Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Nats vs. Astros - 3/22/11

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
John Lannan faces the Astros today at Space Coast Stadium.
VIERA, Fla. -- Before we get to today's game, one quick note about someone who's not playing today. Ryan Zimmerman is missing his eighth straight game with a sore groin, though he's been taking BP and grounders. Jim Riggleman said this morning he hopes to have Zim back in the lineup Friday and then play him in four of the Nationals' last five games of the spring.

John Lannan starts today against the Astros, his second-to-last tune-up before the season begins. At the moment, Lannan is slotted to start the second game of the season (April 2 against the Braves) but that's not set in stone. In fact, Riggleman said everything after Livan Hernandez on Opening Day is still subject to reshuffling.

Because of two off-days in the season's first week, the Nats don't need a No. 5 starter until April 9 in New York, their eighth game. So it's possible they'll only put four starters on the Opening Day roster to open a spot for another reliever or bench player. The problem if that happens, though, is that they can't send likely No. 5 starter Tom Gorzelanny to the minors. He's out of options. And they can't send Hernandez or Jason Marquis. Which means it's possible Lannan or Jordan Zimmermann could draw the short straw and actually have to make one minor-league start before joining the big club.

Plenty of updates from today's game to come. If you notice a significant gap in the updates, it's probably because I left the press box to 1) take photos, 2) interview someone in the clubhouse or 3) make a TV or radio appearance...

Where: Space Coast Stadium, Viera
Gametime: 1:05 p.m.
TV: None
Radio: Astros radio via XM 183 and MLB Gameday Audio
Weather: Mostly sunny, 78 degrees, Wind 6 mph out to RF
CF Jerry Hairston
SS Ian Desmond
RF Jayson Werth
LF Michael Morse
C Wilson Ramos
2B Danny Espinosa
3B Brian Bixler
1B Alberto Gonzalez
P John Lannan

CF Michael Bourn
SS Clint Barmes
2B Bill Hall
LF Carlos Lee
C J.R. Towles
1B Matt Downs
RF Brian Bogusevic
3B Oswaldo Navarro
P Wandy Rodriguez
1:06 p.m. -- And we're underway with a fastball high and inside from John Lannan to Michael Bourn. Pretty sparse crowd on hand on a gorgeous afternoon. Eighty-one degrees at first pitch and only a light breeze blowing.

1:08 p.m. -- Real quick top of the first for Lannan. He got a pair of groundouts sandwiched around a lineout to left field.

1:13 p.m. -- And an equally quick bottom of the first for Wandy Rodriguez, who retired the side. Jerry Hairston scorched a line drive right at third baseman Oswaldo Navarro. Ian Desmond tapped a weak comebacker. And Jayson Werth skied a fly ball to shallow right field. End of one, no score.

1:18 p.m. -- Lannan is cruising along nicely so far. Six up, six down, with only one ball leaving the infield. In the top of the second, he got a pop-up, a groundball and then blew away Matt Downs with a high fastball. Meanwhile, Alberto Gonzalez is playing first base today for the Nats. He's got to be the shortest first baseman in the majors since Carlos Baerga manned that position on occasion for the 2005 Nats.

1:29 p.m. -- The Nats didn't score in the bottom of the second, but they did start to hit the ball harder. Michael Morse laced a single up the middle. Wilson Ramos then scorched a drive to the warning track in left-center that was tracked down by Carlos Lee. The rally fizzled, though, when Danny Espinosa struck out and Brian Bixler grounded into a fielder's choice. Still scoreless as we go to the third.

1:37 p.m. -- The Astros finally put a man on in the third when Oswaldo Navarro singled to center. But Wilson Ramos erased that with a snap throw to first to pick Navarro off. Lannan, meanwhile, made a nifty play to catch a popped-up bunt. Through three innings, he's faced the minimum, allowing only Navarro's single.

2:07 p.m. -- The Zuckerman Effect lives on. Went down to take photos for two innings, and sure enough the Nats scored in the bottom of the fourth. Wilson Ramos reached on a two-out error, then scored moments later on Danny Espinosa's RBI double to center. Lannan continues to cruise along, having faced the minimum through five innings now. Only one man has reached: Navarro, who singled in the third and was subsequently picked off. Really nice outing from Lannan. Nats lead 1-0 in the middle of the fifth.

2:26 p.m. -- The Astros finally got to Lannan in the sixth, thanks to a one-out walk to Navarro. A sac bunt moved him to second, and then Michael Bourn singled to left-center to bring in Houston's first run of the day. So Lannan's final line should be: 6 ip, 2 h, 1 r, 1 bb, 3 k. Game tied 1-1 headed to the bottom of the sixth.

