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Ron Villone is back

Last season, Ron Villone was a central figure in the Washington Nationals' bullpen, first stabilizing it in May, largely destabilizing it thereafter. The lefty didn't allow a run during his first 20 appearances. After June 11, Villone had a 6.54 ERA. Washington's continued reliance on Villone underscored the team's lack of veteran depth.

This year, the bullpen is improved, and Villone will have a tougher time cracking the roster. But he'll at least receive a shot. Wednesday, the Nationals signed Villone, 40, to a minor league deal, providing the lefty a chance for his 16th professional season. Villone finished 2009 with a 4.25 ERA in 63 appearances (48-2/3 innings). He also had a 5-6 record; only one pitcher on the roster, John Lannan, finished with more wins.

Villone has a reputation as a hard worker and an engaging teammate, and last season he provided advice to many of Washington's younger pitchers. He also passed along an herbal tea recipe; before games, many Nats pitchers sipped the Villone-recommended drink.

Since Villone last appeared with Washington, the team has fortified its bullpen with numerous trades and free agent signings. Brian Bruney, Matt Capps, Eddie Guardado, Tyler Walker and Miguel Batista, among others, have been added to the mix.

By Chico Harlan  |  February 17, 2010; 5:15 PM ET
 
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Comments

Dumpster diving, anyone?

Posted by: Section505203 | February 17, 2010 5:25 PM | Report abuse

Given Villone's Mitchell Report mention, I am not sure any one should be drinking his tea, no?

Posted by: dfh21 | February 17, 2010 5:36 PM | Report abuse

Well, at least Viera won't lack for veteran LHP's this year - Estes, Guardado, James, Venafro & now Villone. You figure one might 'stick', and one-two others will take the SYR assignment gracefully.

Posted by: BinM | February 17, 2010 5:37 PM | Report abuse

This is the time for a dumpster dive. Stop. I'm ok with their minor league deals. I don't know why anyone would be against them (even signing Benson). If it is viewed as depth, who cares? The Nationals need depth, their minor league system isn't going to provide it. Honestly, Rizzo did a good job with the money he had. And wherever you stand on the cheap or frugal or wise or philanthropic Rizzo should be commended for his job this winter. He accomplished what he set out to do, make sure the Nationals don't stink. Well folks, mission accomplished. Was his offseason as good as some other teams? Probably not (I'd go with Cashman) but I guess we'll see when the season gets going. And worst case I think he set himself up to have some pitching to trade when the deadline approaches.

BTW, Wang could make this team really good in the second half (assuming Detweiler is average, Marquis and Lannan continue being Marquis and Lannan and SS is as good as advertised). When healthy and when his pitching slot is lower making his ball sink more, Wang is an Ace. Almost every Yankee fan will tell you that they loved watching Wang pitch and will miss seeing him. As a caveat however, I am weary of shoulder issues so its no sure thing.

Posted by: lpatashn | February 17, 2010 5:48 PM | Report abuse

i'm with dfh on this one.

Posted by: nervousnatsfan | February 17, 2010 5:58 PM | Report abuse

"Honestly, Rizzo did a good job with the money he had."

How much money does Rizzo have? How much should he have?

Posted by: lerici | February 17, 2010 6:04 PM | Report abuse

Well, thats a good question. Who knows? We can postulate that it is the amount that the payroll ends up being after spring training, but it could have been more and he could have chosen not to spend it.

Posted by: lpatashn | February 17, 2010 6:06 PM | Report abuse

It's certainly not upper market teams, like the ones right below LA, becuase that was what Kasten hoped to get to one day.

Posted by: lpatashn | February 17, 2010 6:08 PM | Report abuse

Maybe the curly-w needs a swastika by it?

"... the lucky swastika was and continued to be embraced by people around the world, including ballplayers. In fact, it is my belief that the Braves wore the special 'swasti-caps' on Opening Day of 1914 as a good-luck charm ... or at least as an end-the-bad-luck charm.

