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Pre-Game Notes

* Today, the Nats are fielding their first Nyjer Morgan starting lineup. Nick Johnson is back in the No. 2 spot, mostly because Johnson's patient approach will give Morgan a better window for base-stealing. Cristian Guzman, who previously batted either first or second in every game he's started this year, was dropped to sixth.

"We want to take advantage of that .325, .330 that he's having," Manny Acta said. "We want him hitting with those guys on base, because we feel sometimes his at bat comes up after the eighth hitter and the pitcher, and right now, the way our offense is, we want to see him hitting guys with runners on base."

During today's media press conference, I mentioned to Acta that his starting lineup, excluding pitcher Ross Detwiler, had just one player (Ryan Zimmerman) under 29. I started yammering about a 'team in transition,' blah blah blah, and the question I was trying for became kind of convoluted. Acta wanted me to try again. So I cut to the chase. Question: Do you feel like you're managing a bunch of guys who might not be here in a month?

His answer: "I don't look at it that way. I hear people sometimes talk about, 'Well, this guy is 29 years old.' How long is The Plan? Why [can't] a guy who's 29 be here for seven more years? He's only going to be 36. I mean, how long is The Plan? Twenty years? I don't feel for the plan to be in order you just have to have a bunch of 22-year-old guys in here. I think if the guys prove to be part of what we're trying to do here, it doesn't matter if they're 29 or 22. Because a 29-year-old hasn't even hit the peak of his career. So I don't feel that way. I think that is gonna be determined by how a guy plays, his character, and what our front office decides to do."

* Acta held a very brief team meeting today, about five minutes, before batting practice today. He spoke briefly about the little things -- situational hitting, in particular -- that cost the team in its previous two series. Written on the clubhouse white board, by the way: "Whether you think you can or can't, you are probably right!"

* The Nats have signed fourth-round pick A.J. Morris (RHP, Kansas State) and 10th-round pick Paul Applebee (LHP, UC Riverside). I'll pass along the bonus info once I have it. With Morris in the fold, the Nats have now signed their four highest draft picks, excluding No. 1 selection Stephen Strasburg.

* A little about NJ favorite J.D. Martin.

Really, the only thing left for J.D. Martin to improve upon is his level of competition. Yesterday, Martin, 26, was one of three Class AAA Syracuse players -- along with second baseman Seth Bynum and outfielder Jorge Padilla -- elected to the International League all-star game.

This year, Martin has been among the most dominant pitchers in baseball, no matter the level. In each of his last seven starts, he's allowed either one or zero earned runs. He has a 0.89 WHIP. (For perspective, only one qualifying major league starter, Dan Haren, has a WHIP under 1.00.) He also has a 8.29 strikeout-to-walk ratio. (More perspective: Only three major league starters, Haren, Roy Halladay and Zack Greinke, have strikeout-to-walk ratios above 6.00, and none is as high as Martin's.)

But Martin, for all his numbers, remains a curious case. A first-round draft pick (35th overall) by Cleveland in 2001, Martin has never pitched in the big leagues. He's already aged beyond ideal prospect years, and he's stuck in an organization loaded with young pitching talent. He doesn't throw all hard, relying on his cutter and his command. Even this offseason, when the Nationals signed him to a minor league deal, he was seen as little more than Class AAA depth.

Despite his success, which he attributes, quite simply, to strike-throwing, Martin knows he faces an uphill climb to the big leagues. Asked about Washington's stockpile of young arms, Martin said, "I try not to think about things out of my control, but I'd be lying if I said it didn't cross my mind."

At the end of a respectable 2008 season with the Cleveland organization, Martin was released. He needed a new home -- a second organization. With Cleveland, he'd gradually lost the first-round glimmer: He had elbow problems in 2003, then full-blown Tommy John in 2005. The injuries forced him to become a different pitcher. Perhaps not as sexy, but smarter.

"I feel like I can make adjustments now," said Martin, who throws his fastball between 85-90. "I can read hitters' swings. And now it's just throwing strikes. I have great fielders behind me this year, and that just gives me so much confidence."

