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Johnson’s advice to Ankiel: Relax

VIERA, Fla. - Nationals manager Davey Johnson hopes that a more relaxed approach at the plate will pay dividends for veteran outfielder Rick Ankiel. Last year, Ankiel batted .239 with nine homers and 37 RBIs in 122 games with the Nationals, beginning the season as their starting center fielder. This year, Ankiel’s role is a little less clear. The Nationals signed him to a minor

Splintered bat shows Burnett is getting desired movement on pitches

VIERA, Fla. - The most impressive arm in Wednesday’s live batting practice belonged to left-hander Sean Burnett. The reliever’s effort elicited praise from his teammates and Burnett got a measure of retribution against Michael Morse, who crushed a ball off the batter’s eye in center field when the two squared off in the first round of live batting practice during spring workouts Sunday. This time

Werth participates at his own pace, may be held out of weekend games

VIERA, Fla. - Nationals manager Davey Johnson expected outfielder Jayson Werth to miss a second straight day of workouts because of back spasms. Turns out Werth felt well enough to take part at his own pace, though Johnson’s not sure he’ll have Werth available when Grapefruit League play begins this weekend. Werth wasn’t present at the beginning of workouts while he received treatment on his

Beasley works a room with a purpose

VIERA, Fla. - Tony Beasley, manager of the Nationals’ Triple-A affiliate in Syracuse, N.Y., enters the home clubhouse at Space Coast Stadium 10 minutes before the scheduled start of a morning workout and makes a beeline for the corner packed with position players who will likely comprise the bulk of his Chiefs roster come opening day. Beasley, who was promoted to Syracuse after managing at

“Over” Twitter, Harper deletes his account (updated)

VIERA, Fla. - Bryce Harper has deleted his Twitter account, and the Nationals’ top prospect said the decision was his and was not prompted by warnings from manager Davey Johnson. “I was just over it. Got bored and decided to leave,” Harper said Wednesday morning as he dressed for the Nationals’ workout. @BHarp3407, it appears, is no more - at least until Harper decides to

Werth missing as Wednesday workout begins (updated)

VIERA, Fla. - The Nationals moved their preseason drills from the minor league complex to Space Coast Stadium on Wednesday, but outfielder Jayson Werth was missing when the workout began. Instead, Werth was receiving treatment on his lower back. Werth missed Tuesday’s workout with back spasms, according to manager Davey Johnson. While the rest of his teammates dressed in red jerseys and gray pants, Werth

In Nats’ bullpen, Gorzelanny is a man of many talents

In an era where bullpens are filled with specialists who only want to excel in their own narrow role, Tom Gorzelanny is an anachronistic chameleon. The Nationals left-hander can morph into whatever manager Davey Johnson needs him to be. Long relief? Gorzelanny was once a starting pitcher. Two innings or more? No problem. An out against a tough left-handed batter? He’s up for that. “I

Rizzo confirms Solis will undergo Tommy John surgery in L.A. next Tuesday

VIERA, Fla. - Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo confirmed Tuesday afternoon that left-handed pitching prospect Sammy Solis will need Tommy John ligament-reconstruction surgery on his left elbow, and will be sidelined for 12 months. The surgery will be performed in Los Angeles next Tuesday by Dr. Lewis Yocum, the same orthopedic surgeon who performed the procedure on Nationals pitchers Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann. The

Ability to pitch two innings makes Clippard “invaluable”

VIERA, Fla. - Good managers think ahead, constructing contingency plans for an emergency. The Nationals’ bullpen is a strength, but what would Davey Johnson do if Drew Storen wasn’t available to close games for an extended period? Johnson doesn’t want to consider that possibility - last July, at the trade deadline, the skipper stumped for the Nationals not to trade Storen - but he knows

Back spasms sideline Werth from workout

VIERA, Fla. - Outfielder Jayson Werth took Tuesday off from workouts after reporting to Space Coast Stadium with muscle spasms in his back. “His back was hurting. ... He didn’t work out,” manager Davey Johnson said. The Nationals have escaped serious injuries thus far through spring training, and Werth’s back spasms are the first problem substantial enough to cause a player to miss drills. “It’s

Freeze frames and weird poses highlight photo day

VIERA, Fla. - If players are frozen like statues, posed in awkward positions while rapid-fire shutters whir, it must be photo day. To hear Nationals tell it, this is one of the most dreaded days of spring training, when full uniforms are donned and players and coaches run the gauntlet of photographers snapping pictures for baseball cards, promotional campaigns and other purposes approved by Major

