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Talking with Nats Veep Roy Clark

I had a great talk Friday afternoon with Roy Clark, the Nats' new vice president of player personnel. He went to Arizona last Monday to see the Baby Nats; all four pitchers plus Espinosa and Marrero had good outings that day. Here are his thoughts thus far; of course, he's only been on the job for a few weeks.

On Strasburg Monday night: "He was outstanding. I have seen him since he was a junior in high school. Never have I seen him throw better. He hit 101 many times, mostly in the 99 range. He always had a sharp breaking ball, but I'd never seen him throw a changeup before. It was devastating. It is a well above average pitch. It was 92-93 mph and unhittable. He was very, very good. Like most young guy still got to work on the strike zone, keeping the ball down, but he's not far away at all."

On whether the club thinks Strasburg should start next season in the minors: "Most of the time in these situations the young man himself will determine where he needs to go. It's a very good league out here that he's in, the top prospects in all the minor leagues. If he comes out there and dominates he's going to be closer and closer to the big leagues. We'll go to spring training and see how he performs there. You don't want to put guidelines on him."

On Strasburg's rocky second outing: "At some point all athletes go through a bad outing or some type of failure whether it's a slump or whatever. It's how you respond to that. He responded very very well. We'd much rather see them struggle in the minor leagues than the big leagues."

On Strasburg's potential Rising Stars matchup with Mike Minor that fell through: "They were the top two pitchers on Team USA last summer. I'll be watching that one intently on TV." (Our conversation ended before he got word about Strasburg's injury, but he was instrumental in the drafting of Minor during his time with the Braves so was eager to see both. Minor was the No. 7 player taken in the draft.)

On Drew Storen: "He was better than advertised for me. I did not see him this year in college. I heard he was really throwing well at the end of the year. The other day he was 96-97, he has an above average curve and above average slider, he pounded the strike zone. Based on that, he's got a chance to be a closer at the major league level. When is that going to happen? He's going to let us know. We'll see how he does in spring training."

On Danny Espinosa: "I hadn't seen him since he was at Long Beach. He's playing good shortstop. Defensively there's no question he can play shortstop. The question is the bat, the strikeouts. All I saw was line drives, spraying line drives all over the park. He's doing it against the best so I'm not going to tell you he can't."

On Chris Marrero: "I always liked his bat. The personnel development department has done a great job with his approach. They shortened his swing, the ball jumps off his bat. It's a good sound off his bat. He's very much improved defensively at first base. He's working very hard at first base. He's doing it here against the very best. I'm not exactly sure what he's hitting but last I looked about .350."

Can he be ready to fill Adam Dunn's shoes? "A lot of these guys are going to be in the big leagues next year. A year from now he could be ready. You don't want to limit them; they might be ready sooner. A lot of guys come out here [to the AFL], have a good year and gather that confidence to take them over the top."

On Josh Wilkie: "He's throwing the ball very well. Changing speeds. If you're into big numbers on the radar gun, he's not your guy. If you like people who get you outs, he's your guy. He pounds the stirke zone.

Is Wilkie limited by having just the one major league pitch, the changeup? "Not really because he's commanding everything. He's putting the ball where he wants to. That changeup he has is a very good pitch. How far will it take him? I don't know. He's great insurance to have in spring training."

On Jeff Mandel: "From what he threw the other day, he's got a good sinker-slider, I think he can be a good middle relief, ground ball type guy. He throws strikes. He's been a high profile guy for years. We've been tracking him."

On Sean Rooney: "He's going through a tough time there but we still think he has a future. In the minor leagues for sure and possibly as a backup major league type. He's not getting to play a lot. He's out there plugging away."

On his first impression of the Nats' talent level: "One thing I've really been impressed with, these guys are professionals on and off the field. Good quality kids, they're not going to embarrass you. I'm very proud of that. I'm new here but I'm impressed with the kids. I'll tell you something else, our scouting department and player development is very underrated. Seeing what they've done with Marrero, seeing what kind of kids these are, the character, I'm very pleased with what I've seen so far."

By Tracee Hamilton  |  November 9, 2009; 10:15 AM ET
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Next: The manager search nears resolution


A 92 mph changeup? Isn't that really just a decent, slightly slower fastball? Seems like he'd need to take a bit more off it, to make it effective against major-leaguers?

