Hassell staying present while looking forward to future with Nats

Robert-Hassell-III-Wilmington-blue

WILMINGTON, Del. – Robert Hassell III, like many of us, was surprised when he heard his name mentioned in a potential trade package for Juan Soto just 11 days ago.

He was sitting in his apartment in Fort Wayne, Ind. when he received the call from Padres general manager A.J. Preller, who told him that he was included with four fellow prospects and Luke Voit in a deal for Soto and Josh Bell.

The trade was made official later that day and Hassell packed his bags to head to the Nationals’ affiliate at high Single-A Wilmington.

The No. 8 overall pick in the 2020 MLB Draft made his debut with the Blue Rocks two days later, batting third and playing center field. He went 0-for-5, starting an 0-for-16 stretch to begin his career with the Nationals.

But that didn’t weigh heavy on his mind. He was still processing the trade and trying to get acclimated to his new team.

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Clippard and McGee activated, Fedde throws sim game, Gore plays catch

clippard fist pump red

Just like 10 days ago at the trade deadline, all the attention at Nationals Park is focused on Juan Soto and Josh Bell, who return to D.C. as members of the Padres after the historic deal.

And just like 10 days ago, even though all that attention is on the now former Nationals, the current club still has a game to get ready for tonight.

In order to do so, the Nats announced a handful of roster moves before tonight’s series opener against the Padres. Tyler Clippard has been returned from his rehab assignment and reinstated from the 15-day injured list and Jake McGee was activated to the active roster.

Clippard appeared in one game for the Nationals before being placed on the IL with a groin strain on July 22. He gave up one hit in two scoreless innings against the Braves on July 14. The veteran right-hander appeared in three rehab games with Triple-A Rochester, tossing four scoreless innings of relief across the three outings.

“Clippard, we felt like he's another guy, he's done well down in the minors for us,” manager Davey Martinez said during his pregame press conference. “As you know, he's a veteran guy, but he knows how to get guys out. He's got some funk to him. So I think he'll be able to help us, especially against some of our lefties because he has such a great changeup and a different look. So for me, it'll be kind of a guy that we can use against some guys where they go left-right-left, that we could possibly use him in that way.”

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Game 114 lineups: Nats vs. Padres

soto bell blue

It’s going to be quite a scene at Nationals Park tonight, with a national audience able to tune in as well.

Juan Soto and Josh Bell make their returns to D.C., now as members of the Padres, only 10 days after they were sent to San Diego for six players (including five prospects) in an historic deal at the trade deadline. Very rarely do players dealt at the deadline return to their former home ballparks in this short amount of time. Even more rarely are players of Soto and Bell’s caliber traded and then return to face their former club. 

There will be tribute videos played on the big screen at Nats Park for both Soto and Bell. Fans will give them standing ovations in their first at-bats. There may even be a couple of boos directed at the front office and ownership for making this trade in the first place. But what’s done is done. And the game moves along.

Cory Abbott takes the mound for his third start with the Nationals. He pitched five shutout innings against the Mets last week, but then gave up seven runs in 3 ⅔ innings against the Phillies on Sunday. 

Mike Clevinger brings a 3-4 record and 3.60 ERA to the bump for the Padres in the series opener. Twelve of the right-handers’ 13 appearances this year have been starts, while he has poasted a 3.43 ERA as a starter. Clevinger gave up six runs over 5 ⅔ innings in his only career start against the Nats back in 2019.

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New prospect rankings reflect Nats’ revamped farm system

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After the Nationals lost their seventh of their last eight games yesterday, it would seem now is a good time to look at some recent prospect rankings.

We’ll be doing this a lot over the coming months and even seasons, so be sure to stay tuned.

The Nationals revamped their farm system and entered a full rebuild after trading their best players at back-to-back trade deadlines and signed 19 of their 20 picks in last month’s MLB Draft.

And national publications are taking notice of the new prospects in the Nats’ minor league system.

Baseball America released their updated prospect rankings earlier this week, the top 30 for each major league club and the top 100 overall.

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Green homers in pro debut, Susana strikes out four in Nats farm debut

elijah green

Try not to get too excited, but it's hard not to take notice of some impressive debuts for a couple of the newest Nationals prospects.

Elijah Green homered in his professional debut and Jarlin Susana struck out four in his Nats farm debut at the Rookie-level Florida Complex League this afternoon.

Green, the No. 5 overall pick in last month’s MLB Draft, sent the second pitch of his second at-bat over the left-field wall of one of the back fields at The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches in West Palm Beach, Fla.