For four Nationals, life’s the pits at wreck-filled Daytona 500

VIERA, Fla. - Michael Morse got in touch with his inner Bubba on Monday night, accompanying three teammates to the Daytona 500, which was run about 70 miles north in Daytona Beach, Fla. It was the first NASCAR Sprint Cup experience for Morse, and won’t be the last. “It was awesome, it was a great experience,” said Morse. “First one ever. I never knew how

Carving out bench niche is Tracy’s goal in Nationals camp

VIERA, Fla. - He’s 31, hasn’t played regularly in the majors in 2006 and last played in Japan, where the cultural experience far outweighed anything he did on the field. But Chad Tracy once slugged 27 homers in a single season for the Diamondbacks, where the man who drafted him is now the Nationals’ general manager. Plus, he hits left-handed and is versatile enough to

Rookie Rendon will start at third base vs. Georgetown

VIERA, Fla. - Now that they’ve locked up their present third baseman for the foreseeable future, the Nationals have made some decisions regarding third base prospect Anthony Rendon, the sixth overall pick in June’s draft. General manager Mike Rizzo told MLB.com today that Rendon would play third base in the minors this season, though where he’ll start the year has yet to be determined, and

With Hernandez on hill, Harper may start in opener

VIERA, Fla. - Near the end of his daily briefing with the media, Nationals manager Davey Johnson was told by reporters that ex-Nat Livan Hernandez would be starting Saturday’s Grapefruit League opener against Washington for the Astros in Kissimmee, Fla. “Livo?” Johnson said, his eyes growing wide and a grin crossing his face. “Livo’s pitching that game, huh? The manager’s interest was genuine, more than

Wang throwing “free and easy” in latest mound session

Right-hander Chien-Ming Wang drew quite a crowd while pitching live batting practice Monday. General manager Mike Rizzo, manager Davey Johnson, pitching coach Steve McCatty and minor league pitching coordinator Spin Williams were all casting a critical eye at the session, in which Wang looked pretty strong. Coming off shoulder problems that caused him to miss most of two seasons, Wang made 11 starts for the

Purke ready to take the mound against Hoyas

VIERA, Fla. - When left-hander Matt Purke takes the mound Friday for the Nationals in an exhibition game against Georgetown, he’ll be making his first tentative steps on a path that should land in him in Washington sooner rather than later. But it’ll be different. There are no scouting reports against an opponent he’s never seen before. He doesn’t even know what a Hoya is.

Would Strasburg be open to following in Zimmerman’s footsteps?

VIERA, Fla. - From the time he was drafted in 2005, Ryan Zimmerman spoke of wanting to play his whole career in Washington. Because he grew up in Virginia Beach, Va., and played college baseball at the University of Virginia, he said playing at Nationals Park felt like an extension of his familiar surroundings. During the press conference Sunday to announce his six-year, $100 million

Harper gets to face other first-rounder in live BP

VIERA, Fla. - Bryce Harper, the top overall pick in the 2010 draft, drew a first-round pick from the 2009 draft as his opponent during Sunday’s first day of live batting practice at Nationals spring training. Just not that first-rounder. Instead of hitting against right-hander Stephen Strasburg - a possibility when the groups of hitters and pitchers were posted Friday morning - the 19-year-old phenom

DeRosa celebrates 37th birthday by facing Strasburg

VIERA, Fla. - For his 37th birthday, Mark DeRosa got an unusual present: an opportunity to face hard-throwing right-hander Stephen Strasburg during the first session of live batting practice at Nationals spring training. Working in a hitting group with Rick Ankiel and Roger Bernadina, DeRosa was the only person to get a ball cleanly out of the infield, grounding a changeup in the hole between

With long-term security, Zimmerman can be a Nat for life

VIERA, Fla. - Stability and security meant more to Ryan Zimmerman than dollars and cents, so when the third baseman and the Nationals were hammering out what turned out to be a six-year extension to his current contract, the only stumbling block was something that’s usually a deal-breaker for general manager Mike Rizzo: a no-trade clause. As Rizzo negotiated with Zimmerman’s agent, Brodie Van Wagenen,

Teammates say franchise cornerstone earned long-term security

VIERA, Fla. - As news of Ryan Zimmerman’s long-awaited, long-term extension with the Nationals passed through the Space Coast Stadium clubhouse Sunday morning, the third baseman’s teammates spoke of how much Zimmerman deserved the security afforded by the deal, which could keep him in a Washington uniform through 2020. “I think that’s great. I think it’s showing that the Nationals, the Lerner family is trying

