Saturday, July 31, 2010

Zimmermann bounces back

Jordan Zimmermann rebounded from the only rough outing of his minor-league rehab stint with a dominant performance tonight.

Zimmermann, in the final stages of recovery from Tommy John surgery, tossed 4 2/3 innings of shutout ball for Class AA Harrisburg. Facing the Red Sox's Portland affiliate, he allowed just one hit, walking two and striking out three.

This performance was in stark contrast to Zimmermann's previous start, when he was tagged for seven runs and seven hits in five innings at low-Class A Hagerstown.

Overall, the 24-year-old right-hander has pitched exceptionally well over six minor-league starts -- he's got a 2.38 ERA over 22 2/3 innings, striking out 19 while walking three. He has not allowed an earned run in five of those six starts.

The Nationals continue to target mid-August for Zimmermann's return to the major leagues.

Game 104: Phillies at Nats

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Ross Detwiler faces Joe Blanton in the second game of the series.
Onto tonight's game, which features the Nationals shooting for their second straight win against the Phillies and their fourth win in five days against the top two teams in the NL East.

Ross Detwiler, who had a rocky return to the big leagues last weekend in Milwaukee, takes the mound for the Nationals. Joe Blanton starts for the Phillies, who will be sitting Ryan Howard tonight for the first time all season. (He's been terrible against left-handers recently.)

Check back here for updates throughout the game...

Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 7:05 p.m.
Radio: WFED-1500 AM, WWFD-820 AM
Weather: Partly cloudy, 84 degrees, Wind 8 mph out to LF
CF Nyjer Morgan
2B Adam Kennedy
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam Dunn

Nats announce Maya signing

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Yunesky Maya (left) is introduced next to Mike Rizzo and Livan Hernandez.
Updated at 6:37 p.m.

The Nationals officially signed and introduced Yunesky Maya, the Cuban pitcher who came to terms on a deal with the club last week.

Maya defected from his native Cuba to the Dominican Republic last year and had been working out and pitching in simulated games as various professional clubs scouted him. The 28-year-old right-hander committed to the Nationals last week, though the deal couldn't be completed until he was granted a visa to enter the United States and then passed a physical.

The Nationals rewarded Maya with a major-league contract; he'll immediately appear on the 40-man roster.

"A deep scouting effort has brought us our first major international signing that we think is going to impact our major-league ballclub immediately," general manager Mike Rizzo said.

Maya will report to Viera, Fla., on Monday and throw in front of minor-league pitching coordinator Spin Williams. He'll work his way through a standing throwing program, facing live hitters, pitching in a simulated game and then making at least one start in the minor

Strasburg to play catch tomorrow

Stephen Strasburg will play catch tomorrow morning before the Nationals' series finale against the Phillies, manager Jim Riggleman said.

Strasburg, who hasn't thrown a ball since he was a last-minute scratch before Tuesday night's game with right shoulder inflammation, will throw off flat ground in the outfield. If that goes well, he'll play long toss on Monday in Arizona.

Strasburg would then take Tuesday off and throw a full bullpen session Wednesday in Arizona. He's eligible to come off the 15-day disabled list Friday in Los Angeles, but the Nationals are expected to wait to bring him back until the team returns home to face the Marlins Aug. 10-12.

Deadline passes, Dunn stays

Updated at 5:35 p.m.

Despite fielding offers from several clubs right down to this afternoon's trade deadline, Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo elected not to deal slugger Adam Dunn.

Rizzo, who had insisted for weeks he would not lower his lofty asking price for the 30-year-old first baseman, stuck to his guns as a frantic trading period around baseball came to a close.

The Chicago White Sox, New York Yankees, Tampa Bay Rays and Detroit Tigers (among others) all expressed interest in Dunn as the deadline approached, with the White Sox most aggressive in their pursuit.

Rizzo, though, continued to insist on receiving at least two big-league-ready players in return for his cleanup hitter, who leads the Nationals with 24 homers and 64 RBI entering tonight's game against the Phillies.

"We never got a deal we thought was equal or greater value to Adam Dunn," Rizzo said. "We were on the receiving end of the calls. We weren't making the calls. We got a lot of interest in Adam. We just didn't see an equal return to what Adam Dunn brings to the ballclub on

Deadline day thread

Updated at 4:23 p.m.

It's July 31 at last, and the final hours leading up to the magic 4 p.m. trade deadline are sure to be hectic as always as teams make last-ditch attempts to pull off a blockbuster.

Quite often, these deals don't happen until the very last minute. A year ago, the Nationals were in Pittsburgh on deadline day, with players sitting around the clubhouse watching MLB Network to find out what was going on. When the clock struck 4 p.m., Nick Johnson left the clubhouse and went down to the batting cage to take some hacks, assuming no news was good news. A couple minutes later, Johnson learned he'd actually been traded to the Marlins right at the deadline; it just took several minutes for the word to actually get to him.

So don't be surprised if something dramatic happens in those last few moments later this afternoon.

For now, here's what we know...

Adam Dunn, of course, still remains a National. The list of potential suitors appears to have dwindled after the Yankees acquired Lance Berkman and the Rays acquired reliever Chad Qualls (using up some of the little money they have to spend right now).

The White Sox still are the team that most covets Dunn, but it's going to take a change-of-heart from GM Kenny Williams -- who up til now has been unwilling to part with major-league position players like Gordon Beckham, Carlos Quentin and Dayan Viciedo -- in these final

Thriving while surrounded by chaos

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Adam Dunn scores -- and avoids a collision with Carlos Ruiz -- in the fifth inning.
So, let's recap the events of the last four days in NatsTown, shall we?

Stephen Strasburg goes on the disabled list with shoulder inflammation.

Matt Capps gets traded to the Twins.

Cristian Guzman gets traded to the Rangers.

Adam Dunn trade rumors reach a fever pitch.

Oh yeah, and the Nationals take three of four from the top two teams in their division, capped by tonight's 8-1 thumping of Roy Oswalt and the Phillies.

Maybe these guys just need to have chaos surrounding them in order to play well.

Or maybe they're just really good at blocking out the peripheral stuff that consumes everyone else this time of year.