By Chico Harlan  |  July 3, 2009; 6:08 PM ET
 
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Comments

26 in not old for a pitcher; there have been plenty of pitchers who had very good MLB careers after 30. J.D.'s "problem" is to many fly balls to ground balls, something Rizzo does not like and he is a control pitcher now. I do hope the Nats do give him a chances to play in the Bigs sometime this year.

Posted by: sdrappa | July 3, 2009 6:33 PM | Report abuse

Our fielding must be much better in AAA than with the MLB team for Martin to say something like that last paragraph.

Posted by: kevinx | July 3, 2009 6:37 PM | Report abuse

OK, I think I am ready to twitter, but my Blackberry seems not to like addresses that begin with '@'

I will look for fellow twits in the stands.

Posted by: paulkp | July 3, 2009 7:38 PM | Report abuse

Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. Listen to none of the hardline rhetoric spewed by either side of these negotiations between now and August 15. This thing between the Nats and Strasburg/Boras will come down to 11:59:59 August 17. Boras wants his boy in MLB and the Nats want Strasburg in uniform. It will happen last minute and not before.

Posted by: RicketyCricket | July 3, 2009 7:55 PM | Report abuse

I am so sick of Boras. Let him take SS to Japan. Let him hold him out a year. He has no regard for SS nor his family. Boras just wants his fame and money. It's refreshing to see all of the young pitchers in the Nat's system. They are trying hard to compete and make or stay in the big league. To anoint a pitcher who has never pitched in anything other than a second or third tier college conference the second coming of Walter Johnson is ridiculous! Offer SS the $10-12 million and then cut ties with him and his shyster agent!

Posted by: NickfromGermantown | July 3, 2009 8:00 PM | Report abuse

Anybody know Morgan's batting song? I like the harmony.

Posted by: Juan-John | July 3, 2009 8:52 PM | Report abuse

Sorry, why do we have Jesus Colome on the roster again?

Posted by: curz | July 3, 2009 9:01 PM | Report abuse

Another loss directly attributable to the managing. Nice to see these piling up unchecked.

Posted by: RickFelt | July 3, 2009 9:01 PM | Report abuse

It's not the managing -- it's the fact that not a SINGLE Nats relief pitcher is capable of throwing a first-pitch strike.

Posted by: Juan-John | July 3, 2009 9:05 PM | Report abuse

Colome is DFA'd before the end of the weekend. He HAS to be!!!

Posted by: FloresFan | July 3, 2009 9:05 PM | Report abuse

Say so long to Jesus Colome everyone....DFA can't be far behind...

Posted by: bromisky | July 3, 2009 9:06 PM | Report abuse

Can Column B say sayonara, now? And forever? He's Gascanrahan, without the control. Hey, Pittsburgh, you want this BP pitcher too?

Posted by: jdschulz50 | July 3, 2009 9:10 PM | Report abuse

sweet mother of g*d! can't anybody throw first pitch strikes?

Posted by: twinbrook | July 3, 2009 9:20 PM | Report abuse

Bring in Tavarez, thats surely the answer.

Posted by: curz | July 3, 2009 9:26 PM | Report abuse

How about three strikes before four balls? Anybody?

Posted by: jdschulz50 | July 3, 2009 9:26 PM | Report abuse

Just got in from mowing the lawn. If my wife and I were in the Cialis bathtubs in that lake, there'd be a swarm of Calvanist mosquitos that would make us look like Joba Chamberlain in a playoff game in Clevelant.

Posted by: flynnie2 | July 3, 2009 9:33 PM | Report abuse

So now that we have some hitting, we have no pitching. Again. So we're back in the losing 10-8 mode. Again. Great. Crap just said Kearns' new role is pinch-hitter. That should do wonders for rallies.

Posted by: jdschulz50 | July 3, 2009 9:36 PM | Report abuse

Wow. Kearns caught looking. That's never happened before.