2:42 p.m. -- Boy, Collin Balester has pitched very well this spring. He just blew away the Astros in the seventh, striking out two and inducing a foul-pop for the other out. He's now allowed only two earned runs in 9 1/3 innings this spring, certainly deserving of a spot in the Opening Day bullpen. The question is whether he'll be a victim of the options game. We're still tied here, 1-1, at the seventh-inning stretch.

2:54 p.m. -- Wow, Matt Stairs just ran right into Jerry Hairston's grounder toward second, and thus was called out to end the seventh. I know Stairs doesn't run the bases often, but come on, he's gotta know better than that!

3:00 p.m. -- OK, Stairs made up for the baserunning gaffe with a nifty scoop of a one-hop throw at first base. Yes, he still plays the field sometimes. Still 1-1 in the eighth.

3:13 p.m. -- And the Zuckerman Effect strikes again. Well, sort of. We were just down in the clubhouse talking to John Lannan about his start when we heard a semi-roar from the crowd outside. Turns out Michael Morse clubbed a two-run homer to right, his sixth of the spring, to put the Nats ahead 3-1 in the bottom of the eighth. Drew Storen is slated to pitch the ninth in what will be an actual save situation. Stay tuned.

3:21 p.m. -- And Storen gets the job done in efficient fashion. 1-2-3 ninth, with first-pitch strikes to all three. Nats win, 3-1.


Doc said...

Mark, you're leaving the press box to take on-field pictures has become a hugh part of the Nats' game plan.

Like the insertion of a PH, you'll just have to decide when to do it.

Wally said...

N. Cognito said...
"A rule change just so the Nats can hoard marginal players?"

That may have some truth in this specific case, but the point was broader. Without service time, Strasburg comes up sooner last year, certainly, maybe even starts the year. Even if he still blows out his arm in August, the Nats (and us fans) get a few more starts out of him. Posey for SF is another example.

Seems like the rules ought to be designed to incentivize the best players to make the majors.

Unknown said...

Does sending Lannan or Zimmermann to the minors for one start even make sense? The minor league season doesn't even get rolling until the middle of the next week (not sure of the date)... so it might be possible that they wouldn't even get into a game that counted before being recalled... Of course, that does free up a roster spot, regardless... but burning one of their (Lannan's and/or Zimmermann's) options for an extra bullpen arm doesn't really seem worth it... and, our starting corps are in a little better shape than last year (I think)...

Steve M. said...

Wally, I personally think Strasburg needed a few Minor League games but probably could have come up sooner than June 8th if the "Super Two" scenario wasn't available.

Talking about changes to the CBA, my only hope is a hard salary cap to even the playing field so to speak with a salary cap & floor and even though it is pie in the sky I think if MLB can pull it off there should be a push for teams to pass savings back to the fans. It will never happen but if MLB wants to become a "take your family" to a ballgame type of product, they would be the only sport moving in that direction.

On an aside, I get an email from the Caps that they are offering $60 per ticket for Standing Room Only on a Season Ticket plan. I guess since they are sold-out every game they can try to do that but at what point is enough, enough?

Rabbit said...

My prediction is that Zimmerman will not be in the opening day lineup. He will play a game or two in the remaining ST games and re-injure his groin or whatever else bothers him.

Big Cat said...

Well, Morgan not in line-up, so there probably won't be any fights. I know Mark, he didn't do anything wrong.....he is an angel with a weak arm, I know I know

Feel Wood said...

MLB Network showed some footage last night of Zimmerman taking BP, running the bases and taking ground balls yesterday. He looked fine. It's apparent that what they've been saying all along is true. If this was the regular season, he'd be playing.

Wally said...

Steve M - re: Strasburg, I don't think a few starts in the minors hurt him, especially mentally as he adjusted to pro ball, but I think that he would have been their best pitcher from Day 1 without spending a moment in the minors. Which is all that I was trying to say.

I wish it were otherwise, but I don't see a hard cap coming. A soft one, like football, maybe, but otherwise the Yankees just block it. And since they send so much money to the other clubs, I think that they have a tremendous amount of sway. But I do think that it would help to create a more equal playing field. Unfortunately, I don't think parity is really their goal. The illusion of parity, perhaps, but really it is about making money and increasing the value of the franchises. And I think Selig et al believes those studies that show fan interest is highest when there are dynasties.

But you know what, as a fan of this team, I think that will help us. I think that we will prove to be among the bigger spenders

Todd Boss said...

If a player spends less than 20 days in the minors on optional assignment, it does NOT burn an option. So we may be ok sending a guy down for one start.

NatinBeantown said...

"and then blew away Matt Downs with a high fastball."

I missed something... the lineup card says we have a soft-tosser pitching today.

(Nice work JL)

Steve M. said...

