Great game tonight to close out the White Sox series. A few observations from the game: Beyond getting on base three times, which was great, Denard Span seemed to be in the perfect position every time a ball was hit his way. And the wind was tricky tonight. That same wind also kept 2 White Sox balls in the ballpark, which was nice. But it got even with us, by keeping 2 potential homers in the park from, of all people, Steve Lombardozzi.
Interesting interleague observation: did Robin Ventura forget that he could pull a double switch mid-inning? It’s understandable since these games are pretty rare for him, but it forced him to have to bat a pitcher at leadoff after he came in to get just one out the prior half inning.
Another random observation: it didn’t matter in the end, but because of a lazy tag by Chicago , it looked like Werth was actually safe at third on Harper’s final hit. Now it’s on to what should be a great series with the Braves.
The news this week that Espinosa will be playing through a torn rotator cuff this season and that Jayson Werth’s wrist is still not back at full strength certainly caused more than a little concern. Let’s not forget that Zim is coming off offseason shoulder surgery, and that Stras is not all that far removed from his Tommy John procedure. On the bright side, I can speak from experience that it is possible to play through a torn labrum, assuming you are not a pitcher. I had a torn labrum and rotator cuff for many years and only finally got it repaired 14 months ago (although often referred to interchangeably, they are not exactly the same injury). The rehab was brutal, and makes me even more impressed that LaRoche went through it and then came back last season and put up the numbers that he did. Hopefully Danny can keep his shoulder strong and play through the injury. If not though, Davey must not hesitate to play Lombo. He should at least see some increased time there to give Espinosa a rest more often.
As for Werth, I actually liked him as a leadoff hitter. Wrist injury or not, I think his days of hitting 25+ homers per year are over. I’m fine with him in the 6th spot if Span lives up to expectations. But for all the heat I’ve given Werth, he is a smart player. He took a lot of pitches (and walks) in that role, when I’m sure he would have rather been swinging the bat. Working a pitch count, and letting other players see what pitches a guy throws in a particular count, is a valuable skill that does not show up in a stat sheet. Not to mention his stalling tactics when there are 2 outs and the pitcher just batted. Team player. They should not hesitate to put him back at leadoff if Span need a day off or spends any time on the DL.
My last comment on Adam LaRoche for a while. Promise. I’ve come to the conclusion that I almost hope he goes elsewhere, such as the Rangers or Orioles. Why? Because 1) he’s not worth that third year and 2) we will get a first round sandwich pick from whichever team signs him. I know we’ve only been to the playoffs once in this reincarnation of a baseball team in Washington, but we do need to think long-term if we’re going to keep this success going. Let Morse and Tyler Moore play. There is a lot of pop in those 2 bats. Not as much glove, but definitely more pop. And younger pop.
That comment brings me to this: For the second time in the past few weeks, Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post has penciled in Bryce Harper as the cleanup hitter for the Nats next season. I will eat crow if he is correct, but I do not think the Nats will put that kind of pressure on a 20-year old guy who has less than 1 full season on his resume. You can pencil in Morse (or LaRoche) as your cleanup hitter next season. Write that one down.
And that point leads me to one more thought. The Nats made a good move in acquiring Span to bat leadoff. But compare his last season to Harper’s first season. In 139 games, Harper put up a .270 average, 9 triples, 18 stolen bases, 56 walks, and a .340 OBP. In 128 games, Span had .283 average, 4 triples, 17 stolen bases, 47 walks, and a .342 OBP. Harper had significantly more strikeouts, but made up for it in HRs and OPS. Just think of what he’ll do with some more seasoning and better pitch selection. It’s scary. He could bat anywhere in the lineup, but my guess is it will be 2nd or 5th, not 4th.