Friday, February 02, 2007
The success of the 2005 Inaugural Washington Nationals, had a lot to do with Luis Ayala. The now 29 year old was a workhouse, appearing in 68 games, 214 over a three year period with the franchise. A superior Set Up Man for Chad Cordero in the 8th Inning. In 2005, Hector Carrasco to Gary Majewski to Ayala to "The Chief" was a GODSEND for Washington. But, Manager Frank Robinson used Number 56, what seemed like, every single game--until his elbow gave way in late August, 2005. Luis would have elbow surgery to repair a torn ligament, missing the remainder of the season.
Still, The Nationals, so enamored with his "Rubber Arm", decided to give Ayala a two year guaranteed contract, through the 2007 season. Then, to show his "Thanks", Luis agreed to play for his native Mexico in the first World Baseball Classic in March, 2007, under pressure from former teammates, Esteban Loiaza and Vinny Castilla. Ayala's decision, after not throwing for more than one week in Spring Training for Our Washington Nationals, returning from surgery, was vehemently opposed by Nationals Management.
He went anyway, played, and, BLEW OUT HIS ELBOW. Missed the entire 2006 season, and fellow teammates were pissed!! It took Washington three months last year, to figure out who would be the set up man for "The Chief". Majewski (also a WBC player that performed poorly) failed, and was shipped to Cincinnati in the Austin Kearns, Felipe Lopez & Ryan Wagner deal. Jon Rauch, then stepped up. And, except for his propensity to give up the Home Run Ball, was quite effective, by the end of the season.
Now Ayala's back. But, is he ready? Our Washington Nationals say they will bring him along slowly during Spring Training. There is no doubt though, we can use this man, if he's fully recovered. Luis has a fabulous sinker, and, as he proved in 2005, was terrific in the 8th inning. Pitching Coach, Randy St. Claire, has worked miracles with struggling talent, over the past few seasons--especially those in need of a confidence lift.
To me, Luis Ayala is one of the most interesting players to watch this spring. His recovery is important to the long term success of Our Washington Nationals. Besides, he owes, not only the Washington Nationals Organization, his teammates, but also the fans of Washington--for his unintelligent decision last March.