Archive for the ‘Henry Rodriguez’ Category

The World Series Or . . . Bust

Saturday, June 8th, 2013

It’s the World Series or bust, Davey Johnson told Nats’ fans during Spring Training, and our expectations soared. As well they might: the team had league’s best starting pitching, a potent and potentially powerful line-up of young bats (including Rookie of the Year Bryce Harper), and a young and solid bullpen — with a new closer.

Now (with one-third of the season in the books), the Nats are mired in third place in the National League East, the starting pitching is not what it should be (Stephen Strasburg is on the DL, Ross Detwiler is rehabbing, Dan Haren has been ineffective), Bryce Harper is visiting a specialist to look at his knee and the team’s bullpen is shakey, at best.

Clearly, a kind of turning point has been reached. This morning, the Washington Post weighed in with a front page team assessment, complemented by a Sports section Tracee Hamilton offering that concludes that the team “can’t hit, pitch or field with anything approaching consistency.”

All true. But Nats’ fans can at least be thankful that all of this seems to have seeped into the consciousness of Mike Rizzo and Davey Johnson, who’ve spent the last week (and more) retooling a punchless offense — and providing a new look to an embarrassingly so-so bullpen.

Hence: Danny Espinosa was sent to the disabled list (and, truth be said, to Triple-A), Anthony Rendon was brought in to play second base, and Henry Rodriguez and Zach Duke were sent packing. That’s four big moves (and counting), including a roster-shifting one: it’s not often that a team changes their second baseman in mid-stride.

And then there’s the bullpen. Once upon a time, Davey Johnson said that while he was comfortable with a single lefty out of the pen, he might want to have more. He now has three (and potentially four), and none of them are named Zach Duke, who started the season with confidence that he could get the job done. He couldn’t.

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First A Shakeup, Then A Walk Off

Wednesday, June 5th, 2013

With one-third of the season now in the books, the Nationals on Tuesday made the decisions that many of their fans wanted, and many had predicted, sending relievers Henry Rodriguez and Zach Duke to the minors — and Danny Espinosa to the disabled list.

To fill their spots on the national league roster, the team recalled Anthony Rendon from Triple-A and brought reliever Ian Krol up from Double-A Harrisburg. The Nationals also activated Jayson Werth, whose bat they desperately need.

Espinosa is expected to rehab (both his shoulder and his wrist), before returning to the club. “He is a tough guy. He reminds me of myself,” manager Davey Johnson said. “He is playing with a bad shoulder, he is playing with a broken wrist. He needs the rest.”

But General Manager Mike Rizzo made it clear that it’s unlikely Nats fans will see Espinosa anytime soon. “We finally put Danny on the disabled list to clean up all the wrist questions that we had, and for him to rehab and then go down to the Minor Leagues, with a healthy wrist, go down there and work on the mental side of hitting,” he said.

Injury or not, the message is that Espinosa has played himself out of a job, and this morning’s Bleacher Report said that it’s time for Washington to “see what Rendon can do” at second base — adding that the Nats don’t have “a second baseeman on the stat list this season (Espinosa and Steve Lombardozzi) hitting above .231.”

An uncertain coda might well have followed these moves, as Washington continues its struggles. But just hours after announcing the team shake-up, the Nats responded by notching their first walk-off win of the year, a come-from-behind 3-2 victory over division rivals New York.

While the Washington victory didn’t result in a win for starter Jordan Zimmermann, it lifted the Nationals one game over .500 and made a hero of Steve Lombardozzi. Lombardozzi’s sacrifice fly in the 9th inning scored Adam LaRoche, after the Nationals loaded the bases on Mets’ reliever Bobby Parnell.

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Davey: “We’re Gonna Be Fine”

Sunday, April 14th, 2013

The Washington Nationals are a good baseball team, and perhaps even a great baseball team. They are 7-4, have swept two separate series (including an interleague series against the White Sox), play well at home (where they are 6-2), and are in second place in the National League East.

But so far in this young season the Nationals have failed to win the big games against their toughest competition. They were outscored by the Redlegs (27-10), and their bullpen has collapsed again and again — most recently on Friday, in a game they should have won against the Braves — and their star third baseman has made a number of unforced errors, calling into question the health of his shoulder.

“We need to do better,” Tyler Clippard said of the pen after Friday’s late inning 6-4 loss. But stating the obvious isn’t likely to quiet the fears that the bullpen is righty heavy — that the Nationals are missing a key left hander who could make a difference. “The Nationals miss Sean Burnett,” Mitch Williams said on MLB Network on Saturday. “They need another lefty out of the pen.”

