Thursday, December 30, 2010

Out With The Old & In With The New For 2010/2011

Over the past five years, Nats320 has always concluded the calendar year with our annual Out With The Old & In With The New list.  So what better way to finish off 2010 and usher in 2011 than with our latest rendition, the 1854th post in Nats320's history.  

With that, here we go.  And in no particular order:

Out: The Plan  
In: Phase Two.
Out: Stan Kasten  
In: Mike Rizzo with total control of Baseball Operations. In fact, “Rizz” is putting his stamp on the franchise--no one else
Out: Adam Dunn slugging away at 1st Base  
In: At this time--no one (Not good)
Out: Wil Nieves  
Back In: Jesus Flores
Out: No real depth at catcher.  
In: Strong behind the plate with Pudge Rodriguez, Wilson Ramos and Jesus Flores.  They can all hit too. 
Out: Stephen Strasburg due to injury  
In: Hopefully fully recovered by 2012
Out: A true Number One Starter  
In: Maybe Jordan Zimmermann, but no one else stands out right now.
Out: A 2010 Starting Rotation of Strasburg, John Lannan, Livan Hernandez, Jason Marquis, Craig Stammen, Scott Olsen & Luis Atilano.  
In: 2011 Rotation of Jordan Zimmermann, Livo, Lannan, Marquis, Ross Detwiler, Yunesky Maya and whoever else toes the rubber and succeeds (Doesn’t appear too daunting of a rotation right now--sadly).
Out: The roughed up and not ready for Prime Time 2010 August Call Up--Yunesky Maya
In: The 2010 Dominican Winter League Most Outstanding Pitcher. He was good.
Out: 2009’s awful bullpen 
In: Relief corps again a centerpiece of the squad
Out: Clipp & Save  
In: Clipp & Store  (Might become Clipp & Burn if Henry Rodriguez’s newly traded for smoke lights up Natstown’s pitching mound)
With Strasburg Out.  
Bringing Bryce Harper In is as important as ever.
Out: Anyone else as Face Of The Franchise 
In: Ryan Zimmerman has the moniker locked down for at least three more seasons--no question about it.
Out: Block Lettering and the “DC” Logo  
In: Curly “W” all the way
Out: Hammer & Donkey and handshakes after home runs
In: Jayson Werth and probably forearm smashes instead
Out: Fielders with no range up the middle. 
In: Ian Desmond & Danny Espinosa
Out: He may not have been granted a 2nd Gold Glove in 2010  
In: But Ryan Zimmerman remains the best all around 3rd Baseman in the game. No question about it.
Out: Slow and below average fielders.  
In: Speed and defense.
Out: Baseball America’s 2009 Nationals Top Prospects:

1.Stephen Strasburg, rhp
2.Derek Norris, c
3.Drew Storen, rhp
4.Ian Desmond, ss
5.Danny Espinosa, ss
6.Chris Marrero, 1b
7.Jeff Kobernus, 2b
8.Justin Maxwell, of
9.Michael Burgess, of
10.Destin Hood, of

In: Baseball America’s 2010 Nationals Top Prospects: 
Bryce Harper, of
Derek Norris, c
Danny Espinosa, ss/2b
A.J. Cole, rhp
Wilson Ramos, c
Sammy Solis, lhp
Cole Kimball, rhp
Eury Perez, of
Chris Marrero, 1b
Brad Peacock, rhp
Considering five of the 10 in 2009 made the Major Leagues last season, it’s encouraging that only 1 in the 2010 list (Espinosa) has made the Big Leagues. The pipeline is getting better each year.
He may not be out just yet.  
But Chris Marrero might have to prove he belongs in the Big Leagues this season to be finally Included.  Times running out for him.
Out: Pat Listach as 3rd Base Coach.  
In: Bo Porter--every other coaching position remains the same.
Out: All those double switches. 
In: Trust the players you put out there on the field.
Out: AM Radio still a possibility in 2011.  
In: But at least Charlie Slowes & Dave Jageler are back for at least another three years of broadcasting games.
Out: Rob Dibble on MASN  
In: Maybe Ray Knight, maybe someone else doing color commentary.
Out: Teddy Never Wins  
In: Time For Some New Shtick.
Out: Even though Our Washington Nationals still have a ways to go.  
In: At least there is some stability throughout the entire organization for the very first time.
Out: Hopefully, Nyjer Morgan’s inconsistent and sometimes bizarre play 
In: Hopefully, Tony Plush can return to the exciting, crowd pleasing player he was during the final few months of 2009 after coming over from Pittsburgh.
Out: Not getting the Number One Overall Pick in the June Draft for the first time in three years  
In:  Washington picking Number 6 overall in 2011.
Out: Bar & Wine tabs in Diamond Club & Presidents Club  
In: Free Beer & Wine (from a select menu) in Diamond Club & Presidents Club for tickets holders.
Out: No Philadelphia Phillies for Opening Day at Nationals Park.  
In: Hopefully, never again.

Out: Don't want to hear the owners are cheap anymore.
In: $127 Million to Jayson Werth, $45 Million to Zimmerman, $15 Million to Strasburg & $10 Million to Bryce Harper says a lot.
Players on the outs: Willie Harris, Kevin Mench, Wil Nieves (signed with Milwaukee), Jason Bergmann (signed with Boston), Adam Kennedy, Cristian Guzman (traded to Texas--now a Free Agent), Carlos Maldonado, Jamie Burke, Scott Olsen (signed with Pittsburgh), Joel Peralta (signed with Tampa), Tyler Walker, Miguel Batista, Jesse English, Aaron Thompson (on waivers to Pittsburgh) and Matt Capps (traded to Minnesota)
Players Way Out: Wily Taveras, Elijah Dukes &  Brian Bruney

Players on the ins: Matt Stairs, Rick Ankiel, Corey Brown, Henry Rodriguez, Chad Gaudin, Chien-Ming Wang, Brian Broderick & Elvin Ramirez
Not really an out or an in--but in 2010, Our Washington Nationals suited up 46 different players over the course of the season to play in their 162 games--the smallest number since baseball returned to D.C. in 2005.

