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Preview: Nationals MLB News

Nationals MLB News

Major league and minor league news on the newest MLB franchise written and maintained by professional newspaper journalists.

Updated: 2012-04-15T19:01:57.338-04:00


Previewing the American League West


Here is a preview of the 2005 American League West Division:Anaheim Angels 2004 finish: 92-70 (first)Additions: Paul Byrd, Esteban Yan, Orlando Cabrera, Steve Finley, Maicer Izturis, Juan Rivera Losses: David Eckstein, Jose Guillen, Troy Glaus, Troy Percival, Ben Weber, Aaron Sele.Projected Rotation:RHP Bartolo ColonRHP Kelvim EscobarLHP Jarrod WashburnRHP John LackeyRHP Paul ByrdProjected Bullpen:RHP Francisco RodriguezRHP Scot ShieldsRHP Brendan DonnellyLHP Mark Watson (non-roster)RHP Esteban YanRHP Kevin GreggProjected Lineup:C Bengie Molina1B Darin Erstad2B Adam Kennedy3B Rob QuinlanSS Orlando CabreraLF Garrett AndersonCF Steve FinleyRF Vladimir GuerreroDH Juan RiveraProjected Bench:C Jose MolinaIF Maicer IzturisIF Chone FiggansIF Lou Merloni (non-roster)OF Jeff DaVanonTop Prospects:1. Casey Kotchman, 1b2. Dallas McPherson, 3b3. Erick Aybar, ss4. Jeff Mathis, c5. Kendry Morales, 1b/ofTop Pitcher: Bartolo ColonColon is good for 200 innings and 15 wins. His biggest problem, pun intended, has been his weight but it does not appear to affect his ability to stay healthy. It is something that will have to be watched as he gets older though.Top Hitter: Vladimir GuerreroQuite possibly one of the top 5 players in the American League, Guerrero can change the direction of a game with his potent bat or rifle of an outfield arm. He occasionally, though, makes things interesting in the outfield with his defence and can read balls poorly at times. There aren’t many GMs who would not want him on their team, even at $15 million a season. Breakout Player: Dallas McPhersonMcPherson will likely start the season on the DL but if he can get back quickly he has the chance to be one of the top rookies in the majors this season. He possesses tape-measure power but strikes out a ton. Expect a fast start, but he may struggle once pitchers have had a chance to develop a scouting report on him.Oakland Athletics 2004 finish: 91-71 (second)Additions:Kiko Calero, Dan Haren, Dan Meyer, Seth Etherton, Juan Cruz, Keiichi Yabu, Jason Kendall, Keith Ginter, Charles ThomasLosses: Mark Mulder, Tim Hudson, Arthur Rhodes, Jermaine Dye, Damian Miller, Chris Hammond, Jim Mecir. Justin Lehr.Projected Rotation:LHP Barry ZitoRHP Rich HardenRHP Dan HarenRHP Seth EthertonRHP Joe BlantonProjected Bullpen:RHP Octavio DotelRHP Huston Street (non-roster)RHP Kiko CaleroLHP Ricardo RinconRHP Juan CruzRHP Justin DuchschererRHP Keiichi YabuProjected Lineup:C Jason Kendall1B Scott Hatteberg2B Mark Ellis3B Eric ChavezSS Bobby CrosbyLF Eric ByrnesCF Mark KotsayRF Nick SwisherDH Erubiel DurazoProjected Bench:C Adam MelhuseIF Keith GinterOF Bobby KieltyOF Charles Thomas Top Prospects:1. Nick Swisher, of2. Javi Herrera, of3. Joe Blanton, rhp4. Dan Johnson, 1b5. Huston Street, rhpTop Pitcher: Barry ZitoThe remaining member of the Big 3, Zito does not possess the same nasty overall stuff of his former teammates, but he has a nasty curveball and is one of the better left-handed pitchers in the American League when healthy. He will have a lot more pressure on him this season so it will be interesting to see how he responds.Top Hitter: Eric ChavezChavez goes about his business so quietly that it is hard to remember that he still plays for the A’s. But he does play and he is one of the best third basemen in the game and the A’s offensive catalyst. He is capable of hitting .300 with 30 or more home runs. Breakout Player: Rich HardenHarden is being asked to replace either Tim Hudson or Mark Mulder. No easy task for a pitcher with about a year’s worth of major league experience under his belt. But the A’s are confident that the young prodigy is ready to blossom – and he needs to if the team has any hope of winning the division. On the plus side he has better stuff than either Tim Hudson or even Mark Mulder. Texas Rangers 2004 finish: 89-73 (third)Additions: Richard Hidalgo, Sandy Alomar, Greg Colbrunn, Mark DeRosa.Losses: Brian Jordan, Jay Powell, Eric Young.Projected Rotation:RHP Ryan DreseRHP Ricardo Rodriguez LHP Kenny RogersRHP Chan Ho Park RHP Chris Young[...]

Nationals make seven roster moves


The Washington Nationals today optioned first baseman Larry Broadway and right-handed pitcher Danny Rueckel to Triple-A New Orleans, as well as right-handed pitcher Darrell Rasner to Double-A Harrisburg. The Nationals also reassigned catchers John Wilson and Hector Ortiz to minor league camp.

In addition, the Nationals placed infielder Henry Mateo (right-shoulder tendinitis) and right-handed pitcher Claudio Vargas (right-elbow sprain) on the 15-Day Disabled List. Nationals General Manager Jim Bowden made the announcements.

Spring Training Update - March 16


Washington Nationals Record: 7-6 (.538)
Hitters’ stats include: hits/at-bats, average, home runs
Pitchers’ stats include: ERA, innings, hits allowed, BB/SO

Hot Hitters:
SS Ian Desmond – 8 for 26 .308 0
IF Brendan Harris – 8 for 25 .320 0
OF Tyrell Godwin – 7 for 20 .350 0
C Brian Schneider – 6 for 19 .316 0
IF Jamey Carroll – 7 for 19 .368 0; four doubles
OF J.J. Davis – 8 for 18 .444 1; .889 slugging percentage
SS Cristian Guzman – 8 for 16 .500 1
IF George Arias – 5 for 15 .333 0
IF-OF Tony Blanco – 5 for 15 .333 0

Cold Hitters:
OF Endy Chavez – 2 for 21 .190 0
OF Brad Wilkerson – 3 for 16 .188 2
3B Vinny Castilla – 1 for 16 .063 0
OF Jeffrey Hammonds – 5 for 21 .238 1
OF Jose Guillen – 3 for 13 .231 1

Hot Pitchers:
RHP Livan Hernandez – 2.57 14 12 1-6
RHP Esteban Loaiza – 3.00 9 12 0-5
RHP Jon Rauch – 2.25 8 7 2-4
RHP Chad Cordero – 1.80 5 3 1-7
RHP Danny Rueckel – 0.00 5 3 2-2
RHP Sunny Kim – 3.38 5.2 4 1-6
LHP Joe Horgan – 0.00 3 2 1-3

Cold Pitchers:
RHP Tony Armas – 5.19 8.6 8 4-6
RHP John Patterson – 6.75 8 10 1-5
LHP Michael Hinckley – 12.00 6 14 5-3; demoted
RHP T.J. Tucker – 12.00 6 8 1-4
RHP Zack Day – 9.00 5 7 2-2
RHP Gary Majewski – 14.73 3.6 5 6-4
LHP Joey Eischen – 8.10 3.2 7 3-2

Well the Washington hitters are definitely ahead of the pitchers at this point, which goes against the norm. On the hitter’s side of things, Ian Desmond is really turning people’s heads after being a late addition to spring training due to a shortage of infielders. He won’t the team, after being drafting out of high school in 2004, but he has likely secured himself a spot on a full-season team, likely in Savannah (low-A). Even so, not bad for a teenager. Endy Chavez and Jeffrey Hammonds are going to have difficult times making the squad, especially with Rule 5 picks Tony Blanco and Tyrell Godwin playing so well. J.J. Davis has been a monster this spring and most likely will head north with the team at the end of spring training. Brendan Harris looks ready for the majors, but there is just no room for him at this point so he will likely head back to triple-A.