The right-handed hitter with a 6-foot-3, 225-pound frame at the age of 18 was scouted as a five-tool player with tremendous upside heading into the draft. On the 20-80 grading scale, he already is rated with 60 power and 70 speed.

Green played center field and hit third for the FCL Nationals. He struck out looking on three pitches in his first at-bat (at least according to the MiLB.com box score) and finished 1-for-4 with the home run and three strikeouts in his first professional game.

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Looking at some position battles for remainder of the season

cesar hernandez tag @ CIN blue

Believe it or not, the Nationals only have 52 games left this season. We have hit the home stretch of the summer.

Obviously, this franchise is going in a different direction than it has in the past. Selling your best players in back-to-back trade deadlines will do that.

But with sell-offs come exciting prospects and opportunities for young players to play for a spot on the roster for the remainder of the season and in the future.

Guys are going to get the chance to play and the Nationals will be watching.

“Yeah, I want to see these guys,” manager Davey Martinez said before yesterday’s finale in Philadelphia. “I want to see as many guys as I can play. Like I said, we're building for the future. But that being said, you're also trying to compete today. So I want to see these guys go out there and compete, and see which guys go out there and battle and play the game. It's a time where it's frustrating because we're not winning games. But it's also a time that we can learn a lot about the guys that we have moving forward.”

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Nats swept out of Philly with another blowout loss (updated)

abbott in shadows @ PHI

PHILADELPHIA – The first five games of the post-Juan Soto and Josh Bell era have been difficult for the Nationals. And unfortunately, it doesn’t look like it’s going to get any easier.

“They were big parts of the team," manager Davey Martinez said of Soto and Bell. "But for me, it's about giving guys another opportunity. These guys get an opportunity to come up here and play and show what they can do the last two months.”

The Nationals were swept out of Philly today via a 13-1 loss to the Phillies, their fifth straight loss overall and ninth in their last 11 games.

“You know, after the first day, which I thought we played well, game got cut short because of rain, and then the last three games were just not fun," Martinez said. "We got to pitch better. I thought we swung the bats OK 'til today. But we got to pitch better and we gotta get some better starting pitching. We're always behind. It's tough for morale. We do the best we can to keep these guys going, keep the guys positive. As you can see, man, they play. But I mean, we're always behind, so we got to start scoring first and get some better starting pitching.”

The Nats are now 36-74 this season, which puts them on pace to finish 53-109. That would be their worst record in franchise history since the Expos finished 52-110 in their first season in 1969 and the first 100-loss season in club history since 2009.

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Nats recall Thompson, option Weems before Philly finale

mason thompson pitches blue

PHILADELPHIA – Needing bullpen help after Patrick Corbin only recorded two outs in last night’s loss to the Phillies, the Nationals recalled right-hander Mason Thompson from Triple-A Rochester and optioned right-hander Jordan Weems to Rochester before today’s finale at Citizens Bank Park.

“We made a move today. We sent Jordan down, brought up Mason Thompson,” manager Davey Martinez announced during his pregame press conference. “Just to add another fresh arm in our bullpen after yesterday's game.”

Weems threw a season-high 57 pitches over 2 ⅓ innings in relief of Corbin yesterday, making him the odd man out today. He has a 6.57 ERA with 24 strikeouts and 10 walks in 24 ⅔ innings over 21 appearances with the Nationals this season.

“The thing about it is, players know. And they know when you have options, it's part of it,” Martinez said of his conversation with Weems. “It's the unfortunate part of it. And I told him yesterday, even though he threw a lot of pitches that second inning, he goes back out. And that was huge for us that he could go back out there and finish. And it really helped our bullpen out a lot. So we'll be in good shape today with our bullpen. Like I said, with Mason here now, that helps out a lot.”

Thompson has been effective in his time with the Nationals this season. But he didn’t pitch in high-leverage situations, with all of his seven appearances coming when the Nats were trailing. He only gave up one hit and two walks while striking out four over six innings.

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Game 110 lineups: Nats at Phillies

Lane Thomas home run trot gray

PHILADELPHIA – The Nationals will look to avoid a four-game sweep at the hands of the Phillies today before heading to the north side of Chicago tonight.

Cory Abbott takes the mound for his third major league start after making his first start with the Nationals on Tuesday, when he pitched five shutout innings against the Mets. The right-hander’s Nationals debut actually came against the Phillies on June 19, when he pitched a perfect ninth inning with a strikeout to close a 9-3 win. 

