Sunday, March 21, 2010

Making statements

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
John Lannan was sharp today during his five innings.
JUPITER, Fla. -- It's getting to that time of the spring where guys who know they're going to make the roster need to step up and get into regular-season mode, and where guys who are still fighting to make the roster need to step up and seize the opportunity.

Today, we saw some good examples of both scenarios from several players. Let's run through them...

The de facto ace of the Nationals staff -- at least until June, that is -- has had a pretty quiet spring. And I mean that in a good way. Lannan has simply gone out when called upon and done his job with little fanfare. He's preparing himself for that projected April 5 start against Roy Halladay and the Phillies, and he's right on track to slide effortlessly into regular-season mode. "The quieter, the better," manager Jim Riggleman said. "He's the ultimate pro, in terms of his preparation, his competitiveness out there. A very low-maintenance guy. Just put him out there and let him go." Today, Lannan allowed one earned run and four hits over five strong innings against the Marlins. He retired the first six batters he faced. And he was so efficient -- throwing 45 of 60 pitches for strikes -- that he had to go to the bullpen when his day was over and throw another 15 pitches just to get his requisite work in. "I just wanted to be efficient," said Lannan, who has allowed one earned run over his last nine innings and hasn't walked a batter during that span. "I knew the wind was howling and my ball would be moving. So I just pounded the zone and got a lot of outs." The Nats still haven't made it official, but you'd have to be from Neptune to not realize Lannan will be starting on Opening Day.

This guy also hasn't received a lot of attention this spring. He goes about his business in a quiet manner and doesn't make any waves. But the veteran infielder has done a decent job, both in the field and (more recently) at the plate. He had a pair of hits today (RBI single in the fourth, RBI double in the sixth) and drew a walk. Though he's only hitting .250 overall this spring, Bruntlett has made the most of his hits -- he's got six RBI and five extra-base hits. For a guy known for defense, any amount of offensive production will only help his cause to make the club as a backup infielder. "I think they have a better idea of what I can do defensively," he said. "I don't think they had a good idea of what I could do offensively coming into the year. So certainly that was one of my goals, to try to show that. Hopefully I'm showing I can be a productive offensive player as well."

Remember this name. He probably won't make the Opening Day roster -- though Riggleman did say he's "putting himself in the mix for a spot" with his performance this spring -- but we'll definitely see him in the majors sometime in 2010. A big left-hander who was picked up as a minor-league free agent after spending seven seasons in the Giants' system, English has turned some heads in Nats camp. He came on today in the bottom of the ninth and preserved a 9-7 win over the Marlins by striking out Hector Luna and making a nice play to retire Emilio Bonifacio on a tough chopper back to the mound. He's actually recorded Washington's only two saves of the spring. "I've always been ready to go in and want the ball at that time," he said. "Being here for four weeks, I've gotten so much experience. Last year in [Giants] camp, I was there for about two weeks. Being here for so long now, it's definitely helped a lot." English has never pitched above Class AA before, so he's probably not quite ready yet. But the Nats will be watching the 25-year-old with keen interest, and don't be surprised if he ends up as a lefty specialist in the majors before long.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, neither one of these guys is making a strong case to make the Opening Day roster, either as a backup or as the starting right fielder. (And, as Riggleman pointed out this morning, Bernadina is in the mix for that right field job.) Maxwell went 0-for-3 today and is now batting a paltry .111 (4-for-36). Bernadina, meanwhile, had a hit and two runs today but finally recorded his first RBI and is still batting only .250. Time hasn't totally run out for either player. But if they want to make it to D.C., they've got to make a move. Soon.


Anonymous said...

Being left handed and effective is a plus for English. I'd say his stint at AA or AAA will be a short one. JT in SC

Steven J. Berke said...

I'd say Maxwell is about running out of chances (which is too bad, he's really a great kid). But if Bernardina can continue to hit .250 or above and contribute something offensively, considering his speed and defensive skills, I'd say he's not a terrible choice to start in right field. If nothing else, barring a last-minute trade or signing (of Jermaine Dye?), if you send both Maxwell and Bernardina to Syracuse, who do you put out in RF? Morse? Harris?

Sunderland said...

Lannan is just the quietest quality pitcher around. I love that he had a 5 inning / 75 pitch target, and he finished up the 5 innings in only 60 pitches and so had to go to the pen to throw 15 more.

He pitches to contact, which is becoming more and more rare nowadays. And it sounds like Mock, and even Strasburg, are doing the same thing.

peric said...

With weaknesses in the rotation and right field you'd almost have to expect a trade of some sort. But this is the Nats not some other team.

Guessing that they put all of their best and brightest prospect and pseudo prospects in Harrisburg. That seems to be the way things are headed.

I think English makes this team over Burnett. Both he and Capps have had problems from the beginning of spring. They might wait for Capps but I doubt they will wait for Burnett.

peric said...

Jermaine Dye is now a DH. You might as well put Willingham out there.

Anonymous8 said...

Steven J. Berke said...
I'd say Maxwell is about running out of chances (which is too bad, he's really a great kid).

You would think a consensus here means something as you are saying what many have said but Rizzo goes to the beat of his own drummer.

Since given the GM job officially, he has made some odd moves including some of his starting rotation signings.

Anonymous said...

There is no way Burnett doesn't make the team.

Union Station said...

So with Maxwell and Bernadina flaming out, is Willie Harris the de facto Opening Day right fielder? Or Ian Desmond? Or a player to be named later?
Took a tour of Nationals Park yesterday. What a beautiful day! I recommend the tour to all. Got to visit the clubhouse, the dugout, the bullpen, the press box, and lots more. All we need is a great team to play in this great stadium.

1stBaseCoach said...

So Bernadina is batting .250 in his effort to become the starting RF.
Ain't that about the same as former Nat Elijah Dukes? But with much better attitude, tremendous fielding skills, and great base running skills?

All i am saying is that its been a week now since Dukes got nuked, and unless I've missed the press releases, and/or tweets, he's still waiting for someone to show some interest.

Anonymous said...

Will Bernardina and Maxwell both end up at AAA with Willy in right and Wily as the 4th outfielder?

Anonymous said...

I keep thinking of how Mike Morse will become our version of Jayson Werth. Werth started his career slow but has taken off lately. Both are similarly built. Morse is 3 years younger. I like how he hits and I think with a little more exposure (playing time) he can become Werth-like. I like him for right field. What do you guys think?

Anonymous said...

BTW: Happy Birthday, Mr. Morse.

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