On the mound, Jon Rauch has stepped up his game in pursuit of a roster spot. He has options left though, so he can be safely sent to the minors, unlike the struggling John Patterson or Claudio Vargas. T.J. Tucker and Joey Eischen are veterans who are likely to make the bullpen despite their struggles. Chad Cordero looks good in his pursuit to start the season as the team’s closer. Keep an eye on Danny Rueckel. Even if he doesn’t make the team out of spring training, he could be the first man called up in the event of a pitcher’s injury.

Previewing the American League Central


Minnesota Twins2004 finish: 92-70 (first)Additions: Mike Redmond, Juan Castro Losses: Henry Blanco, Cristian Guzman, Corey Koskie, Projected Rotation:RHP Brad RadkeLHP Johan SantanaRHP Joe MaysRHP Kyle LohseRHP Carlos SilvaProjected Bullpen:RHP Joe NathanRHP Juan RinconRHP Jesse CrainLHP J.C. RomeroLHP David GassnerLHP Terry Mulholland (non-roster)RHP Grant BalfourProjected Lineup:C Joe Mauer1B Justin Morneau2B Luis Rivas3B Michael CuddyerSS Jason BartlettLF Shannon StewartCF Tori HunterRF Jacque JonesDH Matt LeCroyProjected Bench:C Mike RedmondIF Juan CastroIF Nick PuntoOF Lew FordTop Prospects:1. Joe Mauer, C2. Jason Kubel, OF3. J.D. Durbin, RHP4. Jesse Crain, RHP5. Francisco Liriano, LHPTop Pitcher: Johan SantanaSantana had an OK year last year. All right, he had a pretty darn awesome year and won the Cy Young award after posting a 20-6 record and striking out 265. The left hander was positively stolen out of the Houston organization in the Rule 5 draft in 1999. Expect more of the same this year and for many more to come.Top Hitter: Tori HunterThe Twins do not have any really mashers on their team, but have a very lineup with solid MLB hitters. That said, Hunter is the best of the group and he is made even more valuable with his Gold Glove defence in centerfield.Breakout Player: Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau (tie)The Twins have two of the best young hitters in the major leagues in their everyday lineup this season. Mauer could hit .300 as a rookie out of the catcher position and play above average defence. He could also eventually add power to his offensive totals. Morneau, a Canadian, battled injuries and illness all winter but should be ready to provide 30 to 40 home runs and Gold Glove defence at first base.Chicago White Sox2004 finish: 83-79 (second)Additions: Dustin Hermanson, Tadahito Iguchi, A.J. Pierzynski, Luis Vizcaino, Jermaine Dye, Scott Podsednik Losses: Roberto Alomar, Sandy Alomar, Magglio Ordonez, Scott Schoeneweis, Jose Valentin, Carlos LeeProjected Rotation:LHP Mark BuehrleRHP Orlando HernandezRHP Jose ContrerasRHP Freddy Garcia RHP Jon GarlandProjected Bullpen:RHP Dustin HermansonRHP Shingo TakatsuRHP Luis VizcainoLHP Damaso MarteLHP Neal CottsRHP Cliff PolitteRHP John AdkinsProjected Lineup:C A.J. Pierzynski1B Paul Konerko2B Tadahito Iguchi3B Joe CredeSS Juan UribeLF Aaron RowandCF Scott PodsednikRF Jermaine DyeDH Carl EverettProjected Bench:C Ben DavisIF Willie HarrisIF Ross GloadOF Timo PerezTop Prospects:1. Brian Anderson, OF2. Ryan Sweeney, OF3. Brandon McCarthy, RHP4. Josh Fields, 3B5. Sean Tracey, RHPTop Pitcher: Mark BuehrleBuehrle has risen from obscurity as a 38th round draft pick by the Sox to become the ace of their staff and one of the best lefties in the game. He has pitched more than 200 innings in each of his four full seasons in the rotation and he significantly improved his strike outs rates last season, which bodes well for the future.Top Hitter: Paul KonerkoKonerko had an off year in 2003 and his contract looked like an albatross. But he got hot in 2004 and more than justified the $8 million he earned. Only 29, Konerko has eight years of experience in the major leagues, after being a No. 1 pick by the Dodgers out of high school He has the potential to hit 40 home runs, drive in 100 runs and bat .300.Breakout Player: Neal CottsCotts seems to owe his success more to his funky left-handed delivery than his average 88-93 MPH fastball. That said, he possesses a lot of promise and has always put up solid numbers. He could turn into a very good No. 3 starter in the majors if the Sox ever get tired of throwing veteran fodder Contreras and Hernandez out there.Cleveland Indians2004 finish: 80-82 (third)Additions: Kevin Millwood, Scott Sauerbeck, Arthur Rhodes, Juan Gonzalez, Alex Cora, Jose Hernandez Losses: Josh Phelps, Omar Vizquel, Rick White, Matt LawtonProjected Rotation:LHP C.C. SabathiaLHP Cliff LeeRHP Jake WestbrookRHP Kevin MillwoodRHP Scott ElartonProjected Bullpen:RHP Bob WickmanRHP David RiskeRHP Ja[...]

Beltran to have elbow surgery


The Washington Nationals announced that earlier today right-handed pitcher Francis Beltran was examined in Birmingham, Alabama by Dr. James Andrews, who confirmed the diagnosis of a near-complete ulnar-collateral ligament tear and agreed with the recommendation of Dr. Wiemi Douoguih, Nationals orthopedic surgeon, to reconstruct the ligament.

Surgery will be performed by Dr. Andrews, with Dr. Douoguih present, on March 15 in Birmingham. The club also today placed Beltran on the 60-Day Disabled List, according to Nationals general manager Jim Bowden.

Beltran was acquired from Chicago (NL) as part of a 4-team deal on July 31, 2004. The 25-year-old is 2-2 with a 5.87 ERA in 56 career games spanning parts of two big league seasons with the Cubs and Expos.

He will likely miss the entire season.

Nationals trim three more from roster


The Washington Nationals optioned left-handed pitcher Mike Hinckley to Double-A Harrisburg and reassigned right-handed pitcher Dan Smith to minor league camp on March 14, according to general manager Jim Bowden. The club also optioned right-handed pitcher Josh Karp to Triple-A New Orleans.

Hinckley was named by Bowden as a long shot to make the team this season despite not pitching above double-A. However, he struggled in the spring and posted a 12.00 ERA in six innings of work.

Smith was returning from surgery and will continue to work his way back as a member of the New Orleans bullpen.

Karp, a former No. 1 draft pick, has struggled in recent years despite his huge promise and No. 1 starter repertoire. He may be converted to the bullpen this year and join Smith in the New Orleans pen.

In other news, second baseman Jose Vidro hyper-extended his elbow and should be out for a few days. It is not considered serious.

Nationals sell 50,000 tickets in six hours


The Washington Nationals sold over 50,000 tickets during the first six hours of individual game ticket sales; with the predominance of transactions handled online (87%), followed by phone sales (8%), and Ticketmaster outlets and RFK Stadium Box Office sales at 5%. The top five selling games were contests on Saturday, May 14 (vs. Chicago-NL), Sunday, May 15 (vs. Chicago-NL), Sunday, April 3 (Exhibition game vs New York (NL) with net proceeds slated for the Washington Nationals Foundation), Saturday, April 30 (vs. Philadelphia), and Friday, May 13 (vs. Chicago-NL).

Single game tickets were available for the Nationals' first game at RFK Stadium vs. the NY Mets benefiting Washington, D.C. area charities on April 3, and all regular season games, excluding Opening Night, Thursday, April 14. Sales began at noon and fans were able to purchase tickets at the RFK Stadium Box Office, by visiting any Ticketmaster outlet, calling Ticketmaster at 202-397-SEAT (7328), or logging onto

Prior to the Box Office opening at noon, several raffle prizes were given away to those waiting in line to purchase tickets. Rob Larsen of Washington, DC was the first raffle drawing winner, as he took home two (2) tickets to Opening Night on April 14, when the Nationals host the Arizona Diamondbacks at RFK Stadium.