Posted by: fischy | November 9, 2009 10:30 AM | Report abuse

BlogMom, you're the best! Any Nats-related news during the offseason is always welcomed.

Posted by: leetee1955 | November 9, 2009 10:37 AM | Report abuse

well, if your fastball is 102, then 92 is about where you want to be with the changeup- 10 mph or so off the fastball.
also, if the change-piece drops off and has good downward movement, then there's no problem with speed

Posted by: artvandelay2 | November 9, 2009 10:40 AM | Report abuse

artvandelay2, actually, for your fastball to be a devastating "out" pitch, you want it to be 15 mph slower than your fastball. In his prime, Pedro Martinez's fastball was 97, while his change clocked in at 81-82.

Posted by: ericp331 | November 9, 2009 10:53 AM | Report abuse

I am more excited about the Chris Marrero news. I mean, I like having Dunn in the lineup, but we need to get the young guys coming up.

Any more baseball minds out there got a better idea on what to do about that good problem in the end?

Posted by: alex35332 | November 9, 2009 10:59 AM | Report abuse

There is no guarentee that Marrero will be half the player that Dunn is now. Dunn is only 30 so we have to extend him this offseason. If he blocks Marrero, then Marrero can become trade bait for a starting pitcher or some other proven veteran.

But I'm definitely encouraged with the way our young guys have played in the AFL.

Tracee, any word on Dukes? Is he still planning on playing this winter in the DR?

Posted by: sec307 | November 9, 2009 11:11 AM | Report abuse

OK, you want a minimal 10 MPH difference (remember that these #s are at the release point, not crossing the plate). One of the questions is whether his change slows more than his heater. Also, remember that in the 99/101 range, hitters have to be so geared to swing so early that, even at 92/93, there isn't much chance to adjust.

As a side issue, has anyone seen any posts on this or other boards by "Flynnie", recently? If he is still around he should post something soon. If he is who I think he is, he passed away, last week. I'd like to know, because I'd like to inform some of his friends that another community misses him.

Posted by: mikecatcher50 | November 9, 2009 12:01 PM | Report abuse

The effectiveness of change-ups varies from pitcher to pitcher, I think. I know I've seen an analysis where a certain pitcher's change-up was most effective when 5 mph slower than his fastball, but I don't think that's universally true.

Anyway, from what I've seen in the pitch f/x data, Strasburg's change-up has been hitting around 88-92 or so, usually closer to 90, which matches well with a fastball around 95-100. It also has some sinking action on it compared to the fastball and seems pretty effective. Like all things, time will tell, but it's a lot better than I expected for a pitch he almost never through in college.

And Tracee, thanks for this interview. It's great.

Posted by: cassander | November 9, 2009 12:07 PM | Report abuse

on the changeup vs fastball speed issue, dont get hung up on speed differntial - should it be 10 mph/8 mph /15 mph. It should be changing. Change ups change. Is it the fastball or the change, oops too early, too late.... And if you can also locate it in various places on command, as SS is said to be able to do its even better.

Posted by: natbiscuits | November 9, 2009 12:16 PM | Report abuse

He sounds like we ought to be getting ready for playoff tickets to be printed pretty soon. I think a little step back would be wise for now.

Posted by: cokedispatch | November 9, 2009 12:22 PM | Report abuse

And carrying over from previous on the Molina question, I would think Molina will be seeking a multi-year deal. With the exception of Fisk and IRod, Catchers don't really sustain their value after age 35. (and there are those who would say IRod is not really an exception to that rule). Now if you can get Yadier Molina that would be good ....

Posted by: natbiscuits | November 9, 2009 12:29 PM | Report abuse

Good stuff!

Rake the dirt, plant some seeds, tend to the sprouts, harvest the yield. Yup works for me! Can it be that "The Plan" has legs.
Oh Thom, calling Mr. Boz looks like "The Plan" has arrived.

Am I getting ahead of myself? Not really.

SS, Storen, Desmond, Detwiler, Stammen, Zimm2, Espinosa. Hey ya never know.

Let me put it this way, I'd rather be a Nats fan then say a Mets fan.

Posted by: TippyCanoe | November 9, 2009 1:31 PM | Report abuse

Or a Deadskins fan.

