Winker's hot start lands him near top of Nats lineup, MLB leaderboard

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LOS ANGELES – Take a glance at the major league leaders in the top offensive rate categories, note the expected names that consistently show up and then try not to gasp when Jesse Winker’s name shows up right there alongside everyone else.

Winker, who made the Nationals’ roster Opening Day roster off a minor league deal signed the day before spring training began, currently ranks third in the majors in batting average (.373), first in on-base percentage (.500), 13th in slugging percentage (.608) and fifth in OPS (1.108). The only names ahead of him in that last category: Tyler O’Neill, Mookie Betts, Marcell Ozuna and Jose Altuve.

Nobody’s suggesting Winker will remain there throughout the season. But given his hot start, and his track record of success several years ago while playing for the Reds, there’s reason to be optimistic he can remain productive for the Nats.

“I feel good with the work I’m putting in,” he said. “Obviously, it’s nice when you’re getting results, but I feel great with the work I’m doing with (hitting coach Darnell Coles and assistant hitting coach Chris Johnson).”

Winker entered the season figuring to share playing time in left field with Eddie Rosario. Three weeks later, he’s become not only an everyday player, but the Nationals’ No. 2 hitter in recent days, batting behind CJ Abrams.

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Dodgers get to Corbin, Nats can't get to L.A. bullpen (updated)

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LOS ANGELES – For the Nationals to win a second straight game here, they were going to have to produce more offense against a Dodger bullpen tasked with pitching all nine innings tonight than Patrick Corbin gave up in his traditional starting role.

Neither end of that equation held up its end of the bargain. Corbin again gave the team length but not quality, and the Nats lineup came through with only one big hit against the L.A. bullpen during a 6-2 loss at Dodger Stadium.

Corbin, who hasn’t won in this historic ballpark since the 2019 regular season, made it to the seventh inning but was charged with five runs (one of those scoring after he departed). He fell to 0-3 with an 8.06 ERA in his first four starts of the season.

"Once again, the numbers show he didn't pitch well," manager Davey Martinez said. "But all in all, he gave us six-plus innings, a couple hits here and there. We just couldn't score any runs today, couldn't get anything really going."

The Nationals got a two-run homer from the surprisingly red-hot Jesse Winker, but little else against the four relievers Dodgers manager Dave Roberts used over the course of nine innings.

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Winker ties it in 9th, but Nats ultimately fall to A's in 10th (updated)

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OAKLAND, Calif. – As the Nationals looked up at the massive scoreboards at Oakland Coliseum, they saw the number one listed in the Athletics’ hit column most of the night. It would be changed to a two late in the evening, but that’s not exactly a big number, either.

And yet here the Nats were, coming up to bat in the top of the ninth, trailing the game because one of Oakland’s hits off Jake Irvin was Lawrence Butler’s third-inning homer and none of their own hits had produced a run.

Jesse Winker, at long last, took care of that annoying situation.

Winker’s leadoff homer in the top of the ninth off A’s closer Dany Jiménez finally got the Nats on the board and Irvin off the hook. But when they couldn't take the lead, the game moved into extra innings, at which point Trey Lipscomb made a baserunning blunder and Kyle Finnegan surrendered a walk-off single to Lawrence Butler for a tough 2-1 loss.

"We created some opportunities; just couldn't get that run in," said manager Davey Martinez, whose team went 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position. "Winker was our offense today."

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Winker still recovering from illness, Weems able to pitch again

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As ballgames up and down the East Coast were being delayed or postponed altogether due to rain, Davey Martinez tried to remain optimistic about the Nationals’ chances of actually playing the Pirates as scheduled at 6:45 p.m. tonight.

“We’re going to get ready to play until they tell us otherwise,” the manager said about 3 hours before scheduled first pitch. “Hopefully we do play. All these days off at the beginning, it’s tough to get in that routine. So I want to play. I want to get them out on the field and get them going.”

Today is the seventh day of the regular season but only the Nats’ fifth scheduled game. They already had a day off in Cincinnati following the season opener, then another Tuesday following the home opener. The notion of another one at this early juncture isn’t exactly popular with anyone in uniform.

