Category Archives: Opening Day

Here They Come

The Nationals finish up their spring slate in Florida today vs the Mets, and return home to face the Yankees in their final exhibition game tomorrow at Nationals Park. It was great to see Zimmerman dial it in with 3 homers yesterday, and Ramos with 2. There is no need to talk in detail about Harper, as his stats this spring speak for themselves. A lot of the regulars have had solid springs. Some of the pitching has been rocky, but that’s not out of the ordinary for spring training. I won’t even freak out about the first start of the regular season for each if they are still settling in. But after that, I expect them to be true to form. Let’s hope Haren and our bullpen get it together pretty quickly.

I do think, or at least strongly hope, that we add a decent left-hander to the bullpen fairly early in the season. Maybe we can pick up someone that gets released during final cuts, and stash them at AAA until they are needed. No matter how good the big three are at the back of our bullpen, you can’t change the fact that they are all right-handed. We need a decent situational lefty. He doesn’t have to be an all-star. But we need one. And if Zach Duke (who has had a shaky spring) is supposed to double as our long man out of the bullpen, we can’t expect him to be the LOOGy all the time as well. We need another one, and he should not be that hard to find. I don’t think at this point that Romero will be the answer.

One final note: Michael Morse led MLB this spring with 8 homers, and is hitting .365. Go Mike. You deserve it, and I really do think at some point this season we’ll be sorry that we let you go. I hope I’m wrong and that we stay healthy, but either way, impressive start to the year for him.

Week in Review

Well we’re one week in and we have one win to show so far. But I’m not disheartened; the Nats have shown some good things in every game, save the finale against the Braves. The bullpen has been surprisingly suspect, but that should improve as some of the younger guys get more experience. Some bats are hot and others have been silent. All in all, too early to make any macro judgements. Looking forward to seeing them in action against the Phillies next week.

I must opine briefly on a somewhat non-baseball topic. Opening Day saw a large, enthusiastic crowd, which was great to see, all in spite of the chilly weather. Parking was scarce, most lots filled up quickly, and there was a lot of traffic with people trying to get parked and into the stadium. All “good” things if you consider that means the Nats were getting a lot of support that day. What was appalling was the city’s response to Opening Day and the cars that it brought to the stadium area. There were tons of police in the area–90% of them writing tickets and perhaps 10% helping with traffic flow and pedestrian safety. What a disgrace to the city. Instead of promoting business and commerce in the form of baseball, concessions and local food and drink establishments (few as they are in that area), DC sent out their ticket-writing forces in droves, like blood-sucking leaches. When asked where we could find parking, the response was either that there was none left, or else they directed us to a lot that was already full. What they were really saying was, “Once you give up and park in a short term space, we’ll be right there to ticket you on the spot. Enjoy the game” Disgraceful.

Pitching Woes Continue

The hot start by our Nationals this spring has gradually turned into a 7 game losing streak. Most worrisome, the patchwork of starting pitchers have pretty much all turned in their worst outings of the spring recently. While part of that is due to hitters finding their rhythm later in the spring than pitchers, I can only hope our starting five regain some form and also some confidence. Some offensive outbursts by the team around them would help in the confidence regard as well. I just hope they do not try and pick up Oliver Perez now that he has been released by the Mets. I’d rather give some of our youngsters an opportunity to show what they’ve got instead.

By the way, even though I was in favor of keeping Dunn this past offseason, it certainly looks like we ended up with the better of the 3 first basemen we were targeting over the winter. LaRoche is expected to be his usual consistent self and has hit .343 so far, while Derrek Lee just played in his first spring training game, and concerns linger about thumb, wrist, and potentially foot injuries. Carlos Lee has been fine so far for the Cubs, but looking at the three of them right now, I’m glad we ended up with LaRoche.

16 More Days

Sixteen days until opening day, and the Nats have looked pretty good so far this spring. While Bryce Harper has received much of the press surrounding the team this spring, their steady play and winning record have not garnered as much attention. There is more optimism surrounding this team than any I can recall since their initial spring of 2005.

I do think there are a good number of supporters who drank a lot of the Kool-Aid this year; that is to say they have been impressed with the team’s spring performance so far but seem to have forgotten that the Nats went 0 for 2 this offseason when trying to land a couple of top-flight starters to the mix. I do believe that starting pitching will remain their weakest point this season. Livan and Jordan Zimmermann have looked great so far this spring, but we need to keep in mind that JZimm has all of 4 wins in his major league career and that we can’t expect Livan to duplicate his impressive season from a year ago. I do expect Marquis to bounce back nicely since he appears to be healthy. No one knows which John Lannan will show up this year, but we all hope it’s the one who may be primed for a breakout season. On the offensive side, I love that Morse has had a great spring and seized the LF job. I’ve been impressed by him ever since we acquired him. I really hope Espinosa matures quickly as a major league hitter, and I’m hopeful that Ian Desmond is able to cut down on his errors so that we don’t lose his bat in the lineup. Center field could be a mess for awhile until someone separates themselves. Let’s hope it happens sooner rather than later.  I’m just trying to be optimistic but also realistic.  Go Nats!

3 More Days

I would go so far as to say the season starts tomorrow, since the Red Sox will be here at Nationals Park. But since I can’t go to the game, and it isn’t the regular season, we’ll stick with the real opening day on Monday. I think some tempered optimism for this season is warranted, with some of the personnel improvements we’ve made, but I’m also a realist and know that we aren’t going to the playoffs this season. Still, as a huge baseball fan, I’m like a lot of other people around DC in terms of being really ready for the season to begin. It’s supposed to be 70s and Sunny for the game on Monday…what more could you ask for!

More on the Starting Five

Following up on my post from 4 days ago…since then, my fears about Olsen have been even more realized. Olsen is in for a rough year. While he feels that his arm is getting stronger, an 89 mph fastball is going to get pounded by major league hitters. He can’t pick corners like Lannan can at lower speeds. Mock and Martin just had bad outings. Riggleman is now saying that Stammen is a good bet to be in the rotation. I’m fine with this, per my previous post, but if both Olsen and Mock are in as he has said before, then Livo is the odd man out. After Hernandez’ second strong outing, I’m even more convinced that he needs to be in the rotation to start the season. He may get bumped later, but either Mock or Olsen needs to go to the bullpen. The only realistic scenario though is that Mock could be a long reliever if Livo sneaks into the rotation to start the season. No matter how bad Olsen looks, the Nats are going to give him a handful of starts to see if he can regain his form. I just hope they don’t give him too long of a string if his current trend continues.

Tightening the Rotation

Well, we’re 2 weeks from Opening Day, and the starting rotation is all but set. Lannan has looked great and will be on the mound Opening Day. Marquis has not looked sharp, but folks are optimistic that he’ll regain his form with a few more outings. Olsen has also been penciled in, which is a concern because he’s coming off injuries and his velocity, never high to begin with, is off. It appears that Mock and Livo will round out the rotation. While Mock has had great control this Spring, he still comes into the season as an unproven commodity at the major league level. Hernandez will likely be an innings-eater as usual, but can he keep his era under 5? He got a late start this spring, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing for a guy who, when healthy, consistently pitches 200-inning seasons. Prediction here is that the top 2 guys will solidly anchor the rotation, and that Olsen will be given a long leash to prove that he is healthy and effective. If Mock is ineffective early and/or Livo’s arm tired midway through the season, look for Martin or Stammen to come in and get another crack. One of them will likely already be on the opening day roster as a long reliever.