And finally: Out of his very own body--a kidney from Rick Eckstein
Into the body of his brother--Ken--to save his life.  As classy and loving as it comes today.

If you have any Outs & Ins to add, please do so in the comment area.  And for everyone out there, Happy New Year from Nats320!!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas From Nats320

Sohna and I just wanted to wish every fan of Natstown a very Merry Christmas.  Thanks so very much for continuing to read Nats320 these past six years. And we look forward to seeing everyone again this coming baseball season while enjoying Our Washington Nationals.

Be safe out there and have a Happy New Year!!

Photo Copyrighted--Nats320--All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Baseball Artwork Installed On Nationals Park's Garages

Returning from business near Nationals Park this afternoon, The African Queen and I noticed the new Baseball Artwork on Garages A and B has been installed at the South Capitol Street Ballpark.  Sohna was wondering if the silver baseballs illuminate at night? They appear to be hollow with openings surrounding what would be the baseball's seams.

That might look pretty cool, but we really couldn't tell for sure.

All Photos Copyrighted--Nats320--All Rights Reserved

Mark Lerner On The Fan Experience & Team Direction

Recently, Nats320 asked Principal Owner Mark Lerner about the fan experience at Nationals Park and the direction of Our Washington Nationals. Here are those questions and answers:

1. For five years, Stan Kasten was the face of the Washington Nationals franchise, involved in most every aspect of the team’s development. Do you feel his dedication is replaceable? And will the Nationals have a team president in the near future?

Mark Lerner: We were very fortunate Stan agreed to dedicate the last five years to helping us set a long-term course, on and off the field, for the brand new Washington Nationals franchise. His contributions were immeasurable. In addition to the philosophy he and ownership adopted to build the Nationals into a contender, Stan helped us put into place a management team that would continue to drive that philosophy after he left. One of our first hires was Mike Rizzo. Mike put his third generation experience as a baseball scout and administrator to work immediately, developing a completely depleted minor league system into one of the best in baseball, rebuilding our development program in the Dominican Republic and leading our efforts to draft or sign some of the best young talent in the game. While Stan was still serving as president we also hired Andrew Feffer to oversee the business side of the Nationals, directing our marketing, in-game experience, community planning and every non-baseball related aspect of the franchise. Mike and Andy had the benefit of learning and operating under Stan’s philosophy and they have both proven to equal his enthusiasm for our tasks ahead. We realize that Stan Kasten is irreplaceable, but we certainly have a team in place that can more than effectively lead us toward the goals he helped us establish and set in motion five years ago.

2. Following up on that, Mr. Kasten was consistently seen walking around Nationals Park talking with fans and was known for replying directly to their emails. Will someone inside the team continue that one-on-one relationship with fans?

Mark Lerner: Both Stan and I spent much of every game wandering around Nationals Park visiting with fans and getting their feedback on the game experience and what they think we can do better. That is invaluable to the Nationals and to the two of us. I certainly intend to continue that practice and Andy will likely be doing more of that too.

3. Stan Kasten has also been the buffer between Baseball Management and Ownership. Will Mike Rizzo report directly to you? How will those baseball business/personnel decisions be made? Has Mike been well groomed for the job?

Mark Lerner: With three generations of baseball lineage and over thirty years of personal experience, I can think of no general manager that came to the job better equipped to make the kinds of major league decisions that are required of franchises these days than Mike Rizzo. For the last couple of years, Mike has been driving the Nationals baseball philosophy and making most of the baseball-related decisions. He reports directly to the ownership group for final sign-off. I think both he and ownership would agree this has worked very well.

4. Is it time to spend money on the free agent market for players? Do you feel the team is closer to competing?

Mark Lerner: Our philosophy on free agents has remained the same. We need to spend on our long-term needs, not just our short-term wants. Nobody’s more impatient to win than me, but we are close to building in a way that can make us a contender without wasting the talent we have. The question was not whether we would spend for free agents, but rather when and for whom. Our recent signing of All-Star rightfielder Jayson Werth signals a beginning of what could be called phase two of the Nationals’ process. Phase one was a focus on scouting and player development and rebuilding the farm system, and now we’re ready for the key pieces that will help us compete for division titles and championships. We expect Werth will be a centerpiece of our ballclub on the field and in the clubhouse.

5. For the second year in a row, the Nationals have lowered some ticket prices and offered more incentives to get season ticket holders to renew and to get more fans into the ballpark on game days. Is the team doing enough to re-energize baseball in D.C. in the wake of four consecutive losing seasons and the unfortunate loss of Stephen Strasburg for 12 to 18 months?

Mark Lerner: We have three main commitments to our fans: put a quality team on the field, create the number one fan experience in sports and serve our community. We are proud of the fact that we’re making strides in all three of these areas and are thrilled that we are able to once again offer quality, affordable entertainment for our fans to enjoy in the 2011 season.

Many fans got to experience the long-anticipated debut of Stephen Strasburg, which was one of the most exciting nights in baseball history, then the signing of Bryce Harper, and most recently the signing of Jayson Werth, all which have packed an exciting punch to the Washington baseball scene. Our fans are telling us they're excited about the team we’ll be fielding on Opening Day and they expect the buzz to continue to grow all season long. I believe, and I think our fans do too, that we are truly on the brink of something special and that the team’s plan for long-term success is beginning to show dividends. With those three priorities firmly in place, you can feel the heartbeat of baseball beating in the nation’s capitol.

6. Following up on that, could the team do more for their fans—as far as appreciating their support?

Mark Lerner: There is no question that the fan experience here at Nationals Park is very important to us. We strongly believe in the importance of listening to our fans and embracing their suggestions for the good of the club. That is why we’ve conducted numerous fan focus groups this off season and will continue to do so moving forward. With the help of this research, we were pleased to discover that we are not far off from providing our fans the kind of experience they expect and deserve, but we believe that there is always room for improvement and willingly accept those challenges.