"I think our guys are able to put that stuff away and play the game," Jim Riggleman said. "I'm sure they think about that stuff on the drive home or when they get home. You can't help but think about it. You read the papers, and you know a lot of the speculation that's on the networks. It's on guys' minds, but they're pros and they've been

Friday, July 30, 2010

Game 103: Phillies at Nats

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Craig Stammen faces Roy Oswalt in his Phillies debut tonight.
There is still a game to be played tonight, and a depleted Nationals team that is without Matt Capps and Cristian Guzman and will be playing with a 24-man roster faces a stiff challenge against the Phillies and the pitcher they just acquired yesterday: Roy Oswalt.

The Nats actually have had recent success against Oswalt. In three head-to-head starts over the last two years, he's 0-1 with a 7.43 ERA. That includes a 2 1/3-inning start in May in which Oswalt was ejected. So perhaps the Nationals have a slight advantage against a really tough right-hander.

Check back here for updates throughout the game, and please check the other posts for Guzman, Dunn and other trade-related news...

Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 7:05 p.m.
Radio: WFED-1500 AM, WWFD-820 AM
Weather: Mostly sunny, 83 degrees, Wind 5 mph LF to RF
CF Nyjer Morgan
2B Adam Kennedy
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam Dunn

Guzman traded to Texas

Updated at 5:56 p.m.

The Nationals have traded Cristian Guzman, the only player from the original Opening Day 2005 club who has remained on the big-league roster without interruption, to the Texas Rangers, a source familiar with the deal has confirmed.

It's not yet known who the Nationals are receiving in return.

Updates to come...

3:29 p.m. -- Because Guzman has 10 years of big-league service and more than five years with the Nationals, he had to approve the trade. He's still due to earn about $2.6 million the rest of the season, and it's possible the Nats are picking up some of that salary because the Rangers are currently in bankruptcy and unable to add too much to payroll.

4:38 p.m. -- The trade won't be official until tomorrow, but the Nats will be receiving two minor-league pitchers in exchange for Guzman. One of the pitchers is right-hander Ryan Tatusko, a 25-year-old who was 9-2 with a 2.97 ERA in 24 games (13 starts) for Class AA Frisco. Because the deal isn't official yet but Guzman has already left, the Nats will be playing with a 24-man roster tonight. Adam Kennedy is

Dunn trade talk

Updated at 4:44 p.m.

The internet may explode at some point today from too many "updates" on Adam Dunn's status with the Nationals. Really, I've never seen anything quite like this, especially because as of this moment, nothing has happened.

Here's what we do know: The White Sox have acquired right-hander Edwin Jackson from the Diamondbacks for pitchers Daniel Hudson and David Holmberg. The White Sox have had very strong interest in Dunn all along. The Nationals have had some interest in Jackson.

So a subsequent trade of Dunn to Chicago in exchange for Jackson seems like an obvious conclusion to all this. But before you get too lathered up about it, this deal hasn't been made yet and it very well might not be made ever.

First off, I would be stunned -- stunned -- if Mike Rizzo traded Adam Dunn straight-up for Edwin Jackson. That doesn't fit with his oft-repeated mantra that he would have to be "blown away" with an offer in order to trade Dunn. It's entirely possible Jackson would be part of a package coming to Washington in exchange for Dunn, but I really can't see him being the only player involved. A young position player would have to be included.

Second, the White Sox have been trying to bolster their rotation in addition to their lineup for the stretch run, and thus could keep

Buzzword to this trade: Value

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Matt Capps' All-Star season may have landed the Nats a long-term catching answer.
Matt Capps was immensely valuable to the Nationals this season. With help from Tyler Clippard, Drew Storen and Sean Burnett, he turned what had been the organization's weakest link into its biggest strength.

Capps' value to the Nats, though, made his trade value even higher, which is why Mike Rizzo had no choice but to pull the trigger tonight when the Twins offered up Wilson Ramos and Joe Testa in exchange for his closer (plus $500,000 in cash).

Think about it this way: Seven months ago, Capps wasn't valued enough by the Pirates to be tendered a contract. Tonight, Minnesota GM Bill Smith valued Capps so much, he was willing to give up one of the top-rated young catchers in baseball.

Now, it should be noted Ramos' value with the Twins was minimal, considering they already own the best catcher in baseball. He was never going to crack the lineup at Target Field, not with Joe Mauer entrenched there for the next eight years.

But it should also be noted that Ramos was coveted by plenty of other clubs around the sport. When the Twins made a serious run at acquiring Cliff Lee earlier this month, Ramos was part of the proposed deal. He's not some throw-in or low-level minor-leaguer.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Capps to Twins for Ramos, Testa

Updated at 12:20 a.m.

The Nationals have traded closer Matt Capps to the Minnesota Twins in exchange for 22-year-old catcher Wilson Ramos and minor-league left-hander Joe Testa.

Ramos is a highly touted catcher who was rated by Baseball America as the Twins' second-best prospect and baseball's 58th-best prospect entering the season and was among the players being discussed when Minnesota was trying to acquire pitcher Cliff Lee from the Mariners. A native of Venezuela, he is a career .284 hitter in parts of five minor-league seasons who appeared in eight big-league games earlier this season and went 8-for-27 with three doubles. He'll report to Class AAA Syracuse but figures to be a strong candidate for a September call-up.

Testa, a 24-year-old reliever, owns a career 3.33 ERA in three minor-league seasons. In 36 games between Class A and Class AA this year, he's a combined 2-5 with a 5.50 ERA. He'll report to Class A Potomac.

Capps' departure comes after the 26-year-old resurrected his career to earn 26 saves and an All-Star berth after getting nontendered by the Pirates in December. The Nationals signed him later that month to a one-year, $3.5 million contract. He would still have been under

Resurrected Olsen revives Nats

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Scott Olsen was strong in his return from the DL.
Turn back the clock to, oh, 6:45 p.m. Tuesday night, a few minutes before Stephen Strasburg's warm-up session was cut short and all of NatsTown went on red alert. At that moment, if someone had told you the Nationals would take two of three from the Braves, you would have thought that sounded reasonable. Most likely, Strasburg and Livan Hernandez would have led the way.

Strasburg and Livo, of course, combined to pitch 4 1/3 innings this week. Which makes the fact the Nats still took two of three from a first-place opponent all the more impressive.

"That's huge," Drew Storen said. "I think the manner in which we did it [is most impressive]. That's not an ideal series, the way things went with the rain delay, with the whole Stras thing. For us to work through that, play well and have the offense come through like they did, it's big for us."

