Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Nats vs. Cardinals — 3/31/10

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Josh Willingham is tagged out trying to steal third in the second inning.
JUPITER, Fla. — We're back at Roger Dean Stadium. Why does it feel like we just left this place? Oh, that's because the Nationals played here yesterday against the Marlins. Today, they've got the Cardinals.

Manager Jim Riggleman, his coaching staff and some roster members were forced to make the trip back and forth from Viera the last two days, and they'll do the same tomorrow when the Nats play against the Mets in Port St. Lucie (only about 30 minutes north of Jupiter). Your trusty reporter, on the other hand, already checked out of his hotel yesterday and spent last night at another hotel only 10 minutes from this stadium. So I'm refreshed and ready to go.

John Lannan gets the start today, but there probably won't be much noteworthy about that. Lannan will only throw 70-75 pitches, as the Nats try to keep him fresh for Monday's season opener against the Phillies.

The larger storyline in this game will be Cristian Guzman's debut at second base. He did play one inning there yesterday -- and yes, I missed it completely because I was in the clubhouse interviewing Garrett Mock at the time -- but today he's starting. Guzman spent some considerable time this morning fielding grounders and turning double plays with Ian Desmond, who was at shortstop. Desmond (who has barely played any second base in his career) actually at one point walked over and showed Guzman the proper way to turn a double play without getting your legs broken by a hard-charging baserunner. Have to say, though, Guzman didn't look half-bad over there. As I type this, I'm also noticing he's working out at first base, taking throws in the dirt, etc., while wearing what I have to assume is someone else's first baseman's glove (Adam Dunn? Mike Morse?).

Check back for updates all afternoon...

Roger Dean Stadium, Jupiter, Fla.
Gametime: 1:05 p.m.
TV/Radio: None
Weather: Sunny, 73 degrees, Wind 8 mph in from LF
CF Nyjer Morgan
RF Willie Harris
2B Cristian Guzman
LF Josh Willingham
1B Mike Morse
SS Ian Desmond
C Wil Nieves
3B Alberto Gonzalez
P John Lannan

2B Skip Schumaker
SS Brendan Ryan
1B Albert Pujols
LF Matt Holliday
RF Nick Stavinoha
CF Colby Rasmus
3B David Freese
C Matt Pagnozzi
P Adam Wainwright

1:07 p.m. — We are underway with a strike from Wainwright to Morgan.

1:10 p.m. — Wainwright could not have had an easier time retiring the side in the top of the first. Morgan flies out to center. Harris and Guzman each ground out to first.

1:15 p.m. — Didn't take long for Guzman to get involved. With runners on first and second, no one out and Pujols at the plate, Lannan induced a hard grounder up the middle. Guzman moved nicely to his right to get the ball, then flipped to Desmond, who threw to first in time to complete the double play. Not a work of art, but it got the job done. Oh, the two runners got on thanks to a Desmond throwing error and a perfect bunt down the third-base line by Ryan.

1:41 p.m. — OK, it's currently the top of the third, with the Cardinals leading 2-0. Both runs came in the first and were unearned, thanks to the Desmond throwing error and then another error charged to Willie Harris, who misplayed a fly ball to right and wound up slipping on the warning track and landing on his back, possibly hitting his head on the ground in the process. He stayed on the ground in obvious pain for a while, and Riggleman and a trainer went racing out to check on him. But Harris proved to be OK and remained in the game.

1:57 p.m. — A very smooth 6-4-3 double play from Desmond and Guzman to end the third. The game is now tied 2-2 thanks to an RBI groundout from Harris followed by a run-scoring double by Guzman in the top of the inning.

2:31 p.m. — The Nats' bats came alive in the top of the fifth, producing three runs. Guzman roped an RBI triple to right, extending his recent hot streak at the plate. The new utility infielder is now batting .310 (13-for-42) with six extra-base hits and seven RBI this spring. Of course, he still hasn't drawn a walk, so his OBP is also .310. Desmond, meanwhile, drilled an RBI double off the left-field wall to bring home another run. Nats now lead 5-2 in the bottom of the fifth.

2:54 p.m. — Lannan's day (and his spring) is done. Gave up two unearned runs on three hits in five innings today, only needed 59 pitches. His final numbers over five solid spring starts: 2.91 ERA, 21 2/3 ip, 19 h, 7 er, 6 bb, 11 k. Next up: Monday vs. Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard.

3:42 p.m. — Was down in the clubhouse for a while talking to Lannan and Willie Harris (who's OK, by the way, after falling and hitting his head on the ground in the first inning). In the meantime, Matt Capps allowed two runs in the sixth and was pulled before recording three outs. The Nats now lead the Cardinals, 8-5, in the eighth inning of a game that has featured 20 combined hits and eight combined errors. Some quality baseball being played here today, folks.

4:08 p.m. — Ballgame's over. Nats win, 9-6. Second time this spring they've beaten Adam Wainwright.


Doc said...

They're about 8 mos. late in having Guzman working out at 2nd! Yeah, I think that he'll make a pretty good 2nd baseman. Good for Desmond, and his coaching efforts; should make ID him Guzman's personal 2nd base coach. It was Desmond who said last September, "...a ground ball is a ground ball...".

sec314 said...

I'm surprised not to see any of the outfield contenders playing in the outfield. I realize Willingham and Harris need ABs... but the guy who really seems to need them is Dunn and Morse is playing 1B.

peric said...


Have to suspect that both Willy Harris and Morse may be part of trade talks with some of the competitors. Texas is looking for a corner infielder. The Nats also seem to have a surplus of pitchers they may need to move.