Caught in numbers crunch, Bernadina doesn’t seem concerned

VIERA, Fla. - If Roger Bernadina is concerned that he might get squeezed out of the Nationals’ outfield picture, he isn’t letting on. In previous years, Bernadina came to camp with an opportunity to win a spot on the 25-man roster. This year, his biggest challenge might be staying with the organization. The Nationals will carry either four or five outfielders, depending on whether manager

Zimmerman on long-term deal: “It’s a relief” (updated with terms)

VIERA, Fla. - Ryan Zimmerman entered the Nationals’ clubhouse at Space Coast Stadium around 8:10 a.m. Sunday and tried to get to his locker without any fanfare. Fat chance. He almost made it to his stall in the far corner next to the showers. But a few yards away, he was intercepted by teammate MIchael Morse, who offered a congratulatory high five to celebrate the

Deal is done between Zimmerman, Nationals

VIERA, Fla. - Third baseman Ryan Zimmerman this morning agreed to a long-term extension with the Nationals, according to a baseball source. Terms and length of the deal are not yet known. Check back for more details as they become available.

Zimmerman, Nationals move closer to long-term extension

VIERA, Fla. - Ryan Zimmerman and the Nationals moved closer to hammering out a contract extension late Saturday night, resolving some “last significant issues” that were holding up a deal, general manager Mike Rizzo said. The Nationals are hopeful that a deal can be announced Sunday. “We don’t have a deal done, but we’ve made significant progress tonight,” Rizzo said shortly before 11 p.m. “We

Johnson focuses on newcomers, impressed by hitters’ progress in first workout

VIERA, Fla. - Nationals manager Davey Johnson has run enough spring trainings to be able to appreciate both the excitement that accompanies the first day of full-squad workouts and the need to wisely use the time available during spring to learn as much as he can about his players, both old and new. The newcomers got the bulk of Johnson’s attention Saturday, when the Nationals

Could Harper hit against Strasburg on Sunday?

VIERA, Fla. - Bryce Harper mashed a couple of pitches over the fence in right-center field during his first live batting practice session of spring training on Saturday. But he was quick to point out that the long home runs came off a spring training instructor - or what manager Davey Johnson has called “dead arm pitchers,” who threw today instead of his regular hurlers,

Strasburg to make Nats’ first home start of spring

VIERA, Fla. - Right-hander Stephen Strasburg will start the Nationals’ home exhibition opener against the Astros on March 4, with Gio Gonzalez making his first start for the club two days later when the Nats travel to Lake Buena Vista, Fla., to visit the Braves, manager Davey Johnson said Saturday. Johnson’s announcement completed the first turn of the rotation through Grapefruit League play, and the

Zimmerman, Nats still talking, getting “creative” on no-trade provision

VIERA, Fla. - Ryan Zimmerman’s representatives continue to discuss a contract extension with the Nationals even after a Saturday morning deadline for a resolution passed, and the third baseman said a no-trade clause is “the only thing” that stands between himself and a deal with the team. “Something creative to ensure me that I will be here, because that’s the reason I’m signing the deal

Meet Joe Namath, Nats’ top prospect

VIERA, Fla. - No one can say the Nationals aren’t displaying a wicked sense of humor as full-squad workouts commence at Space Coast Stadium. Top prospect Bryce Harper arrived at the clubhouse Saturday morning to find he’d been a victim of a well-played prank. Instead of the nameplate above his locker stall reading, “Bryce Harper 34,” as it did when he left after Friday’s workouts,

Sturdier Mattheus ready to shoulder heavier workload

VIERA, Fla. - One of the inherent flaws in the bullpen that Davey Johnson inherited last season was the inability of Nationals relievers to work more than an inning at a time on a regular basis. The manager was saddled with a group that wasn’t capable of longer outings - or, in some cases, pitching on successive days. At the end of last season, and

Zimmerman: Talks will go “right down to the last minute, I guess” (updated)

VIERA, Fla. - It’s less than an hour before Ryan Zimmerman’s self-imposed deadline to have a contract extension in place, and the Nationals third baseman sounds as if he’s prepared to wait right until the team’s first full-squad workout to see if a deal will be done. Asked after he arrived in the clubhouse at Space Coast Stadium at 8:10 a.m. Saturday if he had

Skipper ready for full-squad workouts to begin

VIERA, Fla. - The Nationals will hold their first full-squad workout Saturday morning, and manager Davey Johnson will hold a team meeting beforehand to make sure everyone’s on the same page. With high expectations for the Nats, the skipper is eager to get the next phase of camp under way. “We become a team, we become whole,” Johnson said. “I have not seen half of

