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Notes On Kearns, MacDougal And Others

With any luck, Austin Kearns is dealing right now with nothing more serious than a slump. Both in spring training and in April, Kearns showed a rejuvenated power stroke, the early dividends of his work with new hitting coach Rick Eckstein. He hit balls to the gaps. A few balls he almost hit to the parking lot. During 43 Grapefruit League at bats and 52 at bats in April, the Washington Nationals right fielder hit a combined seven home runs, and raised hopes that his 2008 track record -- no power, too many lazy flies and grounders -- no longer demonstrated his true potential.

Kearns' most recent month, though, has complicated that picture. Those who've watched Kearns this month, including Eckstein, insist that his remodeled swing remains mechanically strong -- at least most of the time.

"The swing is still shorter, which is what gives us hope that he will bounce back," Manager Manny Acta said.

Still, Kearns acknowledges that "I'm not swinging like I was. I felt great all spring, pretty good the first month, and lately I'm just trying to work to get back into it. I'm obviously not seeing the ball as well, and when you're not seeing the ball as well you get out of your element a little bit."

In May, Kearns has 56 at bats (.196), no home runs and four RBI. With just four extra base hits, he's slugging .286. Today, Kearns received an off day, but that didn't interrupt his pre-game routine. In the early afternoon, he met with Eckstein for a round of extra hitting. They worked on all the personalized drills, hitting balls off a T, trying some one-handed swings -- "specific things that work on his path to the ball," Eckstein said.

"A lot of what we're trying to do now is recapture that good feeling," Eckstein said.

*

If the Nationals do not promote Class AAA reliever Mike MacDougal within the next 48 hours, they lose rights to him. MacDougal, a former all-star closer, signed a non-guaranteed deal early this month, but it gave him the option to leave the organization if he wasn't promoted to the big leagues within 21 days. MacDougal has informed the team of his desire to use the out clause. In 7-1/3 innings with Syracuse, MacDougal has allowed one run, and is throwing in the mid-90s.

"So we're going to evaluate the situation and see what we're going to do about it," acting general manager Mike Rizzo said.

*

One day after Daniel Cabrera's tenure as a relief pitcher began with a debacle (2/3 IP, 3 BB), both Acta and Rizzo were offered their terse answers about the plan for what's next.

Said Rizzo: "Well he and Randy [St. Claire] are working on things, and in his last start Randy saw some positive stuff to work on when we relegated him to the bullpen. We're going to continue on that track until we make the decision otherwise."

Asked when/if Cabrera will pitch again, Acta said, "We're just going to throw him when we feel like he can be out there again, simple as that."

*

It's looking like Jesus Flores (shoulder), currently on rehab assignment with Class AA Harrisburg, will be ready to re-join the Nats when the team begins its weekend series in Philadelphia.

By Chico Harlan  |  May 26, 2009; 7:05 PM ET
 
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Next: Cabrera Designated For Assignment

Comments

Mr. grforbes,

Trading Dunn would make absolutely no sense both from a box office / attendance perspective. I think that would be ASKING FOR TROUBLE as in a true franchise extinction event or FEE! Certainly there would be a FEE!!

Can you say Rodriguez, Brinkman, and Coleman for Denny McDick? In 1971 we paid a very high FEE!

Keep Johnson, Zimmerman, Dunn in the middle intact. Trade others.

Posted by: periculum | May 26, 2009 7:16 PM | Report abuse

So who do other teams want from the Nats?

Posted by: tomfoc31 | May 26, 2009 7:55 PM | Report abuse

Frankly, I don't care about attendance, I only care that they improve the team.

I do want to repeat that I didn't say they should or would trade Dunn. I said they should find out what they might get in return. That is only effective management. If there is no deal that makes sense, keep Dunn. I have no problem with that. I still suggest they contact some teams, kick some tires, and find out what they might get in return.

Are you seriously suggesting that if the BoSox offered Bard and Buchold for Dunn you would say no?

Posted by: grforbes | May 26, 2009 8:26 PM | Report abuse

DFA The Bard and DCab, promote MacDougal, activate Kid Flores and you're done.

Whatever you decide to do with AK, do it fast. I can only watch him hit into so many more double plays without more Bourbon and Maalox.

Posted by: jdschulz50 | May 26, 2009 8:35 PM | Report abuse

Has Manny Acta ever come out of the dugout to argue a call for his team? I mean that was a close play. Bard was arguing. Where the freak is Acta? Does he stick up for anyone?

Posted by: dovelevine | May 26, 2009 8:35 PM | Report abuse

"Are you seriously suggesting that if the BoSox offered Bard and Buchold for Dunn you would say no?"