Perhaps the right field situation gets temporarily resolved when / if Church is released by the Pirates? Church would hit well enough to hold down right field for now and his fielding is probably decent enough.

Anonymous said...

Mark, we will be in attendance on Friday vs Red Sox in Ft. Myers. Do you know who will start and also will they play the starters or will they be heading north already? thanks.

Mark Zuckerman said...

Anon: Scott Olsen is scheduled to start Friday in Fort Myers. And the entire squad should be there (and theoretically playing) because the team charter will fly straight from there to D.C. after the game.

Nervous Nats Fan said...

Mark, Is there any word that they are definitely keeping Olsen and paying him the $1 mil, or have they just not announced that he's been cut?

Positively Half St. said...

So, Lannan gave up 2 unearned runs, then.

Positively Half St. said...

Olsen is staying, came out not long ago.

Paul said...

One bunt hit, 2 errors, 2 unearned runs. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Mark Zuckerman said...

Regarding Olsen: He's still in camp, still is scheduled to pitch Friday against the Red Sox. The team isn't going to come out and say he's not getting released -- just like they're not going to come out and say Ryan Zimmerman isn't getting released -- but I think it's pretty safe to say Olsen will be making his $1 million, whether he's pitching in Washington or Syracuse.

Bill C-H said...

Mark - has there been any discussion in the last two week about moving Willingham back to right field?

Mark Zuckerman said...

Bill C-H: No talk whatsoever of moving Willingham to RF. He's no better defensively in RF than any of the other guys in the mix. In fact, I'd say he's significantly worse than Harris, Taveras and Bernadina.

Steve M. said...

Mark, that is very safe to say re: Willingham's "D" vs. Harris, Taveras and Bernadina.

The bigger question is do the Nats keep Bernadina or Taveras or both and of course then Brunlett and Gonzalez.

To me if you are keeping CGuzman and Willie Harris and Mike Morse you have 3 infielders while also 2 of those guys can play the outfield too so you really don't have to keep any more infielders which allows you to keep Bernadina and Taveras.

Mark, any discussion along those line?

Anonymous said...

Any thoughts about Adam Kennedy being the utility guy and Guz being the everyday 2B?

Anonymous said...

My thoughts is forget Guzman and play Kennedy. Kennedy is solid and was quite impressive with the glove while I was in FL.

Trade Guzman and Harris for a right fielder, if you can find a trade partner.

Mark Zuckerman said...

The way Riggleman has described it, Desmond and Kennedy will be the regulars, but Guzman will make several starts a week between the two positions. And much of this will depend on production. If Kennedy's struggling and Guzman's hitting, he could end up getting more time at second base. And if after, say, one or two months Desmond doesn't look big-league ready, Guzman could be back as the shortstop.

Bill C-H said...

Mark - another question...what's the deal on Capps? He does not seem to be coming around; working hard? In shape? Focused? Your thoughts please.

Anonymous said...

Who would have thunk it. Lannan 5 IP and only 3 H, 2 BB, 0 ER and Wainwright 5 IP and 10 H, 2 BB, and 5 ER.

And of course, Capps gets lit up again.

Anonymous said...

Is Capps the "new" Hanrahan.

Anonymous said...

Any chance Bruney opens the year as the closer?

Mark Zuckerman said...

Doubtful Riggleman would change closers before the season even begins. But I do think he'll have really short leash on Capps and won't hesitate to make a change at the first sign of trouble.

Moe Greene said...

Anyone want to explain why Ian Desmond can't throw the ball?

Unknown said...

Calling Capps the "new Hanrahan" is a little over the top- Hanrahan got lit up EVERY appearance; Capps only gets lit up every 0THER appearance. It's a clear improvement...

(please note sarcasm)

peric said...

Moe Green? אתה shmuck ו זין

Knoxville Nat said...

"Anyone want to explain why Ian Desmond can't throw the ball?"

Perhaps a case of Ryan Zimmerman disease?

Zim seems to have worked himself out of a throwing problem maybe he can pass some tips on to Desmond, real soon!!

Anonymous said...

Kilgore is saying the Nats won 6-4. You guys watching the same game?

Moe Greene said...

I'd love to label it a case of the "Zims" but I fear, since it's always been one of his flaws, that it's more a case of the "Knobs". By all accounts, he has the skill to play the position. Perhaps it's all in his head? I'd love (wouldn't we all) to see it corrected.

Traveler8 said...

ESPN also thinks the score was 9 - 6.

Richard Moore said...

As for the suggestion that the Nats reacquire Church if the Pirates release him, I disagree completely. He is prone to fits of sulking, which is unbecoming in a player at his talent level. We don't need him in the clubhouse

Moe Greene said...

@ Richard More - I completely agree.

Moe Greene said...

*Moore, my apologies.

peric said...

The Olsen decision (not to release) makes an inordinate amount of sense. At the very least he is a valuable chip to be used in a trade with a contender. OH Yes Mista Moe. Why? He is a left-handed starter who appears to be improving with each start now. Its the left-handed part that makes Bedard so valuable if he were right handed he probably would have been released. Is Olsen better than Bedard? Right now, yes. Is Olsen starting an pitching in games, building his strength? Yes. Is Bedard? No. Case closed.

Moe Greene said...

In other words, Peric, if you were Omar Minaya, you'd trade Jose Reyes (since he's not playing due to injury) for Christian Guzman ?since he's showing some signs of life)?

Yeah, sounds about right.

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