Eight Nationals prospects open season with Mesa Solar Sox today

The Mesa Solar Sox begin play in the Arizona Fall League today at the Glendale Desert Dogs. The season runs through Nov. 6.

The Nationals have eight players on this team, with four position players and four pitchers.

Today's starters feature Mesa left-hander Michael Roth opposing former Nationals top prospect and Glendale starter Alex Meyer.

Two of the pitchers are left-handed starters, Sammy Solis and Matt Purke. The other two are relievers, in Robert Benincasa and Richie Mirowski.

Matt Skole and Bran Goodwin had experience in Arizona last season, and Solis has pitched in the league before. Catcher Adrian Nieto will be able to work with four teammates from the Nationals. Skole is expected to play more third base in Arizona after playing first base almost exclusively last season. Steven Souza will be able to play on Wednesdays and Saturdays as a member of the taxi squad.

Bill Richardson is the manager, with the Triple-A Syracuse hitting coach Troy Gingrich working with Brian Harper as the hitting coaches. Mike Maroth and John Wasdin are the pitching coaches. Richardson coached the Angels' short-season team in Orem, Utah, after several years in the Rangers organization.

Maroth was a left-handed starting pitcher for the Tigers, so his tutelage will be invaluable to Solis and Purke. Former major league pitcher Wasdin attended Florida State University, where Benincasa pitched in college.

The notes from the Arizona Fall League on each Nationals player reveal that Benincasa's father pitched in the Orioles organization; Nieto was a member of Spain's 2013 World Baseball Classic qualifier; Goodwin was the Gatorade high school player of the year as a senior out of Rocky Mount, N.C.; Purke helped TCU earn its first College World Series berth and won two games in Omaha; Skole's father played baseball at Georgia Southern; Solis' father played baseball at Notre Dame; and Mirowski recorded 88 strikeouts this season.

Mesa will play its home games at Mesa Hohokam Stadium. Mesa is fortified by players from the Cubs, Angels, Nationals, Athletics and Tigers. Former Nationals farmhand David Freitas will be one of the three catchers on Mesa alongside Nieto.

The eighth annual Fall Stars Game is scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 2 at Surprise Stadium. The AFL championship game is set for Saturday, Nov. 16 at Scottsdale Stadium. The Peoria Javelinas are the defending league champion.

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