Thomas continues rehab, Wood out with hamstring tightness

thomas on second gray

Members of the local media walked into the Nationals clubhouse this afternoon expecting to see a familiar face back at his locker. But lo and behold, it was the same 26-man group getting ready for tonight’s series opener against the Mariners.

Lane Thomas will continue his minor league rehab assignment over the next couple of days, manager Davey Martinez announced, ending speculation that the outfielder would rejoin the team for the holiday weekend.

Finally cleared to return to game action since landing on the 10-day injured list on April 24 with a left MCL sprain, Thomas has made three rehab appearances with Double-A Harrisburg this week, going 2-for-9 with a double, a walk, two strikeouts, a stolen base and an outfield assist. He played a full nine innings for the first time Thursday night. He's leading off and serving as the designated hitter tonight.

“He played nine innings yesterday. He's feeling better,” Martinez said during his pregame media session. “Just as I thought, playing nine innings, being on his feet, he's a little sore. But he's getting there. He wanted to play a couple more games and then we'll see how he comes out of it. I know they got a day off on Monday, so we'll re-evaluate him after this weekend. But he's doing good. He's getting some at-bats. He's gonna play nine innings again today. We'll go day-by-day with him.”

The Nationals offense could use Thomas right now. They have scored two or fewer runs in seven of their last 11 games, losing nine overall. And although the 29-year-old got off to a slow start this year (.184 average, .503 OPS, two home runs, 10 RBIs), he was their most productive hitter last year. At the very least, he could provide more protection in the lineup for the slumping CJ Abrams.

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Checking in on the Nats' top prospects

James-Wood-Rochester

While the Nationals enjoy Thursday’s off-day (and hopefully use it to break out of their offensive slump), let’s take a long overdue look at some of the top prospects down on the farm and not just the ones you know we’re going to talk about …

“You talk about the players, everybody talks about the one guy, but we got quite a few,” said manager Davey Martinez.

A Nats minor leaguer received some recognition over the past week, with Andrew Pinckney being named Eastern League Player of the Week on Monday.

“Pinckney won Player of the Week, which is awesome,” said Martinez. “Nobody talks about him, but he's a pretty good player.”

A fourth-round pick last year out of the University of Alabama, Pinckney slashed .429/.478/.905 with five extra-base hits and seven RBIs last week with Double-A Harrisburg. He’s slashing .279/.327/.396 with a .723 OPS, seven doubles, one triple, three homers, 19 RBIs and 11 stolen bases in 38 games with the Senators.

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How, and when, can Nats expect to add power to lineup?

Joey Gallo

Runs are a hard thing to come by for the Nationals at the moment. This team, you may recall, was just shut out by the White Sox in back-to-back games, not exactly a source of pride.

Why has it been so hard for the Nats to score runs? Because this is a lineup that typically needs to do three things right to get someone across the plate. First somebody has to get on base. Then that somebody has to advance into scoring position. And then somebody has to drive that teammate in.

This is how it works when the majority of your hits are singles and doubles. You have to draw walks. You have to steal bases. And even after all that, you still need someone to deliver in a clutch situation.

There is, of course, another way to score a run, and all it requires is one swing of the bat from one player. It’s called the home run, and you can be forgiven if you don’t exactly remember what one of those looks like, because they’ve been in short supply around here.

The Nationals have hit only 35 homers in 42 games this season. That’s tied for third-fewest in the majors, with only the White Sox and Cardinals (32 a piece) behind them.

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Wood earns Player of the Week honors, moves into MLB Pipeline’s top five

James Wood Rochester

It was a good week for James Wood.

The Nationals’ top prospect was named the International League Player of the Week for the week of May 6-12 and he cracked MLB Pipeline’s top five in the publication’s updated Top 100 Prospects rankings.

Across six games against the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders (Yankees), the 6-foot-7, 234-pound outfielder posted a .455 batting average while slugging five home runs with a double and 12 RBIs.

Wood went 10-for-22 during the week against a Scranton/Wilkes-Barre pitching staff that had the lowest batting average against in the International League (.226) coming into the six-game series.

Wood, 23, has played in all 35 games for the Red Wings and leads the team with a .346 average, 33 runs scored, 11 doubles, a .444 on-base percentage and 25 walks. His seven home runs and 23 RBIs rank second on the team this season, behind Travis Blankenhorn in both.

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Nats sticking to plan with Wood's promotion

James Wood Rochester

It’s no longer a question of if. It’s a question of when James Wood will get the call to make his major league debut with the Nationals.

