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Nats 5, Marlins 3

In the aftermath of Friday's 5-3 win against the Florida Marlins, the Washington Nationals' clubhouse inverted its pecking order. Adam Dunn and Ryan Zimmerman had both homered, but they changed quietly, unbothered by reporters.

The real stars were those who've spent significant time -- weeks, or in some cases months -- playing this year in Class AAA Syracuse. (Which means, of course, they've seen bigger crowds than this one.)

J.D. Martin, who pitched five two-run innings, matching Florida ace Josh Johnson, stood near his locker and said "I hope [I'm proving myself]. I'm doing everything I can." Mike MacDougal, who notched a five-out save, shutting down the comeback-ready Marlins after the tying run reached base, said, "We probably don't want to make it that exciting, but we'll take 'em." And Mike Morse, who contributed the go-ahead pinch-hit double, acknowledged that this coming-off-the-bench business was a tough gig -- but perhaps it was emerging as his opportunity to stick in the big leagues.

It's probably it's unfair to group all of these guys together. Martin is a Tommy John reclamation project, and MacDougal has all-star stuff with Wild Thing predilections, and Tyler Clippard (two innings, no runs, four strikeouts) is a young guy with set-up man potential. Morse is a utility man who seems like a worthy pinch-hitter. But who knows. Only this much is clear: The recent weeks/months have been kind to all of them.

Clippard's two scoreless innings Friday lowered his ERA to 3.02. Martin (4-4) has a 3.31 ERA in his last six starts. MacDougal, with 15 saves, should return next year as the closer. And Morse, acquired in a minor league midseason trade with Seattle, now has four RBI in his last two at bats, both pinch hits. His sixth inning 2-RBI double against the center field wall against Brian Sanches was the critical hit in this one, giving the Nats a 4-2 lead.

By the way, Morse is a Fort Lauderdale native. His mother, father and brother were all in the stands.

So if you saw three people in that sea of orange and teal, now you know who they were.


Coming Saturday, Pt. II: I'll have an update from Mike Rizzo about Washington's rebuilding efforts in the Dominican.

By Chico Harlan  |  September 11, 2009; 11:29 PM ET
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Next: Nats Close To Finalizing New Site In D.R.


I'm not sure MacDougal is long term with Storen on the doorstep of the closers job. Mac might be worth more in trade than anywhere else.

Posted by: cokedispatch | September 11, 2009 11:55 PM | Report abuse

macd is valuable, you saw exactly why tonite. with 2 of his pitches he got 4 outs. a sinker that hits 98 on the gun is rare. keep keep keep. i really dont care if he walks a guy because he can throw that 6-4-3 anytime

Posted by: formerlylove1 | September 12, 2009 1:19 AM | Report abuse

MacDougal has certainly earned a shot at being next year's closer. Just as Martin has earned his as a starter.

Right now, I'm focused on shooting for 60 wins (it doesn't look quite so embarrassing in the history books), 40 HRs for Dunn and at least 30 for Zim, and 100+ RBIs for both, and a strong finish for Willingham, who kept this year from being worse than it might have been.

Having been a Senators fan, I'm used to this, but I don't want to have to go through it this bad even one more year.

Posted by: nats24 | September 12, 2009 1:56 AM | Report abuse

I'm with Nats24. Keep aspirations grounded. 40 HR for Dunn, 30 for Zimm and 60 wins.

Losing fewer than 100 would be a real treat.

Posted by: nattydread1 | September 12, 2009 2:11 AM | Report abuse

Storen had a good year, but we also had expected Zech Zinicola to arrive by now. Storen was a higher pick, but I am just saying not to count the chickens yet.

We know what MacDoougal is already, although he has played his way off a roster before for not being consistent. I doubt Rizzo is going to be comfortable with just those options, and will consider moves which would make MacDougal an 8th inning set-up guy or even an ex-Nat. Keep in mind that the calculus has to include whether he is worth the $3M+ he would likely make next year. This, os course, actually is a spot in which I don't care what the Nats spend, Stan- pay the man to keep your options open.


Posted by: kevincostello | September 12, 2009 7:28 AM | Report abuse

I like macd - I think he's fine as an opening day 2010 closer. Let storen come up, work his way in as a 7-8th inning guy and reassess into the year. Seems an awful lot to hang on a 24 year old kid to say "welcome to the big leagues. You're closing."

Posted by: Highway295Revisited | September 12, 2009 8:20 AM | Report abuse

looks like we had a real good taste of M & Ms last night and i love it!!!!

Posted by: bsballu5 | September 12, 2009 8:34 AM | Report abuse

I dunno about MacDougal as long term closer. Got yanked form the Phillies game after giving up a walk and wild pitch. Certanly not impressive in the ninth last night -- homer, single, walk to begin the inning. I was waiting for the inevitable wild pitch to advance the tying runners after Bonafacio struck out. Having to get your saves from double plays with tying runners on base is not a great formula for long term success. I like his stuff but control seems to be a problem.

Posted by: SackMan | September 12, 2009 8:35 AM | Report abuse

I'm with +1/2St. regarding MacDougal - get him under contract for next year & let Storen develop at his pace, not the teams'.

Posted by: BinM | September 12, 2009 9:03 AM | Report abuse

Good to see some back-ups and bench players like Wil Nieves and Mike Morse step up and make impact in games.