Stop the presses: There's more to the Nationals than Stephen Strasburg! And there's apparently more to the pitching staff than Strasburg and Hernandez! Take out Livo's sub-par and brief start last night, and the rest of the staff combined to allow two earned runs and 13 hits over 22 2/3 innings in this series. The bullpen didn't give up any runs in 11 2/3 innings. And if you want to count Miguel Batista's

Miss Iowa to throw first pitch Friday

Updated at 5:28 p.m.

Katherine Connors, aka Miss Iowa 2010, will throw out the ceremonial first pitch before tomorrow night's game at Nationals Park.

The Nats haven't confirmed the appearance, but Connors announced the news on Twitter this afternoon, posting: "It's official - headed to Washington DC to throw out the first pitch at the Washington Nationals game tomorrow night!!!"

Connors' appearance in the District will come three days after Nationals reliever Miguel Batista compared himself to her upon serving as the last-minute replacement for injured starter Stephen Strasburg. Many among the sellout crowd booed when Batista took the mound in the top of the first inning.

"Imagine, if you go there to see Miss Universe and you end up having Miss Iowa, you might get those kind of boos," Batista said.

The quote was widely circulated and made its way back to Connors, who then told the Des Moines Register: "I know I can throw a pitch or two! The question is, can Miguel Batista walk the runway in a

Game 102: Braves at Nats

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Scott Olsen faces Derek Lowe in today's series finale.
Scott Olsen returns to the mound today for the first time since late-May, hoping to recapture the form he displayed earlier this season before landing on the disabled list with left shoulder inflammation. The Braves counter with sinkerball specialist Derek Lowe, who actually has struggled against the Nationals. Over the last two seasons, he's 1-4 with an ERA over 5.00 against the Nats.

Everyone's favorite benchwarmer, Michael Morse, gets the start in right field, even against a right-hander. Wil Nieves is behind the plate, giving Ivan Rodriguez the day off.

Check back throughout the afternoon for updates...

Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 12:35 p.m.
Radio: WFED-1500 AM, WWFD-820 AM
Weather: Partly cloudy, 90 degrees, Wind 8 mph LF to RF
CF Nyjer Morgan
2B Adam Kennedy
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam Dunn

Strasburg placed on DL [updated]

(Here's my full Strasburg article on

Stephen Strasburg will not start Sunday, manager Jim Riggleman said this morning.

Strasburg hasn't been placed on the disabled list yet, but could wind up there later this morning. Any move would be retroactive to July 22, the day after he last pitched.

More to come...

UPDATE AT 11:44 A.M. -- It's official: Strasburg has been placed on the 15-day DL, retroactive to July 22. Scott Olsen has been activated off the DL in time to start today's game against the Braves.

Strasburg will be eligible to return on August 7, but it sounds like the Nationals will wait until they return home the following week to activate him. So his next start would probably come during the August 10-12 series against the Marlins.

Quotes from Strasburg coming in a couple minutes...

UPDATE AT 11:49 A.M. -- Strasburg spoke briefly in the Nats' clubhouse after being told he was being placed on the DL. Here's the transcript...

Q: How disappointing is it to be placed on the DL?
STRASBURG: It's out of my control, so I'm not really going to worry about it. It's what's best for the team. Obviously, having Miguel Batista as a reliever, we're going to need him out of the bullpen. We can't really rely on him to go out there and start. So it's an obvious reason for it. I'm just going to keep working hard, and when they

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Pitching back at the forefront

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Livan Hernandez and the Nats were no match for Tim Hudson. Again.
On the day Stephen Strasburg stood around doing nothing while resting his tight shoulder and Livan Hernandez surprisingly was pulled after 4 1/3 innings and 85 pitches, Tim Hudson took the mound at Nationals Park and simply did what he's always done: Dominate the Nationals.

There are pitchers who have success against certain opponents, and then there are pitchers who chew up certain opponents and spit them out like sunflower seeds. For Hudson, the Nats might as well be a bag of "David" brand barbecue flavor.

After dismantling the Nationals' lineup tonight during the Braves' 3-1 victory, Hudson bolstered his already-lopsided career numbers against these guys. Hudson has faced the Nats 16 times since 2005. He's gone 9-1 with a 1.50 ERA.

"For whatever reason, I've been able to go out there and throw the ball pretty well against these guys and make pitches," Hudson said. "It's not to say next time I pitch against these guys I won't be backing up third all night. But it does feel good to know that you have a history of some success against a team, just for your confidence.

Hudson's name doesn't always get lumped in with baseball's most-dominant pitchers, but a guy with a 159-83 career record and a

Olsen to start tomorrow

Scott Olsen has officially been named the Nationals' starting pitcher for tomorrow's series finale against the Braves.

Olsen, who has been on the DL since May 22 with left shoulder inflammation, has made four minor-league rehab starts, the most recent coming Thursday for Class A Potomac. Overall, he posted a 3.21 ERA while on rehab, striking out 11 while walking only one batter.

In eight starts with the Nationals before getting hurt, Olsen was 2-2 with a 3.77 ERA.

Olsen's return tomorrow pushes Craig Stammen back to Friday night's game against the Phillies and Ross Detwiler to Saturday night's game. Sunday's starter remains uncertain; if Stephen Strasburg is ready to return from his shoulder inflammation, he'll pitch on schedule. If not, the Nationals will need to decide whether to promote someone from the minors or use long reliever Miguel Batista again.

Strasburg shut down for couple days

[Here's my story on stating it's unlikely Strasburg will start Sunday against the Phillies.]

The Nationals have decided to shut down Stephen Strasburg for at least a couple of days while waiting to see if his right shoulder feels better, electing to take a continued cautious route with the rookie pitcher, who was a last-minute scratch from his scheduled start last night.

Manager Jim Riggleman wouldn't rule out the possibility of Strasburg pitching on schedule Sunday against the Phillies, but he would need to throw a bullpen session within a few days to be cleared for that.

More coming...

UPDATE AT 5:40 P.M. -- Here are some of the key quotes from Riggleman's pregame press conference...

On when Strasburg will next start: "We don't have an update whether he's going to pitch Sunday or when he'll pitch again if not Sunday. We're just really going to give it another day or two before we do anything like that."