Aaron Nola makes his 22nd start of the season for the Phillies this afternoon. The right-hander is 0-1 with a 1.72 ERA over his first two starts against the Nats this season. He pitched eight shutout innings with eight strikeouts at Nationals Park on June 18 and then gave up three runs in 7 ⅔ innings here at Citizens Bank Park on July 6. 

WASHINGTON NATIONALS at PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES
Where: Citizens Bank Park
Gametime: 1:35 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN, MLB Network (outside of D.C. and Philadelphia markets only), MLB.tv
Radio: 106.7 The Fan, MLB.com
Weather: Partly cloudy, 91 degrees, wind 13 mph out to right field 

NATIONALS
CF Lane Thomas
SS Luis García
1B Luke Voit
DH Nelson Cruz
LF Yadiel Hernandez
C Keibert Ruiz
RF Josh Palacios
2B César Hernández
3B Ildemaro Vargas 

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Martinez intrigued by new young talent in Nats system

abrams padres

PHILADELPHIA – It’s a demanding job being a major league manager. All the pressure in the world lies on your shoulders. You don’t get enough credit when you win and you get all of the blame when you lose.

For eight to nine months of the year, Davey Martinez has to worry about the 26 players he has on the Nationals’ active roster. He often even has to worry about the guys that make up the 40-man roster and some of the players in the upper levels of the minor league system.

Needless to say, this is a busy time of year for Martinez. He has his plate totally full.

But even he can’t help himself in checking out the new young prospects the Nationals received in the Juan Soto-Josh Bell trade with the Padres on Tuesday. Three of the five prospects – outfielder James Wood at low Single-A Fredericksburg, outfielder Robert Hassell III at high Single-A Wilmington and shortstop C.J. Abrams at Triple-A Rochester – made their organizational debuts over the last couple of days. And Martinez was impressed with what he saw.

“Yeah, as I said before, I got 26 guys here that I worry about,” Martinez said before Saturday’s game against the Phillies. “But it's good to see that these young guys are doing well. We got some guys, I check up on all our guys. We got some guys down there that are having really good years, and that's really, really good to see.”

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Corbin rocked again as Nats face more tough questions with veteran lefty

corbin sad blue

PHILADELPHIA – The Nationals have very tough questions to face with Patrick Corbin. As if that wasn’t already the case, the situation seems to be getting worse and worse every time the veteran lefty takes the mound.

For the second time in his last three starts, Corbin only recorded two outs in the first inning before being pulled from the game. He was charged with six runs in two-thirds of an inning against the Dodgers in Los Angeles on July 27.

Tonight he was charged with six runs on five hits in two-thirds of an inning at Citizens Bank Park in an eventual 11-5 loss to the Phillies.

Luke Voit’s first home run with the Nationals (and team-leading 14th of the season), Tres Barrera’s two-run double and Victor Robles’ infield RBI single in the sixth, and Lane Thomas’ sacrifice fly in the seventh produced the only runs. Voit’s longball went 379 feet to right-center field.

“He's having really good at-bats,” manager Davey Martinez said of Voit. “Like I said, when we got him, I knew that he can hit. He's fit nicely in our lineup and he's proving that now.”

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García working at second base in anticipation of Abrams’ arrival

garcia throws @ MIA blue

PHILADELPHIA – A suspicion surrounding the Nationals was all but confirmed this afternoon by manager Davey Martinez.

Before the Nats took the field at Citizens Bank Park for the third game of this four-game set against the Phillies, Martinez met with the media in his office and said Luis García has been getting reps at second base in anticipation of C.J. Abrams’ arrival to the major league roster in the coming weeks. When Abrams does join the Nationals, it seems the plan is for the current shortstop to slide over to second base, fortifying the middle of the infield.

“He's already been over there taking ground balls just in case we do bring Abrams up here,” Martinez said of García. “So he's been taking ground balls over there. And all of our infielders have actually been taking ground balls throughout the infield now, so it's kind of nice. I want them to move around and just get used to taking ground balls in different positions.”

García hasn’t played second base in the majors this season yet, but he played there in 96 games over his first two years in the bigs. In 55 games at short this season, the 22-year-old has 11 errors. He committed eight errors in 59 games at second last year and five in 37 games in 2020.

Abrams, one of the top prospects the Nats acquired in Tuesday’s trade with the Padres for Juan Soto and Josh Bell, is highly touted for his defense. The 6-foot-2, 189-pounder was cited by Baseball America as the “best defensive infielder” (2021-22) and “best athlete” (2020-22) in San Diego’s minor league system. In 32 games at shortstop with the Padres this season, the 21-year-old only committed two errors.