Posted by: jdschulz50 | July 3, 2009 9:37 PM | Report abuse

Nyjer 0h-for-four. Maybe he's not the saviour, after all. Anybody got Nook Logan's cellphone number?

Posted by: jdschulz50 | July 3, 2009 9:39 PM | Report abuse

It seems like the Braves are beating us by keeping the bats on their shoulders. Nijer Morgan and Kearns were swinging at balls. Blue's zone seems very small tonight, except for that last pitch Kearns took.

Posted by: flynnie2 | July 3, 2009 9:40 PM | Report abuse

Say goodnight, ladies and gents. 22-and-55. Four games from the halfway mark. Careful driving home.

Posted by: jdschulz50 | July 3, 2009 10:11 PM | Report abuse

Well that was a crappy game. 8 runs should win you the game, but not with this freakin' bullpen. This team just can't seem to play a complete game. One game the starting pitching is great but the offense is missing, then the next game the pitching sucks but the offense is there, but ultimately not there enough. I don't get it. Whatever.

Colome is really terrible and looks really scared everytime he's pitching, he just can't throw any strikes and walks everybody, then gives up homers. Okay, done with my rant. Hopefully they have a chance to win tomorrow afternoon b/c Lannan's pitching.

Posted by: rachel216 | July 3, 2009 10:11 PM | Report abuse

Nyjer had a good night, caught 4 balls that would have been hits, 2 that looked liked extra base hits one of them in left field, stole a base and scored. All that without a hit. He makes it possible to play both Dunn, Willingham and Harris in the same line up. This line up scored 8 runs tonight hard to blame it on the offense. I think he could be a Gary Pettis type player. Definitely not a Nook Logan.

Posted by: sdrappa | July 3, 2009 10:38 PM | Report abuse

NJers, take heart: Here's Gascanrahan's line from tonight's game:
1 IP, 3H, 2R, 2ER, 1BB, 2SO 29 pitches.

Bucs had a 7-0 lead when he came on. It was 7-2 when he left, and gave it back to the adults.

Posted by: jdschulz50 | July 3, 2009 10:49 PM | Report abuse

Finally, a decent centerfielder. Thats one of the pieces needed. Too bad Det had a flat very hitable pitch tonight. It happens though. Just seems the timing this club has stinks. Oh well, get em tomorrow.

Posted by: cokedispatch | July 3, 2009 11:00 PM | Report abuse

Just got back from the game. Morgan is amazing. He plays shallower than any center fielder I've seen in Nat's Park. I'd give him center for the foreseeable future if he does nothing more than hit .250ish.

Posted by: joebleux | July 3, 2009 11:15 PM | Report abuse

Glad to hear that nugget, joebleux. I always thought where Thrilledge played was ridiculous; I thought he was in a 301 area code most nights. Glad to hear that Morgan forces the action a bit.

Posted by: jdschulz50 | July 3, 2009 11:27 PM | Report abuse

Just listened to Vin Scully calling the Dodgers-Padres game. "Joe Torre takes the team to 51 wins. And for the Padres, a mistake here, a mistake there, and suddenly you've lost 45 games." (Padres had 2 errors) 51 wins on July 4th weekend. Can you imagine? Wait, I don't have to imagine. I remember it. The Nats won their 51st game on July 5, 2005 by beating the Mets. I listened to the Mets radio broadcast from Ocean City because I couldn't get any Nats coverage from there. I remember the Mets play-by-play guy calling Chad Cordero "incredibly courageous." As in, "He doesn't have overpowering stuff, but he throws a fastball with late movement and he's just incredibly courageous. He throws strikes." If that pitching staff had these hitters, they would've won the world series. By August 31st the Nats had clawed out of their slump and and were 6 games out of first to play meaningful September games. Attendance was good, too. 51,785 turned out to see them play the Mets on August 20. It's incredible how difficult, how illusive that success has proven to be. I would trade the new park and everything in it to be sitting with an Anthony's of New York hot dog watching that team play in RFK.

Posted by: flynnie2 | July 4, 2009 2:20 AM | Report abuse

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