In addition to the publicized drawings, the Washington Nationals rewarded the first fan in line with four (4) tickets to Opening Night. Marvin Jones, a native of Washington, D.C., lined up at the Box Office ticket windows at 7:15 am on Saturday morning. Jones was shocked to learn that he was going to receive tickets to the much coveted game on April 14. "Baseball is finally back in Washington, D.C. - where it belongs," commented Jones, who grew up just blocks from RFK Stadium in Northeast.

Other items that were given away included a Nationals authentic home jersey, an authentic Spring Training jersey, a Nationals t-shirt and Nationals cap. Fans waiting in line were treated to donated food items, including Dominic's hot dogs, Krispy Kreme donuts, and Sierra Mist soda, along with music onsite provided by 93.9 WKYS-FM Radio.

Tickets for the Nationals Home Opener on April 14 will go on sale Saturday, March 26 at noon. Nationals fans will be able to purchase up to four (4) tickets each per transaction for Opening Night. The Nationals group sales program will not be in effect for Opening Night. Tickets may be purchased by calling Ticketmaster at 202-397-SEAT (7328), visiting the RFK Stadium Box Office or any Ticketmaster Outlet, or logging onto

An early look at the minor leagues: Double-A ball


The Harrisburg SenatorsEastern League (Double-A ball)Season starts: April 7 versus BowieIn the list below, uppercased players appear to be the most likely to make the major leagues, although it is very early in their careers. Scouting reports (previously published on this site) have also been included for players on the Nationals’ top 15 pitchers and top 15 hitters lists. The majority of hitters in Harrisburg, though, are minor league veterans and journeymen. There are few, if any, prospects. As always, more in depth statistics for all players can be found at The Baseball Cube.Pitchers’ stats include ERA, innings pitched, walks-strikeouts. Hitters’ stats include batting average, on-base average and slugging percentage.Field Staff: Keith Bodie, manager; Rick Tomlin, pitching coach; Frank Cacciatore, coachStarting RotationLHP MIKE HINCKLEYExperience: 4Age: 22Height/Weight: 6’3’’ 1702004 Level and Stats: Double-A, 2.87, 94, 23-80 Hinckley could be a very effective No. 2 or No. 3 starter in the majors, although his ceiling is not as high as that of a healthy Clint Everts. However, Hinckley could be in the majors much quicker, with a mid-season promotion likely. The 2001 third-round pick out of high school throws in the low 90s with a plus curve and an average changeup. He has solid command as well.RHP DARRELL RASNERExperience: 3Age: 24Height/Weight: 6’3’’ 210 2004 Level and Stats: High-A, 3.17, 119, 31-88The 2002 second-round pick possesses a sinking low-90s fastball, an improving curve and a changeup. Rasner does not have great control but it is not terrible either. The lack of any really outstanding pitch limits his ceiling to that of a fourth starter. He could end up being a solid middle reliever.LHP Brett PriceExperience: 4Age: 25Height/Weight: 5’10’’ 165 2004 Level and Stats: High-A, 3.53, 99, 53-100 RHP Jason StevensonExperience: 4Age: 23Height/Weight: 6’1’’ 1752004 Level and Stats: Double-A, 4.06 135, 46-75LHP Michael O’ConnorExperience: 3Age: 24Height/Weight: 6’3’’ 1702004 Level and Stats: High-A, 4.11, 103, 42-104BullpenLHP RICH RUNDLESExperience: 6Age: 24Height/Weight: 6’5’’ 1802004 Level and Stats: Double-A, 3.42, 102, 35-65The 6'5'' 180 lbs lefty has always put up intriguing numbers but he could never stay healthy. 2004 was no different in the injury category, but Rundles had a 3.43 ERA in double-A. This season he should be ready to pitch in triple-A but there may not be room for him there. Rundles - who throws an 87-91 mph fastball, a plus changeup and an OK curveball - would probably be best suited for the bullpen given his lack of durability.RHP Jason BergmannExperience: 3Age: 23Height/Weight: 6’4’’ 1852004 Level and Stats: High-A, 1.14, 31, 18-28RHP Josh GirdleyExperience: 6 Age: 24Height/Weight: 6’3’’ 1802004 Level and Stats: High-A, 5.24, 34, 15-19RHP Chris BarlowExperience: 3Age: 24Height/Weight: 6’6’’ 210 2004 Level and Stats: High-A, 4.27, 111, 24-48 RHP Dan KolbExperience: 4Age: 25Height/Weight: 6’1’’ 190 2004 Level and Stats: High-A, 5.79, 84, 44-76RHP David GilExperience: 5Age: 26Height/Weight: 6’4’’ 210 2004 Level and Stats: Double-A, 6.86, 84, 34-55LHP Alex LontayoExperience: 1Age: 29Height/Weight: 6’1’’ 190 2004 Level and Stats:RHP Kip BouknightExperience: 4Age: 26Height/Weight: 6’0’’ 190 2004 Level and Stats: Triple-A, 6.75, 62, 32-38RHP Mark DifeliceExperience: 7Age: 28Height/Weight: 6’1’’ 190 2004 Level and Stats: Triple-A, 3.44, 89, 27-70 RHP Shawn Hill (DL)Experience: 5 Age: 24Height/Weight: 6’2’’ 1852004 Level and Stats: Double-A, 3.39, 87, 20-53A representative of Ontario, Canada, Hill was one of the Expos’ best pitching prospects before his career was put on hold by surgery. He throws a 90-91 mph sinker, an above average curve and a changeup. Hill also possessed excellent control of his offerings before [...]

Nationals' March 10 game vs Indians


All right, I have a little time this afternoon so let's take a look at the Nationals split-squad game this afternoon, which they lost to the Cleveland Indians 3-1.
FYI: The other half of the Nationals also lost to Florida 5-3.
The outfield battle continues to heat up J.J. Davis and Carlton (Tyrell) Godwin having excellent games. Both outfield hopefuls went 2 for 3 and Davis drove in the Nationals only run. Endy Chavez took another 0-fer.
Young infielder Ian Desmond, who has dazzled people with his defensive prowess, had a tough day at the dish going 0 for 3 with three strikeouts. He also made an error at shortstop.
On the mound, everything went smoothly for the Nationals until the wheels fell off in the eighth inning for Dan Smith, who lost the game after allowing three runs on three hits. An error also figured into the equation.
Tomo Ohka pitched three shutout innings and Jon Rauch followed up with two. Chad Cordero and Joe Horgan each pitched a successful inning of work as well.
So far the pitching looks really good for the Nationals, but six hits is not going to get it done on most nights.

