As pitchers and catchers report, five pitchers to watch
As you read this Tuesday morning, Nationals pitchers and catchers will be officially reporting at Space Coast Stadium. This spring will tell us more about some of those pitchers than others, and it's those question marks - the flamethrowers, the fliers, the players at a crossroads of some sort - that make this time of year so intriguing.
The five pitchers here may or may not make an impact on the Nationals this season, but they should be some of the most interesting to watch as spring rolls along.
Elvin Ramirez: The Nationals chose Ramirez, formerly a New York Mets farmhand, in the Rule 5 draft this winter. The right-handed reliever has only appeared in three games above Class A. But to keep him, the Nationals will either have to carry Ramirez on their 25-man roster all season or work out a trade with the Mets. Ramirez, even with his lack of experience, has sleeper status to make the club. He throws in the high-90s and struck out 8.1 batters per nine last year in the minors. His bugaboo is control, but the Nationals were encouraged by his performance in the Dominican winter league, when he walked five batters in 24 1/3 innings.
Yunesky Maya: He disappointed in his brief major league stint last season, going 0-3 with a 5.88 ERA in five starts. But his struggles were understandable given his circumstances - he had only recently come to America after defecting from Cuba more than a year earlier and taking residence in the Dominican Republic. Maya, by all accounts, pitched great in the Dominican winter league. It's worth wondering if the momentum from his winter and increased comfort with his surroundings combine to make Maya a reliable, end-of-the-rotation starter.
Henry Rodriguez: The Nationals shipped Josh Willingham, their starting left fielder who was owed an affordable 2011 salary, to the Oakland A's for a minor league outfielder (Corey Brown) and this rocket-armed reliever. At 24, Rodriguez has little major league experience. Like Ramirez, he needs to harness his control and command. But last year, he struck out 33 batters in 27 2/3 major league innings, and one of his fastballs zipped at 103 miles per hour. If he improves his control, he could become a candidate to close. If not, the Willingham trade could start looking a tad one-sided.
Garrett Mock: He's been utterly overlooked since last April, when he started the fourth game of the Nationals' season, on a chilly night in New York. After the start, the Nationals discovered he needed surgery to repair a disc in the back of his neck. As quickly as Mock asserted himself with a relatively strong spring training, he fell off the map. Mock, despite being a member of the Nats' opening day rotation last year, is often left out of the discussion for the Nationals' fifth starter spot. This spring, he'll try to change that. On Monday, he was already hurling sharp breaking balls and snapping the catcher's mitt with his fastball.
Ross Detwiler: Last year, after he under hip surgery at the start of spring training, Detwiler never really had a chance. He was at least partly to blame for not speaking up about his balky hip, but even once he recovered, he never quite felt comfortable on the mound. After an offseason spent working on a delivery that puts less stress on his hip, Detwiler is a candidate to make the club. He could emerge as a swingman or a long reliever. As the sixth pick of the 2007 draft, he has the pedigree for much more if he can tap into his potential.
Other key questions: Will Jordan Zimmermann make a leap forward in his first full season following Tommy John surgery? Will John Lannan continue his hot streak from the end of 2010? Will Drew Storen seize the closer role? Has Tyler Clippard managed to pick up some wins over the winer? Did Livan Hernandez win any racquetball trophies this offseason?
And one more: Who are you most curious about?
FROM THE POST
Jesus Flores is finally healthy after a hellish 2010.
The Great Dave Sheinin is in the best shape of his life and makes his spring debut with a piece from Clearwater on Cliff Lee and the Phillies' aces.
He's also got story lines from around the majors.
FROM AROUND THE WEB
Nyjer Morgan is putting 2010 behind him, Bill Ladson writes.
Mark Zuckerman offers up a spring training preview.
Ben Goessling takes on the importance of players arriving early.
| February 15, 2011; 7:30 AM ET
Categories: Morning brushback
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