As you’ll see by some of the changes taking place this off-season and our new ticket options, we have responded to our fans and continue to find ways to ensure that all our fans get a chance to enjoy games at Nationals Park all season long. In addition to lowering or maintaining the same price structure from 2010 for all tickets, we have also added considerable value to the Home Plate Box section, the PNC Diamond Club and the Lexus Presidents Club by making those three areas all-inclusive with complimentary food, beer, wine and soda, complimentary parking and increased team store discounts. We’ve also introduced the “Buy 2, Get 2” promotion, by which fans who purchase two season tickets in select areas receive an additional two season tickets for free, and the Holiday Three Pack promotion, which only costs $30 for three games (Opening Day, a Battle of the Beltways game and the Fourth of July) and includes an exclusive Nationals collectable ornament. In addition to these new promotions we will continue to offer 400 $5 tickets when gates open for each game and family fun packs that allow the most discerning consumers an opportunity to take in a game at Nationals Park and enjoy a day with their families.

7. And finally, we know you are always hopeful. Do you honestly feel the Nationals are close to turning the corner and becoming not just a winner, but also a consistent one—year after year? If so, why?

Mark Lerner: I couldn’t be more excited about the Nationals prospects. Mike believes we’ll see break-out seasons from two or three of our current roster players, that we will pick up a couple of free agents in the off-season that will help us immediately and that 2011 may represent the most exciting and meaningful season in our young history. We believe this season will be the one that all our fans will remember as the one where the spark began; the one where all the pieces started falling into place. I’m enjoying Ryan Zimmerman’s continued development as an MLB superstar, and fully expect big seasons from Ian Desmond, Wilson Ramos, Drew Storen and others. Headline grabbing signings of Number One draft picks Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper mean that we’ve got two of the best emerging arms in the sport, coupled with the exciting signing of Jayson Werth at the Winter Meetings last week means that we’ll be competing at a higher level than ever before.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Today Is Not The Right Time

Reading up on the potential trade and player veto that reportedly went down between Our Washington Nationals and The Kansas City Royals for Zack Greinke the past six weeks, we are not disappointed the swap didn't go down.  Washington's farm system isn't developed enough yet to dump four prospects for a veteran, former Cy Young Award Winner, still in his late 20's. Maybe one to two years from now, but not as 2010 is about to change over to 2011.

D.C.'s Team is still attempting to get over the .500 mark for first time since baseball returned to the Nation's Capital.  Zack Greinke wouldn't drastically change things overnight. Mike Rizzo has a lot more work to accomplish for that to happen. Greinke is a very good pitcher and his talent would certainly make Washington's starting rotation better over the next two guaranteed years of his contract, but at what cost?

According to Sports Illustrated, Drew Storen and Danny Espinosa were two of the four Nats offered to Kansas City. The Royals wanted Jordan Zimmermann too. Our GM Mike Rizzo rightfully said no. Making two holes in your lineup just to fill one is not the way to build any team.  The Milwaukee Brewers are advanced enough to make such a trade, and they did, because The Brew Crew feels they are close to contending and have dispensable talent necessary to let go for a title run.

Washington is simply not there yet, not even close.

Storen, Espinosa, Zimmermann, Wilson Ramos, Ian Desmond are making strides. Jesus Flores is finally making progress after two years of injury. Byrce Harper is getting people excited about his 18-year old powerful bat and Stephen Strasburg is rehabbing back to health. For the first time since The Montreal Expos transferred here, a core group of true home grown products are rising to the Big League roster simultaneously.

It's time to see what they can do.

If Our Washington Nationals were close to contending and Zack Greinke would put Mike Rizzo's team ever so closer to reaching that goal--then make that deal--like The Brewers did this weekend. But today was not the right time to make such a swap.  Washington must get better overall, first, to make such a trade worthwhile.

Besides, Greinke vetoed a trade to D.C. anyway. He didn't want to play here. So there is really no loss.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Mike Rizzo On Roster Reconstruction

The trade of Josh Willingham to The Oakland Athletics for fireballer Henry Rodriguez and lefty swinging Corey Brown perfectly summed up a conversation Nats320 had with Our General Manager Mike Rizzo two days ago about Roster Reconstruction. Rizzo is rebuilding Our Washington Nationals in his own image of what a winner should be and he doesn't back down from those beliefs.

Here is that conversation:

Rizzo: It has been no secret that pitching, defense, speed and athleticism is what we preach here. I think run production and run prevention are same means to the end. We think that speed is important. The old adage is “speed has no slump.” And that is something I believe in and Jim Riggleman believes in. And offensively, defensively, on the basepaths, it’s always good to be athletic and fast. We’ve kind of constructed our roster in that mindset. 
Nats320: Pitching and defense win championships, that was proven again this past season with The San Francisco Giants. Defense up the middle is a key part of that: How do you feel you are doing in that respect of roster reconstruction?
Rizzo: We are very athletic. We are rangy, but we are very inexperienced. Like I said last year, the best thing about a rookie is he becomes a second year player. We are over that hump with Ian (Desmond). And we are entering that hump with Espi (Danny Espinosa). But these are two big-league players and both of these guys have make-up off the charts. And if anybody can pull it off, these two guys can. We are going to get to as many, if not more, balls hit than anybody in baseball up the middle in the infield and in the outfield. And we feel good about that. 
We have to rely on those young players to mature quickly and become good Major League players. I am excited about watching it. For the first time we go into spring training knowing who are middle infielders are. They have played together for at least about 25 games. And they are both fast, athletic, with youthful exuberance. Whatever they’ve got, they are going to leave on the field. And that’s all I can really ask of them.
Nats320: Speaking of Desmond, and I heard this from others as well. He comes across to me as being a player that can become a leader on the team. Maybe the vocal guy, that Ryan Zimmerman doesn’t publicly show.
Rizzo: Well Zim leads in his own way. He leads by example. His work effort is incredible.  I think we are blessed that our best player is our hardest worker in Zimmerman. So if the other players are not watching him work and have to rely on him to be a cheerleader, then they don’t get it. This guy (Ryan) leads by example and does it the right way. But I do think Desmond is going to be a vocal leader in his own right. He has already shown flashes, even as a rookie, of taking control. 
To also be a good leader, you have to be a good player and you have to play every day. I think he is well on his way to doing both. 
Nats320: If Stephen Strasburg didn’t come down with his injury, subsequent surgery and rehab, would you still be looking for another top of the rotation starter?
Rizzo: I would say the Strasburg injury has no correlation between how we are going to construct our roster. I am going to look at him as being our free agent acquisition in 2012 (chuckling) and hopefully we can be in a position where he becomes a final piece for us in 2012.
Nats320: How about Jesus Flores? Are you finally encouraged that he’s turned the corner and can, once again, become the promising young player many saw a few years back?
Rizzo: He is playing great. He's playing great down there (in Venezuelan Winter Ball). He’s healthy. He’s happy. He’s playing both offense and defense. And I think he is relieved for the first time in a couple of years. We now go into spring training with a little bit of luxury with depth at premium positions--catcher and middle infield. And we will go there with speed, athleticism and youth. This will be the first spring training I have been around (in Washington) where we can say that. 
Nats320: Does that also mean more teams are calling you to inquire about players?
Rizzo: Our players are heavily sought after. There is no question about it. Everyone loves young, talented players that are cheap and have no service time. We’ve got plenty of them and we are going to keep them--unless we get bowled over with an offer we can’t resist and if it helps impact us in ’11 and beyond. But suffice it to say we’ve got a lot of interest from a lot of players. It’s not two or three, it’s six or eight and more.”