The way he’s been performing with Triple-A Rochester is starting to force the issue. In 31 games with the Red Wings, the big lefty bat is slashing .339/.444/.529 with a .973 OPS, 11 doubles, 14 RBIs, 23 walks to 30 strikeouts, eight stolen bases and four home runs, including two Wednesday afternoon.

How much longer can the Nats, who are sorely lacking power at the big league level, justify keeping him in the minors?

Well, they have a plan for their top prospect. And despite the numbers, they’re sticking to it.

“Look, I know he hit two home runs. And that's great. He's doing well,” manager Davey Martinez said before the second game of the Beltway Series against the Orioles. “But there is a plan. And we're gonna do everything we can to stick to that plan. We really are.”

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As they await word on Thomas' MRI, Nats face decision on potential replacement

James Wood

The Nationals won’t know for sure the severity of Lane Thomas’ left knee injury until they get results of an MRI scheduled for this morning. But they were concerned enough Tuesday night to already be making contingency plans. And if there’s reason to believe Thomas is going to miss significant time, the temptation to summon one of the organization’s top prospects is going to be strong.

Thomas hurt himself on an awkward slide into second base in the bottom of the fifth. Though he was safe on the steal attempt – he’s now 11-for-12 on the season – his trailing leg caught twisted around as he popped up and left him writhing in pain.

After a consultation with manager Davey Martinez and director of athletic training Paul Lessard, Thomas tested his leg with some light jogging behind second base. He looked well enough to convince Lessard and Martinez he could stay in the game, but Martinez was worried all along it might not last.

“Once he got to the outfield (the following inning), I told Paul to keep an eye on him,” the manager said. “He might get stiff.”

Sure enough, by the time the top of the seventh arrived, Eddie Rosario took over in right field, with Thomas headed back to the clubhouse for treatment.

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Where Nationals' top prospects are opening 2024 season

James Wood

After making a point to keep a group of their top prospects together in the minors late last season and throughout big league camp this spring, the Nationals have split those players up to begin 2024.

James Wood, Trey Lipscomb, Dylan Crews, Robert Hassell III, Brady House and Yohandy Morales all finished the 2023 season with Double-A Harrisburg, an arrangement that allowed all to get comfortable playing with each other and to grow together on their eventual path to D.C.

But as the 2024 minor league season was set to begin, Wood and Lipscomb were bumped up to Triple-A Rochester, while the others all were re-assigned to Double-A for the time being.

Lipscomb, of course, never even played a game at Triple-A, promoted to make his major league debut after Nationals third baseman Nick Senzel fractured his right thumb during fielding drills prior to Thursday’s season opener in Cincinnati.

So it’s Wood all alone among the prospects in Rochester, though there are several other intriguing names playing for the Red Wings to begin the season.

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More vocal and hands-on Martinez developing relationships with top prospects

Davey Martinez spring training

Davey Martinez is about to begin his seventh season as the Nationals manager, by far the longest tenured skipper in team history.

He’s managed teams that have won a lot (2019) and teams that haven’t won a lot (2022). He’s managed veterans and youngsters alike. And he’s managed while making changes to his coaching staff over the years.

But to start the 2024 season, Martinez did something he hasn’t done much since donning a curly W cap: Be more vocal and hands-on during spring training.

Why after seven years did the 59-year-old suddenly decide to speak up more? The young prospects in major league camp had a lot to do with it.

“For me right now, it's about teaching and having these moments where I can get them and talk to them a little bit more,” Martinez said. “Maybe one-on-one, maybe in a group. I have been more vocal. … I preach so much about the little things, that the little things do matter. They've been great. They really have. It's been great conversations.”

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Crews headed to Harrisburg; Hassell and Lile cleared to play

Dylan Crews spring training

Today is going to be an exciting day for the Nationals organization. For the first time, the team will host an exhibition game at Nationals Park with its major league players facing the top prospects from the minor league system.

It will be the big league team’s final tune-up before Opening Day on Thursday in Cincinnati, while the organization gets to showcase numerous talented young players in front of its fans who showed up on South Capitol Street and are watching from home on MASN.

After this afternoon’s game, players and staff members – both minor and major league – will attend the club’s annual Homecoming Gala this evening at The Anthem on the Southwest waterfront before dispersing to their respective starting points for the regular season.

One of the biggest names on the prospects team is Dylan Crews, last summer’s No. 2 overall pick out of Louisiana State University and the Nats’ top-ranked prospect, who revealed today he will start the season with Double-A Harrisburg after going back to the team’s facility in West Palm Beach for a couple of days.