When would he need to throw this week to be ready to start Sunday? "Basically, we're going to watch him play catch in the outfield before he goes to the bullpen and throws. If all that takes place in time for

Game 101: Braves at Nats

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
After last night's craziness, Livan Hernandez looks to be a calming presence tonight.
So, there's another ballgame to be played tonight. Livan Hernandez is the scheduled starter for the Nationals. Though I suppose these days you can't assume anything until 7:05 p.m.

Hernandez's task is simple: Keep doing what he's been doing all season and give the Nats a chance to beat a really tough opponent in Tim Hudson, who in his career against the Expos/Nationals franchise is merely 9-1 with a 1.51 ERA. He also outdueled Stephen Strasburg last month in Atlanta, tossing seven scoreless innings.

As I mentioned earlier today, Josh Willingham is not in the starting lineup. Why? Probably because he's a career 1-for-20 with seven strikeouts against Hudson. (He also appeared to jam his leg sliding into second base on his sixth-inning stolen base last night.) Who on the Nats' roster does have a record of success against him? Ivan Rodriguez (13-for-29).

Check back throughout the afternoon and evening for updates...

Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 7:05 p.m.
Radio: WFED-1500 AM, WWFD-820 AM
Weather: Mostly sunny, 91 degrees, Wind 9 mph out to CF
CF Nyjer Morgan
2B Adam Kennedy
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam Dunn

No Willingham in lineup tonight

The Nationals just put out their starting lineup for tonight's game against the Braves, and Josh Willingham is surprisingly not in there. Not sure what, if any, conclusions can be drawn from that, but it should be noted Willingham in his career vs. Atlanta starter Tim Hudson is 1-for-20 with seven strikeouts. My hunch is that's the reason for his benching, not a trade.

That said, I'm about to head down to the ballpark and will update everyone once I know anything more.

In the meantime, here is Jim Riggleman's lineup...

CF Morgan
2B Kennedy
1B Dunn
3B Zimmerman

Has the real Nyjer Morgan returned?

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Nyjer Morgan is hitting .298 with 12 steals over his last 26 games.
Lost amid all the hubbub over Miss Iowa replacing Miss Universe on the mound last night was another impressive performance from Nyjer Morgan, who single-handedly scored the Nationals' first run.

Morgan led off the bottom of the first by singling, stealing second, stealing third and then scoring when Brian McCann's throw sailed into left field. It set the tone for the evening and it let everyone in the ballpark know the Nats weren't simply going to roll over and play dead because Strasburg had a stiff shoulder.

"I think him getting on base immediately picked the whole ballclub up," Jim Riggleman said.

This wasn't, however, a one-time anomaly for Morgan. For more than a month now, the man who served as the Nationals' biggest goat of the first half has resurrected himself with a prolonged performance that brings back memories of his fabulous 2009.

Over his last 26 games, dating back to that June 25 game in Baltimore when he robbed Corey Patterson of a home run, Morgan's numbers are impressive across the board. He's batting .298 (31-for-104). His on-base percentage is .345. He's notched 10 RBI,

Let him pitch or shut him down?

File photo by Rachel Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Stephen Strasburg never made it to the mound tonight due to a stiff shoulder.
It went undetected to most every one of the 40,043 who paid to enter Nationals Park tonight assuming they'd see Stephen Strasburg take on the Braves. Not until Miguel Batista took the mound at 7:06 p.m. and was announced as the Nationals' starting pitcher did everyone realize what was going on.

Many in the crowd booed.

"Imagine, if you go there to see Miss Universe and you end up having Miss Iowa, you might get those kind of boos," Batista said in perhaps the one-liner of the year. "But it's OK. They had to understand that as an organization we have to make sure the kid is fine."

That was the prevailing sentiment at the end of the night. Whether Strasburg is seriously injured or not -- and initial signs point to it being nothing more than some shoulder inflammation -- the Nationals intend to take the cautious route with their $15.1 million investment.

Which means there's a very real possibility he's thrown his last pitch of the season.

Mike Rizzo wouldn't make any declarations like that after tonight's game -- which, it should be noted, featured fabulous performances by Miguel Batista, Sean Burnett, Drew Storen, Matt Capps, Nyjer Morgan and Ian Desmond that resulted in a 3-0 victory -- but the general

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Strasburg scratched, Batista starts

(Here's the final version of my Strasburg story on, including the quote of the year from Miguel Batista. You'll have to click on the story to read it, but let's just say it immediately brought to mind Julian Tavarez's infamous Jennifer Lopez quote from last spring.)

Stephen Strasburg was a last-minute scratch from his scheduled start tonight against the Braves. Miguel Batista took his place and took the mound before a stunned, sellout crowd of 40,043 at Nationals Park that booed when the veteran reliever was announced as the starter.

Strasburg did warm up in the right field bullpen prior to the game. At some point (approximately 6:50 p.m.) he departed with a trainer and Batista took over.

The Nationals made no immediate announcement about why Strasburg was scratched.

Obviously, more to come as we find out...

UPDATE AT 7:26 P.M. -- Mike Rizzo says Strasburg was scratched because he was having trouble getting loose in the bullpen prior to this start. Rizzo said he made the decision himself and said it was precautionary. Strasburg will be examined by team doctors and will receive an X-ray and MRI. At this point, he's day-to-day and the club isn't making any declarations about when his next start will take place.

More quotes from Rizzo coming up...

UPDATE AT 7:35 P.M. -- Here is the complete transcript of Mike Rizzo's media session in the press box right after tonight's game started...

No worries about Zimmermann

Jim Riggleman drove to Hagerstown yesterday to watch Jordan Zimmermann's latest rehab start and came away encouraged by what he saw, despite the right-hander's unsightly final line.

Zimmermann, who hadn't allowed an earned run in his previous four starts for high-Class A Potomac, gave up six earned runs in five innings last night for low-Class A Hagerstown.

Riggleman, though, paid more attention to the fact Zimmermann's arm felt strong afterward.

"My concern is just that he feels good, that his arm feels good," the manager said. "His delivery looked good. He didn't get the results yesterday that he would have liked. But I know he's encouraged by how his arm feels. That's quite a few innings he's got now, between the Florida experience and his rehab starts, where he's held up real good. He's moving forward."

Zimmermann is next slated to pitch for Class AA Harrisburg this weekend. He's been targeting mid-August (12 months after he had Tommy John surgery) for his return to the Nationals' rotation, though

Walker has torn labrum

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Tyler Walker expects to have season-ending labrum surgery this week.
Reliever Tyler Walker has a torn labrum in his right shoulder, one that will almost certainly require season-ending surgery later this week.

