Thursday, March 24, 2011

Nats at Tigers - 3/24/11

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Jordan Zimmermann faces the Tigers tonight at Joker Marchant Stadium.
LAKELAND, Fla. -- Plenty of pregame news here this evening. I'll go into more detail on all this in some separate postings, but here's the quick rundown...

-- Jayson Werth is hitting second tonight, and Jim Riggleman said that's going to continue to be the case entering the season. Werth will bat second, with Ryan Zimmerman third, Adam LaRoche fourth and Michael Morse fifth. Leadoff remains a question mark, though you've got to believe it's either going to be Nyjer Morgan or Ian Desmond.

-- The team still hasn't settled on the order of the rotation to open the year, but the only decision left is whether John Lannan or Jordan Zimmermann starts Game 2 after Livan Hernandez. The other guy will start Game 3, with Jason Marquis fourth and Tom Gorzelanny fifth. All five starters will make the Opening Day roster, though it hasn't been decided if Gorzelanny will take his first turn in the rotation or pitch out of the bullpen for the first week.

-- Henry Rodriguez, who hasn't pitched in a game in a week, indeed does have a physical ailment: neck spasms. He was treated by a doctor and should be able to throw a bullpen session tomorrow, but the chance of him getting enough work in by Opening Day is remote. Sounds like he'll start the year on the DL.

-- Chad Gaudin will begin pitching out of the bullpen this week, and Riggleman all but said he'll make the club as a long reliever. Assuming Rodriguez and Elvin Ramirez land on the DL, that would leave one final bullpen spot for either Collin Balester or Rule 5 pick Brian Broderick.

Plenty of game updates to come here, and more details on all that other news to come in separate posts...

Where: Joker Marchant Stadium, Lakeland
Gametime: 6:05 p.m.
TV: MLB Network (tape delayed at 8 p.m.)
Radio: WJFK (106.7 FM), WFED (1500 AM)
Weather: Mostly sunny, 81 degrees, Wind 13 mph LF to RF
DH Nyjer Morgan
RF Jayson Werth
1B Adam LaRoche
LF Michael Morse
CF Rick Ankiel
SS Ian Desmond
3B Jerry Hairston
C Ivan Rodriguez
2B Danny Espinosa
(P Jordan Zimmermann)

CF Austin Jackson
2B Will Rhymes
RF Magglio Ordonez
1B Miguel Cabrera
DH Victor Martinez
LF Brennan Boesch
SS Jhonny Peralta
C Alex Avila
3B Brandon Inge
(P Rick Porcello)
6:09 p.m. -- We're underway with an infield single from Nyjer Morgan off Rick Porcello. Slow roller up the middle, he beat the shortstop's throw to first.

6:20 p.m. -- Well, that new-look lineup paid dividends right off the bat. After Morgan singled, he stole second. Jayson Werth then blooped a single to left, bringing Nyjer home without a throw. Who says Werth can't compile RBI out of the 2-hole? He did, however, get thrown out trying to steal second, which came back to haunt the Nats after Michael Morse (whose name on the scoreboard here read: "Rick Morse") singled and Rick Ankiel drew a walk. So only one run for the Nats despite three hits and a walk off Porcello. Jordan Zimmermann now taking the mound.

6:26 p.m. -- Really nice bottom of the first from Zimmermann. He struck out Austin Jackson on a fastball clocked at 94 mph on the stadium radar gun, then fielded two comebackers (one a bunt from Will Rhymes, the other a weak grounder from Magglio Ordonez). He even got Ordonez to foul off a 96 mph fastball. 1-2-3 inning for Zimmermann, who as we pointed out earlier is in the running to start Game 2 of the season.

6:47 p.m. --  Zimmermann got into a bit of trouble in the second, allowing singles to Victor Martinez and Jhonny Peralta. But he came up big to strike out Alex Avila on what looked like a 3-2, two-out slider that just caught the outside corner. Nice piece of pitching there. Nats still lead 1-0 heading to the third.

7:11 p.m. -- Zimmermann again had to pitch his way out of a jam in the third, this time with runners on the corners, one out and the heart of the Detroit order up. He calmly struck out Ordonez on another one of those nasty sliders, then got Miguel Cabrera to ground out weakly to second. Nicely done again. Still 1-0 after three.

7:16 p.m. -- And the Nats take a 2-0 lead in the fourth. Rick Ankiel led off with a double just inside the right-field line, then scored moments later on Ian Desmond's single to right. There's plenty of discussion right now about where Desmond should bat in this new-look lineup. If Nyjer isn't the center fielder, Desmond seems like the likeliest choice to lead off. But he's also got the ability to drive in runs, which makes the 6-hole intriguing.