The Boston Braves entered the 1914 season having finished in the National League's second division 11 straight years — dead last in four of the previous five campaigns. Opening the season in Brooklyn, it's not hard to believe that the exasperated club might choose to adopt a good luck symbol to help turn things around.

... on July 4, the Braves found themselves with a record of 26-40, in last place and 16 games out of first. Then, things turned around.

The Braves won their next four games and, ultimately, 68 of their final 87. The turnaround was nothing short of incredible, as the club took sole possession of first place by early September and ultimately grabbed the pennant by 10.5 games over the second place Giants. In the World Series, Boston dismissed the powerful Philadelphia Athletics in four straight games.

Today known as the 'Miracle Braves,' Boston's celebrated comeback remains unparalleled in big league history. Who would have guessed that it all began with a superstition and a symbol that has long since become taboo?"

http://baseballresearcher.blogspot.com/2010/02/rabbit-maranville-is-not-nazi.html

Posted by: lerici | February 17, 2010 6:14 PM | Report abuse

Dumster dive all you want, as long as players like this aren't guaranteed a spot when the team heads north then I'm all for them.

Posted by: SCNatsFan | February 17, 2010 6:28 PM | Report abuse

Jim Palmer is avialble and lives pretty close, might wanna give him a shot.

Posted by: dfh21 | February 17, 2010 6:34 PM | Report abuse

That's more than I know. Until they start playing some actual baseball, there's no telling what they have. Until then, they are the team that lost 102 games. Then we'll talk.

*************
He accomplished what he set out to do, make sure the Nationals don't stink. Well folks, mission accomplished.... but I guess we'll see when the season gets going.
Posted by: lpatashn | February 17, 2010 5:48 PM

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | February 17, 2010 6:45 PM | Report abuse

Please. Marge Schott is too involved here as it is.
****************
Maybe the curly-w needs a swastika by it?
Posted by: lerici | February 17, 2010 6:14 PM

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | February 17, 2010 6:49 PM | Report abuse

Maybe we could get someone to give Clemens a shot ...
OK, maybe not.
*******
Jim Palmer is available and lives pretty close, might wanna give him a shot.
Posted by: dfh21 | February 17, 2010 6:34 PM

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | February 17, 2010 6:50 PM | Report abuse

Apparently, the general wisdom is that next year's draft and next year's free agent crop are both supposed to be better than this one was, which would be one reason teams generally seem to be shying away from longer contracts. Just a guess.
************
We can postulate that it is the amount that the payroll ends up being after spring training, but it could have been more and he could have chosen not to spend it.

Posted by: lpatashn | February 17, 2010 6:06 PM

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | February 17, 2010 6:53 PM | Report abuse

Tough crowd. Villone did a good job last year. Just saying.

Posted by: GoingGoingGone | February 17, 2010 6:59 PM | Report abuse

Is Brian McNamee available? :-)

---

Maybe we could get someone to give Clemens a shot ...
OK, maybe not.
*******
Jim Palmer is available and lives pretty close, might wanna give him a shot.
Posted by: dfh21 | February 17, 2010 6:34 PM

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | February 17, 2010 6:50 PM

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | February 17, 2010 6:59 PM | Report abuse

My own nickname for Villone last year (mainly when he was going well, but still) was "Centurion." He has that classic tough guy/old gunfighter look. I'm glad to see him back. Maybe not so glad once he gets in games, but still. Disciplined vets are good.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | February 17, 2010 7:11 PM | Report abuse

He was lights out thru early June as Chico notes. I liked his attitude. Manny over-relied on him - he had little choice. I hope he sticks at least at AAA so he is available if/when we might need him.

Posted by: alm1000 | February 17, 2010 7:21 PM | Report abuse

I hope he sticks as needed, too, but seriously, where else is a forty year old guy going to pull down mid-six figures?