"Posted by: grforbes | May 26, 2009"

Caveat Emptor. Ought to be the Nats motto from here on out. Bard has ONLY PITCHED FIVE INNINGS THIS YEAR with SEVEN HITS and a BB. NO. Why haven't the Red Sox done something with him? It all looks awfully suspicious. So, NO. There is hard evidence that Dunn is worth more. In Bard's case there is NONE! ZERO, NADA!

Bucholz? Bucholz!!?? Are you crazy. Why not bring up Colin Balester and Collem Willem? They are high round pick pitchers. Probably would do just as well as 2-9, 6.75 ERA, 11 HR 107 H and 51 BB in 98.2 innings?

NO! Absolutely NOT!? Hitting is much harder than pitching ... they have 2 1st round picks. They just need to sign Strasberg. There is your right handed pitching prospect.

Its a really good thing you are not the GM of this team. They'd be in Texas before the year was out.

Posted by: periculum | May 26, 2009 8:36 PM | Report abuse

You can't expect any close calls to go our way with the Gutless One in the dugout obviously.

Posted by: RickFelt | May 26, 2009 8:39 PM | Report abuse

"So who do other teams want from the Nats?"

"Posted by: tomfoc31 | May 26, 2009"

To make a run for the playoffs and the pennants? Guzman. Everyone seems to lack a good shortstop.

Posted by: periculum | May 26, 2009 8:41 PM | Report abuse

Double plays are killing us tonight! What the heck happened to our offense????

Posted by: BGinVA | May 26, 2009 8:46 PM | Report abuse

@rickfelt: Manny's idea of managing is to wait for a three-run homer. Arguing a call?
Hasn't been in his job description for two and a-quarter seasons. Unfortunately.

Posted by: jdschulz50 | May 26, 2009 8:53 PM | Report abuse

Note to BGinVa: Good pitching stops good hitting,I said it ad nauseum if the Lerners want to see a change in this team's perfromance then for the sake of the fans hard earned money, Manny's got to go listen i'd sit down with Manny and have a couple but that's not the issue his baseball his dugout IQ is sorley lacking,as Michael Corleone said "its not personal Sonny it's just business".

Posted by: dargregmag | May 26, 2009 8:55 PM | Report abuse

Dunn!!!!!

Posted by: BGinVA | May 26, 2009 8:57 PM | Report abuse

Good pitching stops good hitting. Sure. How many shutouts this year? Its well known that hitting is a harder skill to become adept at than pitching. So, while good pitchers are something to have, and to hold and to use as trade bait. Consistent, good to great young hitters you sign and resign to megabucks. In other words, Zimmmerman (this year), Dunn, and Johnson.

Posted by: periculum | May 26, 2009 9:02 PM | Report abuse

You can tell ... Hernandez is not afraid of any hitter in the Nats lineup save one. That would be Dunn.

Posted by: periculum | May 26, 2009 9:03 PM | Report abuse

Periculum -

What's suspicious about a 23 year old that got called up about 2 weeks ago only pitching 5 innings out of the bullpen?

Posted by: Juni | May 26, 2009 9:07 PM | Report abuse

The vociferous one makes his move.

Posted by: jdschulz50 | May 26, 2009 9:14 PM | Report abuse

No way Manny keeps his job. If this road trip concludes as horribly as it has started, my bet is that he gets fired on the off day next Monday. Something has to be done...

Posted by: BGinVA | May 26, 2009 9:16 PM | Report abuse

So, some of you are satisfied with the makeup of a 13-31 team? Dunn can hit homer, walk a few times, and strike out more than a few times and suddenly he's a piece of the future? Nats need to get much much more depth everywhere in the their organization and you're fooling yourselves if you'll substitute short-term thinking (egads the attendance!) with what is needed to build a competitive team in DC. Nothing save your young core (Zimmerman(n)s, etc) is off the table if you can get something other than a couple of pitchers in return. Nats need help everywhere because there is very little left in the minors.

Posted by: bendersx6 | May 26, 2009 9:16 PM | Report abuse

Bergmann is just falling apart out there

It is so hard to watch this team. God I love them to death but its becoming so frustrating. They always find a way to F up.

Posted by: FloresFan | May 26, 2009 9:16 PM | Report abuse

"Good pitching stops good hitting. Sure. How many shutouts this year? Its well known that hitting is a harder skill to become adept at than pitching. So, while good pitchers are something to have, and to hold and to use as trade bait. Consistent, good to great young hitters you sign and resign to megabucks. In other words, Zimmmerman (this year), Dunn, and Johnson."

You must be kidding. Have you watched a game this year? Your argument is completely illogical. The nats have a top 5 offense in the NL and have the worst record in the majors by 4 games.

Posted by: Juni | May 26, 2009 9:21 PM | Report abuse

Unless the lineup bats around completely in the 9th inning, Zimmerman will lose his consecutive-games of reaching base safely streak tonight. Pretty ugly way to end it - 2 Ks, ground out to short, and fly-out to right.

