps, Guzman and Harris

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
John Lannan was highly efficient today, his final start before Opening Day.
JUPITER, Fla. — Plenty of noteworthy things to discuss about today's game (a 9-6 win by the Nationals over the Cardinals) so let's get right to it, highlighting several players of consequence...

In his final tune-up before Opening Day, Lannan did about as well as you could possibly ask of him: five innings, two unearned runs, three hits. Actually, he might have done too well. Because he only needed 59 pitches to make it through those five innings, the left-hander was forced to throw another 15 in the bullpen after leaving the game.

"I didn't want to go out there and throw 100," he said. "I didn't think there was any need for it, as long as I got my work in and all my pitches felt good. I think I'll be ready."

Lannan produced probably the best spring of any member of the Nats' rotation. In five starts, he went 2-0 with a 2.91 ERA. Over 21 2/3 innings, he allowed 19 hits and six walks while striking out 11. Good, solid spring all around, and that leaves him confident heading into Monday's opener against the Phillies.

"I'm ready to get out of spring training," he said. "I'm ready to go. I'm ready to get there and start getting into a situation where you've got the crowd and a little more pressure. This is great to get ready, but I think it's about that time to head up north."

This will be Lannan's second straight Opening Day start, and he admittedly put too much pressure on himself last year to come up big against the Marlins. He wound up allowing six runs in three innings en route a lopsided loss.

This time, he insists he'll treat it just like any other game. Wait, even though a certain First Fan will be in attendance watching him pitch?

"It's going to be cool," Lannan said. "Hopefully I get to meet him. But just because he's there, it doesn't really add any pressure. He's a fan of baseball. He loves the game. And he's a southpaw. Maybe I can give him a couple of tips on the first pitch."

This has not been an especially encouraging spring for the Nationals' new closer. He allowed two more runs today on three hits and two walks and couldn't even make it through his requisite one inning of work. Capps' overall spring numbers: 8.44 ERA (10 earned runs allowed in 10 2/3 innings) 16 hits and seven walks.

The walks, in particular, eat Capps up because he prides himself on being a control artist. He's walked an average of only 1.7 batters per nine innings in his career.

Capps does feel like he made some progress over the last couple of weeks, and manager Jim Riggleman noted his velocity has been up. But it's difficult to judge a closer in spring training, because the situation bears absolutely no resemblance to a one-run lead in the ninth inning in a ballpark filled with 40,000 fans.

"It's different," Capps said. "You learn how to harness the adrenaline. In that moment, it's different than at any other time. And you can't really simulate it in a spring training game or a 'B' game or anything like that. When you're out there in that environment, you don't think about mechanics or anything like that. It's all subconscious and all you're thinking about is the pitch at hand. There's definitely not that intensity.

"But with that being said, any time you're playing baseball, whether it's spring training or the regular season or the World Series or a pickup game, you want to be successful."

Capps will most certainly be the Nats' closer if they hold a slim lead in the ninth inning on Monday. But the leash could be short if he struggles once the green light comes on for good.

Starting at second base for the first time in his career, Guzman acquitted himself quite well. He looked comfortable both turning and starting double plays.

"He was fine," Riggleman said. "We really didn't have too much concern that would be a problem for him. And if we had any, he's alleviated those concerns."

One thing the Nats aren't concerned about is Guzman's bat. He's been red-hot for the last week or so, and with three hits today raised his spring average to .326. (Yes, I know his on-base percentage is also .326, but that's never going to change about this guy.)

As long as he hits consistently and looks OK in the field, expect Guzman to work his way into the starting lineup several times a week, both at second base and at shortstop.

"He's really going to be a big contributor to the club," Riggleman said. "He's going to play second, short, third, pinch-hit, just somewhat of a utility role but more than that. With his ability to swing the bat from both sides of the plate, I just think we really have some good options there with our three middle infielders."

