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Johnson Swings, Lopez Smiles, Zimmerman Arrives

Oh, and on top of all that, pitchers and catchers had their first official workout of the spring.

Busy day in Viera. Nick Johnson delighted onlookers, including the manager and GM, with a solid batting-practice session (Jim Bowden's assessment: "Phenomenal"), then said afterwards his leg feels great and he fully expects to be in the lineup when exhibition games begin at the end of the month. According to Bowden, the difference between seeing Johnson take BP today, versus seeing him last September (which was only a year after breaking his femur), was, "Night and day. Not even close."

More early-arriving position players trickled in, led by infielder Felipe Lopez and third baseman Ryan Zimmerman. Lopez seemed relaxed, happy and confident of winning a starting job, while Zimmerman, who worked out alongside Barry Larkin today, said his injured wrist is 100 percent. Also in the house as of today: Justin Maxwell, Kory Casto and Willie Harris.

The highlight of the first workout was undoubtedly Shawn Hill throwing a solid, six-minute bullpen to newly acquired catcher Johnny Estrada and appearing loose and easy in his delivery. ("Same Shawn Hill," said Bowden.) Top prospect Ross Detwiler also threw and showed improvement in his delivery following a winter of tinkering with his motion under the guidance of pitching coach Randy St. Claire. (John Patterson, incidentally, was not scheduled to throw today, but will tomorrow.)

Looks like I've got some writing to do...

Soundtrack: Modest Mouse, "We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank."

By Dave Sheinin  |  February 17, 2008; 2:30 PM ET
 
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Next: NEWS FLASH: Nats Sign Bret Boone to Minor League Deal

Comments

Dave, Thanks for the posts!!! Please keep them coming! It's a cloudy and gray day in DC. I'd give anything to be in sunny FL! Please post some pictures.

Posted by: Nats Fan | February 17, 2008 2:55 PM | Report abuse

Dave, anyway we can get videos? They did that last year and they were phenominal!

Keep up the great work

Posted by: Andrew Stebbins | February 17, 2008 3:08 PM | Report abuse

great song... keep up the good tunes :-p

Posted by: boomer | February 17, 2008 3:12 PM | Report abuse

Glad to hear Hill threw and he was loose. I wish I was there. We went in '05 for a week. Saw great ST exhibition games and drank at this great bar in Coco Beach. It was a beach place, surf boards, conch fritters, favorite of the locals. They had this great draft beer from England - Bodingtons (I think). It was as think and creamy as a Guiness. Just magical.

Posted by: 6th and D | February 17, 2008 3:14 PM | Report abuse

Glad to hear about Nick Johnson... this lineup badly needs his OBP.

Posted by: Jason | February 17, 2008 3:14 PM | Report abuse

Glory be. Our long winter nightmare is over.

Posted by: Svrlugamania (With Special Guest Dave Sheinin) | February 17, 2008 3:21 PM | Report abuse

can't wait to see johnson back in that lineup.

btw...pretty good preview of the 08 nats here. great read:

http://mlbfleecefactor.com/2008/02/17/the-2008-washington-nationals-raw-potential/

Posted by: ed | February 17, 2008 3:21 PM | Report abuse

"Looks like I've got some writing to do..."

Awesome.

Posted by: nattaboy | February 17, 2008 4:09 PM | Report abuse

It'll be interesting to hear *how* exactly Detwiler's delivery has improved under St. Claire's guidance.

If he's becoming more effective from the stretch, that'll be especially good news. He struggled some last season with men on base.

Most importantly, has he put *on* any weight? (Is there any other Nat about which we would even ask that question?)

Posted by: Hendo | February 17, 2008 4:23 PM | Report abuse

Love that today we had a full story, a full notebook and two posts on NJ. Spring training is fully underway.

I prefer Gillian Welch to Modest Mouse, personally.

Glad to see Flop was happy, he plays better when he is.

Posted by: Avar | February 17, 2008 4:23 PM | Report abuse

Should I avoid reading too much into that selection?