7:28 p.m. -- Wow, Zimmermann is coming up huge in some clutch situations. For the third straight inning, he put two men on. And for the third straight inning, he pitched out of the jam. This time he struck out Alex Avila and Brandon Inge in succession on 94 mph heaters. Yes, he's allowed five hits and a walk through four innings. But he's yet to allow a run, and he's recorded five strikeouts. In some ways, that's more impressive than simply retiring the side each inning. Still 2-0 as we go to the fifth.

7:35 p.m. -- And we have liftoff from Jayson Werth for the first time this spring. Launched a homer to left-center, his first as a National. Unfortunately, it came right after Espinosa and Morgan struck out, so it was merely a solo shot. Nats now lead 3-0.

7:38 p.m. -- Wow, and now Michael (don't call me Rick) Morse crushes Porcello's first pitch to deep left-center for a two-run shot, scoring LaRoche (who walked in front of him). That's Morse's seventh homer of the spring and gives him 15 RBI. Only Jake Fox of the Orioles has hit more homers in the Grapefruit League. Nats lead 5-0 in the fifth.

8:02 p.m. -- The top of the sixth began and ended with Desmond running like a madman on the bases. It started in impressive fashion when Desmond hustled out of the box on what looked like a routine pop-up to shallow right field. The ball landed, though, and Desmond wound up with a cheap double. But then the inning ended when Espinosa struck out with runners on the corners and Hairston taking off from first. Hairston got into a rundown, then Desmond tried to break for the plate. He wound up getting tagged out on your everyday, run-of-the-mill, 2-6-3-2-1-5-4 putout. Meanwhile, Zimmermann's night is done. His final line: 5 ip, 5 h, 0 r, 1 bb, 6 k. Brian Broderick on to pitch the sixth.

8:06 p.m. --  And another scoreless inning of relief from Broderick, whose spring ERA is now a scant 0.66. As I pointed out earlier, the last spot in the pen has come down to either Broderick or Collin Balester. Balester has options, Broderick is a Rule 5 draftee who has to be kept in the majors or else offered back to the Cardinals. Nats may have no choice but to keep him at this rate.

8:17 p.m. -- Alberto Gonzalez has come in to play first base for at least the third time this week. Considering the Nats have a smooth-fielding first baseman in LaRoche and a right-handed backup in Morse, I have sincere doubts we'd see Gonzo there much this season if he makes the club. I believe this is what they call showcasing a player's versatility to any other clubs who might have interest in him. Something tells me those other teams' GMs know that and aren't about to give up anything in a trade for this guy when they could just wait a few more days and possibly pick him up off the waiver wire.

8:24 p.m. -- Tyler Clippard just blew away the Tigers in the seventh, striking out Avila and Jackson while getting Inge to fly out. Nice inning from the guy with the 12.79 ERA. Still 5-0 as we go to the eighth.

8:30 p.m. -- Updating your center field competition: Ankiel is now 2-for-3 with a walk and a double tonight. Morgan is 1-for-4 with three strikeouts and a stolen base. Ankiel also made a nice play in center field to track down Miguel Cabrera's drive to the warning track.

8:35 p.m. -- And now Gonzo moves from first base to second base. Showcasing!

9:19 p.m. -- Sorry for the delay. Was interviewing Jordan Zimmermann and then watched the end of the game from down the right-field line near the clubhouse. Nats won 5-2 after Todd Coffey allowed two runs in the ninth. Still, these guys are now 6-0 with me in attendance. This is starting to get creepy.


Jim Webster said...

MLBN's "30 Teams in 30 Days" feature today painted a very optimistic picture of the Nats, talking about significant improvements from last year and a big jump in games won. Made me wonder whether they were talking about the same team that so many commenters here see as essentially dysfunctional. I look forward with optimism to a week from today.

Anonymous8 said...

Steve M. said... JD - Have at your lineup. Unless you move Werth or Morse up, you are screwed and hope these guys develop. Desmond and Ankiel will still get on base 3 of 10 plate appearances and they will stay on base unlike Nyjer who took himself off the bases way too many times. March 24, 2011 12:59 PM

Look at that Steve M. They moved Werth up to the 2 hole!

Mark'd said...

SteveM, when I read your suggestion I laughed thinking not a chance they move Werth or Morse to the 2 hole. It is crazy but going with any combo involving 2 of Desmond, Espi, Ankiel, Nyjer or Bernadina are all low OBP guys.

N. Cognito said...

I want to thank you Mark. I have found true religion after coming to your site.

JD said...