Still an amazing stretch of games to start the year.

Posted by: faNATic | May 26, 2009 9:32 PM | Report abuse

Buchholz has a 1.30 ERA and a .75 WHIP in 8 starts this season in AAA. He's better than any pitcher in our entire organization by any objective analysis. The ONLY player we have that they would consider giving up Buchholz for is Zimmerman.

Posted by: RickFelt | May 26, 2009 9:33 PM | Report abuse

Uhhh, maybe we should promote McDougal...?

Posted by: Juan-John | May 26, 2009 9:37 PM | Report abuse

How about a trade of the Bards? Josh for Daniel straight up. Josh hit a double tonight, so the Nats could probably get Lester too.

Posted by: Juni | May 26, 2009 9:46 PM | Report abuse

Jesus...how does an entire team offense just go into the tank like this? Starting pitchers have been solid, but the bats are MIA...WTF!!!!

Posted by: Naugatuck-Nats | May 26, 2009 9:54 PM | Report abuse

Ahhhh, the sweet, sweet relief of the final out.

Posted by: rgibson25 | May 26, 2009 9:56 PM | Report abuse

MacDougal might be onto something...

As a fan I'm excercising my option... If the Washington Nats don't win in the next 48 hours I'll go cheer for POTOMAC!!!

Posted by: PNatsFan | May 26, 2009 9:59 PM | Report abuse

As Carpenter was noting, the offensive slump has coincided with Guzman's own funk. The order starts rotting at the top.

Posted by: fischy | May 26, 2009 10:02 PM | Report abuse

Dibble says it best, "your 18 games under .500 your playing a team with its best players on the DL and you continue to hold runners at third base"!

Tim Tollman the Human Windmill meet Pat Listache the Human Stop sign.

Folks its obvious that its time for Manny to go, but of course management can't even admit that DCab needs to be released so how in the world will they ever come to the conclusion that Acta needs to hit the road.

OBTW Wednesday night its Yohan Santana, must mean that Kearns will be starting.

Posted by: TippyCanoe | May 26, 2009 10:03 PM | Report abuse

"Buchholz has a 1.30 ERA and a .75 WHIP in 8 starts this season in AAA."

We've all seen that there is a difference between AAA and the bigs have we not? Last time he was up his record was 2 wins 9 losses with a 6.79 ERA and a penchant for giving up the gopher ball. Flamers that major league hitters turn into taters.

"He's better than any pitcher in our entire organization by any objective analysis."

Strasberg? Wheeler or whoever else they select 10th, (9a)?

"The ONLY player we have that they would consider giving up Buchholz for is Zimmerman."

Zimmerman is worth a lot more. Doubt that the Nats would ever go for it.

Posted by: periculum | May 26, 2009 10:04 PM | Report abuse

"The nats have a top 5 offense in the NL and have the worst record in the majors by 4 games."

"Posted by: Juni | May 26, 2009"

They also have the worst (as opposed to just average) pitching and defense in baseball.

Manny has said, and I think its valid, that with average pitching and defense this is a 25 win club.

Posted by: periculum | May 26, 2009 10:06 PM | Report abuse

My guess is that Rizzo, Manny and even esteemed president Kasten have until the All Star break to right the ship. Else they are going down along with all the DFA's.

Posted by: periculum | May 26, 2009 10:08 PM | Report abuse

If they let Macdougal escape without so much as a look see...I just don't know. If they think D Cab is the answer, well, I just don't know. Wait a minute, I've got this thing backwards....they don't know.

Posted by: cokedispatch | May 26, 2009 10:11 PM | Report abuse

the pending trade rumors and the draft coming up. I say Chico does a post on the future of the Nats position by position. Who really will be around when we are finally good. The rest lets trade for appropriate value.
Catcher- Flores/Norris
1 basemen- Marrero
2nd - ?
SS- ?
3B - Zimmerman
LF-Burgess/?
CF- Maxwell/Bernadina/
RF- Milledge (i'll get killed for that one)


what do you guys think?

Posted by: wrw0601 | May 26, 2009 10:12 PM | Report abuse

Why would Dibble be complaining about not sending runners to the plate on a night where we got a runner thrown out at the plate?

Posted by: baltova1 | May 26, 2009 10:24 PM | Report abuse

periculum,

I hope you are kidding with your posts. Maybe I'm missing the joke, because everything you have said would be considered wrong by every baseball fan in America.

Posted by: BillyBeane | May 26, 2009 10:34 PM | Report abuse

"Strasberg? Wheeler or whoever else they select 10th, (9a)?"

Neither of these pitchers is in our organization. I'm not sure why you said this.


Posted by: RickFelt | May 26, 2009 10:36 PM | Report abuse

Hard to believe that there was a better feeling surrounding this team the last couple of weeks with the arrival of Detweiler and Stammen, some improved relief pitching and the great catch by Maxwell...and the Nats still went 2-10! Now it's back to the doldrums.