***********
Soundtrack: Modest Mouse, "We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank."
By Dave Sheinin | February 17, 2008; 2:30 PM ET

Posted by: MIB | February 17, 2008 4:33 PM | Report abuse

Andrew, here's one video: http://tinyurl.com/22mm83

Posted by: Dedicated to the NJ I love | February 17, 2008 4:37 PM | Report abuse

Thanks Dave.

Suggestion: As soon as Guzman arrives, nail him down. He's supposed to be our starting shortstop and we have not heard a single, solitary report on him since his injury. He needs to get bumped up on the story priority list.

Posted by: NatsNut | February 17, 2008 4:48 PM | Report abuse

And in honor of our vowel-deprived vacationer: http://tinyurl.com/28zy59

Posted by: Maksim Mrvica | February 17, 2008 4:57 PM | Report abuse

Another pretty good story from Florida Today's Jim Cawley:

http://tinyurl.com/yohxgy

This line was exactly what I was looking for:

"Both players [Nick and Meat], who incidentally have lockers right next to each other, arrived at camp early (position players are due to report Wednesday) and were joking around with each other Saturday."

Posted by: NatsNut | February 17, 2008 5:09 PM | Report abuse

Thanks, Dave, for all the info. Such good news about Nick.

Posted by: #1 Lurker | February 17, 2008 5:33 PM | Report abuse

I just saw espn news' coverage of Nats camp. Mostly about Nick vs. Meat - the reporter said via phone that today JimBo implied that one of them was almost assuredly gonna be traded after the other won the spot. Language like "two horse race" and 'shipped out of the nation's capitol'.

Maybe he was embelishing what we already know - he didn't seem to have any other new information. He did say something about Nick wanting to start but not wanting Meat to leave.

Posted by: nattaboy | February 17, 2008 5:50 PM | Report abuse

I will get ahold of Guzman ASAP. He is a good person.

Posted by: Andrew Stebbins | February 17, 2008 5:56 PM | Report abuse

... I hope that if Kory Casto doesn't make it through ST to a seat on the Nats dugout this season, the FO will find a way to get him another place in the bigs. He deserves a break.

Posted by: natscan reduxit | February 17, 2008 6:20 PM | Report abuse

... just one more reason why I wouldn't want to be in JimBow's loafers: Nick or Dmitri?

... I wouldn't have said this a week ago, but the closer it gets to Opening Day, the more I want Nick's bat and Dmitri's presence. Can't I have both please?

Posted by: natscan reduxit | February 17, 2008 6:26 PM | Report abuse

Here's a cold one:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boddingtons

************
They had this great draft beer from England - Bodingtons (I think). It was as think and creamy as a Guiness. Just magical.

Posted by: 6th and D | February 17, 2008 03:14 PM

Posted by: MIB | February 17, 2008 6:34 PM | Report abuse

Gotta say I don't understand why the Nats would have to trade Johnson or Young.

Let's see, for $10 million/year, you get a 29-year-old 1B with one of the best OBP in baseball, and often impressive glove (Johnson). And you also get a high-average, switch-hitting pinch-hitter who can spot start (Young).

Other teams would say that's a bargain.

Posted by: Ashburn | February 17, 2008 6:38 PM | Report abuse

To Andrew Stebbins: I'm told washingtonpost.com will have a videographer/photographer down here by the end of the week.

To MIB: No, my musical selections are literally what I was listening to as I was writing (or in my rental car on the way to the stadium), and thus, you should NOT read anything into them. In other words, I was not trying to say anything about the Nationals when I chose that particular Modest Mouse record.

To NatsNut: Mr. Cawley in Florida Today was incorrect -- Dmitri has not arrived yet (at least not as of this afternoon). I suspect Mr. Cawley confused Lenny Harris with Young.

To Ashburn (and others): It doesn't make much sense for the Nationals to keep both Johnson and Young around (if they're both healthy). First of all, they both deserve to start, and whichever is not starting would have a legitimate beef. Secondly, for a team with a $40 million payroll, it's an unnecessary luxury to have a $5 million bench player, especially when a healthy Nick Johnson would likely bring you back a very good young pitcher and probably more in a package deal.