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Game 109 lineups: Nats at Phillies

Patrick Corbin throw white wide

PHILADELPHIA – The Nationals need a win tonight to avoid losing their third straight series and fourth since the All-Star break.

With all the negatives surrounding Patrick Corbin over the past couple of seasons, the one thing you can say about him is that he takes the ball every fifth day. The results of those outings haven’t always been great, but he’s available and that’s what Davey Martinez needs from his veteran starter right now.

Over his first 22 starts, Corbin is 4-15 with a 6.57 ERA, the most losses and highest qualified earned run average in the majors. In his lone start against the Phillies this year, the left-hander was tagged for nine runs (only two earned) on eight hits, one walk and two homers in 3 ⅓ innings on June 16. Corbin is 6-6 with a 3.88 ERA in 16 starts against Philadelphia in his career.

In a matchup of lefty starting pitchers, Ranger Suárez takes the mound for the Phillies with a 7-5 record and 3.60 ERA. He earned the win in the first game of the June 17 doubleheader to kick off Ryan Zimmerman Weekend at Nats Park by giving up three runs and striking out five in 5 ⅔ innings. Suárez is 3-0 with a 2.45 ERA in nine games (two starts) against the Nats over his five-year career.

Nelson Cruz is back in the lineup as the designated hitter after missing the last three games with a stiff neck. Luis García gets the day off against a left-hander.

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Nats will continue to search waiver wire for help this season and beyond

davey and rizzo sitting

PHILADELPHIA – With the worst record in the major leagues at 36-72, the Nationals are already looking ahead to these next two months of 2022 and the 2023 season.

It’s a difficult time of year for teams, like the Nationals, who chose to sell at the trade deadline. They traded away their best major league players for unproven prospects and journeyman veterans, as the Nats did with Juan Soto, Josh Bell and Ehire Adrianza.

But it’s also an interesting time of year for those teams to keep a close eye on the waiver wire. The teams that bought at the deadline, and to a lesser extent other teams that sold, sometimes have to make roster cuts at the big league level to make room for their newly acquired talent.

That’s where teams like the Nationals can bite.

A benefit of having the worst record in the majors is that the Nationals get first dibs on the waiver wire. Any player that becomes available has to go through Washington before any of the 29 other teams can make a claim. That gives the Nats an advantage on taking some chances on bounceback candidates who can help them over these last 54 games and possibly beyond.

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Gray crushed by longball, Nats avoid perfect game bid in loss

josiah gray upset blue

PHILADELPHIA – Josiah Gray came into his 20th start of the season tonight looking to rebound from a tough July and continue his success against the Phillies.

The right-hander posted a 6.75 ERA over five starts in July, capped off by allowing four runs in five innings Sunday against the Cardinals. He posted a 1.13 ERA in four June starts.

He also handled this Phillies lineup well the first two times facing it this season with ​​six shutout innings on June 18 and an 11-strikeout performance on July 6. 

Neither the rebound nor the Philly success presented itself tonight, as Gray was rocked by the Phillies en route to a 7-2 loss at Citizens Bank Park.

It started right from the get-go as Gray gave up three home runs in a single inning for the first time in his career. Rhys Hoskins, just as he did in his fist at-bat last night against Paolo Espino, hit the second offering from Gray (a 93 mph fastball up in the zone) for a solo home run to left field.

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Clippard starting rehab, Thompson improving, Strange-Gordon released

mason thompson pitches blue

PHILADELPHIA – As the Nationals get ready for the second game of this four-game set against the Phillies, manager Davey Martinez provided some updates down on the farm at Triple-A Rochester.

Tyler Clippard begins his rehab assignment tonight with the Red Wings. The 37-year-old reliever was placed on the 15-day injured list on July 22 (retroactive to July 19) with a groin strain.

“He's gonna go and get ready, pitch down some games,” Martinez said of Clippard. “The biggest thing for me is, as we always talk about, is back-to-back days. We want him to be able to pitch two innings like he did when he came up here. So we got to see him do that. I know we're kind of in a different position, but you never know when it comes to the bullpen help. We always want to keep guys and if he's pitching well.”

The right-hander only pitched in one game with the Nationals after finally getting the call from Rochester. He pitched two scoreless innings against the Braves on July 14, his first appearances as a National since 2014. Clippard made 33 appearances with the Red Wings this year, going 4-1 with a 2.48 ERA and 1.211 WHIP.

Once healthy, Martinez envisions Clippard helping out at the major league level again.