Johnson on Zimmerman, Strasburg, Rodriguez, Hoyas

VIERA, Fla. - Nationals manager Davey Johnson has a vested interest in keeping third baseman Ryan Zimmerman around long-term, so he’s among those who want to see the Nationals and Zimmerman agree on a long-term contract extension. “I think it’s a great idea. I hope that they come together and get it done,” Johnson said. “He’s the franchise player. He’s the best player, your three-hole

Jackson will get nod in Nationals’ Grapefruit League opener

VIERA, Fla. - Edwin Jackson, the most recent starting pitcher to join the Nationals, will start the team’s March 3 Grapefruit League opener against the Astros in Kissimmee, Fla., manager Davey Johnson said Friday. “I talked to him in throwing drills and he was up for that,” Johnson said. Jackson, like the rest of the pitchers in camp, will take the next two days off

Storen, Zimmerman weigh in on Braun’s successful appeal

VIERA, Fla. - News that defending National League Most Valuable Player Ryan Braun of the Brewers had successfully appealed his 50-game ban for testing positive in October for elevated levels of testosterone was well-received in the Nationals clubhouse Friday morning, though some players privately questioned whether they could trust Major League Baseball’s testing measures in light of Braun’s suspension being overturned. “I think it’s great,”

Does Zimmerman extension hinge on no-trade protection?

VIERA, Fla. - Ryan Zimmerman’s self-imposed Saturday deadline to have a contract extension in place is moving closer, and it appears any chance the Nationals have at locking up their starting third baseman beyond 2013 hinge on a new deal containing a no-trade clause. “The point of me signing this deal is to be here, not to sign a deal that’s team-friendly to have it

Detwiler’s finally learned how he can be successful

VIERA, Fla. - Ross Detwiler sprints from the mound, takes a flip from spring training instructor Mark Grater and applies an tag on an imaginary runner at home plate. Another mundane but important drill completed, Detwiler heads off to his next station, a definitely noticeable spring in his step. And why not? After the way he impressed at the end of last season, the left-hander

News and notes from Nats Park

Greetings, Nationals fans. As we draw closer to the start of another season of Nationals baseball, there are a number of things to discuss and opportunities to present before opening day. First off, for those fans who applied to become a 2012 Nationals ball girl, the 25 finalists have been chosen and will take part in the tryouts portion of the process Saturday at Nationals

Humbled Morse wants to use breakthrough as a baseline

Of the countless words used to describe Michael Morse’s breakthrough season in 2011 - and a .303 average, 31 homers and 95 RBIs will get you a lot of plaudits, not to mention Most Valuable Player votes - the most unexpected may been uttered by Morse himself. “Last year, to me, was very humbling,” Morse said Thursday morning in the Nationals’ clubhouse. “It was something

McCatty, Johnson want Storen to slow down a little

VIERA, Fla. - Drew Storen was between pitches in his bullpen session Thursday when pitching coach Steve McCatty walked over to him and interrupted his series of tosses to catcher Wilson Ramos. The conversation looked pretty one-sided, with Storen doing all the listening, and McCatty was making a plea that Storen is used to hearing. “He just keeps telling me to slow down,” Storen said

Wang to get extra day of rest, Gonzalez unleashes “snapdragons”

VIERA, Fla. - Today should have been Chien-Ming Wang’s day to throw a bullpen. Instead, the right-hander got an extra day of rest, a move Nationals manager Davey Johnson said would be repeated early in camp to allow Wang to build up his strength and stamina. “These guys have been around for a little bit, they know what they need to do to get that

And then there were none ...

VIERA, Fla. - All present and accounted for. The last two straggers - one with an excused absence, one who probably didn’t realize he’d be the last arrival to camp even though he was reporting early - showed up at Space Cost Stadium today, meaning all the Nationals have reported to spring training. Right-hander Henry Rodriguez, whose absence was excused, was by his locker stall

Nats, Zimmerman continue to talk; Rizzo “hopeful” of deal

VIERA, Fla. - Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said Thursday that he continues to be engaged in talks with Ryan Zimmerman and his representatives in hopes of hammering out a contract extension before the third baseman’s Saturday deadline for a deal. “We continue to talk and have discussions,” Rizzo said. “His agent (Brodie Van Wagenen) is in town, so that makes it easier.” Zimmerman has