Previewing the American League East


The 2005 American League East Division:New York Yankees2004 finish: 101-61 (first)Additions: Randy Johnson, Jaret Wright, Carl Pavano, Felix Rodriguez, Tino Martinez, Tony Womack, Rey Sanchez, Mike Stanton Losses: Javier Vazquez, Jon Lieber, Travis Lee, Miguel Cairo, Enrique Wilson Projected Rotation:LHP Randy JohnsonRHP Mike MussinaRHP Kevin BrownRHP Carl PavanoRHP Jaret Wright Projected Bullpen:RHP Mariano RiveraRHP Tom GordonRHP Paul QuantrillLHP Mike StantonRHP Steve KarsayRHP Felix RodriguezRHP Tanyon SturtzeProjected Lineup:C Jorge Posada1B Tino Martinez2B Tony Womack3B Alex RodriguezSS Derek JeterLF Hideki MatsuiCF Bernie WilliamsRF Gary SheffieldDH Jason GiambiProjected Bench:C John FlahertyIF Rey SanchezIF Andy PhillipsOF Ruben SierraTop Prospects:1. Eric Duncan, 3B2. Robinson Cano, 2B3. Philip Hughes, RHP4. Steve White, RHP5. Christian Garcia, RHPTop Pitcher: Randy JohnsonThere have been three Randy Johnsons who have played in the major leagues and I think it is safe to say that this incarnation is the best of the three. He has been a dominating force for the past fifteen years and should continue to be so for at least another year or two, or so the Yankees have gambled. At the age of 41 Johnson is still one of the best pitchers in the major leagues and good for almost 300 strikeouts, 200 innings and 15 to 17 wins. It’s hard to imagine this guy once walked 152 batters in a major league season. And just think, if the Expos had not traded him in 1989 for veteran Mark Langston he might have been a Washington National…Top Hitter: Alex RodriguezPerhaps one of the best hitters in the majors, A-Rod’s reputation has taken a big hit since his glory days in Seattle and he is no longer the golden boy of baseball. Rodriguez left Seattle for record-setting riches in Texas, which were one of the worst teams in baseball, despite his supposed desire to play for a winner. Well, that didn’t work out and now Rodriguez is a member of the Yankees, playing for a winner and still collecting his huge paycheck. Business aside, Rodriguez is a constant threat in the lineup and good for 35 to 50 home runs, 100 RBI and close to a .300 average.Breakout Player: Andy PhillipsPhillips has had a heck of a time getting out of the minor leagues, while playing in an organization that favors veterans. He turns 28 this year, which is way too old to have a productive, above-average major league career for someone who has only played five games in the majors. That said, Phillips could develop into an awesome utility player for five or six years. He can play third base and second base and possesses power. He hit .318 .388 .569 last season in triple-A Columbus with 26 home runs. Phillips also has a minor league career average of .296.Boston Red Sox2004 finish: 98-64 (second)Additions: Matt Clement, John Halama, Edgar Renteria, Ramon Vazquez, Jay PaytonLosses: Pedro Martinez, Doug Mientkiewicz, Dave Roberts Projected Rotation:RHP Curt SchillingRHP Matt ClementRHP David WellsRHP Tim WakefieldLHP Bronson ArroyoProjected Bullpen:RHP Keith FoulkeRHP Mike TimlinRHP Byung Hung KimLHP Alan EmbreeLHP John HalamaRHP Matt ManteiProjected Lineup:C Jason Varitek1B Kevin Millar2B Mark Bellhorn3B Bill MuellerSS Edgar RenteriaLF Manny RamirezCF Johnny DamonRF Trot NixonDH David OrtizProjected Bench:C Doug MirabelliIF Ramon VazquezIF Kevin YoukilisOF Jay PaytonOF Adam Stern (Rule 5)Top Prospects:1. Hanley Ramirez, SS2. Brandon Moss, OF3. Jon Papelbon, RHP4. Jon Lester. LHP5. Anibal Sanchez, RHPTop Pitcher: Curt SchillingWhat is left to say about the one-ankled wonder that has been said in numerous news stories, documentaries and at every New England office water cooler? Like his former teammate, Randy Johnson, Schilling is one of the best pitchers in the major leagues and back at "home" with the team that originally sig[...]

Cardinals' pitcher makes switch to outfield


By K. Jeff EdwardsNationals MLB columnistFormer pitching phenom Rick Ankiel, of the St. Louis Cardinals, has decided to attempt the switch from pitcher to hitter.He will spend the remainder of spring training attempting to make the Cardinals’ roster as an outfielder, according to the Associated Press (AP).``We are fully supportive of Rick's decision to convert to an everyday outfielder,'' Cardinals general manager Walt Jocketty told the AP. ``Rick will continue to train with the major league club this spring, and we look forward to seeing his development as a full-time batter and outfielder.''Ankiel burst upon the major league scene in 1999, three years after being drafted out of high school in the second round of the amateur draft.In 33 innings, at the age of 20, the left-handed power pitcher had a 3.27 ERA, walked 14 batters and struck out 39.Then he followed up in 2000 with a 3.50 ERA and an 11-7 record in 175 innings. He also struck out 194 batters, while walking 90. But then in the postseason that season, Ankiel posted a 20.25 ERA in two games and walked five batters in 1 2/3 innings. He also threw numerous wild pitches. His wildness continued in 2001 when he walked 27 batters in 24 big league innings and another 17 batters in 4 1/3 innings in triple-A Memphis.In an attempt to curb his wildness, the Cardinals demoted Ankiel all the way to rookie ball, where his problems seemed to improve. As a 22-year-old (a little old for the league) he posted a 1.33 ERA in 87 2/3 innings and struck out an eye-popping 158 batters while walking only 18. That said, most of the hitters in rookie ball, fresh out of high school, will swing at anything.Regardless, things were looking up until it was determined that Ankiel required Tommy John surgery on his left, throwing elbow and missed all of 2002.He returned in 2003 and was assigned to double-A Tennessee where he posted a 6.29 ERA and walked 49 batters in 54 1/3 innings, while striking out 64.Perhaps after peering into my crystal ball I asked Jim Callis, executive editor and prospect guru at Baseball America, in March of 2003 if he thought Ankiel should consider switching his focus to hitting."I definitely would give Ankiel a try as a hitter, because if he fails, what has been lost? But I also think the Cardinals are handling a very delicate situation as best as they can right now. He has huge upside as a pitcher if he can get straightened out, and however unlikely that might be, it's worth pursuing until it becomes entirely hopeless," Callis said. "If he and the club give up on that possibility, then it would be time to see if he can make it as an outfielder. Ankiel was an all-star DH in the Rookie-level Appalachian League in 2001, hitting .286-10-35 in 105 at-bats. It's reasonable that he could do better if he focused on hitting, and he's still just 23. My guess is that if and when it's decided he should become a full-time outfielder, he'll go to Class A. But that might be a couple of years away."In 2004 Ankiel battled more injuries and pitched a total of 33 2/3 innings in four levels, including five games with the Cardinals. His controlled appeared to have improved significantly and he walked only three batters overall and one in 10 big league innings.However, early on in 2005 spring training throwing sessions, Ankiel’s wildness became a concern again and he made a drastic decision: He would attempt to switch from the mound to the batter’s box.Only two current major leaguers, Texas LHP Ron Mahay and Milwaukee RHP/OF Brooks Kieschnick, made the major leagues as hitters before switching to the mound. Ankiel, now 25, is going the other route and faces an uphill battle. No one currently in the major leagues has made the switch from pitching to hitting, after debuting in the majors as a pitcher. However, he has [...]

Nationals make player cuts


The Washington Nationals made their first cuts of the spring and reduced their in-camp roster from 60 to 49.

Players who were cut include: Seth Greisinger, Chad Durbin, Luis Pineda, Micah Bowie, Josh Karp and Bill Bray; catcher Drew McMillan; infielders Rick Short, Jared Sandberg and Phil Hiatt; outfielder Brandon Watson.

There really were no big surprises in the cuts, with Karp, Bray and Watson needing more time in the minor leagues and the other players being minor league veterans who will help fill minor league rosters and provide injury insurance during the season.

General Manager Jim Bowden said the next round of cuts likely will come within the next week.

Spring Training: The first five games


Washington Nationals Record: 4-1
Hitters’ stats include: hits/at-bats, average, home runs
Pitchers’ stats include: ERA, innings, hits allowed, BB/SO

Hot Hitters:
SS Ian Desmond – 4 for 11 .364 0
OF Terrmel Sledge – 3 for 9 .333 1
OF Brad Wilkerson – 2 for 8 .250 2
OF J.J. Davis – 3 for 7 .429 1
OF Jeffery Hammonds – 3 for 7 .429 0
C Brian Schneider – 3 for 6 .500 0
IF Rick Short – 3 for 5 .600 0
C Keith Osik – 2 for 5 .400 1

Cold Hitters:
OF Alex Escobar – 0 for 9 .000 0
OF Endy Chavez – 1 for 8 .125 0
3B Vinny Castilla – 1 for 7 .143 0

Hot Pitchers:
RHP Jon Rauch – 2.25 4 3 0-1
RHP Chad Cordero – 3.00 3 2 1-6
RHP Hector Carrasco – 0.00 2.1 2 2-2
RHP T.J. Tucker – 0.00 2 0 0-1
RHP John Patterson – 0.00 3 1 0-2

Cold Pitchers:
LHP Matt Hinckley – 15.75 4 11 3-2
RHP Tony Armas – 5.40 5 5 3-4
RHP Livan Hernandez – 6.00 3 5 1-1
RHP Gary Majewski – 16.20 1.2 1 3-2
LHP Luis Pineda – 189.00 0.1 2 6-0

It is still WAY too early to make any real conclusions from these statistics, but it seems as though the Nationals’ hitters are ahead of the pitchers at this point. That said, the bullpen appears to be off to a nice start. Sledge is off to a nice start and could be improving his tradability. Davis and Hammonds seem to have the early edge on a roster spot over Escobar and perhaps Chavez, if Sledge remains with the team. Keep an eye on non-roster invitees Osik and Short, both of whom are off to a quick starts and have an outside shot at being bench players. Osik is an excellent defensive catcher who backed up All Star Jason Kendall in Pittsburgh for years and can also play the corner infield positions. Short, an 11 year minor league veteran, has a .311 career average. It also looks like the Nationals may have put too much pressure on Hinckley this spring, after GM Bowden said he had an outside shot of making the team after a half season in double-A. Or maybe he is just rusty.

