March 27, 2015

Washington Nationals Spring Training Preview: The Outfielders

This week, District Sports Page will review the players currently on the Washington Nationals 40-man roster and their potential contributions to the Major League roster this season.

Monday: Catchers
Tuesday: Infielders
Wednesday: Outfielders
Thursday: Starters
Friday: Bullpen [Read more…]

Washington Nationals add Tony Gwynn Jr to the backup outfielder mix

The Washington Nationals signed veteran left-handed hitting outfielder Tony Gwynn Jr to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training. Gwynn, 32, hit .152 in 105 at-bats with three RBIs and three stolen bases with Philadelphia last season. He is, obviously, son of the late Tony Gwynn, Hall of Fame outfielder with the San Diego Padres and college coach of Stephen Strasburg at San Diego State.

The addition of Gwynn is intriguing, as the Nats seem to have a glut of left-handed hitting outfielders, including holdover Nate McLouth and fellow NRI Mike Carp.

McLouth is coming off shoulder surgery though, and Carp has never been considered much of a fielder. He can play all four corner spots, much in the way most people can sing the National Anthem, but you wouldn’t want to listen to it. The Nats, obviously, would rather see Carp play in the infield if his services are needed.

All of this is necessitated by the injury to Jayson Werth. His shoulder surgery was major, and while the team hopes he’ll be available by opening day, it’s far from a sure thing. Even then, he might not be the “Jayson Werth” Nats fans have come to expect until much later in the season when his shoulder is full-strength again.

Adding Gwynn tells us a few things. First, the Nats are trying to stockpile backups with Major League credentials. Next, they aren’t sold that McLouth is going to be able to open the season on the roster recovering form his own shoulder surgery. Finally, it seems to indicate they’d much rather have top positional prospect Michael Taylor open in centerfield at Syracuse, rather than in left field at Nats park.

 

Nats add 1B/OF Mike Carp on minor league deal

VETERAN OUTFIELDER COULD PROVIDE INSURANCE AT SEVERAL POSITIONS

The Washington Nationals signed 1B/OF Mike Carp to a minor league deal with an invitation to spring training. Carp, 28, is a .254/330/.414 career hitter in part of six seasons played exclusively in the American League and exactly 1,000 career plate appearances.

Carp is adequate defensively in either corner outfield slot or first base and will provide insurance as several positions, granted his problems at the plate last season were an aberration and not the new norm.

Carp split time between Boston and Texas last season and hit a woeful .175/.289/.230 in 149 plate appearances with no home runs, five doubles and 13 RBIs. That was a drastic departure from his valuable 2013 season with Boston, when he hit .296/.362/.523 with nine homers in 243 appearances.

Carp’s career year was in 2011 with Seattle, when he hit .276/.326/.466 with 12 homers and 46 RBIs in 313 plate appearances.

This is another in a long line of moves by Mike Rizzo to keep costs down with potential medium returns. Consider these separate but related facts:

  • Jayson Werth is out due to surgery on his right shoulder and questionable for opening day
  • Ryan Zimmerman has been injured and missed significant time in each of the past five seasons.
  • The Nats bench is slated to include Nate McLouth, Tyler Moore and rookie Michael Taylor

When Werth went down, it was all but assumed the Nats would bring in a veteran to compete for playing time while the hirsute left fielder mends and bolster the bench upon his return. Mike Carp seems to fit that mold…if the bat comes back.

Jayson Werth has “successful” shoulder surgery; out 2-3 months

The Washington Nationals (via Twitter) announced outfielder Jayson Werth had “successful” surgery to correct a problem with his right shoulder, specifically his A/C joint, and went out of the way to mention that there were “no structural abnormalities” found in the process.

Despite the sort of strangely-worded part about structural abnormalities, Werth is expected to be out 2-3 months, which definitely impacts his availability for opening day. In reality, due to the lengthy healing and rehab process, Werth might not be the “Jayson Werth” we’ve come to expect in a Nationals uniform until well into the summer, if at all this season.

Werth’s excellent on-base skills certainly shouldn’t be impacted that much, but his already diminishing power will be something to keep an eye on once he’s able to return to the field.

Another thing to watch: his fielding. He’s being moved to left field this season as much for his own protection as putting Bryce Harper in the position he’ll probably settle into for the next decade. Werth’s injury is to his right shoulder, his throwing arm, and as someone with a history of A/C problems, I can tell you that sometimes surgery does the trick, sometimes it doesn’t.