Newcomer Lidge more than willing to share his experience

VIERA, Fla. - Brad Lidge isn’t ready to open his arms to the role of bullpen sage just because he’s got 10 major league seasons and 223 career saves under his belt. But he was lucky enough to have established closers like Trevor Hoffman and Billy Wagner reach out to him when he was younger, and the 35-year-old Lidge is more than willing to do

Nats’ Morse still a big hit with Taiwanese media

VIERA, Fla. - For a few minutes Wednesday afternoon, a Nationals player was swarmed by Taiwanese media, who crowded around him outside the first base dugout at Space Coast Stadium, still cameras clicking, video cameras running and note pads in hand. Surprise, it wasn’t Chien-Ming Wang, who has apparently been replaced as the media darling among his countrymen by teammate Michael Morse. Morse toured Taiwan

More from the manager

VIERA, Fla. - More from Nationals manager Davey Johnson after the Nationals’ second workout of the spring Wednesday. With utility man Mark DeRosa reporting, the only two players who haven’t shown up in camp are non-roster outfielder Xavier Paul and right-hander Henry Rodriguez, whose tardy arrival is excused because he informed the club he was dealing with a personal issue: * Johnson was impressed with

Jackson will work on not tipping pitches in windup

VIERA, Fla. - One of the main goals the Nationals have for veteran Edwin Jackson this spring is to correct a flaw in his delivery that may lead to the right-hander tipping his pitches, particularly from a full windup. Jackson went through his first side session today, throwing to catcher Wilson Ramos, and manager Davey Johnson says the problem, first discovered by pitching coach Steve

Zimmerman firm on Saturday deadline for contract talks

VIERA, Fla. - Agent Brodie Van Waganen is in Nationals camp, fueling speculation that he’s trying to get something done on the Ryan Zimmerman contract front by Saturday, the deadline the third baseman has imposed on a possible long-term deal. Zimmerman reiterated Wednesday that he will shut down talks with the club if a deal isn’t reached by then. “It’s not fair for all these

Wrist woes behind him, DeRosa comes full circle to utility role

VIERA, Fla. - The tendon he ruptured in his left wrist swinging at a pitch from Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw in L.A. last May 18 may have been a blessing in disguise for Mark DeRosa. Of course, at the time, all the veteran could do was wince and wonder whether his career was over. “To be honest with you, since I’ve ruptured it, it’s the

Johnson embraces players’ manager moniker

VIERA, Fla. - Go ahead, call the Nationals’ Davey Johnson a players’ manager. Some major league skippers might bristle at that moniker, which to some indicates that they mollycoddle millionaires and refuse to exert their managerial authority. Not Johnson, who values the relationship he culls with his players, figuring the more intimate the understanding of his charges, the better he’s able to perform his job.

Johnson satisfied with Nationals’ initial workout of spring

VIERA, Fla. - For the first workout of the spring for Nationals pitchers and catchers, the first time he’s kicked off a major league camp since 2000 in Dodgertown at the now-vacatedVero Beach, Fla., facility, manager Davey Johnson took a page from the past in his instructions to a vastly improved mound staff. Fastballs and change-ups were allowed in the first side sessions. Breaking balls

After ordeal, Ramos prefers to focus on baseball

VIERA, Fla. - The ink on the inside of his left forearm, only a week old, speaks to the happy resolution Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos prefers not to speak of. In black script among a bevy of sky-blue highlights are the words, “Todo lo puedo en Cristo, que me fortalice” - “I put everything in Jesus, because he’s got my back,” Ramos said by way

Marrero’s path to Nationals takes an injury detour

VIERA, Fla. - While the Nationals’ pitchers and catchers undertake their first workout today, the early-reporting position players stretch and hit and throw, first baseman Chris Marrero will think about what might have been. He’ll run the steps at Space Coast Stadium, head to the trainer’s room for therapy, maybe do some light throwing. But any hopes the 23-year-old had of picking up after his

Finding innings for 10 potential starters is Johnson’s challenge

VIERA, Fla. - Nationals pitchers and catchers will work out for the first time this morning, and manger Davey Johnson will put into motion his plan to find enough innings to make sure all of his starting pitchers are ready for the 2012 season. It won’t be easy. Quite frankly, the math doesn’t work in Johnson’s favor. He’s got 10 pitchers in camp who have

A little more strength makes all the difference for LaRoche

VIERA, Fla. - The swing is free and easy, and Adam LaRoche hopes that he can soon throw with more strength. The Nationals first baseman can finally cut loose a throw without worrying that lingering soreness would inhibit his movement for a couple of days or more. Having his left shoulder surgically repaired in June turned out to be the right course of action for

Johnson says only three roster spots are up for grabs

VIERA, Fla. - Not so long ago, the Nationals would report to Space Coast Stadium for spring training with more question marks than sure things. The collection of journeymen, hangers-on, hopeful youngsters, guys who had flamed out elsewhere and a few legitimate talents would go through workouts and play games; the front office and manager would try to piece together a 25-man roster that could

Harper: “I want to play and I want to play in D.C.”