An early look at the minor leagues: High-A ball


The Brevard County ManateeFlorida State League (High-A ball)Season starts: Not available.In the list below, uppercased players appear to be the most likely to make the major leagues, although it is very early in their careers. Scouting reports (previously published on this site) have also been included for players on the Nationals’ top 15 pitchers and top 15 hitters lists. As always, more in depth statistics for all players can be found at The Baseball Cube.Pitchers’ stats include ERA, innings pitched, walks-strikeouts. Hitters’ stats include batting average, on-base average and slugging percentage.Field Staff: Not available.Starting RotationLHP Jon FelfoldiExperience: 3Age: 24Height/Weight: 6’1’’ 1802004 Level and Stats: Low-A, 3.51, 26, 17 -20RHP DEVIN PERRINExperience: 2Age: 24Height/Weight: 6’7’’ 225 2004 Level and Stats: Low-A, 4.50, 122, 62-108Perrin, who stands 6'7'', averaged eight strikeouts per nine innings in low-A ball last year and power is the name of his game. Unfortunately Perrin also walked almost five batters per nine innings and it remains to be seen whether his future lies in the starting rotation or the bullpen.RHP DARYL THOMPSONExperience: 2Age: 19Height/Weight: 6’1’’ 170 2004 Level and Stats: Low-A, 5.08, 103, 30-79Thompson does not have the big, strong pitchers body that scouts love but he handled full season ball at the age of 18 and could still grow and add muscle. He has a great feel for pitching and solid makeup for a teenager. Thompson throws his fastball in the low 90s and possesses a nice curve and solid changeup. It is hard to project where Thompson will fit into a rotation in the majors because he is still young and developing but he could fit in as a No. 3 starter at this point.RHP Nick LongExperience: 4Age: 22Height/Weight: 6’3’’ 1802004 Level and Stats: Low-A, 4.89, 105, 61-81RHP Armando GalarragaExperience: 6Age: 23Height/Weight: 6’3’’ 1702004 Level and Stats: Low-A, 4.65. 110, 31-94BullpenLHP BILL BRAYExperience: 1Age: 22Height/Weight: 2004 Level and Stats: Low-A, 4.91, 7, 1-6Bray may move slower than Chad Cordero, who was another first round college reliever draft pick. The Nationals are considering having him pitch out of the starting rotation this year in an attempt to get him more innings and gain experience. Baseball America says he has a change to be a real dominating left-handed reliever closing out ballgames.RHP Richard CampbellExperience: 1Age: 23Height/Weight: 6’0’’ 1702004 Level and Stats: Short Season, 4.09, 22, 10-25RHP ANTHONY PEARSONExperience: 2Age: 23Height/Weight: 6’3’’ 190 2004 Level and Stats: Low-A, 3.81, 85, 49-106LHP Jeremy PlexicoExperience: 2Age: 25Height/Weight: 6’4’’ 2102004 Level and Stats: Low-A, 2.63, 82, 25-102RHP Brett ReidExperience: 2Age: 25Height/Weight: 5’11’’ 200 2004 Level and Stats: Low-A, 1.98, 64, 20-84RHP ALEX MORALESExperience: 2Age: 22Height/Weight: 5’11’’ 1652004 Level and Stats: High-A, 4.55, 63, 41-55 At 5’11’’ 165 lbs. Morales is no friend of the scout but he does flash a 94 mph fastball despite his small frame. He also has an excellent slider (70 on the 20-80 scale), which possesses a sharp break. A decent changeup completes his repertoire. Morales biggest problem in 2004 was his command and he will likely return to high-A ball to start the season. If his body cannot standup to the rigors of starting, Morales could make a nice middle reliever.LHP Brett NyquistExperience: 2Age: 24Height/Weight: 6’7’’ 200 2004 Level and Stats: Low-A, 5.67, 106, 27-79LineupC Salomon ManriquezExperience: 5Age: 222004 Level and Stats: Low-A, .264 .311 .391B JOSH WHITESELLExperience: 2Age: 232004 Level and Stats: Low-A, .250 .35[...]

Previewing the National League West


Here is a preview of the 2005 National League West Division:Los Angeles Dodgers2004 finish: 93-69 (first)Additions: J.D. Drew, Derek Lowe, Paul Bako, Jeff Kent, Jose Valentin, Ricky Ledee.Losses: Adrian Beltre, Alex Cora, Steve Finley, Jose Hernandez, Jose Lima, Tom Martin, Hideo Nomo.Projected Rotation:RHP Jeff WeaverRHP Brad PennyRHP Derek LoweRHP Kaz IshiiLHP Odalis PerezProjected Bullpen:RHP Eric GagneRHP Yhency BrazobanRHP Duaner SanchezLHP Wilson AlvarezRHP Giovanni CarraraRHP Elmer DessensRHP Aquilino Lopez (non-roster)Projected Lineup:C David Ross1B Hee Seop Choi2B Jeff Kent3B Jose ValentinSS Cesar IzturisLF Jayson WerthCF Milton BradleyRF J.D. DrewProjected Bench:C Paul BakoIF Antonio PerezIF Olmedo SaenzIF/OF Jason GrabowskiOF Ricky LedeeTop Prospects:1. Joel Guzman, SS2. Chad Billingsley, RHP3. Edwin Jackson, RHP4. James Loney, 1B5. Andy LaRoche, 3BTop Pitcher: Eric GagneGagne, at the age of 29, is one of the best closers in the history of baseball. Two seasons ago he posted a 1.20 ERA and struck out 137 batters in 82 innings, while only walking 20. Gagne has some of the nastiest stuff in the major leagues saved a major league record 84 games in a row before blowing one last season. In the last three seasons, Gagne has averaged 50 saves. The only thing that could slow him down is an injury and he has had some problems with his right shoulder. Top Hitter: J.D. DrewDrew broke out in a big way last season for the Atlanta Braves in his free agent season. The Dodgers rewarded him with a monster five year contract. He is one of the most brittle players in baseball, though, and almost never plays hurt. At his best, Drew possesses 30 home runs power and has good speed. He also walked more than 100 times last season.Breakout Player: Jayson WerthWerth is a former catcher and No. 1 pick of the Baltimore Orioles. He was converted to the outfield by the Toronto Blue Jays, who subsequently traded him to the Dodgers because of his questionable plate discipline. Werth is extremely athletic, very fast and possesses 30 homer potential. He could also easily strike out 150 times in a full season. Werth will have to be watched this year after rehabbing a partial tear in his throwing elbow.San Francisco Giants2004 finish: 91-71 (second)Additions: Moises Alou, Armando Benitez, Mike Matheny, Omar Vizquel, Deivi Cruz.Losses: Dustan Mohr, A.J. Pierzynski, Neifi Perez, Dustin Hermanson, Feliz Rodriguez.Projected Rotation:RHP Jason SchmidtLHP Kirk RueterRHP Brett TomkoRHP Jerome WilliamsLHP Noah LoweryProjected Bullpen:RHP Armando BenitezRHP Matt HergesRHP Jim BrowerLHP Wayne FranklinLHP Scott EyreLHP Jason ChristiansenRHP Jesse FoppertProjected Lineup:C Mike Matheny1B Pedro Feliz2B Ray Durham3B Edgardo AlfonzoSS Omar VizquelLF Barry BondsCF Marquis GrissomRF Moises AlouProjected Bench:C Yorvit TorrealbaIF J.T. SnowIF Deivi CruzOF Todd LindenOF Michael TuckerTop Prospects:1. Matt Cain, RHP2. Merkin Valdez, RHP3. Fred Lewis, OF4. Eddy Martinez-Esteve, OF5. Nate Schierholtz, OF/3BTop Pitcher: Jason SchmidtSchmidt has developed into one of the most feared pitchers in the National League. Originally a highly regarded Braves prospect, he finally harnessed his filthy stuff with the Giants. There are injury concerns surrounding Schmidt, as he has battled elbow woes for the past few seasons. He is good for 200 innings, 200 strike outs and 15-20 wins for a few more seasons.Top Hitter: Barry BondsWhat is left to say about Bonds? Love him or hate him, he is one of the greatest players ever to put on a uniform. He is also obviously respected by his peers, after setting a Major League record for walks last season with 232. Did you ever think you’d see someone play a full s[...]