Walker, who has been on the disabled list since late-June with inflammation in the shoulder, was shut down from his rehab program last week after experiencing more pain. An MRI taken in Washington revealed the labrum tear. He's scheduled to be examined Thursday in Birmingham by orthopedist James Andrews, who will then decide whether surgery is necessary.

Walker seems resigned to the fact the procedure will happen Friday.

"Hopefully it will be the mother of all shoulder surgeries, the last one hopefully," said the 34-year-old right-hander, who had labrum surgery in 2000 while a minor-leaguer with the Mets.

Recovery time from surgery is six-to-eight months, so Walker could be back pitching off a mound by spring training and be ready to pitch

Game 100: Braves at Nats

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
For the first time in 16 days, the Nats are home.
Sure has been a while since the Nationals played a game on South Capitol Street. Sixteen days, as a matter of fact, have elapsed since the Nats hosted the Giants and then departed for the All-Star break, followed by a 10-game road trip.

They return at last tonight, still stinging from a 3-7 swing through Florida, Cincinnati and Milwaukee, but with Stephen Strasburg and Livan Hernandez starting the next two games against the Braves. If you missed this stat I calculated yesterday, the Nats are 18-11 this season when Strasburg or Hernandez starts. When anyone else pitches, they're 24-46. (So, you're saying they've got a chance!)

The Nationals also come home to a less-than-perfect playing surface. Dave Matthews Band played here Friday night, and the damage remains. Almost the entire outfield grass is discolored from the stage and seating area. It's probably just a case where the field needs to be watered and get sunlight for a couple of days and everything will be fine again. But it certainly doesn't look very pretty at the moment.

Check back throughout the afternoon and evening for updates...

Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 7:05 p.m.
Radio: WFED-1500 AM, WWFD-820 AM
Weather: Partly cloudy, 86 degrees, Wind 7 mph RF to LF
CF Nyjer Morgan
2B Cristian Guzman
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam Dunn

Nats to honor Andre Dawson

The Nationals announced today they will honor recent Hall of Fame inductee Andre Dawson before their August 10 game against the Marlins, the first notable effort made by the franchise to recognize its former existence as the Montreal Expos.

Dawson, whose plaque in Cooperstown features an Expos hat, now serves as a front office executive with the Marlins; thus the reason for holding the event while Florida is in town.

Since their arrival in the District in 2005, the Nationals have struggled to determine what history to associate themselves with. They have embraced both versions of the Senators -- the original club that moved to Minnesota in 1961 and the expansion club that moved to Texas in 1972 -- and fly pennants above the scoreboard honoring the 1924 World Series champs and 1933 American League champs. They also have three statues in center field depicting Walter Johnson and Frank Howard of the Senators and Josh Gibson of the Homestead Grays (who split their time in the Negro Leagues between D.C. and Homestead, Pa.).

To date, though, there has been no recognition of the Expos, aside from one listing of franchise records in their media guide that includes Montreal stats from 1969-2004 and Washington stats since 2005.

Strasburg vs. Atlanta: The Sequel

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Chipper Jones, Brian McCann and the Braves get another shot at Stephen Strasburg.
Baseball is a game of matchups. Pitcher vs. hitter. And those matchups are repeated. Three or four times during a game. Ten or 12 times during a season. Dozens of times during a career.

Every pitcher has a book (usually mental, sometimes physical) on every hitter he's ever faced. And every hitter has the same for every pitcher he's faced. Over the course of time, they come to know what to expect from their opponent. Whether the pitcher likes to throw breaking balls to get ahead in the count. Whether the batter is susceptible to changeups low and inside.

Once one side has figured out the other, it's up to that player to recognize what his opponent is trying to do to him and make the necessary adjustment. Start throwing fastballs earlier in the count. Lay off those changeups. At which point there's a whole new round of adjustments made. It's a never-ending cycle, and it's what makes this game so intriguing to so many.

Any pitcher can fool an opposing lineup the first time he faces them. But can he make the necessary adjustments to do it again the next time they square off?

For the last seven weeks, Stephen Strasburg has enjoyed the luxury of mowing down opponents who had never faced him before. It's a decided advantage for the pitcher, especially one with his incredible

Monday, July 26, 2010

J-Zimm struggles at Hagerstown

Jordan Zimmermann went down one level of the Nationals' farm system to make his fifth minor-league rehab start today. His performance went down several notches.

Pitching for low-Class A Hagerstown in the first game of a twi-night doubleheader against West Virginia, Zimmermann was tagged for seven runs and seven hits in five innings, suffering his first loss of the season.

Zimmermann, who hadn't allowed an earned run or issued a walk in four previous rehab starts with high-Class A Potomac, gave up six earned runs today. He also walked a batter, struck out three and served up two home runs.

The right-hander is expected to come off the disabled list and join the Nats' rotation sometime in mid-August.

Strasburg and Livo and ... ?

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Craig Stammen, like several Nats starters, needs to make a better case for himself.
There's the ace, who has assumed that role only nine starts into his career, though deservedly so. And there's the wily old vet, who continues to prove he's got more left in his right arm than anyone ever thought.

And then, there's ... what? After Stephen Strasburg and Livan Hernandez, what exactly do the Nationals have in their starting rotation? From what we've seen so far, not much. The Nats are 18-11 in games started by Strasburg and Hernandez. When anyone else pitches, they're 24-46.

So the line around NatsTown these days goes something like: "Strasburg and Livo, the rest get the heave-ho."

(Sorry, I couldn't help myself.)

It should be noted that among the plethora of issues facing the Nationals over the remainder of the season, none may be as significant as the continued attempt to fill out a rotation that looks less established with each passing day.

This wasn't supposed to be the Nats' biggest question mark, not at this stage of the year. By now, they were supposed to be fielding a starting quintet of Strasburg, John Lannan, Chien-Ming Wang, Jason Marquis and one more fill-in until Jordan Zimmermann was ready to return from Tommy John surgery. That was the rotation that was

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Game 99: Nats at Brewers

Photo courtesy Milwaukee Brewers
The Nats try to avoid getting swept today at Miller Park.
Several points to make on this Sunday morning...

