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Jesse English became the bright spot on Nationals opening day

With about one week left in spring training, Jesse English sat in front of his locker and admitted he didn't think he would still be in major league camp with Washington Nationals. But there he was, holding on to hope he would break camp as a major leaguer.

English had never pitched above Class AA, but he still made the Nationals. On Monday's opening day, Manager Jim Riggleman wasted no time introduction him to the major leagues.

With two outs in the fourth inning and the bases loaded, Riggleman pulled John Lannan and motioned for the left-hander to come in from the bullpen. That was English, set to make his major league debut. He trotted in and threw his warmup pitches while the hitter watched from beside the batter's box. That was Ryan Howard, perhaps the most powerful slugger in baseball.

"I'm glad Riggs threw me in there in the first couple of innings," English said afterward. "I didn't want to be sitting there thinking about it. I felt good. I had no nerves. I felt like it was another game. Same game, bigger stands, more people."

English threw Howard three pitches - a 78-mph breaking ball outside Howard looked at for a strike, an 81-mph changeup low for a ball and an 89-mph fastball. Howard grounded the fastball to second baseman Adam Kennedy, and English had left the bases loaded.

"I think it says a lot," English said. "I think they feel comfortable with me there."

English stayed in the game and retired the next three hitters - Jayson Werth, Raul Ibanez and Shane Victorino - on 10 pitches.

In a dispiriting opening day, English may have been the brightest highlight. He thought he had a chance to make the Nationals because they pursued him this offseason. But he was surprised that he had to chance to stand inside the Nationals' clubhouse and listen to President Obama joke that, "my Oval Office is smaller than your oval room," meaning clubhouse.

The Nationals acquired English this offseason on waivers from the San Francisco Giants. He had pitched as both a starter and reliever, and the Nationals believed he could be an asset if used only in relief. So far, he's been the surprise of the spring.

Quick hits: In his Nationals debut, Ivan Rodriguez went 3 for 4 with two doubles. ... Cristian Guzman entered the game as a pinch hitter and replaced Ian Desmond at shortstop as part of a double switch. ...The Nationals walked nine batters. Last season, they walked nine or more in a nine-inning game only five times. "The walks would be the negative," Riggleman said. ... Jason Bergmann gave up a grand slam on his second pitch of the regular season. He allowed a home run on his first pitch of spring training.

By Adam Kilgore  |  April 5, 2010; 8:01 PM ET
 
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Next: The Phillies beat John Lannan, again

Comments

"Oh no, we suck again!"

Posted by: 1stpick | April 5, 2010 9:49 PM | Report abuse

"We suck, STILL."

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | April 5, 2010 10:02 PM | Report abuse

Look at it this way: Tampa Bay had, what, ten top or near-top picks in a row? We're way ahead of that.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | April 5, 2010 10:03 PM | Report abuse

From MLBTradeRumors for Nats Manager Jim Riggleman:

"Teams are more conscious of defensive stats and people like Bill James believe younger (and therefore cheaper) players tend to play better defense better than aging ones."

Posted by: periculum | April 5, 2010 10:14 PM | Report abuse

Miguel Batista : he recites poetry while the Nationals get burned.

Posted by: periculum | April 5, 2010 10:16 PM | Report abuse

I think it's telling that the guys who stood out for Nats today were the legit top level players, Pudge and Zimmerman (if only for the lashed double to drive in THE run) + the speedy over-achiever (Nyjer). The rest of them just aren't the cream of the crop, cruel as that may be. Sorry, that's probably overreacting after one day.

Speaking of overreacting, does anyone think we'd be better off trading Dunn this Summer?

Posted by: Kev29 | April 5, 2010 10:16 PM | Report abuse

"Speaking of overreacting, does anyone think we'd be better off trading Dunn this Summer?"

Maybe, if Chris Marerro were more like Jason Heyward. Maybe not. His fielding is even worst than Dunn's and his hitting is now suspect as well.

That leads to everyone touting Harper who is an even longer way off ... sigh ...

Posted by: periculum | April 5, 2010 10:27 PM | Report abuse

At least Duke lost...oh wait

Posted by: Cartaldo | April 5, 2010 11:47 PM | Report abuse

Wow! Boz torched everything in his column tonight/tomorrow morning. I can't say that I disagree with a single word.

Posted by: Kev29 | April 5, 2010 11:48 PM | Report abuse

Aside from Jesse English (Nice job, young, man! What a Baptism), here are what I see as bright spots from opening day:

1. There was NO blown save!

2. The Phils, like every team on top, have a lot of fair weather fans. We don't have to worry about that here, because we haven't had any fair weather to attract such low-lifes.

Some day, we'll crowd into Citizens Bank Ballpark or Pepto Bismo Field or whatever they call it then, and shout down the Phillie fans.

Posted by: nats24 | April 5, 2010 11:56 PM | Report abuse

I'm sure Rizzo and the braintrust will option English to Syracuse when Livo is activated so we can keep Bergmann and Tyler Walker.