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | February 17, 2010 8:49 PM | Report abuse

no harm no foul, signing Villone cant hurt us but at the same time, really?

I think giving him a tryout us more of a thank you for last season. No chance he makes the team but he if he wants to go to Syracuse I have no problem with that.

Posted by: peteywheatstraw | February 17, 2010 9:00 PM | Report abuse

Without being an anthropologist, it is my understanding that the swastika that was used (and is still in use in many societies)is "backwards" from the Nazi swastika.

Of course, in light of subsequent events, I wonder if anyone has checked the 1914 Braves for steroids? Does anyone here have a contact with a judge who might provide an exhumation order?

Posted by: mikecatcher50 | February 17, 2010 9:11 PM | Report abuse

Wow. Tough room. Villone was decent for the team last year in the pen. He wasn't spectacular but he sure has h3ll wasn't Colome.

A minor league signing for Villone is fine. Plus he really seemed to enjoy playing for DC last year. Given that it was such a sh!++y year you kind of want to reward overt loyalty.

Besides, even though I put his chances of making the 25 man out of ST as long at best, there's always room for a LOOGY

Posted by: RicketyCricket | February 17, 2010 9:14 PM | Report abuse

I believe last year's opening day staff was:

Lannan, Olsen, Cabrera, Martis, Hanrahan, Shell, Ledezma, Taverez, Beimel, Rivera, and Hinckley. Zimmermann started in the minors due to rotation off days, but I suppose could be considered part of the opening day staff even though he was not on the roster. There is exactly one player from that staff assured of a place on the 2010 staff and only 3 still in the organization. That 2009 staff was coyote ugly and it had Rizzo chewing his arm off to get rid of them by early May (she sure dosen't look like Jennifer Lopez now does she).

This year's edition is much better looking. I'm not sure if Capps is the anchor of the bullpen they need, but there is enough talent surrounding him that even if he goes through some rough periods, they should be able to still stop the opposition rally.

The major roster frustration for me this year is having to wait for Zimmermann's health to return. If his progress had not been interrupted he could have been the anchor to the rotation. And if Olsen had stayed healthy the Nats would already be featuring a top flight rotation. Every team has injuries, but there can be no denying that the prospects for this year would look very different if they had remained healthy.

Posted by: natbiscuits | February 17, 2010 9:57 PM | Report abuse

Anybody got Mike Stanton's cell phone number?

Posted by: Sunshine_Bobby_Carpenter_Is_Too_Pessimistic_For_Me | February 17, 2010 10:02 PM | Report abuse

How about Joey Eischen? I bet he is still available!

Posted by: brewer1 | February 17, 2010 10:57 PM | Report abuse

Sure, Villone did nicely for those first few appearances, when nobody in the 'pen could get anybody out and the team lost just about every game anyway, but he was downright awful the second half, and he should be judged on that.

But even so, I have no real problem with a minor league deal for him, if he wants to keep trying to pitch. Just don't be fooled if he retires every AA guy he faces.

Posted by: nats24 | February 17, 2010 11:03 PM | Report abuse

If if's and but's were candy and nuts, we'd all have a Merry Christmas, eh Natbiscuits?

Posted by: Nataholic | February 17, 2010 11:47 PM | Report abuse

Holy cr@p... pitchers and catchers report tomorrow! Can the first sign of spring really be so close?

Posted by: RicketyCricket | February 18, 2010 5:55 AM | Report abuse

Hey Gang-AMEN Rickety...and I ain't writing more because at 52, I'm too rickety this a.m to do much more than get to work! But I'm loving all the chatter....Hey, batter, batter.....
I might not be writing but I'm still reading so come on Gang-howsa bout some long breakdowns today?.....and where is Boswell-or the Post?
Go Nats!!!!

Posted by: zendo | February 18, 2010 6:24 AM | Report abuse

Other teams continue to sign international players. The Cubs were the latest, signing a Korean pitcher. I don't want to hear the promises any more. Let's see some results.