Good night, everyone. We'll have more tomorrow.

Posted by: Dave Sheinin | February 17, 2008 6:54 PM | Report abuse

While I love the idea of keeping both NJ and Meat, I do understand both the dilemma and bargain of keeping both.

What we need to keep in mind is the future. You have a 34 y.o. and an often injured 29 y.o. Additionally the probable future at that position (Marrero) is just beginning to learn the position in the minors. So, if both of the above are playing well in the middle/end of S.T., their value will never be higher. I'm not sure what the market is, nor is anyone else (except maybe JimBow). Given the right offer (say a solid M.I., ready to step up to the Majors in 09), it would be almost impossible not to bite. Boone can easily step in and be the backup 1b.

BTW, speaking of Marrero, in an earlier (much earlier) post, I wondered whether he was related to Connie Marrero, who played for the Nats in the early '50s. I commented that I was concerned about Marrero's speed, given that Connie was the slowest Major leaguer that I had ever seen. Now I know why. In the latest edition of the Baseball Research Journal, there is a list of players who had "understated" their age. Seems that Connie Marrero was 35 before he played his first M.L. game.

Posted by: Catcher50 | February 17, 2008 7:11 PM | Report abuse

Yikes! That's bush league. I'll make sure and give Mr. Cawley a hard time. :)
_________
To NatsNut: Mr. Cawley in Florida Today was incorrect -- Dmitri has not arrived yet (at least not as of this afternoon). I suspect Mr. Cawley confused Lenny Harris with Young.

Posted by: NatsNut | February 17, 2008 7:12 PM | Report abuse

It kills me, it does, but I want Nick out there. If that means we have to trade Dmitri, and Elijah simply has to man up, it would be worth it. Of course, I truly believe that Nick has a lot more value than Dmitri, or we would have been able to trade Da Meathook last July 31.

The Fleecefactor piece was great ed, thanks. The Wiki entry on Boddingtons was creamy and satisfying, MIB, and O'Faolain's in Herndon is a great place to drink one while they (and someday soon again, I) play Irish music on Sunday evenings.

I hope that Lenny Harris, while not Dmitri Young, can capture some of Dmitri's magic this year. I admit that I feel that Hariis is a weak link in the coaching staff, although not as weak as Tim Tolman. There was nothing in the hitting stats last year that indicated he should stay, and it will take a lot of WMP hitting to right field to convince me otherwise. I always admired him as a player, but Lenny has to step up.

Posted by: Positively Half St. | February 17, 2008 7:26 PM | Report abuse

If both Nick and Dmitri are healthy and performing, dealing one of them (probably Nick) is a lot easier if Matt Whitney impresses. If not, the team really takes a risk in dealing one given that neither one (particularly Nick) has a great history of being healthy for an entire season.

But Nick would be an asset in most lineups in baseball, and I suspect there are times the Yankees wish they had him back. He would represent a huge upgrade over the Giambi / whatever else tandem. And he just may soon be available to them.

Posted by: tomterp | February 17, 2008 7:28 PM | Report abuse

Speaking of Tim Tolman, does he still come back to 3B or is he gone from the whole organization?

Posted by: NatsNut | February 17, 2008 7:33 PM | Report abuse

Tim Tolman is the 3rd base coach, still, per Manny, and the Nats web site.

Posted by: CE | February 17, 2008 7:36 PM | Report abuse

You mean... there's still hope!!! All right! I'm reporting yesterday!

*************
Seems that Connie Marrero was 35 before he played his first M.L. game.
Posted by: Catcher50 | February 17, 2008 07:11 PM

Posted by: CE | February 17, 2008 7:53 PM | Report abuse

CE, you're not even 35 in hexidecimal.
Dude, it's OVER.

Posted by: MIB | February 17, 2008 7:54 PM | Report abuse

Dave, do you have any evidence from your sources that a "healthy" Nick could likely bring the Nats "a very good young pitcher and probably more in a package deal"? Or is that speculation?