I've been agnostic on Manny (I still don't think he's one of the most significant problems) but you have to believe he's on borrowed time. They're running out of other things to do to distract us from the fact that once again they didn't do enough to put together a competitive team. Anybody remember that one pitcher who was available for much of the winter for a relatively low price was...Livan Hernandez?

Maybe the next manager will get a real team to work with when he takes over.

Posted by: baltova1 | May 26, 2009 10:36 PM | Report abuse

@BillyBeane

I've had the feeling that he's been joking around all day too.

Posted by: RickFelt | May 26, 2009 10:38 PM | Report abuse

Buchholz is currently the best starting pitcher in basically all of AAA and you are hanging onto his big league stats from 2 years ago as some sort of proof that he's no better than Collin Balester (who didn't exactly tear it up in the bigs). It's insane.

Posted by: RickFelt | May 26, 2009 10:40 PM | Report abuse

This just can't continue without someone getting pink slipped. The losses are piling up at a fast pace and who's usually the fall guy in a situation like this?...Correct, the manager. If Acta doesn't get this thing turned around soon he will get a one way bus ticket outta here.

13-32 is brutal and this team has absolutely no fire.

Posted by: Section505203 | May 26, 2009 10:44 PM | Report abuse

I'll always be a fan, but it sure is getting hard to watch this whatever you call it.

Posted by: cokedispatch | May 26, 2009 10:48 PM | Report abuse

13-and-32...heading to 13-and-36:

Santana on Wednesday and a weekend set in Philly.

Fire Manny now.

Posted by: jdschulz50 | May 26, 2009 11:03 PM | Report abuse

>13-and-32...heading to 13-and-36:

Santana on Wednesday and a weekend set in Philly.

Fire Manny now.

When Listach held up Maxwell on that fly ball, Dibble says he doesn't understand why they don't take a chance 18 games under .500 and the camera immediately pans to Acta. Even the cameramen are fed up with that ignorant tool. hoo hooo thirteen and thirty-two suck on it and like it he says. Oh, but keep spending your money at Nats Park.

Posted by: Brue | May 27, 2009 7:37 AM | Report abuse

It is likely time to waive Kearns. The guy is now 1,100 plate appearances into a slump -- that aint a slump, that's a trend. Chico tells us about a hot spring and a solid April -- spring means nada and April is long in the rear view mirror. Cabrera is run out of town on a rail for pitching very poorly but Kearns, who is making 3 times the coin, is to be treated with kid gloves? (Last year he batted clean-up every day as he stunk it up to High Heaven.) The Nats seem to think that they can turn him around in order to get something for him at the deadline, I presume -- aint gonna happen. Sure a few teams may be interested in Kearns as a 4th or 5th OF, but not at the remainder of his contract (something like $5.5 M now I guess) for 2009. Right now Kearns is an older Wily Mo with a bigger contract. When Dukes is back, Kearns should be DFA'd.

Posted by: dfh21 | May 27, 2009 7:52 AM | Report abuse

Chico: You said Kearns had a fine April and a lousy May. Then you only gave his May batting average. My recollection is he was okay in April, but not terrific. Without the numbers, I'm not sure.
As for his swing, if it is shorter than it was, it ain't by much--and it's still too long, especially with two strikes. He can play some defense, but his bat is a liability.
Nats are hurt right now at the plate by the absence of Dukes and Flores and Guzman's slump (had to happen some time).
Bullpen has shown flashes of competence. Starters are okay.
Only thing to feel real good about now is: Cabrera's gone.

Posted by: jdsp2000 | May 27, 2009 11:10 AM | Report abuse

kearns in april: 903 OPS (403 OPB/500 SLG), 231 avg

kearn in may: 560 OPS (274/286), 196 avg.

that's a pretty monstrous slump and/or a pretty monstrous hot streak. 340 point difference in OPS? youch.

Posted by: sec231 | May 27, 2009 12:48 PM | Report abuse

I think Manny's gonna get fired cause that's what happens when the team has two years like these, but then what? They're not going to be any better. What people going to demand then?

Posted by: markfromark | May 27, 2009 3:32 PM | Report abuse

If someone who never followed baseball were to read some of the more excitable posts here, he or she might be excused for thinking that the team that wins the most games is the one with the manager who argues the most calls, and/or does so the loudest...Got nothing to do with W-L folks, or developing young talent either.

About AK: I always love the old baseball line about "seeing the ball" well or not. We're told that Austin's particular problem this month is not his mechanics or his approach, but that he's "not seeing the ball well". Well I'm no baseball player, but in the lives of everyday people like you and me, do you really have months where you see things well and others where you don't? Me neither.

Posted by: evanescent_panoply | May 28, 2009 7:43 AM | Report abuse

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