VIERA, Fla. - If there’s a tagline attached to Bryce Harper’s second major league spring training, it’s this: D.C. or bust. The Nationals’ top prospect arrived at Space Coast Stadium on Monday, still tiptoeing between cockiness and confidence, yet still sure that he can break camp with the Nats and contribute at the major league level as a 19-year-old. “They’re going to make their decisions

Rookie Rendon shows respect for his roadblock at third base

VIERA, Fla. - Anthony Rendon is no stranger to Space Coast Stadium, having made an appearance here at fall instructional league after the Nationals made the Rice third baseman the sixth overall pick in the June draft. But arriving at his first spring training made the 21-year-old think of how far he’s come in a very brief time. “It’s crazy,” Rendon said after arriving at

Rizzo on Cameron, Lombardozzi, Strasburg and more

VIERA, Fla. - More and more position players are trickling into camp - including the Nats’ first-round picks in the last two drafts, outfielder Bryce Harper and infielder Anthony Rendon - and Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo held an extended session with reporters this morning and talked about a variety of subjects. * Rizzo said outfielder Mike Cameron, whose retirement was announced yesterday, called the

Notes from the Nationals clubhouse

VIERA, Fla. - Count Rick Ankiel among the few people happy that Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo is still searching for a center fielder who can hit leadoff. If Rizzo had found elusive quarry this offseason, Ankiel might still be searching for a job. Two weeks ago, Ankiel inked a minor league deal with the Nationals, getting a spring training invitation that’s more formality than

Nats full of optimism as pitchers, catchers report

VIERA, Fla. - Scenes from the first day of Nationals spring training at Space Coast Stadium, where pitchers and catchers reported: Handshakes, hugs and introductions - a necessity considering the team’s offseason maneuvering. A clubhouse attendant sits at a table removing the elastic band at the bottom of pants legs with surgical precision, an accommodation for players who prefer a looser fit. One by one,

Strasburg: “When they say I’m done, I’m going to be done”

To prepare for this season, his first full campaign after Tommy John ligament-replacement surgery, Stephen Strasburg started a little later than usual, ramped up his weight lifting for strength and his running for endurance. He took a page from the past, returning to the yoga poses he practiced while in college at San Diego State University, to increase his flexibility and facilitate quicker recovery. None

Cameron tells Nationals he’s retiring (updated)

VIERA,Fla. - A few minutes ago, Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo was joking with reporters about how empty the Space Coast Stadium clubhouse felt with only 55 players needing locker space. It was a far cry from 2007, when 71 players were jammed into the room, necessitating extra locker stalls in the middle of the clubhouse. Now, there’s unexpectedly one less player. According to this

Espinosa’s goal: Avoid extended slumps

VIERA, Fla. - Danny Espinosa’s main goal this spring? Avoid extended slumps and become more productive more of the time. “I think I’ll be able to stop those long slumps,” the Nationals’ second baseman said. “You’re going to have slumps, I don’t care who you are. You hit .330 and you’re still going to ... have a week of being cold. The difference between the

Early arrival Werth ready put disappointing 2011 behind him

VIERA, Fla. - Think Jayson Werth’s first season in Washington left a sour taste in your mouth? You’ve got nothing on Werth, who didn’t exactly perform like a player who had signed a seven-year, $126 million contract with the Nationals, then struggled to find his form, often appearing to be battling himself. “Last year was a little odd,” Werth, one of the position players to

Finally healthy, Flores wants to prove he can be productive

VIERA, Fla. - Jesus Flores’ impressive performance in the Venezuelan Winter League this offseason was almost offset by the kidnapping of his friend and teammate, Wilson Ramos. Now, Flores has his mind set on showing the Nationals he can again be a starting catcher, even if it means doing so at Ramos’ expense. Unseating Ramos will be an uphill battle, since Ramos is viewed as

Five questions facing the Nationals as spring training begins

VIERA, Fla. - Are there four more glorious words in the English language than “pitchers and catchers report”? But before the Nationals’ batteries charge from Space Coast Stadium to the Carl Barger Baseball Complex - OK, it’s actually more of a leisurely stroll, but after nearly five months off, the pace will be quickened - here are the five most important questions facing the club