Harris gave everyone a brief scare in the first inning when he slipped trying to catch a fly ball down the right-field line and then banged his head on the ground. He said he felt dizzy at first and even saw "little white dots." He compared it to getting tackled in football.

The most amazing thing was that Harris, obviously in pain and discombobulated, still managed to grab the ball and throw it back to Guzman so it didn't turn into an inside-the-park homer.

"Once it happened, I was on the ground like, dang," he said. "And then I was like, I gotta get this ball. So I just picked the ball up, and good thing Guzy was like 10 feet away from me. I just flicked it to him. I was dizzy. But I had to get that ball in."

Riggleman and a trainer went racing out to right field to check on Harris, but he quickly was able to convince them he was OK.

Besides, even if they tried to take him out of the game, Harris wouldn't have let them.

"Hell no, I ain't coming out," he said. "I've got an opportunity to play. You don't get opportunities too often. I've been busting my butt for a long time, and I'm finally getting a chance to play. I've got to take advantage of every opportunity I have."


Harrison said...

Mark, if/when Capps or Bruney struggle later in the year, what's the chance that Storen gets a chance to close in June-September? Are the Nationals willing to move him through the system as fast as Strasburg?

Unknown said...

I hope Olsen stays period.

Sec314 said...

Guzman at 2B... what a crazy idea! Why didn't we think of this back in September....

Oh. Never mind.

peric said...

What's the chance of Thompson, Detwiler, Strasburg, Storen et al getting a real chance after what happened to Martin. It seems like that Nats are running a good old boys network as opposed to a major league franchise.

JayB said...

exactly 314.....amazing that they fussed around this for so long. It sure seemed like the thing to do for the past 8 months. The cut offs and coverage responsibilities are different. I played both SS and 2B and if they think he is going to do the right thing out of instinct they are going to look bad. If they think he will just walk in and play 1B...something I talked about for him back in Sept as well.....forget it.

Mark Zuckerman said...

Harrison: I think Storen absolutely could be promoted to the majors before Strasburg. But I think they'll want to ease him into a middle relief role, then setup before making him closer. Maybe by the end of the season. But I also wouldn't be surprised if that doesn't happen til 2011.

Michael J. Hayde said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
DCJohn said...

Before you leave Florida, would you ask Riggleman about the errors. Every spring the Nats come out of spring training with loads of errors on the books. History shows that Nats in April are horrid. The season is over before it really begins and this year seems no different. The first nine games, 6 against the Phillies and 3 against the Mets, will tell it all. Capps looks the Hanrahan at this point. (Oh God.)

PDowdy83 said...

Peric, Lannan is 25, Olsen is 25, Mock is 27, Stammen is 26. All of them are younger than Martin if I am correct. So because they let Marquis and Hernandez pitch they are running a good ole boys network? Oh and before you bring up Miguel Batista, the rest of the bullpen is relatively young as well. Capps and Bruney are both 28, Burnett is right there, Clippard is young as well.

peric said...

Pirates cast offs. We may soon get one for right filed. Capps sucks sawx kibbles. He is as bad as gashanranah. And gee Dr. Riggleman you will be calling guys up to put out the fire again! And you cut Martin not because of performance but because he is not a part of the future ... but you keep ancient stone and bronz statues like Batista and Hernandez? Makes no sense to me ... I listen to your recording and you sound like a last place manager on a last place team ... sorry ... I just don't see your logic. And when you hit the basement again and start rooting around the minors looking for solutions I hope someone of these reporters call you on it.

peric said...

Martin is the same age as Scott Olsen which is around 26. So? Most of these guys are within a year or two of each other. You have to get to Strasuburg, Martis, and Detwiler to get younger. Even guys like Bradley Meyers (likely to be promoted) or Milone are the same age. It has nothing to do with age as much as what is envisioned for the future. And its fine to say that Martin may not fit .. but Batista? Hernandez? C'mon Riggleman let's pull Walter Johnson up from the grave we might be doing better with this team.