The best baseball information on the Web


2005 is an exciting time for baseball fans in Washington. But baseball can be a complex and confusing sport for many people; it is full of statistics, rules and jargon. There are also more than 900 major league baseball players who filter through the league every year and more than 120 professional players controlled by the Nationals organization.
All this may seem confusing, but there are a multitude of baseball-related Web sites on the Internet (how did we ever live with out this glorious invention?) to help even the most virginal baseball fan make sense of the madness.

The Baseball Cube
The Cube is an excellent source for finding out about the latest hot prospect. All you have to do is type in the name of any professional minor league baseball player and you will instantly have all their statistics and biographical information at your finger tips.

Baseball Reference
A major league version of The Baseball Cube, Baseball Reference has all the information you could ever want to know about any player EVER to play in the major leagues.

Prosports Daily
Want to know the key news stories and rumors floating around every team in the major leagues every day? Prosports Daily compiles daily all the major newspaper stories in every major league city in one easy to navigate site.

This Web site brings you all the latest rumors from around the major leagues quicker than almost any television sports program or newspaper can. It is updated 24 hours a day. It also provides valuable information for people playing fantasy baseball.

Baseball America
For all you general minor league, college and high school baseball news. Baseball America is the best. Want to know who the Nationals best prospects are, or whom they might take in the June amateur draft? BA can tell you.

Official Minor league Baseball
The official site for minor league baseball, will provide you with daily box scores, highlights and rosters for every professional minor league club, including the Nationals affiliates.

Minor League Ball with John Sickels
A Web site devoted to the minor leagues by one of the best minor league experts out there, John Sickels. Want to know who each teams' top 20 prospects are? Check out Minor League Ball. It is also a great place to meet and talk to other minor league baseball fans.

Nationals Official Site
Run by Major League Baseball, this site is a perfect place to go for the average fan.

The Washington Post and The Washington Times
Both newspapers provide online Nationals content, which can also be found in their print editions. The Post also provides a fair bit of extra content for Web subscribers. At this early point in the life of the Nationals, The Post provides baseball coverage leaps and bounds above that of the Times.

An early look at the minor leagues: Low-A ball


The Savannah Sand Gnats South Atlantic League (Low-A ball)Season starts: April 7 against the Columbus CatfishIn the list below, uppercased players appear to be the most likely to make the major leagues, although it is very early in their careers. Scouting reports (previously published on this site) have also been included for players on the Nationals’ top 15 pitchers and top 15 hitters lists. As always, more in depth statistics for all players can be found at The Baseball Cube.Pitchers’ stats include ERA, innings pitched, walks-strikeouts. Hitters’ stats include batting average, on-base average and slugging percentage.Field Staff: Randy Knorr, manager; Mark Grater, pitching coach; Joel Chimelis, coach.Starting RotationRHP CHRIS LUGO Experience: 1 seasonAge: 18Height/Weight: 6’1’’ 185 2004 Level and Stats: Rookie league, 1.67, 43, 12-34Lugo was a 28th round pick out of high school in 2004 but put up solid numbers (1.67 ERA) in his debut and was only 17-years-old. He also allowed only two home runs in 43 innings. His ultimate role is still up in the air but he is likely to see time in the low-A ball rotation.RHP COLLIN BALESTERExperience: 1Age: 19Height/Weight: 6’5’’ 1902004 Level and Stats: Rookie league, 2.19, 25, 5-21Balester is still far from making the majors but he has a great pitcher’s body (6’5’’ 190lbs) and had good numbers in 2004 for a 19-year-old, even if it was in short season ball. He especially has good control for his age, although his breaking ball and changeup need more work if he is going to realize his potential.LHP GABRIEL SOSAExperience: 2Age: 19Height/Weight: 5’9’’ 1702004 Level and Stats: Rookie league, 2.29, 51, 23-63Sosa is extremely small (5’9’’) for a pitcher but he is a cocky lefty who gets the most out of his ability. He has a good, live fastball and a solid breaking ball. He is extremely tough on left-handed batters and struck out 63 batters in 51 rookie ball innings. He could have a career as a lefty specialist in the Nationals’ bullpen.LHP Ricardo MoralesExperience: 4Age: 21Height/Weight: 6’1’’ 1702004 Level and Stats: Rookie league, 4.55, 57, 12-55LHP A.J. WIDEMANExperience: 2Age: 20Height/Weight: 5’11’’ 1902004 Level and Stats: Short season, 1.81, 45, 13-38It’s nice to see Ontario, Canada represented on the Nationals’ Top 15 pitcher’s list. Coming from Canada, Wideman does not have as much experience as a lot of pitchers from warmer regions, Even so, he knows how to pitch. His stuff is no better than average – 88-91 mph fastball with a good curveball – but he is still young, left-handed and gaining experience.BullpenRHP Greg BunnExperience: 1Age: 22Height/Weight: 6’1’’ 2102004 Level and Stats: Short season, 3.00, 24, 11-27LHP Wendell YostExperience: 1Age: 23Height/Weight: 6’3’’ 1852004 Level and Stats: Rookie league, 3.79, 36, 5-23RHP Jim HendersonExperience: 2Age: 22Height/Weight: 6’4’’ 1902004 Level and Stats: Short season, 2.59, 76, 27-39RHP David TrahanExperience: 1Age: 24Height/Weight: 6’3’’ 1852004 Level and Stats: Short season, 2.59, 49, 28-47RHP Curtis GoodmanExperience: 2Age: 23Height/Weight: 6’1’’ 1802004 Level and Stats: Short season, 5.14, 42, 13-27RHP Steven CookExperience: 1Age: 23Height/Weight: 6’4’’ 2052004 Level and Stats: Short season, 5.33, 54, 9-40 RHP BENJAMIN COXExperience: 1 Age: 23Height/Weight: 6’2’’ 2202004 Level and Stats: Short season, 2.97, 33, 20-38RHP Gus HlebovyExperience: 22Age: 2Height/Weight: 5’11’’ 1702004 Level and Stats: Short season, 4.13, 33, 18-48Starting LineupC ERIK SAN PEDROAge: 21Experience: 12004 Level an[...]

Why the Texas Rangers will not win in 2005


By K. Jeff Edwards
Nationals MLB columnist

They’re trying. Well, OK, at least they think they’re trying.

By signing starting pitcher Ryan Drese to a two-year $6 million contract, the Rangers are trying to build a pitching staff.

Unfortunately they picked a pretty poor pitcher to throw $6 million at. Drese won 14 games last season and pitched more than 200 innings for the first time in his career… Can you hear the "but" coming?

Drese was also 28 years old and in his first full season in the major leagues. Why was this his first full season. It was because in the previous two years he posted ERAs of 6.55 and 6.85. His 4.20 ERA in 2004 was absolutely sparkling in comparison.

The groundball pitcher also allowed 233 hits in 2004 and struck out only 98 batters and walked 58.

When are teams going to learn that the biggest contract albatrosses come when general managers reward players with extensions after only one great season?

As evident by the Drese signing, the Rangers biggest need in the off-season was pitching. Who did they add? Pedro Astacio, who had a nifty 10.38 ERA in five major league games last season.

But hey, they "beefed up" their offence by signed Richard Hidalgo and Sandy Alomar.