Leading off, it’s Desmond by default

Barring something unexpected, the Nationals will go into spring training with shortstop Ian Desmond as their leadoff hitter. And manager Davey Johnson is perfectly fine with that, even if Desmond is viewed as an imperfect solution atop the order by some observers. “I like him there,” Johnson said at the Winter Meetings. “I think he’ll do fine.” Desmond struggled as a leadoff man at the

Davey Johnson reflects on passing of Gary Carter

Gary Carter’s death at 57 from a brain tumor hits home for Nationals manager Davey Johnson, who skippered the New York Mets from 1984-90 and had Carter as his catcher from 1985-89. Carter backstopped the 1986 Mets who went 108-54 and won the only World Series on Johnson’s resume. Carter spent the first 12 year of his Hall of Fame career with the Nationals’ predecessors,

Nats getting some MLB Network love

Spring training is still a few days away - I’ll be touching down in Orlando on Saturday, then taking the hour-long drive east to Space Coast Stadium in Viera, Fla., where I’ll be holding down the fort pending the arrival of a new Nationals beat reporter soon - but the Nationals are already getting some attention from the national media types. It was bound to

Will Nats out of options complicate roster decisions?

Over at MLBTradeRumors.com (and, really, how did we ever survive without our daily dose of aggregated baseball headlines before this site?), they’ve constructed team-by-team lists of players who are out of options. These players must make the 25-man roster or be passed through waivers in an attempt to assign them to a minor league club. Some will make it, as teams are disinterested in them,

A peek behind the plate

A year ago at this time, the Nationals were flush with catchers. Ivan Rodriguez was entering the second season of a two-year contract and Wilson Ramos, acquired the previous summer in a trading deadline deal from Minnesota for Matt Capps, was poised for a breakthrough and pushing for playing time. Jesus Flores was finally ready to return after missing most of two seasons with a

Nats announce single-game ticket sales, 2012 promotional schedule

The wait is over. Well, sort of. You can’t buy single-game tickets to see the Nationals at Nationals Park quite yet. But at least you now have a date to mark on your calendar, as the team has announced single-game tickets will go on sale at 10 a.m. on Thursday, March 8. Tickets may be purchased online at nationals.com/tickets, by calling 888-632-NATS (6287) or by

Who’s the dark horse in spring training?

Dark horses, long shots, under-the-radar players, guys who come out of nowhere - every spring training, someone unexpectedly forces his way into 25-man roster consideration. Sometimes it’s because of the kind of on-the-field performance that just can’t be ignored. Other times, it’s because an injury opens up an opportunity. Occasionally, a trade creates an opening. So who among those players soon to report to Space

Five things Bryce Harper has to do to make the 25-man roster

The most interesting battle of Nationals spring training in Viera, Fla., might not be waged on the field. It centers around top prospect Bryce Harper, and whether the slugging outfielder with the cannon for an arm will break camp with the Nationals. As soon as manager Davey Johnson and general manager Mike Rizzo settle into their respective homes away from home at Space Coast Stadium,

Nats aren’t first to protect home turf for local fans

Predictably enough, there’s been some discontent from the City of Brotherly Love about the Nationals’ announcement of the “Take Back the Park” initiative, a well-intentioned effort to put tickets for the team’s May 4-6 series against the Phillies at Nationals Park in the hands of D.C.-area fans instead of having the park packed with Philly Phanatics. In a series of Thursday afternoon tweets, U.S. Sen.

Who will start for Nats on opening day in Chicago?

When the Nationals open the 2012 season at Wrigley Field against the Cubs on April 5, there are pretty much guaranteed to be winds whipping around the ivy-covered walls and knocking around the pennants on the scoreboard in center field. But the guys from D.C. will be used to that by then, especially after spending most of spring training with an incessant question swirling around

ESPN’s Keith Law ranks Nats’ farm system 21st

Remember that feeling of satisfaction that washed over you last week when Baseball America ranked the Nationals’ farm system No. 1 in baseball? We all knew the ranking, decided upon before the trade that sent four top prospects to the A’s in exchange for left-hander Gio Gonzalez, would take a hit once the loss of pitchers Tommy Milone, Brad Peacock, A.J. Cole and catcher Derek

How will the Nationals maximize Strasburg’s innings?