“I'm gonna go to the gala and then go to West Palm after that,” Crews said this morning in front of his locker in the visitors clubhouse at Nats Park. “So probably be there for maybe a little less than a week and then head out to Harrisburg.”

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Starting lineups: Nationals Futures Game in D.C.

Robert Hassell III Victor Robles spring training

The Nationals have broken camp. With spring training coming to a close, the team has left the warmth of West Palm Beach and returned to cold, damp Washington, D.C.

Ah, it must feel so good to be home.

Well, at least it must feel good to get the regular season started. The Nats have just one more exhibition game to play before heading to Cincinnati to face the Reds on Thursday for Opening Day. And the best part … they get to face some of their own teammates.

Yes, for the first time since the Nats have hosted an exhibition game on South Capitol Street right before the start of the season, they will face a lineup of their own top prospects instead of another major league team beginning the year on the East Coast.

Among the top prospects expected to participate in today’s game are:

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Nats announce prospects roster for Futures Game

Brady House Trey Lipscomb James Wood spring training

The Nationals arrived back in D.C. last night and now only have one more exhibition game to play before heading to Cincinnati for Opening Day.

Once again, the Nats are hosting their exhibition finale on their home field on South Capitol Street. But for the first time, they are not playing another major league team set to open the regular season on the East Coast. Instead, the Nats’ regular big leaguers will play against a squad of the organization’s top prospects.

Headlined by Dylan Crews, James Wood, Brady House, Robert Hassell III and Trey Lipscomb, the Nationals announced the prospects roster for tomorrow’s “On Deck: Nationals Futures Game” at Nationals Park:

Pitchers – Brendan Collins, DJ Herz, Joe La Sorsa, Orlando Ribalta, Jackson Rutledge, Tyler Schoff, Jarlin Susana, Amos Willingham

Catchers – Drew Millas, Israel Pineda, Maxwell Romero Jr.

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Williams on short leash as No. 5 starter; Wood headed to Rochester

Trevor Williams red

JUPITER, Fla. – Trevor Williams will open the season in the Nationals’ rotation, but the leash on the veteran right-hander could be short.

In granting Zach Davies his unconditional release Friday, the Nats also selected Williams for the final spot in the Opening Day rotation, hoping the 31-year-old can bounce back from a difficult 2023 season. But with pitching prospect Jackson Rutledge beginning the season at Triple-A Rochester and Cade Cavalli expected to return from Tommy John surgery in June, the organization will have alternate options in the near future, putting pressure on Williams to pitch well enough to keep his job.

“It was a tough choice, a tough decision,” manager Davey Martinez said. “We decided we were going to go with Trevor as our fifth starter. So Trevor will be our fifth starter. … Zach was a professional. He’s a good guy. I wish him all the best. And hopefully, he gets picked up somewhere. But Trevor’s done well. I think he deserves a chance, at least at the beginning, to start. And then we’ll see where it goes from there.”

Martinez said the Nationals offered Davies (who finished with a Grapefruit League ERA of 9.00 after a seven-run inning in his last start) the opportunity to report to Rochester, but the 31-year-old opted to become a free agent and attempt to sign with another club.

The decision to stick with Williams (who is making $7 million this season) in the rotation, rather than move him to the bullpen, has a domino effect on several relievers still competing for spots on the Opening Day roster. With Robert Garcia likely to make it as the only lefty in the group, there are now three veteran right-handers on minor league contracts trying to win two remaining jobs: Derek Law, Jacob Barnes and Matt Barnes.

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Wood, Crews, House among cuts; Davies is released

James Wood spring training 1

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – The Nationals moved a step closer to finalizing their Opening Day roster this afternoon, cutting nine players from big league camp, including top prospects James Wood, Dylan Crews and Brady House.

Wood, Crews and House were reassigned to minor league camp, along with lefties Richard Bleier and Joe La Sorsa; infielder Juan Yepez, outfielder Robert Hassell III and catcher Israel Pineda. Zach Davies was granted his unconditional release, making the veteran right-hander a free agent and seemingly keeping the Nats’ rotation intact heading into the season.

The demotions of Wood, Crews and House did not come as a huge surprise. None was expected to make the club coming into their first big league camp, though Wood made a strong case for himself with a dominant first week and ultimately a .342/.491/.707 slash line in 21 Grapefruit League games, including a team-high four homers.

For all his success this spring, though, Wood (like the others) has yet to spend a day at Triple-A Rochester, where he is likely to open the season. The 21-year-old outfielder figures to be in line to make his major league debut sometime this season, provided he stays healthy and continues to perform on the field.