+1/2St.

Posted by: kevincostello | February 18, 2010 7:11 AM | Report abuse

I am soooo going to Panera tomorrow.

---

Holy cr@p... pitchers and catchers report tomorrow! Can the first sign of spring really be so close?

Posted by: RicketyCricket | February 18, 2010 5:55 AM

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | February 18, 2010 7:14 AM | Report abuse

I agree kevincostello, the promises to expand in our search for international players have been empty promises. I understand that we screwed things up in the DR but it's not like all carribean and asian players would have gone thru there. They need to step this aspect up.

Posted by: SCNatsFan | February 18, 2010 9:32 AM | Report abuse

1a1 -- Panera for lunch tomorrow sounds like a great idea. How about an impromptu NJ gathering? 1a1 can pick the location (as long as there is convenient parking and the possibility of a decent size table there) and the time. Maybe on the late side to avoid the lunch rush? We can wear Nats hats to identify ourselves.

Posted by: Section222 | February 18, 2010 9:36 AM | Report abuse

sec 222, the Kingstowne, VA, branch is the one I tend to frequent most often. It's definitely crowded at lunch time (but I can't say that nobody goes there anymore ;-)).

---

1a1 -- Panera for lunch tomorrow sounds like a great idea. How about an impromptu NJ gathering? 1a1 can pick the location (as long as there is convenient parking and the possibility of a decent size table there) and the time. Maybe on the late side to avoid the lunch rush? We can wear Nats hats to identify ourselves.

Posted by: Section222 | February 18, 2010 9:36 AM

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | February 18, 2010 9:43 AM | Report abuse

ESPN's Jason Stark has the Nats second best NL offseason to the Nats after discussing with "20 baseball types". Guess he's drinking the kool aid too. To be fair, they do lambaste the signing of Pudge as one of the worst moves.

Posted by: SCNatsFan | February 18, 2010 10:34 AM | Report abuse

Stark has the Nats as second most improved team after the D-backs, and ahead of the brewers. Thats pretty good company they both had great offseasons. He also has the mets as the third most unimproved, behind the dodgers and pirates...
Go Nats.

Posted by: Stu27 | February 18, 2010 10:42 AM | Report abuse

Yet amazingly Stark does not list the nats in his top three "zipped wallet champs". Those being the Marlins, Indians, and pirates. This seems somewhat contradictory to what i read up here.

Posted by: Stu27 | February 18, 2010 10:46 AM | Report abuse

A quote from Jayson Stark's article on ESPN.com that SCNatsFan mentioned:

"Fun poll fact: A sure sign that nobody knew what to make of this winter in the life of the NL: Seven different teams (Diamondbacks, Nationals, Brewers, Phillies, Braves, Reds and Mets) got two or more most-improved votes. But no team got more than four votes."


In other words, the Nats had a solid offseason but, lets not get carried away.

They also finished second in the voting for "Least Recognizable Teams"

The Nats made a lot of changes, moving deck chairs around on the Titanic, if you will. However, the amount of money spent on rebuilding this shipwreck remains basically the same.

Rizzo is doing the best he can to make chicken salad out of chicken shiznit. The Lerner's just aren't giving him the budget to really go after some talent.

Posted by: Section505203 | February 18, 2010 10:50 AM | Report abuse

Speaking of pitchers ... and catchers ... they don't seem to have many whole chickens? They have a few breasts, a couple of legs, more than a few old gizzards? But a fully roasted bird with all the parts in place?

Posted by: lerici | February 18, 2010 10:57 AM | Report abuse

That Strasburg bird is fully dressed and ready to go in the oven. There's your Christmas goose right there, lerici.

Posted by: nunof1 | February 18, 2010 11:16 AM | Report abuse

Recommending that all Nats starting pitchers put black Kiwi shoe polish on their spikes?