Innings limit or not, Stephen Strasburg is the focal point in the Nationals’ 2012 rotation. Much will be made about Gio Gonzalez’s arrival in the National League, whether Jordan Zimmermann can build on his breakthrough season, whether Edwin Jackson will perform enough in D.C. to get the big-money, long-term contract he covets and how well Chien-Ming Wang will hold up to the test of a

Nationals launch “Take Back the Park” initiative

There aren’t many things baseball fans hate more than watching a game in their home stadium when it sounds like they’re sitting in the stands of the visiting team. Orioles fans suffer through it during every Yankees and Red Sox series, while the Nationals are forced to endure thousands of Philliy Phanatics each year. Well, no more, cry the Nationals. Last week, the Nationals launched

Nationals to hold auditions for ballgirls, national anthem performers

Attention those who boast a set of golden pipes, or can at least sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” better than Carl Lewis or Roseanne Barr. The Nationals are searching for performers to sing the national anthem during the 2012 season. Those selected will get the chance to sing our nation’s hallmark song in front of thousands of Nationals fans and then enjoy some good ol’ fashioned

Possible fits for Ankiel in the Nats’ outfield (updated with Teahen move)

Football season is over, which means baseball season’s just around the corner. And it’s Babe Ruth’s 117th birthday, to boot! Good thing the Sultan of Swat doesn’t have to summon up enough breath to blow out all those candles. NatsTown has generally welcomed the return of Rick Ankiel, who has agreed to a minor league deal with an invitation to spring training. Unless he falls

Nats bring back Ankiel on minor league deal

Greetings from Southwest Airlines Flight 2039, where we’re somewhere east of Salt Lake City - maybe around Oklahoma - and heading to Baltimore. I can’t escape the Nationals news, even for a few days. According to multiple reports, the Nationals have agreed to terms on a minor league contract with Rick Ankiel, which includes an invite to spring training, where Ankiel will compete for at

Arms race on the horizon

During the better part of last season, as well as throughout the Winter Meetings and offseason, it was widely agreed that when it came to improving the Nationals, offense was the answer. True, some tweaks to the rotation were needed, but with a lineup that mustered a .242 batting average, 14th in the National League, as well as just 1,319 hits, 15th in the NL,

With Jackson on board, Nationals add more depth to rotation

Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo stated on his conference call Thursday that he’s “always been in ‘win now’ mode for his entire career,” he simply hasn’t been fortunate enough to have the players capable of giving him that opportunity. Does somebody want to answer the door? I’m pretty sure opportunity is knocking. A week after introducing pitcher Gio Gonzalez, whom the Nationals acquired via trade

Nationals agree to terms with right-hander Jackson, continue to shop Lannan

Today just keeps getting busier for the Nationals. Only hours after winning an arbitration case with starting pitcher John Lannan, and while in the midst of shopping around said pitcher, the Nationals announced they have come to terms with key free agent starter Edwin Jackson, pending a physical. According to CBSSports.com’s Jon Heyman it is reportedly worth $8-$12 million. This will be Jackson’s seventh team

Nationals beat Lannan in arbitration (updated)

Since 2006, the Nationals have undergone seven arbitration hearings, winning five of the seven disputes. After today, you can chalk up another win for the Nationals. One day after holding an arbitration meeting with pitcher John Lannan, it’s being reported the Nationals won out, meaning the left-hander will earn the Nationals’ offer of $5 million in 2012. The meeting was held Wednesday to determine whether

Nats sign Durbin; team’s farm system rated No. 1

The Nationals added another arm to their bullpen mix today, agreeing to a minor league contract with right-hander Chad Durbin, according to this tweet from ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick. No word on whether Durbin will get an invitation to spring training, but it’s a good bet he’ll be in the major league clubhouse when pitchers and catchers report to Space Coast Stadium on Feb. 19. The

What if ... Jim Riggleman hadn’t resigned?

Few personalities are as polarizing in recent Nationals history as Jim Riggleman. Depending on your point of view, he’s either the underappreciated baseball lifer who presided over the infancy of the team’s 2011 turnaround, or he’s a self-centered egotist who put his personal goals over the team’s. Regardless of which side of the fence you’re on, it’s hard to imagine a more surreal day than

Hernandez heading to Astros on minor league deal

There’s really nothing surprising about yesterday’s news that right-hander Livan Hernandez had signed a minor league deal with the Houston Astros, ending his latest tour of duty with the Nationals. The Nats have finally gotten to the point where there’s sufficient depth in their starting rotation, and enough arms in the minor leagues, that they had no need for a 36-year-old control specialist who got

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