Posted by: Jeff_Jackson | April 6, 2010 6:26 AM | Report abuse

>Miguel Batista : he recites poetry while the Nationals get burned.

Posted by: periculum

He's a poet but his right arm don't know it

Posted by: Brue | April 6, 2010 7:34 AM | Report abuse

Weren't we led to believe that this was an IMPROVED new year?

It's only one game and there are 161 left, though. So there's still hope, eh?

Lessee what Marquis can do.

Posted by: M20832 | April 6, 2010 7:54 AM | Report abuse

Hey all:

Is there any evidence that the Nats asked MLB to schedule the Phillies for Opening Day?
This has been suggested by various posters.

Posted by: Sunderland | April 6, 2010 7:54 AM | Report abuse

If that is the case, why would the Nats want to start off 0-4?

Posted by: M20832 | April 6, 2010 7:56 AM | Report abuse

The sad truth is that, despite a major league head, Lannan does not have the arm. I remember last year when he went through a very rough patch. If his pitches are even a little off--he's done. Yes, he's our best pitcher, but no better than a number four on a decent staff. And the fact that he's our best--now that's scary.
And why Batista is on the team is a mystery. I wondered that long before yesterday's game.
One thought I've had from the get go--and I realize I'm in the minority (big time) here--is that Dunn should be traded, not signed. Considering Rizzo's attitude about the importance of defense, I don't understand why the Nat's are so poor in this area. (obvious exceptions, of course)

Posted by: jcampbell1 | April 6, 2010 7:59 AM | Report abuse

Pudge was a bright spot as was Mike Morse in his PH role. Nyjer started where he left off. Zim is on pace for 162 RBIs (LOL). English was clutch. Dunn looked real good in the field.

With that 1-0 lead in the 1st inning, I started to dream. By the 4th inning, reality set in!

I just keep telling myself that it is just 1 game!

Posted by: GoingGoingGone | April 6, 2010 8:03 AM | Report abuse

Halladay is awesome and always has been. The Phillies are full of stud hitters. That's not news, either.

Lannan will be fine. Miguel Batista is a bad joke. And to borrow and twist from Jim Leyland, Bergmann's isn't long for the majors.


Posted by: longterm | April 6, 2010 8:11 AM | Report abuse

There is hope, certainly. The team has a bad schedule to start, and some of our other pitchers will be ready to return in June, a weaker part of the schedule.

I just pray the Nats don't tank so fast that, like last year, I find myself listening to Nats minor league games on the computer instead of finishing Nats games.

+1/2St.

Posted by: kevincostello | April 6, 2010 8:36 AM | Report abuse

Things I think I knew after game 1:

1a. Man, that Halladay can pitch.
1b. Man, those Phillies can hit.
2. Howard's mojo > Lannan's "moxie"
3. Batista's arm is made of rubber - and the pitches look like it.
4. Bergmann is an AAA all-star.
5. I love me some Pudge.

Realistically, there's no drawing any sort of conclusion after one game. The reality of it is all the Nats flaws (weak starting pitching, suspect bullpen, weak bottom of the order hitting) were all exposed in one game. Lannan's a slow starter - it wasn't until the 3rd start last year that he started to look like himself. That Phillies lineup can make even the best starters look weak.

The systemic problems are still there - we need actual production out of RF; there are still a few arsonists out there in the pen; Lannan's still the best starter we have. But yesterday changes nothing.

Posted by: Highway295Revisited | April 6, 2010 8:46 AM | Report abuse

>There is hope, certainly. The team has a bad schedule to start, and some of our other pitchers will be ready to return in June, a weaker part of the schedule.

Yeah that'll make it all better lol. You must be on the payroll too.

Posted by: Brue | April 6, 2010 8:48 AM | Report abuse

The nats have blind faith in Bergmann. I don't know why they keep inviting him back year after year.
Overall yesterday was great for the game of baseball, but bad for the city of Washington with the crowd dominated by Philly fans. With two 100 loss years in the books and another one on the way, what can this organization expect.

Posted by: Tom8 | April 6, 2010 9:05 AM | Report abuse

It was depressing to see Willie Harris playing right field. I know Bernadina and Maxwell are not great and perhaps not major league ready but I would rather see them than Harris and Tavares patrolling right field. Enough with the retread or aging veterans. To see Harris frantically and futilely throwing himself against the right field wall during one of the Phillies "bat arounds" in an attempt to catch a ball hit over hiss head was not only depressing but spoke volumes about the state of this team.

Also we do not need Batista. He is past being a major league caliber player. This band aid approach is tiring and old. Also it does not work.

Posted by: mjames0 | April 6, 2010 9:12 AM | Report abuse

"I know Bernadina and Maxwell are not great and perhaps not major league ready but I would rather see them than Harris and Tavares patrolling right field. Enough with the retread or aging veterans."