Photo Copyright--Nats320--All Rights Reserved

Mark Lerner On Commitment

The word commitment was thrown out by Mark Lerner, Mike Rizzo, Jayson Werth and even agent Scott Boras over the past few days surrounding the efforts by Our Washington Nationals to improve the baseball product on the field of play in D.C. After the Jayson Werth Introductory Press Conference, Nats320 asked Principal Owner Mark Lerner about that commitment.
Nats320: Everyone is talking commitment when it comes to building this franchise into a winner.  Your thoughts on that?
Mark Lerner: I think this (signing of Jayson Werth) makes a statement. At the end of the day it’s Jayson’s decision to make. And it’s not just a money issue for a player of his quality. Everybody knows what his stats are, everybody knows he is a winner, but I think that the fact that he did choose to come with us says that he believes that we are heading in the right direction. We know we are heading in the right direction. We know in our hearts we are going to be a winner. I think this (signing) puts another exclamation point mark next to that.
Nats320: Has it been hard to convince players to come here in the past?
Mark Lerner: I wouldn’t say it is hard. Anytime you’ve won 59 games one year and 69 the next it’s never going to be easy.  But the fact that he made this decision after we are coming off a 69 win season says a lot. He’s a smart guy. He not only knows what’s on our Major League roster, he’s analyzed the Minor League roster. We went thoroughly through it when we met him. He asked incredible questions. We had a great discussion. I think that says a lot about how he can see it coming. And he wants to be there from the beginning. 
Nats320: How important was it for you and your father to go out to California and meet with Jayson, basically, face to face?
Mark Lerner: I think it was critical. Just like what we did with Stephen (Strasburg) and Bryce (Harper). You have to meet these people one-on-one. They get to know us. We get to know them. He (Werth) blew us away in the conversation. Hopefully, we did our homework and they did the same and this will be a great partnership for a long time to come. 
Nats320: This is the 5th year of your ownership. Are you frustrated at all that it has taken more time to put a winning team on the field?
Mark Lerner: No. This is baseball. It’s a slow process. I wish it was like the NFL where you draft them and two weeks later they are in mini-camp. It doesn’t work that way in baseball--as you well know. This is a sport where you need incredible patience and stay with your game plan because if you start bouncing all over the place it’s a disaster. We’ve stayed the course even though we want to win as badly as anyone--trust me. So for us to stay on course, I think it says a lot. We are moving. It’s coming fast. 
Nats320: You’ve said a statement has been made with the signing of Jayson Werth. How does that play out across the rest of baseball as they look back at you?
Mark Lerner: I can’t really worry about what the rest of baseball thinks. I think people in the know and the people who walked up to me and Mike (Rizzo) while we were in Florida (for the Winter Meetings) know it’s a great move for our franchise. A lot of them are saying: ‘you are doing it the right way, you are doing it for the long term.’ We don’t want to be one-year wonders. And it’s very encouraging over the past few years when people have said ‘forget the W’s’, keep building it this way, you’ve got the talent coming,’ and that’s what we are planning to do.  This (signing of Werth) is an incredible day for this franchise. A player of this magnitude says ‘I want to be here’. I think that says a lot about how far we’ve come.”

Photo Copyright--Nats320--All Rights Reserved

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Henry Rodriguez Throws 100MPH Smoke Consistently

Updated with the official release from the team on the trade.

Henry Rodriguez acquired today by Our Washington Nationals along with power hitting left-hander Corey Brown from The Oakland Athletics for Josh Willingham throws nothing but smoke.  Remember last season when MLB Network did a complete story on how Rodriguez threw nine straight 100MPH tosses to record his first Major League save against The Cleveland Indians? That's pretty incredible.

Check out the video here

And here is video of Corey Brown hitting in the 2009 Arizona Fall League.

Corey Brown - Arizona Fall League - 2009 from David Pratt on Vimeo.

Rodriguez is more polished than Brown and further along in his development, but this trade shows the continuing revamping of Washington's lineup to Our General Manager Mike Rizzo's style--power pitching, defense and athleticism.  Sohna and I really liked Josh Willingham, a really decent person, both on and off the field. But we understand this trade which continues to give D.C.'s Team depth to make even more moves.

You can bet Rodriguez gets a good shot at becoming Washington's closer in 2011 while Brown will be given every opportunity to become at least a fourth outfielder in the big leagues.

At first glance this looks like a good, solid baseball trade--skills, value and youth obtained for a solid, dependable Major Leaguer.  Rodriguez is 23 years old, Brown 25. Willingham is 32 years old.

The official press release from the team:


          The Washington Nationals today acquired right-handed pitcher Henry Rodriguez and outfielder Corey Brown from the Oakland Athletics in exchange for left fielder Josh Willingham. Nationals Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations and General Manager Mike Rizzo made the announcement.