1. Michael Morse is not in the Nationals' starting lineup today.

2. Yes, I agree with the vast majority of you that he should be.

3. I'm not in Milwaukee this weekend. Therefore, I can't ask Jim Riggleman why Morse is not in the lineup.

4. Ryan Zimmerman also is not in the Nationals' lineup today. This was a pre-planned day off, much as Adam Dunn got last night.

5. Willie Harris is starting at third base and batting second. Though his presence anywhere near the plate with a bat in hand sends shivers down plenty of people's spines, I'll just throw this out there: Since June 25 (one month's time) Harris is batting .357 with a .500 on-base percentage and 1.071 OPS. Those numbers are even better than

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Game 98: Nats at Brewers

Photo courtesy Milwaukee Brewers
It's game two of three this evening at Miller Park.
Updated below with starting lineups

I'm not sure what it says that for a team that boasts Stephen Strasburg, Adam Dunn, Ryan Zimmerman and Ivan Rodriguez, the player drawing the most attention from fans right now is Michael Morse. Certainly, it says the guy has been producing just about every time he's been called upon this season (which hasn't been nearly as often as most people would like).

Though I have to admit: It baffles me a bit how much people think more playing time for Morse is the answer to all of the Nationals' woes. Why did the Nats lose last night's game, 7-5, to the Brewers? Because Craig Stammen wore down by the fifth inning. Because Tyler Clippard and Sean Burnett couldn't hold a lead. And because one batter reached base over the game's final five innings.

Does Morse (now batting .338 with a 1.022 OPS) deserve to play more? Sure. And he'll almost certainly be in the lineup tonight against Milwaukee left-hander Manny Parra. But is his presence alone going to turn the Nationals' fortunes around? Seems hard to believe that.

In other news ... you may have read by now that Mike Rizzo revealed Jim Riggleman will be back as manager next season. Which, I suppose, is good to know. There won't be any question about Riggleman's future the rest of the season and no managerial search this fall. But this isn't as earth-shattering a development as you might think. Riggleman was given a two-year contract last winter. He was

Friday, July 23, 2010

Game 97: Nats at Brewers

Photo courtesy Milwaukee Brewers
The Brewers host the Nationals this weekend at Miller Park.
Updates on Sunday's starter and minor leaguers suspended below

Fresh off their first back-to-back road wins since May 12-13 (at New York and Colorado), the Nationals made their way last night from Cincinnati to Milwaukee. They'll open a three-game, weekend series against the Brewers this evening, hoping to sustain some positive momentum for the first time in a long time.

Speaking of maintaining positive momentum, Craig Stammen takes the mound tonight for the opener, hoping to pick up where he left off Sunday at Florida (he allowed one run over six strong innings). J.D. Martin starts tomorrow. Sunday's starter remains unannounced. John Lannan pitched last night for Harrisburg, so it won't be him. Ross Detwiler threw seven innings Wednesday, so he's unlikely to be called up to pitch on short rest. That leaves Matt Chico, who is listed as tonight's starter for Syracuse. If he gets scratched, we'll know why.

After covering the first two legs of this road trip, I've returned home for the weekend. So no reports from Milwaukee. I'll put up the gameday threads each day, though, and will provide lineups once they're announced. If there's any other significant news, I'll be sure to pass that along as well...

Where: Miller Park
Gametime: 8:10 p.m.
Radio: WFED-1500 AM, WWFD-820 AM
Weather: Chance of storms, 83 degrees, Wind 7 mph RF to LF
CF Nyjer Morgan
2B Cristian Guzman
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam Dunn

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Livo: Alive and well

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Livan Hernandez was thoroughly efficient in his complete-game win.
CINCINNATI -- How many times has Livan Hernandez's career been declared dead? Two? Three? Four?

It happened when he was traded from Florida to San Francisco in 1999. It happened when he was traded from San Francisco to Montreal in 2003. It happened when the Nationals dealt him to Arizona in 2006. And it happened pretty much the last two winters as Hernandez trolled around for jobs, unable to secure the kind of contract you'd expect for a pitcher of his stature.

One of these days, Livo should appear on one of those reality shows in which people who cheated death share their stories of survival. He'd get great ratings.

The lack of respect around baseball for Hernandez bothers the big right-hander. He doesn't quite understand it. But make no mistake: It also fuels him to do his best every time he takes the ball.

"My friends and my teammates are always like, 'You're a really good pitcher. You can pitch.'" Hernandez said. "But I've got to show some different people. I'm not dumb. I go outside every time I pitch and think about that. It helps me a lot."

That extra motivation certainly was present today as Hernandez authored the latest in a growing list of pitching gems: A complete-game, 7-1 victory over the Reds on an absolutely sweltering

Atilano to DL with bone chips

CINCINNATI -- Luis Atilano is headed to the disabled list with bone chips in his right elbow, leaving the Nationals to decide between one of three left-handers to take his spot in the rotation and start Sunday in Milwaukee.

John Lannan, Ross Detwiler and Matt Chico are all candidates for promotion, though Mike Rizzo wouldn't reveal today which lefty is getting the call.

"We want to bring up somebody who we can get a good, long look at, that gives us an opportunity every five days to win that game," Rizzo said.

Read the full story at

UPDATE AT 2:01 P.M. -- FYI: I was just told John Lannan remains with Harrisburg and remains scheduled to start tonight. So it would appear he's not going to be the guy to get called up.

Game 96: Nats at Reds

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
It's another scorcher at Great American Ball Park for the series finale.
CINCINNATI -- No sense beating around the bush on this one, because it's surely going to be the hot topic of debate here for the next two hours before the game starts: Cristian Guzman is batting fifth today. Willie Harris is batting sixth.

Yep, Josh Willingham, Ivan Rodriguez and Ian Desmond all have the day off, leaving Jim Riggleman with this makeshift lineup that I have a hunch won't be popular with the fan base.

That said, think back only 13 days ago when Stephen Strasburg pitched against the Giants and Riggleman fielded a lineup that included a 5-6-7-8 of Guzman, Harris, Adam Kennedy and Wil Nieves. Everyone was up in arms that afternoon ... until that dynamic quartet combined to go 6-for-12 with three walks and three RBI and helped lead the Nats to a blowout victory.

So it's entirely possible lightning will strike twice. Then again, Guzman and Harris each homered last night. What are the odds of that happening again?

Check back for updates throughout the afternoon...