So the Rangers enter the season with a projected rotation of Kenny Rogers (moaning about his contract), Drese, youngster Ricardo Rodriguez (if healthy), Astacio (if healthy) and, perhaps, Chan Ho Park (if healthy).

Golly that’s a lot of "ifs."

Park has been an absolute nightmare, after signing as a free agent after the 2001 season. He hasn’t pitched more than 145 innings in his three seasons in Texas and his best ERA was 5.46 last year when he managed to get into only 16 games.

Did I mention that, in the past three seasons, he made $6.8million, $13 million and $14 million. And there is another hefty paycheck due this year.

Rogers is the ace of the Texas staff but he is 40 years old. He won 18 games last season but also posted a 4.76. Rogers also allegedly threatened earlier this year to boycott spring training if he did not receive a two year extension. He reported though, which I guess is a good thing for the Rangers.

Texas does have an OK bullpen, led by All Star Francisco Cordero, who saved 49 games last season. Also providing relief for a beleaguered starting rotation will be Frank Francisco (if his suspension is lifted for starting a brawl in the stands last season), Ron Mahay, Brian Shouse, Carlos Almanzar, Doug Brocail and R.A. Dickey.

But that, ladies and gentlemen, is it for pitching. There are no great pitching prospects who, in the near future, will save the Rangers from mediocrity.

Sure, they have some of the best young hitters in the game with Hank Blalock, Mark Teixeira, Alfonso Soriano and Kevin Mench, but as the old saying goes: Hitting wins games, but pitching wins championships.

K. Jeff Edward’s general MLB columns will appear weekly during the 2005 Major League Baseball regular season.

Previewing the National League Central


Here is a preview of the 2005 National League Central Division:St. Louis Cardinals2004 finish: 105-57 (first)Additions: Mark Mulder, Mike Myers, Bob File, Mark Grudzielanek, David Eckstein, Einar Diaz, Abe Nunez.Losses: Edgar Renteria, Woody Williams, Steve Kline, Mike Matheny, Tony Womack, Marlon Anderson, Kiko Calero, Dan Haren.Projected Rotation:LHP Mark MulderRHP Chris CarpenterRHP Matt MorrisRHP Jeff SuppanRHP Jason MarquisProjected Bullpen:RHP Jason IsringhausenRHP Julian TavarezRHP Cal EldredLHP Ray KingLHP Mike MyersRHP Al ReyesRHP Bob File (non-roster)Projected Lineup:C Yadier Molina1B Albert Pujols2B Mark Grudzielanek3B Scott RolenSS David EcksteinLF Reggie SandersCF Jim EdmondsRF Larry WalkerProjected Bench:C Einar DiazIF Abe Nunez (non-roster)IF John GallIF/OF John MabryOF Roger CedenoTop Prospects:1. Anthony Reyes, RHP2. Adam Wainwright, RHP3. Blake Hawksworth, RHP4. Chris Lambert, RHP5. Stuart Pomeranz, RHPTop Pitcher: Mark MulderThe Cardinals may not have a lot of household names on their starting staff but they have one of the best rotations in the National League, led by Mulder. He has always held a lot of potential and Mulder should continue this year to build on his reputation as one of the best left handed pitchers in the game, if he can remain healthy. Mulder is good for 200-plus innings and 15-20 wins.Top Hitter: Albert PujolsAt the age of 25, Pujols has four major league seasons behind him and is arguably one of the top five players in baseball. The only thing he doesn't do well is run. Pujols owns a career .333 average and hit more than 40 home runs each of the last two seasons. He has also driven in more than 120 runs in each of his four seasons and he walks more than he strikes out, which is extremely rare for a power hitter. Breakout Player: Jason MarquisMarquis finally lived up to the potential that has surrounded him since he was a No. 1 draft pick of the Atlanta Braves in the 1996 amateur draft out of high school. He won 15 games, posted a 3.71 ERA and pitched 200 innings for the first time in his career. The only real problem Marquis still has is that he walks too many batters.Houston Astros2004 finish: 92-70 (second)Additions: John FrancoLosses: Jeff Kent, Carlos Beltran, Darren Oliver, Dan Miceli.Projected Rotation:RHP Roy OswaltRHP Roger ClemensLHP Andy PettitteRHP Tim ReddingRHP Brandon BackeProjected Bullpen:RHP Brad LidgeRHP Chad QuallsRHP Chad HarvilleLHP Mike GalloLHP John FrancoRHP Brandon DuckworthRHP Pete MunroProjected Lineup:C Brad Ausmus1B Jeff Bagwell2B Chris Burke3B Morgan EnsbergSS Adam EverettLF Craig BiggioCF Jason LaneRF Lance Berkman (injured)Projected Bench:C Raul ChavezIF Mike LambIF Jose VizcainoIF Eric BruntlettOF Orlando PalmeiroTop Prospects:1. Chris Burke, 2B2. Ezequiel Astacio, RHP3. Willy Taveras, OF4. Mitch Einertson, OF5. Troy Patton, LHPTop Pitcher: Roger ClemensIt's hard to believe that a pitcher, who began his major league career back in 1984, can be considered a team's top pitcher. But it has nothing to do with a weak staff surrounding him because Roy Oswalt and Andy Pettitte are nothing to sneeze at. Clemens is simply the type of pitcher that comes around once every 15 or 20 years. At the age of 42 he was awarded his seventh Cy Young award after going 18-4 with a 2.98 ERA in more than 200 innings and striking out more than 200 batters.Top Hitter: Lance BerkmanBerkman will likely start the season on the disabled list with a knee injury, which he suffered in the off-season, but he is still easily the Astros' best offensive player. He can be counted on for 30-40 home ru[...]

Nationals win first ever game


The Washington Nationals defeated the New York Mets 5-3 in the first ever game in the history of the Nationals’ franchise. A sellout crowd of 7,558 was on hand to witness the historic occasion.
Promising, but oft-injured pitcher, Tony Armas started the game and went two no-hit innings.
Top prospect Mike Hinckley relieved Armas, but looked nervous in the national spotlight and gave up two runs on three hits and two walks in his two innings of work.
John Rauch gave up one unearned run but the rest of the bullpen - T.J. Tucker, Gary Majewski, Luis Ayala and Chad Cordero - shut the door. Cordero struck out the side to preserve the game and ring up his first save of spring training.
On the offensive side of things, catalyst Jose Guillen hit a two-run home run. Also adding hits were Cristian Guzman, Jose Vidro, Jamey Carroll, Terrmel Sledge, Jeffrey Hammonds, Vinny Castilla, Brendan Harris and Keith Osik.
Centerfielder Endy Chavez, fighting for a spot in the starting lineup, went 0 for 2 and made an error.

ESPN to broadcast first Nats game


ESPN will broadcast the first ever game in the history of the Washington Nationals franchise on Wednesday, March 2 at 1:05 p.m. The Nationals will be facing their National League East rivals the New York Mets.

ESPN kicks off their Spring Training coverage with tomorrow's historic contest from Space Coast Stadium in Viera, FL beginning at 1:00 p.m. Dan Shulman, Steve Phillips, Jeff Brantley and Sam Ryan will work the game for ESPN.


