A quick update on the pitching prospects and how several of them are progressing after a couple of weeks at instructional league in Viera, Florida:
The team was in Vero Beach today to take on Team China.
First, an update on veteran Chien-Ming Wang - He threw a simulated game earlier this week and will throw a scheduled side session today.
If everything goes well, they will likely put him in a game soon. Wang has been recovering from major shoulder surgery which took place about 14 months ago and is feeling good and making progress.
Meanwhile, a lot of buzz has been generated by the work of A.J. Morris. Potomac pitching coach Paul Menhart, who is one of the pitching coaches at instructs says Morris is "throwing very well. His arm has never felt better."
Morris was put in the bullpen at Potomac during the latter stages of the season and allowed to take some time off to help a shoulder ailment. He is scheduled to pitch Saturday.
Sammy Solis pitched two days ago and did very well after struggling in his first outing at instructs.
Solis went 9 up and 9 down, pitching three innings with "ease and showing good stuff," according to Menhart.
Solis has "a quality changeup and strike zone ability with that pitch. His knuckle curve is legitimate. It has no hop and is a downer pitch. That was pretty impressive to me," Menhart said.
A.J. Cole also scuffled a little bit in his first outing, but this last time out he had a good feel for his changeup and had a four-pitch inning and then a 10-12 pitch inning. As Cole told me last week, he still wants to refine his changeup and Menhart agrees.
Menhart says the Nationals did very well in drafting Solis and Cole this year. He says Cole has the body type and arm strength to hit 97 miles per hour on his fastball.
Danny Rosenbaum finished the season with success at Potomac as a part of the team's quest for the Mills Cup title.
He is scheduled to throw today and is healthy. Menhart says Rosenbaum is also working on his changeup and understands pitching.
"If he can get his changeup going it will be the great equalizer. We want him to feel comfortable enough to throw the change in any count, just like his fastball."
There's a common theme running through the progression of all these pitching prospects - tinkering and improving their changeup so it can get major leaguers out on a routine basis.
"Everyone is down here to work on their changeup," Menhart said. "These guys need innings, whether it was because of injury or they did not pitch enough during their minor league campaigns. I believe the changeup is the best pitch in baseball. That is no secret, a lot of people feel that way. Without a good changeup in the pros, you will struggle. The instructional league is all about gaining confidence in the changeup and what opposing hitters can do with it."
The benchmark is always to try to get the changeup to be 10 miles per hour slower than your fastball, but with the same arm action and arm speed to fool the hitter.
"It is possible for some pitchers to throw a changeup that is six or seven miles per hour slower but has split action, similar to what you see from a split fingered fastball. It travels down late and has a good bite at the end," Menhart said.
Trevor Holder attended a wedding recently and had some time off, but has kept himself in shape. He will get in a game shortly.
Rob Ray started today and threw three shutout innings.
Menhart says Ray has an "average fastball and a nice breaking ball. He has a close to average changeup for three solid pitches. He needs to be more consistent and was better this time" than his last outing.