Posted by: alm1000 | November 9, 2009 1:47 PM | Report abuse

mikecatcher50, although I don't post there, I do read the message board on the team site periodically, and I saw the recent message about the passing of Flannys (whose posts I also enjoyed reading, BTW). I can confirm that Flynnie is a different individual.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | November 9, 2009 2:09 PM | Report abuse

C50 and 1a, FWIW I don't see anything by "our" Flynnie (flynnie321) posted here in the last month, since Oct. 9.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | November 9, 2009 2:12 PM | Report abuse

Sure, this is mere speculation, but that's what the Hot Stove League is all about. In its look at the top 50 free agents, MLB Trade Rumors projects that the Nats will land: No. 13 Orlando Hudson (Yea!), No. 24 Carl Pavano (Cue Mr. Bill: Oh Nooooooo!) and No. 28 Benjie Molina (OK by me. Jesus Flores knows, we need the insurance.)

Posted by: Drew8 | November 9, 2009 2:15 PM | Report abuse

My mistake. It was Flannys. It, apparently, was he name used by a fellow umpire, one with whom I did many, many games, and one from whom I learned a lot. He died too young and will be sorely missed by the members of the Southern District and Metropolitan Baseball Umpires Association.

Posted by: mikecatcher50 | November 9, 2009 2:17 PM | Report abuse

mikecatcher50, very sad indeed. From what I've read on the team site message board, he touched the lives of many. IMO, one valuable contribution of the Internet is that it gives us an opportunity to interact with people whose paths might not otherwise cross ours. Not sure whether Flannys may have posted under another moniker here or elsewhere but having read the obit that was linked to at one point I can confirm that our "Flynnie" is not the same individual.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | November 9, 2009 2:29 PM | Report abuse

I think if they sign Molina, it'll be a lot like the Dunn signing--let him find out what he *can't* get, and then make a reasonable offer. Molina knows they have Flores, and I imagine he probably still thinks of himself as a starter, so that's another reason this wouldn't be his first choice. Then again, there's always the "Help shape a couple of young phenoms" attraction, so you never know.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | November 9, 2009 2:32 PM | Report abuse

Per the team site, Strasburg was named AFL pitcher of the week.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | November 9, 2009 4:09 PM | Report abuse

Not to be dumb, but when do teams have to decide on arbitration offers? I'm starting to get very curious on some of the decision the Nats will make.

Also, is the no news on the managerial hiring front a sign that it's Riggleman all the way?

Posted by: nervousnatsfan | November 9, 2009 4:17 PM | Report abuse

Though I'd love to see Chris Marrero develop and become a major league first baseman, I don't think in our wildest dreams we'd expect him to hit 40 homers and drive in 100 runs every year like Dunn does--and has done--for the last six or so years.

I'd hope that the Nationals extend Dunn three years, and then if Marrero is the real deal, Dunn can go back to left field. But if he's not, I don't want to let Dunn just walk away in 2011.

By the way, did you hear that Scott Boras wants "Soriano like numbers" for Matt Holliday? That's $17 million a year.

The Cubs have been regretting that Soriano contract and would trade him in a minute to get out from under that contract.

How can Soriano be worth $17 million/yr but Adam Dunn is worth $10 million?

I just don't get these GM's sometimes.

Posted by: rushfari | November 9, 2009 4:29 PM | Report abuse

Not sure about the arbitration dates, nnf. Maybe you can figure it out from the MLB important dates page (see URL below), or perhaps one of our armchair GM types can clarify. As for FAs, seems like I recall that the team has 15 days to negotiate with them before they are open to deal with other teams as well.

I did find one other tidbit on the important dates page: the AL and NL Gold Glove winners are scheduled to be announced tomorrow. Da da dee da dee daaaa - charge!! I'm kinda nervous now...

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | November 9, 2009 4:32 PM | Report abuse

1a, Thanks for the link. I guess it is Dec 1 (DEC. 1, 2009
Last date for former Club to offer salary arbitration to receive compensation.)

Posted by: nervousnatsfan | November 9, 2009 4:50 PM | Report abuse

You're welcome, nnf.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | November 9, 2009 4:55 PM | Report abuse

For any of you who care, today is Adam Dunn's birthday (11/09/79). I, for one, wish him the best and hope to see him wearing the curly W for another 2-3 years. Happy Happy Adam!