The A/C joint (acromioclavicular joint) is where the clavicle meets the scapula (technically, the acromion, the part of the scapula that forms the highest point of the shoulder). It really doesn’t have much to do with the ball joint that comprises the shoulder, what we usually think of with throwing injuries.

Rather, the A/C joint allows us as humans to lift our arms above our head, acting as a pivot point resulting in arm rotation.

Essentially, the surgery Werth had will “tie down” the clavicle to the acromion, repairing the torn ligament that previously did the job. A/C repairs are notoriously finicky and take quite a while to rehab and gain strength back.

Ryan Zimmerman had a similar surgery following the 2012 season, but in the news about his procedure, he was expected to miss six weeks.

Obviously, Werth is older than Zimmerman and had his procedure later in the year than Zimmerman (late October rather than January) so we have to assume Werth’s injury was more extensive than that of his teammate.

Nats officials hope that Werth has a complete recovery, but they better have a Plan B just in case.

Washington Nationals vs San Francisco Giants NLDS Series Preview

After winning the NL East as well as owning the best record in the National League, the Washington Nationals welcome the San Francisco Giants, winners of the NL Wild Card Game, to Nationals Park on Friday afternoon to kickoff a best-of-five National League Division Series.

Teams

Washington Nationals (96-66, 1st in NL East vs San Francisco Giants (88-74, 2nd in NL West) [Read more…]

Washington Nationals Game 147 Review: Nats Rain Runs in Win Over Mets

HARPER HOMERS AS NATS BLOWOUT METS

As a steady rain fell over Citi Field on Saturday night, the Washington Nationals poured runs on the New York Mets the whole night through, winning the third of a four-game series, 10-3.

The Nats reduced their “magic number” to clinch the division to six games over the Braves, and can eliminate them as early as Tuesday.

In the top of the second inning, Bryce Harper (3-for-4, 2 RBI) put the Nationals on the board with a towering home run that came back to earth half way up the upper deck in right field. Ian Desmond (3-for-4, 3 RBI) who walked to reach base, scored on the play as well to give the Nationals an early 2-0 lead. [Read more…]

Washington Nationals Game 145 Review: Nats Strike Early, Hold Off Mets Late

LAROCHE, RENDON HOMER AS NATS DEFEAT METS

Opening up a three-game series against the New York Mets in Queens, New York, the Washington Nationals got on the scoreboard early and held off the Mets late to take Game 1 of the series, 6-2.

The Nationals got things going early offensively. With Anthony Rendon (3-for-5, 2 RBI) on base with a single, Adam LaRoche (2-for-5, 3 RBI) took a two-out 3-2 pitch off the right field foul pole to give the Nationals an 2-0 lead. For LaRoche, it was his 24th homer of the year and 28th all-time against the Mets, the most homers he’s hit against any team throughout his career. [Read more…]

Washington Nationals Game 144 Review: Nats Lose As Braves Strike Late

NATS CAN’T OVERCOME ATLANTA’S LATE SURGE AGAINST BULLPEN

Looking for a sweep, the Washington Nationals fell to the Atlanta Braves in a Wednesday afternoon contest at Nationals Park, 6-2.

In the first two games of the Nats three-game series with the Braves, Washington used some early offense to boost them to victory. On Wednesday afternoon, Braves’ starter Aaron Harang kept Washington’s offense in check while Atlanta slowly built a lead in the latter innings of the contest. [Read more…]

Washington Nationals Game 143 Review: Nationals Strike Early, Hold Off Braves Late

NATIONALS CUT MAGIC NUMBER TO 11 WITH WIN OVER BRAVES

After a dramatic win for the home team on Monday night, the Washington Nationals defeated Atlanta Braves 6-4 on Tuesday night in Game 2 of their three-game series at Nationals Park.

Much like they did on Monday night in Game 1 of the series, the Washington Nationals got off to a hot start, lighting up the scoreboard early and giving their starter, Jordan Zimmermann, an early lead. [Read more…]

Washington Nationals Game 138 Review: LaRoche saves game and wins it — twice — in 14 innings

Adam LaRoche didn’t start this game, but he saved it — then ended it. TWICE.

LaRoche’s homer in the ninth inning tied the game to force extra innings, then a two-run single in the 12th gave the Washington Nationals another lead that went awry. Finally, in the 14th, his ground ball fielder’s choice brought home Ian Demsond and gave the Nats a tense, hard-fought win over the Los Angeles Dodgers, 8-5 in five hours and 34 minutes.

With the Atlanta Braves win over Philadelphia, the Nats lead in the N.L. East held at seven games. [Read more…]

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