Where: Great American Ball Park
Gametime: 12:35 p.m.
TV: MASN, MLB Network (outside D.C. area)
Radio: WFED-1500 AM, WWFD-820 AM
Weather: Chance of storms, 85 degrees, Wind 7 mph RF to LF
CF Nyjer Morgan
RF Roger Bernadina
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam Dunn

Strasburg finds his comfort zone

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Stephen Strasburg allowed three runs but struck out seven Reds batters.
CINCINNATI -- As he walked off the field at Great American Ball Park in the sixth inning tonight, his Nationals leading the Reds 7-3, Stephen Strasburg was surprised to hear a fan behind the dugout get on his case for merely looking like a very good mortal pitcher.

The soft-spoken rookie stared at the guy and responded: "Look at the scoreboard."

Inside the Nationals dugout, Strasburg's teammates perked up.

"I was like, 'Yeah! Tell him, Stras!'" Willie Harris said. "When you see stuff like that, it shows you he's getting comfortable. He's believing in himself. That's huge for him and that's huge for us."

As you can read on, imagine what level Strasburg can take his game to once he really gets comfortable.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Zimmermann sparkles again

CINCINNATI -- A two-day delay because of a stiff neck didn't hinder Jordan Zimmermann at all in his continued rehab from Tommy John surgery.

Zimmermann tossed four scoreless innings tonight for Class A Potomac, allowing two hits, striking out four and walking zero. The right-hander now hasn't given up an earned run or issued a walk in 13 innings spanning four rehab starts.

Tonight's gem came two days after Zimmermann was scratched from his originally scheduled outing because of a stiff neck. He insisted he could pitch that night, but team officials didn't want to take a chance, so they pushed him back.

Atilano "unlikely" to make next start

Updated at 6:18 p.m.

CINCINNATI -- Luis Atilano, who hasn't produced a quality start in nearly a month, is "unlikely" to make his next scheduled start due to an arm issue according to manager Jim Riggleman.

Riggleman said the rookie right-hander, who allowed five runs in four innings last night, appears to be dealing with some kind of discomfort. It's not known whether it's from an injury or a "dead arm;" Atilano hasn't undergone an MRI at this point.

"After the game last night, [pitching coach] Steve McCatty said he just felt that Atilano was not feeling well," Riggleman said. "His arm was tender, and this and that. Whether or not he makes his next start will be after further conversation with him and watching him throw out here today, to see if he's firing the ball around or if he says 'my arm is dead' or if he's just got a tired arm."

Riggleman said Atilano will throw his regular between-starts bullpen session tomorrow, after which the club will make a decision. Atilano is slated to pitch Sunday in Milwaukee. If he can't go, the Nationals would have to find a starter in the minors. Ross Detwiler, the strongest candidate for a promotion, probably wouldn't be available

Game 95: Nats at Reds

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Stephen Strasburg will battle the Reds (and possibly the weather) tonight.
CINCINNATI -- In an absolute shocking development, it's hot and muggy again today in Cincinnati, with intermittent storms passing through. Same as Monday. Same as yesterday. Same as it's supposed to be tomorrow.

Which means Stephen Strasburg may have a new challenge to face tonight: the weather.

To date, Strasburg has pitched in heat, humidity and wind, but rain hasn't been an issue. It certainly could be tonight, whether it comes in the form of a delay before the game starts, a delay once things are already underway or a steady drizzle that can be played through but still proves to be an annoyance. We'll see how the rookie handles that, not to mention the potent Reds' lineup.

One note about the Nationals' lineup: Ian Desmond is back in the 8-hole, with Cristian Guzman batting second. Jim Riggleman did say yesterday he planned to start moving Desmond around more, though he never said the shortstop wouldn't hit eighth at all. Appears that when Guzman is playing, he'll stay in the 2-hole, forcing Desmond down.

Also, note that ESPN is televising tonight's game to a national audience ... but you won't be able to watch that broadcast in the D.C. or Cincinnati areas. In D.C., it's on MASN as always. In Cincinnati, it's on FSN Ohio.

Check back for updates throughout the afternoon and evening...

Where: Great American Ball Park
Gametime: 7:10 p.m.
TV: MASN, ESPN (outside D.C. and Cincinnati)
Radio: WFED-1500 AM, WWFD-820 AM
Weather: Chance of storms, 84 degrees, Wind 9 mph RF to LF
CF Nyjer Morgan
2B Cristian Guzman
1B Adam Dunn
3B Ryan Zimmerman

Losing with care

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Luis Atilano can't corral Mike Leake's fourth-inning comebacker.
CINCINNATI -- Adam Dunn sat in a folding chair in the middle of the Nationals' clubhouse, hunched over a laptop screen and watching video of Bronson Arroyo, the Reds' next scheduled starter. Josh Willingham sat right next to him, doing exactly the same thing.

The clock nearly read 1 a.m., the Nats had just endured an 8-7 loss that included a 2-hour, 40-minute rain delay and ended on a controversial third strike call with Dunn at the plate.

No one would have faulted Dunn had he just quickly showered, dressed and departed for the team hotel. Yet he was determined to linger around, determined to move beyond this exhausting loss and immediately start preparing for the next night's game.

In a town where he often was accused of not caring enough, Adam Dunn certainly didn't look like a guy who dislikes baseball.

Perhaps that's because he's playing on a team full of guys who demand hard work from themselves and from their teammates, no matter what the standings say.

"Ever since I've been up here, that's the one thing I've noticed about this team," Dunn said. "It would be very easy -- last year, this year -- to just kind of pack it in, with a game like this especially. And not

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Nats about to sign Cuban pitcher

[UPDATED AT 10:23 P.M.]

CINCINNATI -- The Nationals have agreed to terms with top Cuban right-hander Yuneski Maya, pending a physical. Club officials would not confirm the signing, though they also wouldn't deny a report of the signing by, and general manager Mike Rizzo spoke openly about the abilities of a pitcher who could join the Nats' rotation within weeks.

Maya, 28, defected from his native Cuba to the Dominican Republic last year and was recently cleared by the U.S. government to sign with a major-league club. He has been working out and pitching in simulated games in the Dominican, scouted by numerous clubs including the Red Sox, Indians, Phillies, Blue Jays, Mets and Yankees.

Rizzo said Maya is polished enough and in good enough condition to pitch in the majors within a matter of weeks.