Previewing the National League East


Below is the first of six articles previewing the 30 major league teams and how they stack up for the 2005 season. The first article outlines the National League East division.Atlanta Braves 2004 finish: 96-66 (first)Additions: Tim Hudson, Dan Kolb, Gabe White, Jay Powell, Brian Jordan, Raul Mondesi.Losses: Charles Thomas, J.D. Drew, Antonio Alfonseca, Jaret Wright, Paul Byrd, Russ Ortiz, Mark DeRosa.Projected Rotation:RHP Tim HudsonRHP John SmoltzRHP John ThomsonLHP Mike HamptonLHP Horacio RamirezProjected Bullpen:RHP Dan KolbRHP Chris ReitsmaRHP Kevin GryboskiLHP Tom MartinLHP Gabe WhiteRHP Adam Bernero (non-roster)RHP Jay Powell (non-roster)Projected Lineup:C Johnny Estrada1B Adam LaRoche2B Marcus Giles3B Chipper JonesSS Rafael FurcalLF Brian JordanCF Andruw JonesRF Raul MondesiProjected Bench:C Eddie PerezIF Nick GreenIF Peter Orr1B Julio FrancoOF Ryan LangerhansTop Prospects:1. Jeff Francoeur, OF2. Andy Marte3. Brian McCann, C4. Kyle Davies, RHP5. Anthony Lerew, RHPTop Pitcher: Tim HudsonIt might be strange to list a pitcher who has never thrown a pitch for an organization as their top pitcher, but Hudson is an easy choice. In any given year Hudson can be counted on for 200 innings and 15-20 wins. He was injured in 2004 and missed seven starts, but he should be healed from the strained side muscle. Hudson just signed a new 4 year contract that should pay the Georgia native about $11 million a season.Top Hitter: Chipper Jones Jones may not be quite the feared hitter that he use to be, he is still capable of carrying the team on his back when he gets hot. Jones biggest problem in 2004 was staying healthy but the move back into the infield after a tumultuous time in the outfield really perked up his numbers and he seemed much happier. Despite only hitting .248 in 2004, mainly due to his injuries, Jones drove in 96 runs and slugged 30 home runs. Breakout Player: Marcus GilesLike his brother Brian, this diminutive sparkplug has shown that powerful offence can come from small packages. Giles looked like 2004 might be his breakout campaign after hitting 21 home runs and batting .316 in 2003 but he missed two months with a broken collarbone. He stands only 5’8’’ and was drafted in the 53rd round, but Giles possess the ability to hit 30 home runs and bat .300 all from the second base position. He could be an All Star fixture for years to come.Philadelphia Phillies2004 finish: 86-76 (second)Additions: Jon Lieber, Aaron Fultz, Kenny Lofton, Terry Adams.Losses: Kevin Millwood, Eric Milton, Doug Glanville, Roberto Hernandez, Todd Jones.Projected Rotation: LHP Randy WolfeRHP Jon LieberRHP Vincente PadillaRHP Cory LidleRHP Brett MyersProjected Bullpen:LHP Billy WagnerRHP Tim WorrellRHP Terry AdamsRHP Ryan MadsonLHP Rheal CormierLHP Aaron FultzRHP Amaury TelemacoProjected Lineup:C Mike Lieberthal1B Jim Thome2B Chase Utley3B David BellSS Jimmy RollinsLF Pat BurrellCF Kenny LoftonRF Bobby AbreauProjected Bench:C Todd PrattIF Tomas PerezIF Placido PolancoOF Jason MichaelsOF Marlon ByrdTop Prospects:1. Ryan Howard, 1B2. Gavin Floyd, RHP3. Cole Hamels, LHP4. Greg Golson, OF5. Michael Bourn, OFTop Pitcher: Billy Wagner Wagner is one of the best left handed closers to ever play the game when healthy. After an amazing 2003 season, where he saved 44 games and struck out 105 batters in only 86 innings, Wagner spent 2004 battling a variety of injuries. When healthy Wagner commands a blistering fastball and great command. At the age of 33, he should still have two or t[...]

Reader question: southpaws


Question from Scot Brown:

Maybe you could column a few words on why southpaws are so important to a team. I have some understanding here, but am not entirely knowledgeable.

Reply from Baseball Guru:

Another good question from Scot. The importance of left handed pitchers on a major league pitching staff is based on the need to throw a hitter’s timing off. If a batter sees pitch after pitch coming from the same arm slot and release point at bat after at bat, it becomes easier to pick up the ball, recognize the type of pitch and hit it. That is why pitchers like Orlando Hernandez use 15 different arm slots and why Chad Bradford has been so successful as a funky submarine pitcher. So, by using a left handed pitcher in a sea of right handers, it destroys the hitter’s comfort zone. Left handed batters see so many right handed pitchers that they can never truly get comfortable against them.

As well, left handed batters have an easier time hitting right handed pitchers, than right handed batters do because pitches tend to "break" into their hitting zone (rather than away from them). It is much easier to hit pitches sweeping in towards your bat. Also it is much harder for a right handed pitcher to pitch inside to a left handed batter. Sidearming left handed relievers can give left handed batters fits because the ball basically looks like it is coming from behind them and is going to nail the batter in the ribs, before it sweeps over the plate for a strike.

Top 15 position players (Part 3 of 3)


Here is the final installment of the Nationals’ Top 15 position players, which wraps up the look at the Nationals top minor league players. In March, Nationals MLB News will take a look at each of the team's four full-season minor league affiliates and project the rosters for each.

11. Josh Labandeira, SS, 26
2005 destination: triple-A

At 5’7’’ Labandeira will never be projected as a starting player, although he could have a Frank Menechino-type career. His feisty, sparkplug attitude makes him a favorite of not only managers, but fans as well. Labandeira has a strong arm and some pop in his bat, although he does not hit for a great average. He also has patience at the plate and knows what he is doing on the base paths. At worst, Lanbandeira figures to be a solid triple-A player and injury fill-in.

12. Ian Desmond, SS, 19
2005 destination: short season ball

Desmond is young and athletic but possesses very raw skills, which could result in him starting 2005 in short season ball so he can concentrate on fundamentals. He has flashed the potential to have all five tools, although he needs to concentrate on making solid contact at this point. His power is likely to be the last tool to develop. In the field, Desmond has an above-average arm that is inaccurate and he must learn to repeat his release point on throws across the diamond.

13. Marvin Lowrance, OF, 20
2005 destination: low-A ball

Lowrance possesses limited power at this point. Once he fills out a little more, though, he could hit with more authority. He also strikes out too much but will take a walk. Currently he projects as a fourth outfielder but he has lots of time to develop his game and fill out physically.

14. Luke Montz, C/1B, 21
2005 destination:

If Montz can become competent enough behind the plate to be a second or third string catcher he could greatly improve his chances of playing in the major leagues. He could be destined for a Matt LeCroy-type career. His best tool at this point is his bat and the power it generates. Montz has also shown that he could develop into a patient hitter who isn't afraid to take a walk.

15. Brandon Watson, OF, 23
2005 destination: triple-A

Watson was once considered a top prospect but his inability to get onbase to utilize his speed has hurt him. If he could become a more patient hitter, he could project to be a starting centerfielder. As is, however, Watson projects as a fourth or fifth outfielder with plus speed and Gold Glove defensive skills. He is also an accomplished bunter.

Nationals announce radio voices


The Washington Nationals named Charlie Slowes and David Shea as the radio voices of the Washington Nationals on Jan. 24. Shea and Slowes will broadcast all 162 games, plus nine weekend Spring Training contests, of the Nationals' inaugural season on WFED-AM 1050 and Z104-FM (a total of 122 games will be broadcast on Z104, all being late afternoon and night games, with the exception of three holiday games and the season finale).

Slowes joins the Nationals after spending the previous seven season as a play-by-play voice of Tampa Bay on the Devil Rays Radio Network. Slowes, who joined the Devil Rays for their inaugural season in 1998, returns to the Washington, DC market, where he served as the play-by-play voice of the Washington Bullets from 1986-97. During his tenure with the Bullets, Slowes did two seasons of television simulcasts and enjoyed serving the Bullets in a variety of community-relations functions. Slowes also worked in St. Louis for three years (1984-86), where he was exposed to broadcasting greats Bob Costas and Jack Buck while working in a variety of on-air functions for, among others, St. Louis University, the St. Louis Blues, the St. Louis baseball Cardinals and the St. Louis football Cardinals.

Shea spent four seasons as the New England Sports Network's play-by-play voice of the Boston Bruins before joining the Nationals. Like his new partner, Shea also brings inaugural season experience, as he served as the radio voice of the Minnesota Timberwolves for their first NBA season in 1989. During a two-plus decade broadcasting career, Shea has served in a variety of radio and television broadcasting posts with the Boston Red Sox, the Triple-A Pawtucket Red Sox, Big East basketball, ESPN/ESPN2's NCAA Frozen Four hockey, Harvard and Boston College hockey, Harvard football, Yankee Conference football, Georgia Tech basketball, NASL soccer (Atlanta Chiefs) and Boston Breakers USFL football. While working Bruins' games in 1995, Shea won a New England Emmy Award for best play-by-play coverage.