Personally, I think it's important that when we talk about trading a "healthy" Nick Johnson that we keep in mind his extremely long history of injuries and his rep as a slow healer. Even leaving aside his nasty broken leg, Nick has a rep throughout the league as fragile. 2007 was not even the first time he missed a full season due to injury! I think it is highly unlikely that other teams are going to be willing to give the Nats real talent in return for him--especially the Yankees, who know his injury history up close and personal. Given how highly Bowden seems to value his own talent, I would be surprised if the Nats ended up trading him.

Here's a sampling of Nick's injury history--other teams are all aware of this, so we should probably all keep it in mind when we think about the chance he might be traded:

2000: Missed full season due to hand injury.
2002: Missed 1 month due to wrist injury
2003: Missed 2 months due to hand injury
2004: Missed 2 months due to back injury; missed last 6 weeks due to broken cheekbone
2005: Missed 1 month due to heel injury
2007: Missed full season due to broken femur

Nick is an excellent hitter. If he's healthy, he has value for the Nats. But I just can't see another team giving up young, real talent for him given the above injury history.

Posted by: Coverage is lacking | February 17, 2008 7:57 PM | Report abuse

I say package NJ and a bullpen hand like Ayala to the Angels for one or more of their young prospect middle infielders(i.e. Aybar or Wood) or a possible starting pitcher.

Posted by: FFNatsfan11 | February 17, 2008 8:01 PM | Report abuse

I'd hold Nick and Dmitri until the trading deadline so when we play on the road in the AL cities, we can have our cake and eat it too. Nick playing first, Meat DHing.

Posted by: 6th and D | February 17, 2008 8:31 PM | Report abuse

You don't think California/Anaheim/Los Angeles/Los Angeles of Anaheim/whatever
are happy with Casey Kotchman?
*************
I say package NJ and a bullpen hand like Ayala to the Angels for one or more of their young prospect middle infielders(i.e. Aybar or Wood) or a possible starting pitcher.

Posted by: FFNatsfan11 | February 17, 2008 08:01 PM

Posted by: CE | February 17, 2008 9:01 PM | Report abuse

Youd hold onto both of them for just a couple of games in May and June?

Here is my big question: What if Johnson comes back and proves his health in Spring Training. They decide to keep Young and both get equal playing time, to increase their value. But by the deadline Johnson is hurt again. When do you try to get the most out of Johnson?

Posted by: 6th and D | February 17, 2008 9:37 PM | Report abuse

"Youd hold onto both of them for just a couple of games in May and June?"

18 games, right? More than a "couple".

Posted by: tomterp | February 17, 2008 9:50 PM | Report abuse

"18 games, right? More than a "couple"."

Nine games, actually. There are 18 interleague games on the schedule, but DH is only used in the ones played in AL home parks. Pitchers bat in NL home parks.

Posted by: Section 419+1 | February 17, 2008 10:55 PM | Report abuse

9 games, which is not a couple but not, alone, enough: 3 each, @ B'more in May, Seattle and Minn. in June; 3 @ Mil but not until August. Games at NL parks don't use a DH.
********
"You'd hold onto both of them for just a couple of games in May and June?"
---------
18 games, right? More than a "couple".
Posted by: tomterp | February 17, 2008 09:50 PM

Posted by: CE | February 17, 2008 10:57 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, yeah. I just can't get used to Milwaukee Brewers being a NL team.

Posted by: Old Fart | February 17, 2008 10:59 PM | Report abuse

Dave: front page of Post online should read *Johnson's* Healthy Return Thrills Nationals.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 18, 2008 7:43 AM | Report abuse

I may have mentioned this before, but I recommend the film "The Bases Are Loaded," which features Monte Irvin's return to Cuba and reunion with former winter ball teammate Marrero.

---

BTW, speaking of Marrero, in an earlier (much earlier) post, I wondered whether he was related to Connie Marrero, who played for the Nats in the early '50s.