Section 222 said...

A park filled with 40,000 fans? At Nats Park, that's just Opening Day, maybe one of the Cubs or Orioles games. I guess you mean in Philly and CitiField.

With Guzman's emergence as the super sub in the infield, where does that leave Gonzales (who's been hitting well) and Bruntlett? Will they have to keep one of them as a late inning defensive replacement for Desmond?

David said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
peric said...

Its the last year on Guzman's contract. With luck Espinosa will be trying out for a job in the infield come spring. Riggleman is just trying to play politics ... makes you think he may lose his job for playing politics instead of trying to put the team in the best position to win both now and over the long-term.

Anonymous said...

Capps as a closer. Scary.

Nervous Nats Fan said...

It's quotes like this that make me like Willie Harris.


"Once it happened, I was on the ground like, dang," he said. "And then I was like, I gotta get this ball. So I just picked the ball up, and good thing Guzy was like 10 feet away from me. I just flicked it to him. I was dizzy. But I had to get that ball in."

Anonymous said...

Totally off point, but when it says "This post has been removed by the author" has it been removed by Mark Z or by the poster?

(And no, this hasn't happened to anything I've ever posted)

Anonymous said...

I don't know Moe, why are they being removed?

FAIL said...

Yeah Capps, spring training is nothing like the real thing for a closer.

From -- For Rivera it was his 5th official appearance of the spring and sixth overall counting an intrasquad game. He has four holds on the spring and his ERA remains perfect at 0.00.

peric said...

Scott Olsen to "M's" for?

Washburn Turns Down "Small Offer" From Seattle
By Mark Polishuk [March 31 at 5:16pm CST]
AOL Fanhouse's John Hickey reports (via Twitter) that the Mariners made a "small offer" to Jarrod Washburn that the left-hander has already turned down. Hickey says the offer was less than the one-year, $1.5MM deal that the team made with Erik Bedard in February.

Given Seattle's need for starting pitching (especially in the wake of Cliff Lee's injury), Washburn and agent Scott Boras must feel they can get more out of the M's. We know that Washburn turned down a $5MM offer from Milwaukee over the winter, so it's likely the Mariners will have to at least offer something closer to that mark.

Capps pitches for laffs said...

Capps is the new gascanrahan.

Anonymous said...

Did someone really just compare, even indirectly and for the exclusive purpose of mockery, Matt Capps and Mariano Rivera?

Mrs. Zuckerman said...

When it says that the comment has been removed by the author, it's not Mark. We tried to get rid of the comment all-together (like, so that "comment removed" wouldn't show up), but can't find a way to do that.

K.D. said...

I wonder if the majority of Desmond's fielding errors are because he has good range and an average ss wouldn't even get to them. It is so hard to tell when you aren't able to watch a game. Of course that doesn't account for the bad throws.

Anonymous said...

OK, thanks for satisfying my curiosity Mrs Z!

David said...

i was commenting on a previous post that was very inappropriate, but by the time i posted my response i realized the previous offensive comment had been removed "by the author', so i removed mine immediately as well

Moe Greene said...

Who shot who in the what now?

Paul said...

peric, some of the prospects you consistently mention are not what you would call "major league ready" prospects. While they may have immense talent, it would be a HUGE mistake for Strasburg's first professional shelling to come on the biggest stage. Some of these guys need to take the lumps in the minors. That is how the system works and has worked for a long time.

Just because we have a bad major league team doesn't mean that we suddenly eschew fundamental principles of player development. It takes more than talent to play in the majors, it takes experience. While no one here is in love with Livo or Batista, they provide known qualities (nothing great, but average). They are place holders so we don't need to potentially jeopardize player development to make our major league team a little better.

Let Strasburg, Storen, Espinoza, Meyers, Thompson et. al force their way up. Make them work for it, and respect the developmental systems that nearly every big league player had to toil in to get where they are now.

At least that is my opinion.

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