          Rodriguez went 1-0 with a 4.55 ERA in 29 appearances last season with Oakland in just his second season as a full-time reliever. He posted 10.7 strikeouts per 9.0 innings (33 K/27.2 IP) and a .240 batting average against, including a stingy .207 mark against right-handed batters. Rodriguez recorded 11 saves and a 1.69 ERA in 20 appearances with Sacramento of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League in 2010, posting 13.1 strikeouts per 9.0 innings (31 K/21.1 IP) and a 3.44 strikeout-to-walk ratio (31 K/9 BB) with the River Cats.

          The hard-throwing right-hander ranked fourth in the big leagues last season with an average fastball velocity of 98.45 miles per hour, after his 98.96 mph average in 2009 trailed only Detroit’s Joel Zumaya (99.19 mph). Rodriguez touched 103.2 mph on the gun in 2010, a high that was topped only by Cincinnati’s Aroldis Chapman (105.1 mph) and Texas’ Neftali Feliz (103.4 mph).    

          Rodriguez, 23, is 1-0 with a 4.26 ERA in 32 career relief appearances in the major leagues. A member of the World Team in the 2008 All-Star Futures Game at Yankee Stadium, he is currently pitching for Leones in the Venezuelan Winter League, where he has five saves and a 1.77 ERA (27 K/20.1 IP) in 17 appearances.

          Brown batted .283 with 18 doubles, 11 triples, 15 home runs, 69 RBI and 22 stolen bases in 131 games last season with Midland of the Double-A Texas League and Sacramento. He earned citations as a Texas League All-Star and Topps Double-A All-Star for his 90 games with Midland. Brown batted .320 with 14 doubles, eight triples, 10 homers, 49 RBI, 19 stolen bases and a .415 on-base percentage with the RockHounds, ranking among Double-A leaders for on-base percentage (third), batting average (fifth) and triples (tied for eighth).

          Brown dominated the prospect-laden Arizona Fall League in 2009, hitting .333 and finishing among AFL leaders with 28 RBI (first), six home runs (tied for second), 65 total bases (second), 15 extra-base hits (tied for third) and 35 hits (fourth).

          Selected by Oakland in the compensation round (59th overall) of the 2007 First-Year Player Draft, the 25-year-old has batted .272 with 83 doubles, 21 triples, 65 home runs, 243 RBI and 48 stolen bases in 390 games over four minor-league seasons.  

          Willingham, 31, batted .268 with 16 home runs and 56 RBI in 114 games last season with the Nationals.

How Do You Know--Washington D.C. Premiere

Last night, Sohna and I attended the Washington Premiere of the movie "How Do You Know" at the Landmark E Street Cinema in NW Washington.  Held to benefit The Washington Nationals Dream Foundation, the James L. Brooks comedy/love story features actor Owen Wilson playing a relief pitcher for Our Washington Nationals and includes a few segments filmed at Nationals Park during the summer of 2009.

The special red carpet event benefitted Washington's Baseball Team's charitable arm. The Washington Nationals contributed 10% of any new 2011 Season Ticket purchased or 5% for any renewed Season Ticket last night toward The Dream Foundation. Cocktails and Hors D'Ouerves were served between 6:30PM & 7:30PM in the Cinema lobby as a few hundred guests mingled and chatted.

Marla Lerner Tanenbaum, Chair of The Washington Nationals Dream Foundation, and Andrew Feffer, COO of Our Washington Nationals spoke to the audience before the premiere began.  We had a good time attending, but the movie itself wasn't the best. Sohna and I are not movie critics, but the script just didn't flow well.  And most of the Nationals Park scenes were either edited down or eliminated entirely from the movie.

You might recall, a few hundred Washington Season Ticket Holders and Fans were selected as extras in the film. Scenes were shot at the South Capitol Street Ballpark using the left-field bullpen, the clubhouse training room and for a walking scene across the field.  Unfortunately, just a very small portion of the actual film shot at Nationals Park made the final cut.  A very long scene in the bullpen was drastically reduced--including a sidebar love story between a Japanese Pitcher and a fan in the stands.  The walking shot wasn't used at all and Principal Owner Mark Lerner told Sohna and I after the premiere that a scene he participated in inside the clubhouse training room, unfortunately, was edited with his cameo out as well.

We really wanted to see more baseball in the flick, but that turned out to not be the case. In fact, the entire baseball scene in How Do You Know can be watched in one of the movie trailers.  It's a scene where Owen Wilson is daydreaming in the bullpen and he wakes up as Washington's leftfielder leaps up onto the wall to snare a drive going over the fence.  If you freeze frame that scene, you might recognize some regular fans of Nationals Park jumping up and cheering.

Also, co-star Reese Witherspoon is seen in the movie, at times, wearing pink Curly "W" matching hoodies and sweatpants. A gift from Owen Wilson who stocks all the ladies sizes of these garments in his bachelor pad-- said in the film to be located at the corner of 15th & I Streets, NW.  Although much of the film was actually shot in Philadelphia.

The How Do You Know Premiere was for a good cause and you can still support The Washington Nationals Dream Foundation by donating today. Just go to

Photo courtesy of The Washington Nationals.

More From Riggleman On Jayson Werth & His Projected Lineup

After yesterday's introductory Press Conference with Jayson Werth, Nats320 followed up with Our Manager Jim Riggleman on his earlier comments that he could see Werth was an up and coming player in 2004. At that time, Riggleman was coaching for The Los Angeles Dodgers and The Toronto Blue Jays had just traded Jayson to L.A.