Crews and House, two of the Nationals’ last three first-round draft picks, each had some positive moments this spring, most recently Crews’ walk-off single to seal Thursday afternoon’s win over the Twins. But both also looked overmatched at times against big leaguers, with Crews finishing with a .161/.297/.323 slash line in 19 games and House finishing 7-for-28 with one homer, zero walks and five strikeouts.

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Wood, Crews team up to deliver Nats' first walk-off of spring

Dylan Crews spring training

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – It was the bottom of the ninth on March 21, with the remnants of a crowd of 2,915 watching and a Double-A left-hander pitching for a Twins team that barely brought any major leaguers across the state with them for today’s exhibition game.

The Nationals had already scored the tying run, thanks to James Wood’s leadoff homer. Now there were two outs, the winning run leading off second base in the form of Alex Call, and Dylan Crews standing in the batter’s box with a chance to be the hero.

Crews has been a part of much bigger moments on a baseball field than this in his young life. Shoot, he celebrated a College World Series title only nine months ago. That didn’t diminish the stakes at all in his mind today.

“I mean, the way you prepare every day, and the way you treat every game, it should be like it’s a regular season game,” the 22-year-old outfielder said. “Or Game 7 of the World Series.”

So while Crews’ celebration after he ripped the RBI single to center that sealed the Nats’ 9-8 walk-off win looked muted to everyone watching, it was anything but muted inside his mind and his heart.

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Top prospects to play in Futures Game; non-roster invitees face opt-out deadline

Dylan Crews spring training

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – All of the Nationals’ top prospects still in big league camp will be coming north with the team and will be at Nationals Park for Tuesday’s exhibition finale. Playing for the team of prospects set to face the Opening Day major league roster that afternoon.

The organization announced Tuesday that top prospects James Wood, Dylan Crews, Brady House, Trey Lipscomb and Robert Hassell III will be among the players participating in the first “On Deck: Nationals Futures Game.” The insinuation: None of those players is going to make the Opening Day roster, though all technically are still in the running heading into the final five days of spring training.

The Nationals did not reveal the full Prospects roster, but in addition to the above five players, they did say Darren Baker, Drew Millas, Jackson Rutledge, DJ Herz and Amos Willingham will be on the team. More names for the scheduled 12:05 p.m. game will be announced later.

The Nats have hosted an exhibition game on South Capitol Street nearly every season since the ballpark opened in 2008, but that game traditionally has been played against another major league club scheduled to open its regular season on the East Coast (often the Yankees or Red Sox). This year for the first time they will face top minor leaguers from the organization, giving many of them a chance to play in a big league stadium for the first time and fans a chance to see these young players in person for the first time.

A good number of those prospects, of course, have received plenty of playing time in major league camp this spring. And Wood, Crews, House, Lipscomb, Hassell and Millas all currently remain in camp, with 13 healthy players still needing to be cut to get the roster down to 26 in time for the March 28 season opener at Cincinnati.

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Relievers get extra work, Yepez gets three more hits, Wood gets a day off

James Wood dugout spring

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – Davey Martinez wanted to see how several relievers in the mix for jobs handled major league hitters, the kind of proven players they don’t normally get to face late in spring training games when backups and minor leaguers take over. So today’s game against the Cardinals became a bullpen game, with a string of relievers trotting in throughout the afternoon to face the likes of Dylan Carlson, Matt Carpenter, Willson Contreras and Brandon Crawford.

The takeaway from all that? Some were up to the challenge, others were not. And almost everybody needed to throw a lot of pitches before returning to the dugout.

The Nationals’ 8-5 exhibition loss saw six pitchers in the mix for Opening Day bullpen jobs take the mound. Only two of them (Derek Law, Robert Gsellman) emerged with a zero on the scoreboard, and each of them returned to toss a second scoreless inning. Four others (Luis Perdomo, Dylan Floro, Tanner Rainey, Robert Garcia) labored, each surrendering at least one run, each needing at least 22 pitches to complete his inning of work.

“Some of these guys, when they get to face big league hitters, the at-bats get extended,” Martinez said. “There’s more pitches; they’re not the five-, six-, seven-pitch innings. That’s kind of what I wanted to see. I wanted to see them get deeper in counts and see how they do. And I saw that today. Some guys were good and battled, and it was nice to see them go through that.”

From today’s group, Rainey and Floro are most assured of making the club, each on guaranteed contracts for $1.5 million and $2.25 million, respectively. Rainey, making his sixth appearance of the spring, issued three walks and uncorked a wild pitch during a rough top of the fifth. Floro, making his delayed spring debut after dealing with a tight shoulder earlier in camp, allowed two singles while inducing two ground ball outs.

