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An Off Day -- For Many

You won't see many players around the Nats' spring training complex today. The team has its final off day of the spring, so it's a good day for the guys coming north with the team to get their belongings in order, maybe catch some tournament hoops, or, if they really want, pack a picnic lunch of Panera sandwiches and watch Jordan Zimmermann.

Indeed, the 22-year-old gets no day off. He's pitching today on the minor league side. Game time, 1 p.m. I'll probably stop by and see how he looks. Already, many (including some in the Washington clubhouse) view Zimmermann as the team's most talented pitcher. Stuff-wise, that's hard to argue. After today, he ought to have one more start this spring.

If this spring has been encouraging for Zimmermann, it's been sobering for yesterday's starter, Collin Balester. But against Atlanta, he had his best start of the spring, throwing five innings and serving up two runs - only a quick strike from a Chipper Jones two-run shot. He threw just 55 pitches before exiting; then he finished off with 20 more in the bullpen. So, what was the difference between Balester's earlier spring starts and yesterday's?

For one thing, he maintained his high arm angle, creating what pitching coaches call downward movement. Balester is tall, 6-foot-5, which gives him leverage. That should be an advantage. Sometimes, though, he's guilty of dropping his arm a bit, delivering the ball on a level plane. Plus, it always helps when you've got more than one pitch working. Jones' homer came on a changeup, but Balester yesterday felt confident in his fastball, two-seamer, change and curve. One more thing, perhaps as vital as anything: This was the first time all spring where Balester didn't appear worried about the pitching competition. Probably because he's all but out of it, not that he said as much.

"I'm just getting over that hump of bad outings and kind of just went out there and said, 'Screw it, let's go after them and just pound these hitters,'" he said.

Here was Manny Acta's take on how Balester has handled the fight for a rotation job: "He got caught up way too much in the competition that he's got ahead of him. And you know, we see it differently. We like him. We know he's going to be a part of our future, and we just continue to work with him on an everyday basis and Randy [St. Claire] on the mental and mechanical part of the game. We do understand, everybody wants to be here in the big leagues, and a lot of times these guys sometime overdo it or overthink it."

By Chico Harlan  |  March 26, 2009; 8:17 AM ET
 
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Comments

I watched Balester pitch, but I didn't see his other outings so its hard to compare. But it seems that Balester is a fly ball pitcher and our outfield is defensively subpar to be generous. Does Balester seem like he can ever be a legit option in our rotation? Undoubtedly I have missed important other factors. What are they?

Balester also seemed to get rocked the second time through the order. Could he make it through a third time? That was one of his problems last year.

Posted by: CluelessNatsFan | March 26, 2009 8:30 AM | Report abuse

As a baseball and National's enthusiast (I like sports), I would like to know the answers to the following questions:

1) If (when) WMP does not make the team, does he have to be released, or is he under club control to be sent to AAA;

2) Is Dmitri contemplating retirement;

3) How much are the Nationals working with pitchers on hitting, bunting, and baserunning?

4) How does Josh Willingham's back feel?

5) Is Joel Hanrahan's new pitch - the changeup - working out for him?

6) What's the early vibe on how Acta is getting along with his new coaches - especially Jim Riggleman.

7) Are late additions Beimel, Wells, and Taverez going to be ready for opening day?

8) Wells seemed effective last night. Can he steal a rotation spot at this late date?

9) Why is Corey Patterson still on the roster (This is not meant as a slam at Corey - I'm just curious) Bernadina seems the logical choice for CF in AAA and there seems to be no room for Patterson on the MLB roster. What do they plan to do with him?

10) How have Smoker and McGeary been pitching in minor league camp? Are they both still A-List prospects or have both slipped.

Anyone?

Posted by: natbisquit | March 26, 2009 8:42 AM | Report abuse

WMP is out of options so he would have to be designated for assignment in order to get him to Triple-A. That would allow any team to claim him and keep him on their 25-man roster and assume his contract. If he were to pass through unclaimed, the Nats could either assign him to Triple-A or release him. Either way he'd get his full major league salary from the Nats.

Posted by: Brian_ | March 26, 2009 9:12 AM | Report abuse

> 2) Is Dmitri contemplating retirement

He has five million reasons not to retire. What do you think?

Posted by: spamcastin | March 26, 2009 9:20 AM | Report abuse

... to my mind, admittedly thin on knowledge but thick on impenetrability, it just makes sense for a pitcher, especially one who is 6'5'' as Collin is, to deliver from 'over the top'.

... that is why I have so much difficulty understanding the benefit of tossing submarine, save for the shock and awe value imposed on the hitter.

Posted by: natscanreduxit | March 26, 2009 9:30 AM | Report abuse

Where is everybody?

WMP would need to be put on waivers if he is not on the DL or the active 25 man roster. Any team could claim him for the price of his contract ($2M). He ran out of options many years ago, which led to his initial trade to Cinci from NYY. If he were waived and not claimed, I believe if he wanted his money ($2m), he'd have to acccept assignment in the Nats minor leagues.

A Dmitri retirement would cost him the $5m he is earning.

Corey Patterson is on a minor league contract and not on the 40 man roster. I do not knwo the specifics of his deal, but some veterans negotiate deals where if they do not make the major league roster out of spring training, they can leave the team.

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | March 26, 2009 9:37 AM | Report abuse

Brian's right- if he's released, he gets his money. I'm not sure if he has the right to refuse assignment if he's waived through the leagues.