Posted by: natsfan1a | February 18, 2008 8:32 AM | Report abuse

Bodingtons-excellent. The Nats have to keep Johnson.(unless they get big payback, which is unlikely) I keep thinking this is a team that could go a long piece this year, but they need their best hitter to do it. I would like to keep both of them, if DY would be satisfied being an ultimate player off the bench. If not DY will be a somewhat attractive acquisition as a DH for some AL club.
Welcome Dave. I enjoy your writing and coverage. Hey, I notice you even get down and dirty in the trenches with the rest of us.

Posted by: Jeeves | February 18, 2008 8:44 AM | Report abuse

I'd hate to see NJ go, for the reasons a couple of you have pointed out - I think his injury history is going to keep you from getting equal value for him. The LAA deals are a pipe dream, I think, 1. cos LAA doesn't trade prospects as a rule, 2. because they've got as good or better, younger, and healthier talent at 1B. But that said, I don't think you can trade Meathook, either - I don't buy into the whole "Mentor Meathook" role, but given Dukes' tendencies, trading the guy who you said was going to be his mentor doesn't seem like a good way to start off with him. Having given up something more than nothing to get him, I'd like to see if we can get some return out of him, so I think we're stuck with Meathook (and I think Meathook would bring even less than NJ). If NJ's healthy, he starts, maybe a 75/25 split with Meat, and listen if offers roll in, but making an artificial deadline like "we can't have them both on the roster" seems like a good way to submarine whatever value they might have.

Posted by: Ryan Dylan (and Nick the Eskimo) | February 18, 2008 9:02 AM | Report abuse

No, on trading Johnson, and why trade Young unless a terrific deal emerges? Johnson won't play 162 games. If as the season progresses, Johnson's health seems solid, won't Young's trade value go up, perhaps, in July, as teams become more aware of what they need to get over the hump? A few quality prospects would be the higher return at that point than a trade now. If Johnson's health is tenuous, hanging on to Young will have been worth it.

Posted by: GoNats2 | February 18, 2008 9:08 AM | Report abuse

One more thing about Aybar - consistent worries about fielding - herein, a Tin Yurl from the LA Times about him making 17 errors in 58 Dominican Winter League ballgames.

http://tinyurl.com/ys2fb2

Posted by: Ryan Dylan (It ain't Aybar, babe) | February 18, 2008 9:12 AM | Report abuse

Yeah, yeah. I just can't get used to Milwaukee Brewers being a NL team.

Posted by: Old Fart | February 17, 2008 10:59 PM

~~~~~~~~

... I just can't get used to the Milwaukee team not being called the Braves. :)

- Older Fart

Posted by: natscan reduxit | February 18, 2008 9:31 AM | Report abuse

"One more thing about Aybar"

... just what this team needs: more Spanish gloves of Spanish leather.

Posted by: natscan reduxit | February 18, 2008 9:38 AM | Report abuse

9:37 pm 6th and D is NTR 6th and D. I say hold them both - that is unless someone is giving away true talent. Otherwise hold until we finish with the AL.

That Boddingtons is excellent brew. It's nice and thick and gives you a "milk mustache" just like Guiness. Perfect with a medium-rare Ribeye.

Posted by: 6th and D | February 18, 2008 9:55 AM | Report abuse

neither of these guys is the picture of perfect health. guessing at who is more injury prone is a waste of time. trade whoever brings the most in return. we'll survive without either one. amazing that nick is only 29 years old.

i'm not particularly sold that dmitri should stay because he'll be such a great influence and can take care of mr. dukes. that's been played up way to much and shouldn't have a role in determing who stays or goes, if anyone.

but i'd prefer to keep nick johnson. better overall player, especially helps the defense. which is why he would be the more likely candidate to go. to me it's a wash. still thinking longterm...enjoy the stadium.

hopefully soon we can focus on new uniforms again...

Posted by: longterm | February 18, 2008 9:56 AM | Report abuse

New post (collect 'em all!)

Posted by: Hendo | February 18, 2008 11:11 AM | Report abuse

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