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Spring Breakout lineups: Nats vs. Mets in Port St. Lucie

Trey Lipscomb spring training

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. – Hello from Mets camp, where tonight the Nationals and Mets meet in Grapefruit League play. But first, we’ve got a special treat: The “Spring Breakout” game featuring top prospects from both clubs.

Now, to be fair, we’ve already seen the majority of these guys in big league camp this spring. But it’ll still be fun to see them all together at the same time, facing fellow top prospects from a division rival.

The lineup includes Dylan Crews, James Wood, Brady House and Trey Lipscomb. But it also includes Yoyo Morales, Andrew Pinckney and T.J. White, who will get a more prominent look today than they’ve received to date.

It’s only a seven-inning game, and there are a bunch of pitchers who need to appear. So Jackson Rutledge, even though he’s starting, is only going one inning, maybe two tops. We’ll see a lot of other intriguing young arms throughout the afternoon.

SPRING BREAKOUT: WASHINGTON NATIONALS vs. NEW YORK METS
Where:
Clover Park, Port St. Lucie

Gametime: 3:10 p.m.
TV: MLB.tv (Mets feed)
Radio: nationals.com
Weather: Partly cloudy, 84 degrees, wind 11 mph out to left field

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Starting lineups: Nats vs. Marlins in Jupiter

Trey Lipscomb spring training

JUPITER, Fla. – The Nationals have a quick turnaround from Tuesday night’s game against the Mets to this afternoon’s game against the Marlins. That might explain why there are so many kids in Davey Martinez’s lineup. (Most veterans aren’t going to be asked to play spring training day games after night games.)

The good news is that we get to see James Wood, Dylan Crews and Trey Lipscomb all in the same lineup. Lipscomb, who started at second base Tuesday night, moves to third base today. Crews, it should be noted, is mired in a bit of a funk at the plate. He’s 0 for his last 8 with one walk and six strikeouts. Wood, meanwhile, is 2 for his last 13 after beginning the spring 9-for-19.

Jake Irvin gets the start for the Nats, hoping to build off a strong outing his last time on the mound. The right-hander shut out the Mets over four innings last week, striking out five without walking anybody. He’s probably assured of a spot in the Opening Day rotation, but another start like that would probably seal the deal.

WASHINGTON NATIONALS vs. MIAMI MARLINS
Where:
Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium, Jupiter
Gametime: 1:10 p.m.
TV: None
Radio: 980 AM, MLB.com
Weather: Partly cloudy, 79 degrees, wind 8 mph right field to left field

NATIONALS
LF Jacob Young
RF James Wood
DH Jesse Winker
C Keibert Ruiz
2B Luis García Jr.
SS Ildemaro Vargas
3B Trey Lipscomb
CF Dylan Crews
1B Juan Yepez

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Adon more confident attacking strike zone in first spring start

adon v ATL

FORT MYERS, Fla. – Joan Adon is back at Nationals spring training competing for a spot in the major league rotation.

His locker in the clubhouse is next to the regular starters. He’s being stretched out as a starter. And he works out with the other starters.

Even so, there is hardly an expectation when the Nats break camp for the regular season that Adon will be on the flight to Cincinnati for Opening Day. But he’s still getting a fair shot at it.

Adon took a positive step forward in his camp with three shutout innings in the Nats’ 7-3 win over the Twins at Hammond Field.

After mixed results in his first two Grapefruit League appearances, both of which came out of the bullpen, the 25-year-old right-hander finally made his first start of the spring. He only gave up two hits and one walk while being efficient with his five-pitch mix, throwing 40 pitches, 27 for strikes.

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Starting lineups: Nats vs. Twins in Fort Myers

robles swings grey

FORT MYERS, Fla. – The Nationals made their last trip across the state this morning to play the Twins this afternoon.

A handful of regulars and a good number of prospects piled onto the team buses to make the three-hour trek to Fort Myers.

Victor Robles, Luis García Jr., Ildemaro Vargas and Riley Adams are among the major leaguers in the starting lineup. James Wood is back in right field and batting fifth.

Joan Adon makes his first start of the spring after coming out of the bullpen for his first two appearances. The right-hander was charged with five runs (three earned) in one inning against the Astros on Feb. 24. But he came back to pitch two scoreless innings with three strikeouts against Houston three days later.

Programming note: Today is my last day for this spring training, as I fly home to D.C. tonight after the game. Mark Zuckerman is flying back down to West Palm Beach this afternoon and will have coverage for the rest of camp. 

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