"Of more recent and realistic (well, sort of) vintage, recall two pitchers, Scott Erickson and Turk Wendell. Erickson caused a stir back in 1991 by winning 20 games for the Twins in his first full major league season. Although he didn’t win the Cy Young Award that year (he was second to Roger Clemens) he did win an award from Kiwi Shoe Polish for totally covering his spikes with black shoe polish before each game. Seems as if he didn’t want any identifying marks showing on his footwear. (I should know about the award, I’m the one that gave it to him.) Wendell came up with the Cubs a couple of years later, already somewhat renown for his personality quirks, which included chewing licorice all the time, brushing his teeth between innings, and always jumping over the baselines."

http://www.baseballlibrary.com/columns/column.php?id=38

Posted by: lerici | February 18, 2010 11:18 AM | Report abuse

I keep reading that the plan is for Strasburg to spend time in Potomac with its Manager and work his way through the minors? That goose doesn't appear to be dresses or properly prepared yet?

Posted by: lerici | February 18, 2010 11:21 AM | Report abuse

I love he's going to Potomac so (hopefully) I can see him here in Myrtle Beach

Posted by: SCNatsFan | February 18, 2010 11:26 AM | Report abuse

I have vague recollection of Scott Erickson taking his own linens on road trips, black sheets.
Anyone else?

Posted by: Sunderland | February 18, 2010 11:27 AM | Report abuse

Regarding Strasburg going to A Ball, Potomac Nationals, Dave Sheinin's article from a couple days ago noted that:
1 - It would keep him in warmer climates than Harrisburg or Syracuse.
2 - It would keep with with his Arizona Fall League pitching coach (who is pitching coach of the PoNats).
3 - Staying in the minors a while allows the Nats to control him for an additional year by delaying his free agency until 2016.

He is, it would seem, a pretty fairly cooked bird.
***************

Many people both inside and outside the Nationals organization expect the club to start Strasburg at Potomac, where the weather is warmer in April than in Syracuse or Harrisburg (homes of the team's Class AAA and AA affiliates, respectively), and where Strasburg can continue to work with Menhart, Potomac's pitching coach.

Five starts at Potomac and, say, five more in Harrisburg would put Strasburg in Washington by June. It would also cut into Strasburg's big-league service time just enough to delay his reaching free agency until after 2016, as opposed to 2015 -- a justifiable line of reasoning, given the franchise's record-setting investment in him.

Posted by: Sunderland | February 18, 2010 11:33 AM | Report abuse

How about 1:00 pm Friday for an NJ "Spring Training is Finally Here" celebratory lunch, at the Kingstowne Town Center Panera Bread? I'll be the guy wearing the red Nats Cap.

This link might help you get there, if it works:

http://maps.google.com/maps?oe=utf-8&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a&um=1&ie=UTF-8&q=panera+bread+locations&fb=1&gl=us&hq=panera+bread&hnear=Washington,+DC&view=text&ei=GGh9S6DgEo7dlAfc4fCcBQ&sa=X&oi=local_group&ct=more-results&resnum=4&ved=0CCAQtQMwAw

Posted by: Section222 | February 18, 2010 11:35 AM | Report abuse

And how could Stark not give the Nats props in the most improved department given how uber terrible they have been for 2 years? No way to go but up! It is hard to lose 100 games back to back. much less 3 times in a row (I hope).

Posted by: dfh21 | February 18, 2010 11:57 AM | Report abuse

5 starts at Potomac. Pfitzner Stadium isn't going to know what hit it.

Posted by: RicketyCricket | February 18, 2010 11:57 AM | Report abuse

"No way to go but up! It is hard to lose 100 games back to back. much less 3 times in a row (I hope)."

Mebbe they need someone like John McGraw's good luck charm Charles "Victory" Faust? Or McGraw's black uniforms ... that is what the Redskins are considering to change their fortunes? Does Villone know any Voodoo?

Posted by: lerici | February 18, 2010 12:00 PM | Report abuse

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