Posted by: BinM | November 9, 2009 6:46 PM | Report abuse

Also, the AFL enters their "2nd half" today, with Phoenix facing the Peoria Javalinas tonight in a battle of 1st-place teams. Mitch Talbot(OAK) is scheduled for the Desert Dogs versus Nick Hill(SEA) for Peoria.
AFL addendum - The Suprise Rafters dropped a 5-2 decision to the Peoria Sagauros this afternoon. I mention this only because of who took the brunt of the onslaught & took the loss - Arron Crow, with a line of 4IP, 7H, 4ER, 4K; 0-2W-L, 7.94ERA on the season. I will now stop poking sharp sticks in the cage, and return to more civilized behaviour.

Posted by: BinM | November 9, 2009 7:00 PM | Report abuse

jimmy riggs told ladson - who's back to work before the apparently exhausted aaron harlan he expects the nats to name a new manager after the GM meetings in chicago.

Posted by: surly_w | November 9, 2009 7:09 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for the AFL updates, BinM, especially the one about the Sagauros. hehe.

I'll second the b'day wishes for the Big Bopper.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | November 9, 2009 7:14 PM | Report abuse

Who else watched the Rising Star Replay from Sat AFL......Drew Storen looks very hittable to me. He is trying to over throw his fastball and leaves it up in the zone. The HR was belt high and 95 MPH.....looks like a Bergman gofer ball to me. Sure hope this is not what we see this spring. Lots of people say we over drafted him and he was a signablity pick. He does not look overpowering to me.

Posted by: JayBeee | November 9, 2009 7:19 PM | Report abuse

JayBeee: Possible small sample size evaluation (1 game)? 2009 record (HAG-POT-HAR)= 28GP, 37.0IP, .162BAA, 6.1:1K-W ratio. The kid brought the goods in a half-season after signing last year, imo. Let's see what he has in Viera & the start of 2010 before making a call, OK?

Posted by: BinM | November 9, 2009 7:40 PM | Report abuse

Clearly it is just one inning but his fastball look Bergman like....He was working way to hard and several fastballs made his catcher stand up to catch them. Not what I was expecting from someone who is supposed to be so polished.

Posted by: JayBeee | November 9, 2009 8:17 PM | Report abuse

Not to be Storen's apologist... but he was really pumped up to play in that game... it may well have been nerves. I saw him pitch the ninth inning a week ago, and he was very good. I don't think there is much you can say about a bad performance in a situation like that... and my guess is, had the first batter in that inning been thrown out (a weak grounder, if you recall, scored an infield hit), the outcome might have been different...

Posted by: wigi | November 9, 2009 8:23 PM | Report abuse


I agree....He also should have gotten a 3rd Strike Call too but he is supposed to be a polished near ready closer.....I would not have expected him to show nerves and lose his cool.....Not really what you want to see in a closer...again...based on what the hype has been it was supposed to be more polished than that.

Posted by: JayBeee | November 9, 2009 8:51 PM | Report abuse

If my memory serves me correctly, not only did Adam Dunn turn 30 today (Happy Birthday Adam!), but Brady Dunn turned 3 (Happy Birthday Brady) and it was also Rachel Dunn's (Adam's wife) due date. I remember Adam mentioning this in a MASN video blog entry.

Posted by: LurkerNowPoster | November 9, 2009 8:51 PM | Report abuse

I'm starting a completely unsubstantiated rumor: Chico Harlan will not be back as the Washington Post sportswriter for the Nationals next year. I'm going with a prediction that next year there will be a journalist who actually relishes the opportunity to cover baseball.

I say this not to praise or bury Chico - he writes a fine story - I am simply predicting the future. (I also recommend that you invest in Microsoft or plastics)

Posted by: natbiscuits | November 9, 2009 10:27 PM | Report abuse

re Storen: if you had seen Strasburg the day he got *totally* lit up a few weeks ago, you'd think he was a bum, too--and for 2-2/3, he kinda was. One bad outing, it's a learning experience. Now if he has a few in a row...

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | November 9, 2009 11:21 PM | Report abuse

Most are ready to declare Jim Riggelman the manager of the 2010 Nats, so it was time for Ken Rosenthal to give the Hot Stove a shake. He is pushing the rumor from a "source" that Bobby Valentine is a finalist for the job, as well.