Here are those comments and few others from Jim about his projected lineup for 2011:

Riggleman: At the time I was with The Dodgers, we saw a very special athlete, thin, wiry, strong, could run, throw and do it all. When he came over (to L.A.), we got him from Toronto, and I remember Shawn Green was then on the team (The Dodgers).  Green was very good friends with Carlos Delgado. Carlos got ahold of Green and told him: ‘Hey, this guy you are going to get should be an All-Star. This guy really has a chance to be good.’ Werth’s playing time hadn’t manifested itself then to everyday. And when he got to The Dodgers there was a setback here and there. But you could see what Delgado was talking about. You saw his athleticism and speed on the field. And you saw the ball jump off his bat. Thankfully, he kept persevering and he became an All-Star.
Nats320: He also comes across as being a very intense player.
Riggleman: Yeah, I think so. He certainly always showed that against us. But it a good way, not unprofessional or antagonistic toward anyone or anything. He just plays hard every single time he is out on the field. He grinds out at-bats. He battles pitchers and opponents. He comes to play. So to do what he’s accomplished you have to be intense. However you display it, you have to be intense on the field. 
Nats320: Considering who you have right now on the roster, understanding additional changes may be coming, where do you see him batting in your lineup?
Riggleman: 3rd or 4th. Again, those things can change. But if we had a game tomorrow, he and Ryan (Zimmerman) would be three and four, in no particular order.
Nats320: With Adam Dunn now departed, do you feel you need a power hitting left handed batter in your lineup?
Riggleman: No. I think that would be welcomed. But you just need guys that can hit right handed pitching. So if our right-handed  hitters can hit right handed pitching then it doesn’t have to be a left-handed hitter.  Generally, there is some left-handed balance in the lineup, but I can name a few teams that are almost exclusively right-handed that went to the post-season and did some great things. You have to look at the numbers. You see what guys have done against left-handers and what guys have done against right-handers. Quite often, the right-handers fair pretty well against right-handed pitching. 
Nats320: So, if Nyjer Morgan is penciled in in center, Werth is in right, is Josh Willingham your left-fielder right now?
Riggleman: Yes, Willingham is in left, Nyjer and Werth (across the outfield). Again, these things can change, but that is where we would open up (in spring training).
Nats320: To win, most every team has to be strong up the middle. Do you think you are getting there now?
Riggleman: Yes. I think in September we were outstanding up the middle. Between Pudge Rodriguez and (Wilson) Ramos behind the plate, (Danny) Espinosa and (Ian) Desmond and Morgan, I thought we played really good defense up the middle. They all just need more time to play together.

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Jayson Werth Introductory Press Conference

Here is the complete transcript of the December 15th, 2010 introductory press conference for Jayson Werth at Nationals Park--all of the nearly 4000 words spoken in the 30 minutes allowed. With that, here we go:

John Dever (Senior Director Of Baseball Public Relations): I would like to thank everyone for being here today with us. I would also like to extend special welcomes to our fan base watching locally and regionally on MASN and to baseball fans worldwide watching us on the MLB Network.  Thanks for spending some time with us this afternoon.  On Sunday, December 5th, just hours after touching down at baseball’s Winter Meetings in Orlando, Florida, The Washington Nationals turned the baseball world on its ear and ushered in Phase Two of their baseball evolution with the announcement they had agreed to terms with Jayson Werth on a 7-year contract. As wonderful as that declaration was back on the 5th of December, no note-worthy baseball transaction is complete until a player is formally introduced and adopted into his new franchise family. And by the same measure, local fans get their opportunity to meet their newest player and learn about him as a person. 
To help me do this today, I would like to introduce to you from your left to right--Jim Riggleman, Nationals Field Manager; Mike Rizzo, Nationals Executive Vice-President of Baseball Operations and General Manager; to Mike’s left, today’s honoree--Jayson Werth, outfielder; and Jayson’s Player Representative--Scott Boras of the Boras Corporation. In a moment, Mike Rizzo with make a brief opening statement followed by the traditional jersey unveiling. And Jayson will then return to his seat and make a brief opening statement of his own before we open up the floor for questions.  We ask that you identify yourself and your affiliation and to whom you are asking the question.  So Mike could you kick things off for us please?
Mike Rizzo: I would love to. It is my honor to express the happiness and the joy of The Washington Nationals organization with the acquisition of such a fine player, a fine person, and a great person in the community as Jayson Werth is. He is a player our front office and ownership identified early in the process as an impact, elite type free agent that we would like to acquire that would help us, not only in the short-term, but in the long-term. Not only between the lines, but in the clubhouse and the community. So without further ado, it is my great honor to introduce the newest member of The Washington Nationals Family--Jayson Werth.
(Applause and donning of the new jersey)
Jayson Werth: Hi. On behalf of my family and myself, I would just like to take this time to   thank The Washington Nationals organization, the Lerner Family--we are excited to be here. We are onboard for many winning seasons ahead. And I think one of the things fans can look forward to is a winning caliber type baseball in Washington on the field and off the field going forward.  Thank you.
Question: This is a team that hasn’t done well the last three years. What intrigued you about Washington and how do you expect to help this team to a winning season?
Werth: Baseball is a funny thing. It has its ups and downs--as many teams have had in the past. One thing I saw with The Nationals over the past few seasons play against them was just a grittiness that they had and a will to win. Although they’ve had some rough seasons the past few years, they’ve had some talent and it’s young and unpolished. That’s one thing I look forward to helping along the way. I have always been a big fan of the underdog and I think the situation here in Washington is one, going forward, where we can put something together that, I think, the city and the fans will come to love and come out and see us on a nightly basis.
Question: In the past ten days or so, how much contact have you had with any of your new teammates? Or contact with anyone with this organization?
Werth: Quite a bit actually. The response I have gotten from my new teammates has been supportive. It seems like everyone is excited. Obviously, in the off-season, guys are scattered all over the country--so it’s not like a spring training situation. I am looking forward to getting down there to Florida and meeting all the guys and getting it started. But right now, it really is just a bunch of formalities.
Question: Matt Stairs is a young 42-years old. Do you envision being able to play baseball with your seven year contract until your forties? 
Werth: Yes. Over the course of my career, I have played with some guys that have played into their 40’s. And older guys where I have seen what it takes to keep yourself in shape, and the things that need to be done on a daily basis to ensure your body makes it. It was one of the things the Lerner Family was onboard with--taking care of yourself and the things that need to happen in the clubhouse and the things that players are going to need. My grandfather played 19-years (Dick Schofield). My uncle played a long-time (Dick Schofield) also in the game. I feel like I have a lot of years ahead of me. I have no problem seeing myself, maybe not play as long as Jamie Moyer has (laughter), but definitely into my 40’s.
Question: Do you feel any undo pressure in signing such a long-term contract, one of the richest in Major League Baseball history?
Werth: Any time you go on the field and you play for a team, there is going to be pressure. I am coming into this team and this city to be involved in something much greater than you’ve seen here before. I think the owners are onboard. Mike is onboard. Jim is onboard. We are all going in the same direction and I don’t foresee any undo pressure. I will just go out and play my game and come to the game every day ready to play--going out there going to war with all the guys that are in the clubhouse and getting the job done. 
Question: In Philadelphia, you were surrounded by a great lineup. As you prepare to be a National, how do you see yourself fitting in with the lineup that is here?
Werth: I see myself fitting in very well. It’s a talented group, it’s a young group. There are pieces to the puzzle that are coming along in the next couple of years that we are going to need. I foresee us getting the guys that help us get over the hump. But right now, the team is a lot better than people think. The last few years, they have just been a little young and inexperienced. They made some changes and got some guys in that, I think, are going to help. I am onboard for that. I think we are going to surprise some people.
Question: Along those same lines, you were a part of a lineup that had a lot of proven guys--a lot of production. There are some of those in this lineup. How comfortable are you with being the guy with the weight on your shoulders both on the field and off the field?
Werth: I look forward to it. I have been playing this game a long time. I have played in World Series. I have played in post-seasons. The thing about baseball is that you play day-in and you play day-out. In a 162-game schedule, a lot of things get overlooked. One thing I can control is the level of intensity and just the overall willingness to play the game on a day-in, day-out basis. I look forward to it. I look forward to playing with these guys. We have a talented group. Just a little polish here, a little polish there, and I think we are going to be good.
Question: Have you had the chance to talk with Ryan Zimmerman? If not, what have your impressions of him?
Werth: He’s a great player. All-Star, Gold Glover. I think the people who have seen Ryan Zimmerman play know the type of player he is and the caliber he brings to the field. I have talked with him. I’ve known him before I came here. I think he is excited. I know that I am excited to play with a guy like that. There are guys coming up with talent as well. It’s going to be good. I feel so strongly about the talent that is on this club. 
Question: You hit the cover off the ball here last season, this by far your second best park besides Coors Field (Denver). Are you excited to make this your home as a ballpark?
Werth: I am. I have always said this is a great place to hit. I love hitting here. My numbers have shown that. It’s a good division to hit in.  I am glad I am staying in the NL East. I know the parks. I know the teams. I know the pitchers. It’s a good situation for me and my family as well. 
Question: What do you feel is the timetable for this team to become a winner? And for you, what does it mean to be a leader in the clubhouse?
Werth: The things that are important to me in the clubhouse are things that I will keep to myself. I will share them with my teammates and I don’t want to let the cat out of the bag too early. But the thing about this team is there are pieces to the puzzle that can be put together and make this team a winner. I was insured by the Lerner Family and Mike Rizzo that they were going to take the steps needed to go get those players and to fill the roster accordingly, not just with anybody, but with the right talented guys and the right mix that will make the clubhouse a complete place. That was important to me and that was one of the things that led me to sign here. They are onboard for winning. They are a winning family. I think it is a true success story. Mr. Lerner (Ted) shared with me the life he has had and I foresee them doing the proper steps and getting the guys that are really going to help this club get to the next level.
Question: We’ve seen you hit 500 foot home runs, steal home, get your uniform dirty. For Nats fans on a day-to-day basis, what is your process for getting yourself ready to play everyday?
Werth: It is quite involved I would say. There is a lot that goes on everyday that a lot of the fans don’t get to see. We are training every day. We are doing rehabilitation stuff every day. Guys get dinged up and nicked up over the course of the season. Staying on the field is hard, it’s a tough thing. As most fans know, there are no too many Cal Ripken ‘s (Jr.) out there these days. So you take the proper steps. You do the work. You get to the park early. You do the video. You do the training. And you do whatever it takes to stay on the field. You stay in great shape. I eat the proper foods. There is a lot that goes into it.
Question: What was the one thing the Nats sold to you that really brought it home? And secondly, do you have any reaction to Cliff Lee going on to Philadelphia this week?