The one counter-argument is that today, in their 3-1 loss to the Braves, a great bullpen would not have made the difference. Even with Stephen Strasburg on the mound, the Nationals couldn’t get a bead on Braves’ starter Tim Hudson, who gave up just four hits in suffocating a suddenly anemic Nats’ offense.

Is there a lesson in all of this? Today’s game might seem to point the way: Ryan Zimmerman committed another throwing error, reliever Ryan Mattheus gave up an unnecessary insurance run to Atlanta in the top of the 9th — and the Nationals couldn’t score when they needed to.

Glass-half-empty fans will say (and have been saying) that it’s time for the Nationals to start solving their problems: it’s time to begin the long transition of shifting Ryan Zimmerman to first, it’s time to go out and trade for a lefty out of the pen — and it’s time to make some tough but necessary decisions on relievers (like Henry Rodriguez) who aren’t producing.

But glass-half-full fans will look at the season and decide what Davey Johnson has decided: it’s way too early to worry. “We’re gonna be fine,” Nats’ manager Davey Johnson said in the wake of today’s loss. His team seems to agree. Adam LaRoche dismissed concerns about Zimmerman’s shoulder (“He’s one of the best defenders out there”), and Johnson shrugs when asked about his pen, saying that Friday’s loss was his fault.

Then too, there’s this. Tim Hudson is a savvy and solid pitcher, as he proved today. Stephen Strasburg pitched well, the Zimmerman error was not the difference in the game, Rodriguez looked good — and the best bullpen in the world couldn’t have and wouldn’t have won that game. The Nats didn’t throw away today’s game, the Braves won it. And the difference was Tim Hudson.

“He doesn’t throw quite as hard as he used to, but he knows how to pitch,” Zimmerman said of the Atlanta righty. “You don’t do what he’s done in this game for as long as he has without having a really good idea of what to do out there . . . . he’s one of the best guys out there, and he usually does well against us. Like I said, if you don’t get him early, it’s tough.”

Miami Thrice

Friday, April 5th, 2013

The Washington Nationals swept the three game inaugural series against the Miami Marlins on Thursday, 6-1, behind the pitching of Jordan Zimmermann and the hitting of Jayson Werth. Washington’s quiet ace gave up eight hits, but threw six complete in sealing the rout: the Marlins scored only a single run in the three game set.

While not as dominating as either Stephen Strasburg or Gio Gonzalez in their first outings of the new season, Zimmermann was able to stay out of trouble long enough to allow his teammates to feast off of Miami pitching.”I felt good. It’s the best I’ve felt in a long time,” Zimmermann said after the win. “It’s one of those days where I had to battle and make the pitches when I needed a ground ball.”

The shape of Washington’s 2013 offense is now becoming clear: New Nat Denard Span is regularly finding himself on first base, Ryan Zimmerman was 3-3 in the contest, Jayson Werth powered a home run in the bottom of the 7th and Bryce Harper continued his torrid assault on N.L. pitching — he was 2-4 yesterday and is hitting .500.

Washington manager Davey Johnson said it was only a matter of time before Werth matched his Spring Training pace — when he was “seeing the ball” really well. “Today, it feels like the first real day of the season,” Werth said in a postgame interview. “I started feeling a little bit better today — batting practice. As the game went on, I felt like I had my rhythm. It showed up toward the end.”

The best news of the day might have been the dominance of reliever Henry Rodriguez, whose struggles last year raised the hackles of Nats fans. Rodriguez was credited with a hold after pitching a three-up-and-three-down 7th inning, which included a strike out of uber power hitter Giancarlo Stanton, who was buckled by a wicked slider.

Washington’s sweep of Miami puts them alone atop the N.L. East, as the team heads to Cincinnati — where the Redlegs have won two of three against he feared Los Angeles Angels. The Reds, who are predicted to be competitors (with Atlanta) of the Nationals for the top spot in the National League, tamed the Angles in a 5-4 win yesterday.

The Wisdom of Section 1-2-9: Everything changes — nothing stays the same. So there was some disappointment when it appeared that most of the regulars of 1-2-9 from last season were not in attendance on Thursday. Which did not stop the newbies from following the section’s tradition of thinking out loud about the Nationals.

“It’s great to see [Denard] Span out there in centerfield,” one of them said in the second inning. “So you can check that off your list. We finally have a leadoff hitter.” But by far the best comments came from a lifelong Brewers fan, in town to celebrate his daughter’s wedding. It was his first time at Nationals Park. “This is a complete team,” he said of the Nationals. “Out in Milwaukee, we’re headed in the opposite direction.”

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A “Class Act” — On And Off The Field

Tuesday, April 2nd, 2013

Winning, of course, is the ultimate test of a franchise. “Can they get it done?” is the question all fans, scribes and baseball insiders ask when evaluating a team. Do they have what it takes to be the last team standing at the end of a 162-game campaign and a grueling post season schedule?