Posted by: kevincostello | November 10, 2009 5:28 AM | Report abuse

As a side issue, has anyone seen any posts on this or other boards by "Flynnie", recently? If he is still around he should post something soon. If he is who I think he is, he passed away, last week. I'd like to know, because I'd like to inform some of his friends that another community misses him.
Posted by: mikecatcher50 | November 9, 2009 12:01 PM
Catcher50 - My condolences for the loss of Flannys. Flynnie "is not dead but sleeping" and I'm not sleeping much with the beamish baby granddaughter and her 3 year old brother, my best pal, having moved in last July. I've been lurking, but the odd post from work has become impossible, as the atmosphere has turned ominous there and I'm trying to avoid being "voted off the island" which is the best analogy I can come up with to describe the pressure there. This is not a world in which one wants to wake up unemployed, though I am still waking up, thanks be to God! May Flannys find himself on another shore, and in a greater light, with that multitude that no one can number who has made this world a better place!

Posted by: flynnie321 | November 10, 2009 5:39 AM | Report abuse

I'm starting a completely unsubstantiated rumor: Chico Harlan will not be back as the Washington Post sportswriter for the Nationals next year. I'm going with a prediction that next year there will be a journalist who actually relishes the opportunity to cover baseball.

I say this not to praise or bury Chico - he writes a fine story - I am simply predicting the future. (I also recommend that you invest in Microsoft or plastics)

Posted by: natbiscuits |


i could only hope so. too bad the post passed over adam kilgore, who's now part of the strong boston globe coverage of the red sox, for a novice like chico. real baseball writers actually ferret out stories, not wait until the OP or breaks news and then does lame follow-up coverage. and where's the walkup coverage of the GM meetings? mr. harlan would best serve the post in the departing and not in the remaining.

Posted by: surly_w | November 10, 2009 6:51 AM | Report abuse

Marc Carig, who used to cover the Team That Shall Not Be Mentioned On This Blog, also could have been a possible Nats beat writer. Marc's now covering the Yankees. Maybe Chico's hire is EGR's revenge on Nats fans.

Posted by: leetee1955 | November 10, 2009 7:24 AM | Report abuse

"re Storen...One bad outing"???

He threw one hittable pitch and it got hit, otherwise he got four outs. He had the leadoff man struck out but a missed call led to the muffed chopper.

If you didn't like what you saw, you don't know baseball.

Posted by: sjt1455 | November 10, 2009 7:37 AM | Report abuse

Flynnie, I'm sorry to hear about the state of your office, but otherwise your post is going to be the best thing about my day.

Posted by: Section109 | November 10, 2009 8:22 AM | Report abuse

Geez, why the hatred of Chico? Just because he hasn't posted any new info on the Nats since the season ended? He was working the playoffs, then (I believe) took a little vacation. Everyone is entitled to take a few days off now and then. Give the guy a break.

Oh, and you all want him to ferret out stories on the Nats. Like, what's happening with the manager hire? Maybe nothing's being written because there's nothing to report. Just because yahoo's like Ken Rosenthal and Buster Olney "report" that they heard from their "sources" that this person or that person is still in the running. Guess what?! That isn't actual reporting. So my suggestion for Chico is this ... Every day, post something here along the lines of, "No news from the Nationals today. Same ****, different day." Would that make you all happy?

Posted by: erocks33 | November 10, 2009 9:56 AM | Report abuse

Nats hire Davey Johnson as a senior adviser, hire an assitant GM (former player development guy from the Bucs) and Riggleman and Vallentine are the finalists for the Manager job (accroding to Fox Sports). Where is the Post on this stuff??

Posted by: dfh21 | November 10, 2009 10:02 AM | Report abuse

It was a blown save, and a loss. That is not good. Yeah, yeah, it's basically a exhibition league for the scouts and W/L doesn't matter as much, but still. If he's happy with it, I'll be very much surprised.
"re Storen...One bad outing"???
He threw one hittable pitch and it got hit, otherwise he got four outs. He had the leadoff man struck out but a missed call led to the muffed chopper.
If you didn't like what you saw, you don't know baseball.
Posted by: sjt1455 | November 10, 2009 7:37 AM

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | November 10, 2009 12:52 PM | Report abuse

Anyway, the bad outing was Strasburg's.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | November 10, 2009 12:56 PM | Report abuse

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