Pete Orr has also made an impact and making the most of his call-up.

A lot of these guys are making cases for themselves to be with Willie Harris as a role player on the 2010 roster.

I see the outfield already set for next year Willingham, Nyjer, Dukes.

Infield of Zimmerman, Dunn, and Guzman which only leaves 1 middle infield position up for grabs as SS or 2B.

Catcher is Flores.

Starting pitchers and bullpen is wide open.

I am fairly sure that all the starting pitchers except Livan are under team control. Which relievers are under team control as I know a few were signed to 1 year deals?

Posted by: dmacman88 | September 12, 2009 9:25 AM | Report abuse

dmac: I think Villone, MacDougal, & Kensing are FA eligible; It looks like everone else in the Bullpen is under control for 2010, at least.

Posted by: BinM | September 12, 2009 9:36 AM | Report abuse

dmac: There are a number of pitchers who are under control, but out of options. By my count, Clippard, Bergmann, Burnett, Estrada, & Martis fall into that category.

Posted by: BinM | September 12, 2009 9:43 AM | Report abuse

Per dmacmann88's request, here's the bullpen contract situation in 2010 per Cot's Baseball Contracts:

McDougal: $3.75 million club option with $350K buyout. He belongs to the Nats as long as they want to pay him the $3.75 million. Otherwise, he's a free agent.

Villone: Free agent, likely no draft-pick compensation.

Kensing, Rivera, Bergmann, Burnett: Arbitration eligible. They belong to the Nats as long as the Nats are willing to go through arbitration. Otherwise, they can be non-tendered & become free agents. All except Kensing were making the MLB minimum this year.

Clippard, Garate, Estrada: All under club control for the minimum. No arbitration rights.

I think the only other pitcher currently under contract who is a free agent is Livo. Olsen is arbitration eligible; Strasburg is under contract; Mock, Stammen, Martin & everyone in the minors is under club control with no arbitration rights.

Looks like the only decisions to be made are whether to exercise McDougal's option (bet they do), offer a contract to Olsen (bet they don't), and go to arbitration with Kensing, Rivera, Burnett & Bergmann (no to Kensing, yes to the other three).

Posted by: chiefwj | September 12, 2009 9:45 AM | Report abuse

I'm on my way to Miami this morning; If you're watching MASN Saturday night or Sunday afternoon and see a greybeard in a Nick Johnson Nats' home jersey behind third base I apologize for not waving at you.

Although, I haven't bought my tickets yet. Do you think I might have trouble getting into the game?

Posted by: greggwiggins | September 12, 2009 9:59 AM | Report abuse

@chiefwj -- I think they won't go to arb with Rivera or Bergmann (or Kensing). I like Bergy, but he has and always be too inconsistent. I think the Nats will pass on him ...

@Sackman -- MacD wasn't "yanked form the Phillies game after giving up a walk and wild pitch." Riggleman went to the lefty lefty matchup by bringing Villone in to face Utley and Howard. MacD wasn't 'Lidge'd'. I have no qualms about signing him for one more year, with Storen settimg him up. If MacD doesn't have it early (aka 'Hanrahaned'), then they can move around the bullpen. No way I want to start the season with a rookie as the closer.

Posted by: erocks33 | September 12, 2009 10:10 AM | Report abuse

I have two questions on pitchers' contracts.

1) How did MacDougal get a contract with a large next-year option? Did the Nats offer that? Or take over an existing contract? (Or is the site folks are using just wrong?)

2) BinM, I'm quite surprised that young Shairon has already used up his options. No chance you meant to type "Martin," is there? (I don't know if a guy -- like Martin -- gets a new bushel of options if a new team picks him up, so this may be a dumb question.)

Thanks, all.

Posted by: Scooter_ | September 12, 2009 10:30 AM | Report abuse

Thanks so much for that information on the relievers. Have to sign Burnett to a multi-year deal and tie him up and see if you can pre-negotiate a deal with Bergmann as it is too risky for arbitration.

So the bullpen will consist of Tyler Clippard and a bunch of question marks.

Rizzo will have a busy off-season dealing with starting pitchers, relievers, and a middle infielder.

Posted by: dmacman88 | September 12, 2009 10:47 AM | Report abuse

MacDougal's deal was part of his contract in place from the White Sox.

Posted by: dmacman88 | September 12, 2009 10:54 AM | Report abuse

Scooter: I could be wrong, but I think was down an option when the Nats acquired him in 2008; I know they burned options on him in 2008 & 2009.

Martin may have the full allotment of options, since I don't think he was ever on a 40-man roster before this year, but they may have expired because of the # of years since he was initially signed.

Posted by: BinM | September 12, 2009 10:54 AM | Report abuse

Everyone bemoans that Adam Dunn's contract was only for two years. Is that irrecoverable? Why not, NOW, offer him a new contract with the extra two years he originally wanted?

Posted by: Nats_Lady | September 12, 2009 10:56 AM | Report abuse

@chiefwj: MacDougal's deal was voided when the White Sox released him. The Nationals signed him to a minor-league deal on May 3rd, and called him up in the 29th.

Posted by: BinM | September 12, 2009 10:59 AM | Report abuse

Oops - The Nationals acquired Martis in 2006, not 2008. My bad.

Posted by: BinM | September 12, 2009 11:13 AM | Report abuse

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