Mark Zuckerman writes...Meanwhile, Alberto Gonzalez is playing first base today for the Nats. He's got to be the shortest first baseman in the majors since Carlos Baerga manned that position on occasion for the 2005 Nats.

Alberto Gonzalez played at 1st base in 3 games last year and he is listed at 5'10" and Baerga is listed at 5'11" but the winner is Paul LoDuca who is shorter than both!

natsfan1a said...

If you notice a significant offensive outburst by the Nats, it's probably because Mark left the press box to yada yada yada... ;-)

"If you notice a significant gap in the updates, it's probably because I left the press box to 1) take photos, 2) interview someone in the clubhouse or 3) make a TV or radio appearance..."

Sec314 said...

What scares me about AG is that he puts up big Spring numbers... and then is worse than mediocre all year. I hope Rizzo/Riggleman don't fall for it again this time.

Meanwhile Lannan appears to have gotten the kinks out.

Anonymous said...

Does sending Lannan or Zimmermann to the minors for one start even make sense? The minor league season doesn't even get rolling until the middle of the next week (not sure of the date)...

That's only if you believe Gaudin will be going north with the final 25. There's a shortage of lefties as it is! Unless a trade occurs I can't see them not keeping Lannan and Zimmermann. I they really going to give Broderick back? I don't think so, Rizzo has long been enamored with sinker ball pitchers: see Chien-Ming Wang and Brandon Webb. I'm not so sure Coffey makes into the final fold either.

JD said...


I am not sure what your beef is with AG. I think he is a very good spare infielder; nothing more nothing less.

And you figure that Lannan is all straightened out because he pitched 4 good innings? doesn't take much to impress you.

N. Cognito said...

AG can field but he can't hit. Jettison him before OD.

Doc said...

Too bad Veeck's midget didn't play 1st base, then we'd have a favorable size comparison for AG, Baerga, and PLaDuca

cadeck13 said...

Go Mark! Please remember the "The Zuckerman Effect" when the season starts ;) obviously we need whatever it is that you have.

Glad to have you back on the beat.

Tcostant said...

Don't laugh but Zimmermann made the opening day roster a few years back. Last season, part of the time he was while on major league rehab while in the minors, but after that we was optioned to the minors before returning right around September 1st. Those days in the minors, could very well give us an extra year of control delaying his free agent clock by one year. I thinks it's around three weeks that delays that clock a year, so a short stint this year could be the deciding factor in gaining an extra year of free agent control. Don't discount this, as this teams (the Nats included) have consider this service time in the past.

Mark - is there any way you can look into this?

Anonymous said...

Tcostant, if I recall correctly, Zimmermann didn't make the opening day roster. He was the 5th starter that Mark's piece is referring to. He was called up when they team needed a fifth starter. Also his time last year since he was on the 60 day DL should all be attributed to his service time. I'm not sure if he was optioned or if his minor league time was just part of his rehab.

Anonymous said...

I read that "the Zuckerman Effect" was responsible for the popular secular uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt.

Wait... What?

Sorry, wrong Zuckerman.

Tcostant said...

I was talking about 09, he made the team out of the Spring and wasn't in the majors anytime before that (not even a Sept call-up). DL time does count as service time. I did some research, he was optioned to the minors last season on August 1st and returned August 26th for his first ML start of the year. This August 1st demotion was after his minor league rehab while on the big league roster was over. This may have been enough to buy an extra year of service time, but if it is not and you have this off day issue early in the year, this could be the deciding factor if the time pushes free agency out a year.

Sec314 said...

--AG is a fine spare AAAA infielder. He may have a better than average glove (but not much range), but it's not extra glove the Nationals need, its an extra bat, or at least a guy who gets on base. I'd rather see Bixler on the bench.

--Lannan was dependable the second half of last season and has a decent track record. He started the Spring looking like he did before his demotion, and that was troubling. I hope they keep all these pitchers on a short leash and be ready to bring up Maya or Detwiler quickly if someone is flailing.

Anonymous said...

Tcostant, he did not make the opening day roster in '09. He did win the 5th starter spot but they carried an extra releiver then called him up as the 5th starter. His debut was not til April 20th of 2009. Also DL time, from what I have researched, does indeed count on your service time if you are not optioned to the minors. Take Jesus Flores for example. He hasn't played since May of 2009 yet he went to arbitration this year. Strasburg will also acrew service time this season while being on the DL.

Slidell said...

Morse strikes again!

Mark'd said...

Happy Birthday Michael Morse!

Anonymous said...

Storen in for the Save? God save us all

Anonymous said...

Nats Win Nats Win Nats Win!

waddu eye no said...

the houston radio guys are talking about storen's funny left leg thing. how he keeps it straight. i've noticed that, too. anyone ever seen anyone else do that? any expert opinions?
or should i just rely on the usual folks - pa dum pum
nice save finally btw.