I actually like this a lot (moving Werth up). If Morgan is toast as seems to be the sentiment I really hope that Desmond is somehow convinced that you are allowed to take a pitch now and again and a walk is a good thing.

Ernie said...

Concidentally I just picked up 3 Nights in August, about LaRussa managing a few games against the Cubs in 2003. Early in the book it mentions that when he was with the White Sox in the 80s it was his decison to move Fisk up to the 2-spot, where (the original) Pudge went to town. I had completely forgotten about that until reading it again, and here it looks like Riggleman is thinking something similar.

N. Cognito said...

Werth batting 2nd!?

Tooting horn - I believe some genius poster here proposed that soon after the Nats signed Werth - horn tooting over.

Anonymous said...

>>>-- Henry Rodriguez, who hasn't pitched in a game in a week, indeed does have a physical ailment: neck spasms. <<<<

...wink, wink...

sjm308 said...

Toot away! I love when Riggs thinks outside the box and he needs to do more of it.

N. Cognito said...

Werth batting second is really a decision by default. He has a good OBP, is a good baserunner and has some power. His HR totals should come down, not playing Citizens Band Box Park.

Bowdenball said...

N. Cognito-

While you're tooting, remember to send a couple toots my way as well. I've been asking for it since we signed him.

I love this move, especially if Morse can be what we all are hoping he will be.

Mikey Morse Club Member # 1 said...

Kilgore has an interesting post on the subject. If I am reading correctly, Werth and Rizzo are the brain-trusts behind this Werth to #2 business. This year is going to be a lot more fun than any since 2005.

Doc said...

Nice to see that they are taking Bobby V.'s advice on Rodriguez's injury.

Now, BallyStar vs. Broderick---let the debate begin! Forgetting Rule 5 (hard to forget) and options (also hard to forget) who has the better stuff, or whatever else counts? Methinks BallyStar??

Anonymous said...

With Werth in the 2 hole it looks like we can forget get em on get em over get em in baseball. No more no out bunts from the No. 2 man. Asking Werth to sacrifice himself in a small ball game is not gonna happen. With a muscular lineup we will not be playing the girly man bunting game. We will play a balls out American League style pound them to jelly game. Situational hitteing is overrated anyway. We won't be wasting a perfectly good out just for a lousy 90 ft of basepath. We don't have any bunters anyway so why waste time with that aspect of the game. Good by and good riddance to the Girly Man Nats of the past! All Hail the Half St Bombers of 2011!

Anonymous said...

Real men don't bother with spelling or grammar.

Theophilus said...

Anonymous@6:28 --

Quoth Earl Weaver: "The best strategy is a three-run homer."

Meridian said...

I really like Espinosa but there was an example of how plate discipline can change games.

Twice he swung at ball 4. Instead of bases loaded and one out, the inning is over. In a real game with a tighter score, that kind of thing can make the whole difference.

Theophilus said...

Broderick pitches one inning. Has he gone more than one on any occasion? Should we believe they are trying not to overexpose him?

JaneB said...

I am loving reading this Mark. Insightful and hilarious. Wondering if Zuckerman Effect was at work tonight, or have these guys done this all on their own?

Anonymous said...

It's so funny watching the Tigers' TV guys on MLB TV. They didn't announce a single one of the Nationals' batters in the 8th. Just kept talking all Detroit, all the time.

phil dunn said...

This game leaves little doubt that the regular season will see an Ankiel/Hairston platoon. This should make JayB happy beacuse Morgan is probably toast.

Nataholic said...

Careful what you wish for. Ankiel and Hariston are not great solutions to starting the CF problem.

Jeeves said...

It makes me angry that Bali will be sent down while Coffey is a part of this team.

Andrew said...

I am watching the game on Tape Delay on the MLB Network. Its in the 5th inning and after JZim struck out his 6th batter the Tigers announcers said this Zimmermann is impressive and in mid-season form and struck out everyone on fastballs.

Real nice outing!

The Adventurers said...

Ankiel vs. RHP in 2010 .256/.339/.462
Hairston vs. LHP in 2010 .244/.312/.366

Morgan 2010 .253/.319/.314

More pop, better arms, and less outs given away on the bases. I love TPlush, but a platoon is the answer.

A DC Wonk said...

Mark wrote: "that would leave one final bullpen spot for either Collin Balester or Rule 5 pick Brian Broderick."

Is this presuming Coffey is staying? If so, why? (Is he out of options, too?)

JaneB said...

I'm with Jeeves. Coffey has not helped us at all this spring. Ballestar deserves the slot. It was not a smart trade, and keeping him up compounds the error.

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