Werth: I missed that in Philly. What happened? (laughter) I am sorry. What was your first question? Obviously, this was my first chance at getting free agency. I worked so hard over the years. I went through so much. I had a bad wrist injury that wasn’t diagnosed for a couple of seasons. I missed an entire season due to that. When you finally get to free agency, you have a chance to do something special for yourself and for your family. A lot of things go into it. Obviously, the years were important to me. I have the chance to come to a city guaranteed to be here for a long time. The no trade (clause) was a big deal to me. I have the chance to set myself and my family up for years to come here--just have more of a solid base. One thing people don’t realize from season to season, if you do have family and kids, it’s really tough to have normalcy. That is one thing I was able to obtain here. The length of the contract was very important. A million things go into it, honestly. But the one thing that I think was very important was the willingness from them and the willingness of the owners to win. That was something else that really drew me to Washington. And of course--the team. I think the team, going forward, is going to be pretty good--especially with the type of talent they have even in the Minor Leagues. The guys they have drafted. The steps they have taken the past few years to set up the core of the organization from the bottom, up. I really think it is a good situation for me. I think it is for the team. And I am excited to be here.
Question: You just mentioned you will do whatever it will take to get on the field and do well. You are a late-bloomer in the game. What’s changed in your game from your early 20’s to get you to where you are today?
Werth: You mentioned that I am a late bloomer. I was a tall, wiry kid. (6’5--165lbs as a teenager). Over the course of time, I grew into my body a little bit. I’ve been able to do some advanced training methods to help me get there. I have been fortunate enough to stay healthy enough the past few years. I think the injury I had (to his wrist) made me step back and look at things a little differently. Like most guys, I was close to being out of the game at one point. I was lucky to find Dr. Berger at the Mayo Clinic to fix my wrist. It wasn’t a bad injury at all, it was just rare and undiagnosed. Once I got that taken care of, I got an opportunity to play. People don’t realize how tough it is to get an opportunity to play in this game. A lot of guys fall through the cracks. They never really got a chance and when they did get a chance--they were a little rusty, they weren’t locked in and they just fell by the wayside.  I was lucky to play well when I got the opportunity and fight for a spot, get back in there. I had a chance to be with Jim (Riggleman) in L.A. in ’04. If you asked him what he thought after that season, he would probably say I wasn’t much different than I am now and I was going to have a long, healthy career. But things change and things happen and I was able to fight back and it got me back to here, today.
Jim Riggleman (following up that answer): He was a tall thin kid. Jayson is really what Mike identified that we have got to get more athletic. Jayson is a great athlete. He signed, correct me if I am wrong, as a catcher. (Yes) Not many people can catch and play centerfield. That’s the good athleticism that he has. And as he grew into his body, when we saw him in ’04 in Los Angeles, you could really see what Baltimore and Toronto had seen in Jayson in terms of the strength and athleticism. I used to joke to people that if you bumped into him, you hurt yourself because he is hard as a rock. He’s found a way to take care of himself. His body is put together now to withstand the rigors of a long season. He is one of the unique athletes in the game. When he really got his opportunity with Philadelphia in a nice lineup there, I remember Charlie (Manuel--Philly Manager) speaking on this a little bit, they really didn’t click offensively--but when some other guys went down and they withstood some terrible injuries, Jayson was in there consistently and really protected Ryan Howard in the lineup. He produced in the lineup when those guys were down and he really carried them to the National League East Pennant. So he’s come full circle from where he was before he signed with Baltimore many years ago. Sometimes guys do get more playing time later, like with Raul Ibanez and with Jayson. They (The Phillies) got some guys that blossomed late and they really produced.
Question: The perception among many is that The Phillies are way up here (raising hand high) with their success. And the Nats are all the way down here (lowering his hand). Would you say the gulf is not as big as it is made out to be? And the opportunity to play down the road with (Bryce) Harper and (Stephen) Strasburg, how much did that play into your decision?
Werth: Again, the young talent in this organization is immense. With the length of the contract I got, I felt good about the chances of this organization winning over the course of my contract. And that was very important. I have been in the post-season a lot the past few years. And that’s what it is all about. That’s what we play for. That’s what you work out all winter for. That’s what you get to spring training early for. I hate to lose. I am here to win and that’s for sure. I am not going to say anything bad about Philly or anything like that. To answer your question, you look at last year. We had the best record in the game and we didn’t win. Nothing is guaranteed in this game. We put together a good team, a scrappy team that has a chance to win. And a team that wants to win. And you go out there and you play the game and you see what happens.  I feel good about our chances.
Question: I got a glimpse of you last night at the Wizards game. I was wondering if you have spoken with any other athletes in the D.C. area--the Redskins, the Wizards--about how it is to play in this city?
Werth: I haven’t but the last few years I have played here and I have a pretty good idea what is going on here. I know it is a big sports town. You look at the Caps with their fans. I think they are going pretty good in filling the seats. I think if you put the product on the field and you win the ball games--the fans are going to support it and show up. I think that was evident in Philadelphia when I went there. I got there in ’07 and you see what type of place it is right now after we won there. So you win the games, you put the product on the field and you get the guys fans want to come and see--I think it will see an exciting time the city and the organization. And definitely for the players to play with the seats filled.
Question: You’ve not only been a late-bloomer, you’ve continued to bloom over the last two or three years.  A lot of your stats have gotten better. Why is that? Are you seeing more and more pitches?  Also, I wanted to ask Mike. You say you can see him improving. Why?
Werth: I have been saying for a long time. The more I play, the better I am going to get. I think that has been pretty evident. I think seeing pitches is an important part of the game--wearing the opposing pitcher down, get them to the bullpen early. The more pitches you see, the more apt you are to pick the ball up better. And as time goes on, I think it makes you a better player. That’s definitely part of the game I am looking to extend throughout the clubhouse and the team--an approach we can work on.
Rizzo: I just feel that this is the package we were looking for going into the off-season. We wanted to get better skilled players that play both sides of the ball--both offensively and defensively. You have a guy here that can hit 30-plus home runs, drive in 100 runs, play Gold Glove defense, steal you 20 bases, leading the clubhouse and be a middle of the lineup hitter. The bigger the game, the better he’s played in his career. He is playoff battle tested. And he brings an edge to the ball club. I’ve seen it oh too many times with The Phillies. And that’s the type of guy we want. I think that is what separated him from those elite free agent candidates that we were looking at. His skill set fit what Jim & I are looking to do with the ball club. But also, his makeup, his persona, and just the way he plays on a superstar skill level--and still plays like a guy that is not afraid to get his jersey dirty--and would run through a wall for you.
Question: Jayson, you said all summer and into the fall that The Phillies can do anything they want to get you back in terms of money. I know you just joked about anything happening there. But because of what just happened there (Cliff Lee signing), do you feel vindicated at all about the money that was thrown out and maybe bitter at all that they did have all that money (Philadelphia)?
Werth: I have definitely moved on these past few months. I am really excited about being a National.  Obviously, they got their boy back!! What more can I say. That’s fine. I like that. If you are going to be the best. You have to beat the best.  They are going to make their plays and we are going to make ours. Over the course of time, the city is going to see, the people are going to see that The Washington Nationals are for real. And they are going to bring an exciting style of baseball that is going to bring championships to this city.
Last Question: We’ve already talked about you being a late-bloomer and all that. Has what you have gone through with the injury and other obstacles make this moment for your more appreciative?
Werth: I am definitely more appreciative, that’s for sure. I can’t thank the Lerner Family and this organization enough. I finally got the opportunity and the situation I’ve played my whole life for. And I have given a lot to the game of baseball and I plan on seeing this through and being the type of guy that they want here. I am looking forward to it. It’s going to be a great seven years and I think we are going to surprise a lot of people.

With that final answer, the formal press conference ended and broke up into individual side sessions with the participants.

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