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Game 108 lineups: Nats at Phillies

josiah gray pitches blue

PHILADELPHIA – The weather forecasted for this weekend in the City of Brotherly Love isn’t so lovely. In typical late-summer fashion for the Mid-Atlantic region, it’s going to be hot, humid and overcast with chances of storms over the next couple of days. Here’s hoping we got the rain delay out of the way last night …

Josiah Gray makes his 20th start of the season tonight, bringing a 7-7 record and 4.59 ERA to the bump. The right-hander has had success against the Phillies this year while allowing just two runs in 12 innings, including six shutout innings on June 18 and an 11-strikeout performance on July 6. 

Right-hander Kyle Gibson will make his 21st start for the Phillies this year with a 6-4 record and 4.60 ERA. This will be his first start against the Nats since 2019. In his previous two career starts against Washington, Gibson allowed 13 runs (12 earned) over just 7 ⅔ innings.

Tonight’s game is only available on Apple TV+. Here’s a link to watch it for free with an Apple ID.

WASHINGTON NATIONALS at PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES
Where: Citizens Bank Park
Gametime: 7:05 p.m. EDT
TV: Apple TV+
Radio: 106.7 The Fan, MLB.com
Weather: Mostly cloudy, 89 degrees, wind 8 mph out to right field 

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Getting to know Voit, Gore and Abrams

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PHILADELPHIA – Let’s play a little more “Get to Know You” with the new guys, shall we?

Luke Voit and MacKenzie Gore are the only two of the six-player return for Juan Soto and Josh Bell in Tuesday’s trade to join the Nationals so far. They each took separate red-eye flights Wednesday night to meet the team at Citizens Bank Park on Thursday afternoon.

They both met with the local media for an extended period of time, although they were at their respective lockers in the visitors' clubhouse instead of a formal press conference like the one rolled out for Soto and Bell in San Diego.

Yesterday, Voit and Gore talked about their experiences getting traded only a couple of days ago. It was the third time for the first baseman and the first time for the young left-hander. They also addressed what they expect to bring to the Nationals organization in terms of leadership and as a new top prospect.

But what about their actual play? What kind of players did the Nationals get and what can fans expect to see on the field?

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Rain delays inevitable as Nats can’t flex power in loss

victor robles hi five blue

PHILADELPHIA – This is the path the Nationals have chosen. There’s no going back.

Juan Soto and Josh Bell are Padres, taking their offensive prowess with them to the West Coast. What’s left is a more depleted lineup that often struggled even with the sluggers on their side.

Tuesday night’s improbable win against the Mets was a nice story. A small victory in an otherwise difficult day for the franchise.

But then reality set back in on Wednesday in the form of a 9-5 loss to the Mets that was only close because of the Nats’ five-run rally in the ninth.

And here we are again, this time at Citizens Bank Park in the opener of a four-game series against the Phillies. With Luke Voit and MacKenzie Gore (two of the six players the Nationals got back in the trade) joining the team in the clubhouse, another page in this new era of Washington baseball flipped. And the result was pretty much the same.

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Voit and Gore surprised by trade, but excited to join Nats

luke voit padres

PHILADELPHIA – The aftermath of the trade deadline is sometimes just as chaotic for players as the actual trades. Once the deals are done, players have to pack up their belongings, say their goodbyes and sometimes uproot their families to move to another city and get acclimated to a whole new clubhouse.

That was the case for Luke Voit and MacKenzie Gore, two of the six players the Nationals received for trading Juan Soto and Josh Bell to the Padres on Tuesday. The pair not only had to deal with all of the logistics of being traded, but they also had to travel across the country (each by way of different red-eye flights) and meet their new team on the road in a different city.

Voit wasn’t the Nationals’ first choice as the veteran to be included in the trade. With the five prospects already agreed upon and Bell packaged with Soto, the Nationals originally sought veteran first baseman Eric Hosmer to fill the void at first base. But Hosmer exercised the no-trade clause in his contract as the Nationals were one of the 10 teams he would need to give permission to be traded to.

That didn’t derail the deal, however, as the Nats were satisfied in pivoting to Voit to complete the trade and Hosmer was sent to the Red Sox. Voit found out before the Padres’ unusual doubleheader at Petco Park against the Rockies on Tuesday.

“Obviously, a little bit surprising,” Voit said in front of his new locker with a No. 34 above it. “Obviously, you never know what can happen in this game. There was kind of a weird trade going on, with the no-trade clause with Hos. I obviously didn't expect to get traded and then right before our doubleheader, I found out like 10 minutes before the game. You know what, it's a fresh start. It's a lot of new faces. I'm excited about a new opportunity.”

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