JaneB said...

Yah Matt and Drew! And who knew ZUCKERMAN would be our strongest offensive player, at least when he is out of position???.

Go Nats!

JaneB said...

YayMIKE, I mean.

Doc said...

That was a Mickey Morse kinda game!

JD said...

And all is good in Nats Land today !!

JD said...


This is Bixler's resume in the majors:

avg obp slg

.178 .238 .237

in AAA

.280 .340 .385

He is better AG? says who?

Tcostant said...

Anon at 3:07pm.

You are correct, I confirmed that he was option to the big for that 4/20/09 start. So you are correct there.

My point was that was not enough time to delay the free agent clock then. But considering that and last year's 20 so days when he was optioned to the minors (after his DL stint). I said all along that the time on the DL does count as major league service time, but the fact is he was optioned to the minors on 8/1/10 last year.

That all folks./

Anonymous8 said...

Frediemac, I had the same thought as you. Hopefully something Drew can build on but I still think Ballester has also earned his way on as has Broderick. Do you DFA Coffey or HenRod?

LoveDaNats said...

It seems Drew Storen pitches best when he does the funny, leg kick thing. Don't fix it. He tried changing his mechanics earlier on and the result was not pretty.

Anonymous8 said...

"Pay2Play said...
Storen may be better than Coffey but this is a game sometimes of who has options. Personally, I have been impressed by Gaudin, Kimball, Broderick, Ballester, Slaten, and Burnett out of the bullpen. Kimball is already out of the picture which leaves 5 guys competing for 3 to 4 spots as Henry Rodriguez, Coffey and Clippard should grab 3 of the spots.
March 22, 2011 12:21 PM"

I think there are 10 reporters left in camp for essentially 7 spots:
Henry Rodriguez

Anonymous said...

Tcostant, I completely misread part of your post. Sorry about that. I think the April 20th start was supposed to be enough to delay free agency but it was not enough to keep him from being a super 2. I believe with the info you have provided he will have an extra season but will still be arbitration eligible early.

Anonymous8 said...

Reporters, relievers! Freakin' iPad auto-correct!

Pete said...

Mark, Bill Ladson is tweeting that Bernadina is no longer in play for the CF job. Can you verify? You'd have to think that doesn't bode well for his future with the club.

N. Cognito said...

Pete said...
"Mark, Bill Ladson..."

I see where you went wrong there.

phil dunn said...

Anonomous 8---FYI, you can disengage the i-PAD auto correct speller. It is a huge annoyance.

Good to see Michael Morse back in the groove & to see Lannan pitch well.

A DC Wonk said...

"Lannan was dependable the second half of last season and has a decent track record"

Indeed. Just because of his miserable first half doesn't mean we should be writing him off forever. In fact, I *think* that over the last couple of years combined, he has the lowest ERA of any of the regular Nats starting pitchers, doesn't he?

Anonymous8 said...

Pete, if true what Ladson tweeted then it makes Rizzo's statement and interpretation that this a 3 dog race for CF until the end disingenuous and troubling to his integrity.

Anonymous8 said...

Mark Zuckerman wrote at 10:18am today....Meanwhile, Rizzo said the three-way competition between Nyjer Morgan, Rick Ankiel and Roger Bernadina for the starting center fielder's job remains wide-open and probably won't be decided until the final days of camp.

Here is the statement from earlier today so how can we interpret this any other way?

Slidell said...

Who is the more reliable source? Ladson or Rizzo? My money's on Rizz.

Anonymous said...

Hi Mark. Rosenthal from Fox Sports is reporting that the Nats are sending out feelers for Pudge. Have you heard anything about what they are looking for in return or which other teams they are talking to besides Boston?

Theophilus said...

I really wonder how the conversation goes when Rizzo is trying to peddle all of these surplus players. "Hi, I've got these three relief grunts who are out of options, and there's a left-hand hitting outfielder I could throw in if it would make a difference."

Anonymous8 said...

Slidell, while Ladson is rarely correct he does come up with a gold nugget every now and again to stay relevant. His story is already making it's rounds.

I feel bad for Bernie who hasn't been given a fair shake in this 3-way contest. He was told in the off-season to prepare for LF then bulks up to boost his power numbers now they want him to be viable 2 weeks later as a CF and leadoff guy. I feel for the guy.

Theophilus said...

I don't think Rizzo said anything that isn't consistent with what Ladson is reporting. If Rizzo says the job won't be decided until the final days, that certainly doesn't mean that (A) all three of them are equal or (B) all three of them will still be team property when they break camp. I'm guessing he'd be happy to part with either Morgan or Bernandina right now for somebody's long-term prospect.

Post a Comment