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | March 26, 2009 9:39 AM | Report abuse

> Where is everybody?

Choosing my outfit for the progressive dinner party Chico's hosting tonight. Didn't you get your invite?

Can't wait to see where we'll be having dessert!

Posted by: spamcastin | March 26, 2009 9:47 AM | Report abuse

Colin is young still--give him some time. If he can't improve to the point of getting through the lineup more than once, there is always a reliver role to consider. Not that he wants to, or should at this point, go there yet.

Last night was the first time I'd had a chance to watch a game this year, and I reveled in it. I look forward to seeing that improved offense in person April 13!

Posted by: NatsFly | March 26, 2009 9:49 AM | Report abuse

1a,
Mark will have to go sit in the corner.

You've been 1a to me ever since you kindly welcomed me to the NJ universe after my first tentative post last year about this time.

I don't have the distain for Carpenter that many here do. I look at last night as him merely sucking up to one of his bosses. I wish I could say I've never done the same but that would not be true.

Let's play two!

Posted by: SlowPitch63 | March 26, 2009 9:53 AM | Report abuse

"WMP is out of options so he would have to be designated for assignment in order to get him to Triple-A. That would allow any team to claim him and keep him on their 25-man roster and assume his contract."

Oh no!

Posted by: dclifer | March 26, 2009 9:55 AM | Report abuse

spamcastin,
I've checked my pockets, but I must have left the invitation in my other tuxedo. You'll have to go without me.

Let's play two!

Posted by: SlowPitch63 | March 26, 2009 9:55 AM | Report abuse

Maybe we could trade him for some bats.

Posted by: dclifer | March 26, 2009 9:56 AM | Report abuse

Dmitri Young can hit, but is a liability in the field. He should be in the AL as a DH and pinch hitter.

The problem is nobody is going to pay $5 mill for him. I could see his value when teams expand their rosters that a playoff team could use him--as they would only then have to pay his pro-rated salary.

Posted by: GoingGoingGone | March 26, 2009 10:04 AM | Report abuse

The Nats have several players who should be DHs....

Posted by: fischy | March 26, 2009 10:29 AM | Report abuse

"Maybe we could trade him for some bats"

If you mean players who can actually hit the ball, probably not.

If you mean actual wooden implements with which to strike the ball, then yes, probably, though they're likely to be used.

Posted by: Highway295Revisited | March 26, 2009 10:37 AM | Report abuse

... no game today, so I thought I'd prognosticate a bit. I'm doing this in spite of my mother's long-ago admonition that I should not "wish my life away”. But I feel vindicated in doing it since a bishop once called me a ‘prophet’ so it would be rather selfish of me if I didn’t share the future.

... I have no reason to suggest the following except my own intuition, no finely honed expert reading of today’s promises or the future’s tea leaves. Simply a sense of what fate and fairness will bring to bear on the fortunes of the Nats. Or to put it another way - progress this year ... greater success next.

... so as not to keep you in suspense until next September first, here are the National League East standings as of that date. (The race to the flag could change everything):

Florida Marlins --
(improved pen; solid bats and field)
Philadelphia Phillies 0.5
(could repeat but already celebrated their victory)
New York Mets 3.5
(far too many hits and losses to roster)
Washington Nationals 8.5
(why not??)
Atlanta Braves 10.5
(Cox is getting old in the tooth; poor lineup; Kamakazi & Lowe not enough)

Posted by: natscanreduxit | March 26, 2009 10:38 AM | Report abuse

I watched Beimel and McGeary pitch in minor league games on Monday. Beimel looked very strong and I would assume he is about ready to throw in ST games. McGeary had good stuff but was knocked around a bit early in the game but got stronger as the game progressed.

Posted by: sec218 | March 26, 2009 10:38 AM | Report abuse

Thanks, SlowPitch.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | March 26, 2009 10:42 AM | Report abuse

As I recall, desert is something called 'Natty Delite'.

Posted by: cokedispatch | March 26, 2009 11:12 AM | Report abuse

> Where is everybody?

Choosing my outfit for the progressive dinner party Chico's hosting tonight. Didn't you get your invite?

Can't wait to see where we'll be having dessert!

>pack a picnic lunch of Panera sandwiches

I just love a picnic!

Cheeks is packing today, you know how time consuming that is. I hate packing, don't you? If he pulls it off, I'll put him in the Dinner Party HOF!!

Posted by: Brue | March 26, 2009 11:35 AM | Report abuse

excellent scnatsfan(the original)!

if I may add to natbisquit's list:

What is the team planning to do with the attorney general?

How does Nick Johnson feel (both physically, because we can never be too sure; and mentally, about the new swing he's working)?

and also, since I've been lurking like it's my job lately, Chico, I really couldn't care less how you feel about the beat/sports/Nats. All I ask is that you realize that it means a huge amount, way more than it probably should, to a lot of people. You are our lifeline. If you work hard, I will never complain. So keep developing your craft, breaking stories (let's not forget that he got Dunn first), and making it all fun to read. spamcastin is just spamming, as are some others. Rock on.

Posted by: NattyDelite | March 26, 2009 3:22 PM | Report abuse

Before the grammar police get me (where have y'all been btw?) it should be a colon in front of Chico in that last paragraph there.
Sweet.

Posted by: NattyDelite | March 26, 2009 3:23 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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