"We do," Rizzo said. "We think he's capable of pitching in the major leagues very soon. We have to see where he's at. After he signs, he'll have to work his way up into a rotation, I would assume. But all the guys who have seen him, all the scouts who have evaluated him, think

Desi, J-Zimm, Sweet Lou and Listach

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Pat Listach could get consideration for the Cubs' managerial job.
CINCINNATI -- Several quick-hit items to share before tonight's game gets underway. (Though with rain falling, thunder booming and the tarp on the field, it's possible this one is delayed a bit.)...

-- Jim Riggleman has Ian Desmond hitting second tonight, and the manager suggested it's something we could see more of the rest of the season. Though Desmond hasn't exactly torn the cover off the ball, it's tough for a National League rookie to bat eighth every single night. With the pitcher behind you, you rarely get much to hit. "I don't want to keep hitting him eighth. It's just that's the way our lineup was really set up," Riggleman said. "We didn't have anybody else to hit eighth, to tell you the truth. But we're going to try to get him out of the eighth spot a little bit more often and see if we can get him going at the top."

-- Jordan Zimmermann, who was scratched from his rehab assignment last night with Class A Potomac due to a stiff neck, is now to due to pitch tomorrow. Mike Rizzo said Zimmermann slept funny and woke up feeling stiff yesterday, and though he felt good enough to pitch by late-afternoon, the GM decided it wasn't worth taking the risk. Zimmermann, who is in the final stages of rehab from Tommy John surgery, was examined today and checked out fine. He's yet to allow an earned run or issue a walk in nine total innings with Potomac to date.

-- You may have heard that Cubs manager Lou Piniella announced today he'll retire at the end of the season. Riggleman, who along with Piniella lives in the Tampa area during the offseason, said he wasn't

Game 94: Nats at Reds

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Luis Atilano returns to the Nats' rotation tonight to face the Reds' Mike Leake.
CINCINNATI -- It's another warm, muggy day along the banks of the Ohio River, with a chance of evening storms again threatening. Last night's rain really didn't seem to affect anything; both J.D. Martin and Johnny Cueto returned from the 42-minute delay without missing a beat.

The challenge will be upon a pair of rookies, Luis Atilano and Mike Leake, to do the same tonight. These two have already squared off head-to-head this season, with Leake (who made the majors this spring without ever appearing in the minors) beating Atilano 5-1 on June 5 at Nationals Park. Atilano pitched really well that night in a hard-luck, losing effort, allowing just one earned run over seven innings. He returns tonight following a brief, one-start stint at Class AAA Syracuse over the All-Star break. He struggled in that outing and wasn't exactly tearing it up before the break. With several rehabbing pitchers getting closer to rejoining the Nats' rotation, Atilano could be just about out of time to make his case.

Lineup-wise, Jim Riggleman has decided to try Ian Desmond in the 2-hole tonight. It may sound counter-intuitive based on Desmond's overall struggles and low OBP. But he's actually performed best as a No. 2 hitter. In eight games from that spot this season, he's hitting .353 (12-for-34) with a .618 slugging percentage. Meanwhile, Ryan Zimmerman and Adam Dunn have been flip-flopped, something Riggleman has done in the past against left-handed starters but not against right-handers. Ivan Rodriguez also gets bumped to the 7-hole.

Check back for updates throughout the afternoon and evening...

Where: Great American Ball Park
Gametime: 7:10 p.m.
Radio: WFED-1500 AM, WWFD-820 AM
Weather: Chance of storms, 80 degrees, Wind 7 mph RF to LF
CF Nyjer Morgan
SS Ian Desmond
1B Adam Dunn
3B Ryan Zimmerman

Nats not actively shopping players

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Adam Dunn has drawn interest, but the Nats aren't inclined to trade him.
CINCINNATI -- Though he continues to field inquiries from opposing general managers, Mike Rizzo is not actively shopping potential trade candidates Adam Dunn, Josh Willingham or Matt Capps in the final weeks before the July 31 non-waiver deadline.

According to sources familiar with Rizzo's thinking, the Nationals GM is not looking to deal any of those players despite serious interest from several clubs. When approached by teams about Dunn, Willingham and Capps, Rizzo continues to ask for a significant return, usually big-league-ready players.

"He's getting plenty of calls about those guys, but he's asking for a lot back," one source said. "He's not the one initiating any of the talks."

Read the full story on

Slumping Pudge tries to stay upbeat

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Ivan Rodriguez has fallen into a prolonged slump after his hot start to the season.
CINCINNATI -- Over the course of 20 seasons in the big leagues, Ivan Rodriguez has experienced every possible scenario on the baseball field and in the clubhouse. He's won, he's lost, he's gone through hot streaks, he's gone through long slumps.

And in that time, Pudge knows one thing for certain about dealing with prolonged lows.

"You cannot be frustrated," he said. "If you're frustrated, things are going to be worse."

How can the Nationals, though, not be frustrated the way things have played out since the All-Star break? Four games, three losses, six total runs scored. That should cause anybody in uniform to pull out whatever remaining hair he has.

Rodriguez insists these Nationals haven't fallen into that trap. They remain upbeat, despite plenty of reason not to be.

"Absolutely," he said. "Absolutely. Of course. Nobody here gives up. I've never seen nobody here with their head down or giving up. Nobody. There's still a lot of games to go. This is a good team and a

Monday, July 19, 2010

Atilano recalled, Maxwell optioned

CINCINNATI -- The Nationals recalled right-hander Luis Atilano from Class AAA following tonight's game and optioned outfielder Justin Maxwell back to Syracuse, a roster move that had been expected for more than a week.

Atilano will start tomorrow night's game against the Reds after a brief demotion during the All-Star break. The rookie hurler struggled in his lone start for Syracuse, giving up five runs and seven hits in 2 1/3 innings. Team officials, though, treated that outing as nothing more than a way to keep Atilano's arm fresh over the All-Star break and planned to recall him no matter the result.

Maxwell, who has now made three separate stints on the Nats' roster this season and been optioned out four times, appeared in only three games during this abbreviated stay. He started once, pinch-hit once and pinch-ran once, going 0-for-5 with a walk and a run scored.

"I want to play every day, and considering I'm the only guy on the team with options and I'm not a left-handed batter, I'm the odd man out," Maxwell said. "But I know God has a plan for me, and it's all going to work itself out."

Amazingly, Maxwell has been optioned out the same number of times he's recorded a hit this season: four.