The answer to the question is easy to discern after the fact. But before the games are played one has to search for the intangibles in a franchise that go along with the talent, grit and luck that are essential for winning.

It’s too early to tell, of course, whether the Nats can be closers – - although I like their chances (and so, apparently, does Sports Illustrated). But how they are going about their task, not only on the field but in the front office, says a lot about how the franchise conducts itself in pursuit of its goal.

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Nats Juggernaut Rolls On In Milwaukee

Friday, July 27th, 2012

Edwin Jackson provided the pitching and Adam LaRoche, Steve Lombardozzi, Ryan Zimmerman and Michael Morse provided the offense — and the Nationals rolled to their sixth victory in a row with an 8-2 triumph over the Brew Crew at Miller Park in Milwaukee. The Nationals now stand at twenty games over .500. The last Washington team to do that was the 1945 Washington Senators.

Jackson, who has a reputation for getting better as the season goes on, broke all expectations on Thursday; he came out pitching strong, and blanked the Milwaukee Nine through seven complete innings. Jackson gave up eight hits and struck out four, erasing the memory of his last outing — when he was blanked by Atlanta’s Ben Sheets.

The Nationals put away the Brewers early: Adam LaRoche hit his 19th home run of the season in the top of the second. Milwaukee starter Yovany Gallardo seemed unfazed, striking out Michael Morse and inducing a ground out from Danny Espinosa. But after walking Roger Bernadina, Gallardo gave up a single to Flores before walking Jackson. The next batter, Steve Lombardozzi, tripled down the right field line, clearing the bases.

Jackson’s outing comes against a team that is struggling, but that still has one of the most potent run-scoring line-ups in the National League. The Brewers lead the National League in home runs. Even so, Jackson was able to tame Brewer hitters — the only Milwaukee round-tripper came in the eighth inning off of reliever Henry Rodriguez. Michael Gonzalez closed out the game in the 9th.

Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: They’re having parades in New York, and all is fine with the world — or so it seems tonight. Mets’ fans are aglow after watching Matt Harvey’s debut against Arizona in Phoenix, in which the much-awaited rookie fireballer blew the socks off the Snakes.

Harvey, the seventh overall pick by New York in the 2010 MLB first year player draft (Bryce Harper went first), and spent this year polishing his skills at Triple-A Buffalo. Mets fans have been clamoring for his call-up and New York’s front office, reeling from a post-All Star game spiral, finally accomodated them. Harvey was unhittable in his debut tonight: he threw 5.1 innings, gave up just three hits, walked only three . . . and struck out eleven.

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What To Do About Henry . . .

Wednesday, July 25th, 2012

Nationals Journal reporter Adam Kilgore is all over Henry Rodriguez. The headline for his article today — in the wake of the Nationals impressive 5-2 win (and sweep) in New York — says it all: “Henry Rodriguez creates another mess, and Drew Storen gets out of it.”

Kilgore is reacting to another blowup by Rodriguez, the second in a row that nearly cost the Nationals a game. “Suddenly, the tying run in a 5-1 game had moved into the on-deck circle,” Kilgore wrote. “Johnson came to yank Rodriguez. For the second straight appearance, Rodriguez had faced two batters, allowed them both to reach base and been pulled.”

Of course, Kilgore wasn’t the only one who noticed — Nationals fans were tweeting about Rodriguez like crazy this afternoon. We’re embarrassed to say this, but the Centerfield Gate editorial staff (for those who’ve forgotten, here we are) were among the chirpers: “out of it” we said after the bullpen rescued Rodriguez: “#nats pitch around the wildness of Henry Rodriguez . . . should be a mantra . . .”

So what should the Nationals do about Henry? There are a number of choices, including one that seems popular just now with a whole boatload of exasperated and frustrated Nationals’ fans: designate him for assignment — the equivalent in Henry’s case (since he’s out of options) of a death sentence. Or trade him, now, for whatever the team can get. But no matter, in either case it would mean the Nationals are giving up on him.

Somehow that not only doesn’t seem right, it doesn’t sound like something that either Mike Rizzo or Davey Johnson would do. Rizzo paid a pretty price for Rodriguez, giving up Josh Willingham to the A’s for him, and for Corey Brown. Willingham is doing pretty well just now: he’s not only playing well for the Minnesota Twins, he is the Minnesota Twins.

Nor does it sounds like something that Davey Johnson would do. The Nats’ skipper has repeatedly expressed his confidence in Rodriguez — and he’s had to. “There’s another day tomorrow,” Johnson said after today’s adventure. “I’m not afraid to run him out there. He’s been spectacular for us, and at times not so good. Next time out, it’ll probably get spectacular.”

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