Or maybe Elijah Dukes....

Posted by: Section506 | April 6, 2010 9:17 AM | Report abuse

It seems to me that Zimm and Morgan are the only two position players who do not have huge, obvious flaws either offensively or defensively. Instead of building a team with young players and letting them grow up in the majors they've loaded up on guys on the downhill side, some of whom weren't all that on the uphill side. It's a sad thing when the best minor league first baseman may be worse defensively than a guy who is learning the position.

Posted by: markfromark | April 6, 2010 9:21 AM | Report abuse

I have an idea for all of you who think yesterday's game was worth the whole schedule: If you don't like the Nats, quit following them and find another team. Take your joy in being miserable somewhere else.

Posted by: fpcsteve | April 6, 2010 10:13 AM | Report abuse

"Take your joy in being miserable somewhere else."

This is not joy in being miserable, trust me. This is disgust at how little this team has improved in 5 years. This is disgust at not just losing, but getting embarrassed by both the team and the Philly fans in the stands. At ownership that goes out of its way to make Philly fans feel welcome and entitled to boo the home team on opening day. At ownership that thinks they can build a shopping mall with grass and 45,000 seats and the soul of.. well, of a shopping mall, and call it a ballpark. (WITH VIDEO GAMES! WHAT??)

At bragging about the free agent aquisitions of Pudge's plaque in cooperstown rather than a catcher. At cutting a halfway-decent RF with no future and replacing him with a bunch of godawful RFs with no future.

Look. I had season tickets in 2005 and 2006. I've made friends from that section full of season ticket holders at RFK. We booed when Vinny Castilla was robbed of his chance at the cycle. And now? Last year, every single one of the people I talked to at least year's opener said they'd rather have stayed at work. None of them even went yesterday. THAT is what we're disgusted with. If this were a company, it'd be Chrysler, circling the toilet like the turd that trotted out onto the field yesterday and got flushed by the Phillies.

So tell me if you think this looks like joy. It's not. It's just disgust.

Posted by: Section406 | April 6, 2010 10:42 AM | Report abuse

I am not as disgusted as 406 (for example I like the new ball park) but I am fairly disgusted. The ownership has simply been cheating the fans and I'm tired of it. I still have a 20 game ST pack, as I have since the second year. If I see a significant improvement in the last 2/3 season, I will likely keep it. If not, I will take a hike and wait to see if the owners are ever going to do right by the team or not. I saw some hope of that, but signing SS is just way not enough. At this rate, we will just be giving him MLB experience and he will beat feet north at the first opportunity because he does not have a serious team here. Sad. I take no joy in this view at all. These soulless mall mavens are about to drive me away from the game. The last year, Uncle Teddy. Get it????

Posted by: NatsFly | April 6, 2010 12:09 PM | Report abuse

I am not as disgusted as 406 (for example I like the new ball park) but I am fairly disgusted. The ownership has simply been cheating the fans and I'm tired of it. I still have a 20 game ST pack, as I have since the second year. If I see a significant improvement in the last 2/3 season, I will likely keep it. If not, I will take a hike and wait to see if the owners are ever going to do right by the team or not. I saw some hope of that, but signing SS is just way not enough. At this rate, we will just be giving him MLB experience and he will beat feet north at the first opportunity because he does not have a serious team here. Sad. I take no joy in this view at all. These soulless mall mavens are about to drive me away from the game. The last year, Uncle Teddy. Get it????

Posted by: NatsFly | April 6, 2010 12:34 PM | Report abuse

have an idea for all of you who think yesterday's game was worth the whole schedule: If you don't like the Nats, quit following them and find another team. Take your joy in being miserable somewhere else.

Because there are enough cities within commuting distance that we don't need no stinking home attendance to continue the cash flow.

Posted by: markfromark | April 6, 2010 12:59 PM | Report abuse

periculum said:
Miguel Batista : he recites poetry while the Nationals get burned.

To go with his reciting poetry, I wonder if he plays the fiddle as well.

Posted by: KenzAFan | April 6, 2010 1:03 PM | Report abuse

Here is a quick solution to the bullpen problem.

Move Stammen to Batista's spot. Move Olsen to Stammen's spot in the rotation. Release Batista. When Livan gets called up, DFA Tyler Walker. Give Bergmann a little more time to get himself righted or that becomes the spot that Drew Storen takes.

By June 1st upon Strasburg's arrival, evaluate your pool of starters and trade one of the bottom 2 and get a real RF into this place.

Have Bernadina playing Rightfield exclusively in Syracuse as a backup plan or reach out to Elijah Dukes and offer him a Minor League deal.

We are 1 game into the season so no reason to panic at this time. Obvious flaws we all saw in Spring Training with Batista are true to form. McCatty better sit down with Bergmann too.

Posted by: dmacman88 | April 6, 2010 1:50 PM | Report abuse

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