Even though they played as scheduled Monday, the Nationals weren’t able to take batting practice on the field due to the poor conditions. They same held true today, with players restricted to the indoor batting cage.

A break in routine, or an unexpected day off, can be appreciated at certain points during the long season – “August!” Martinez quipped – but not so much this early in the marathon.

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Three veterans officially added to major league roster

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PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. – The Nationals officially purchased the contracts of outfielders Eddie Rosario and Jesse Winker, plus reliever Matt Barnes, this morning, moving a step closer to finalizing their Opening Day roster.

Rosario, Winker and Barnes all made the club after coming to camp on minor league deals. They could be joined by reliever Derek Law, who appears to have made the team but hasn’t officially had his contract purchased yet.

Rosario, Winker and Barnes’ fates were determined Friday night when the Nationals optioned outfielders Alex Call and Jacob Young to Triple-A Rochester and reassigned reliever Jacob Barnes to minor league camp, settling those spring competitions for jobs.

Rosario and Winker join Lane Thomas and Victor Robles as the Nats’ four-man outfield to open the season. Manager Davey Martinez expects all to receive playing time, with Rosario playing both left and center fields, and Winker playing left field and serving as designated hitter at times.

“As I always say, things always play themselves out,” Martinez said. “I hope they both do really well. … They’re both going to help us, big time.”

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

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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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Is there room for both Rosario and Winker on Nats roster?

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WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – In his first at-bat as a member of the Nationals, Eddie Rosario didn’t drive the ball out of the park. He didn’t rip a line drive to center for a base hit. He hit a little dribbler toward short, one that left his bat at a not-so-scalding 49.9 mph. And then busted down the line.

By the time Cardinals shortstop Brandon Crawford charged in to field the ball and throw to first, Rosario had already crossed the bag, throwing his arms out in a “safe” motion as he looked to first base umpire Jen Pawol, who made the same (in her case, official) call.

The expected batting average on such a grounder? A measly .110. Rosario, suffice it to say, beat the odds with his hustle.

“That’s what I know about him,” manager Davey Martinez said. “He’s going to play the game the right way, play the game hard. It was good to see him come out in the first game and do what he did.”

That was the only time Rosario reached base in his Nats debut Monday afternoon. He finished 1-for-3 with the infield single, a popout to second and a well-struck fly out to left. It was a fairly nondescript performance, but not shabby given the fact the 32-year-old just signed a minor league contract five days prior.

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Healthy Winker sees opportunity to resurrect career with Nats

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WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – Jesse Winker had played in Washington several times before as a member of the Reds and Mariners. He had played well in D.C., compiling a 1.084 OPS across 34 plate appearances. He had enjoyed touring the city during his downtime. And anyone he ever spoke to about the Nationals offered positive feedback.

So when the opportunity came this week to sign with the Nats, even if it was on a minor-league deal, Winker didn’t have to think twice about saying yes.

“Oh my god, there’s a bunch of talent here. A lot of really good players,” the 30-year-old outfielder said. “It’s a great city. I’ve heard nothing but great things about the coaching staff and everybody involved here. It’s an amazing spot to play. It was very easy to pull the trigger on it.”

Winker said this Friday afternoon shortly after arriving in the Nationals clubhouse for the first time, unpacking his bags and trying on some of his new employer’s gear. He joins a clubhouse full of young players trying to make their own name for themselves in the big leagues, plus a few other veterans he’s crossed paths with over the years.

The minor-league contract offers no guarantees, but the situation is favorable for Winker. The Nats need more experienced hitters, especially from the left side of the plate. Winker is coming off a down year but was an above-average hitter in each of his previous six big-league seasons, earning an All-Star selection as recently as 2021. He would seem to make for a nice platoon partner with Stone Garrett at the DH position.

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Spring storylines: More signings to come during camp?

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One of the least eventful winters in Nationals history concludes today, spring officially commencing Wednesday when pitchers and catchers report to West Palm Beach, Fla., for their first workout of 2024.

This offseason saw precious little action from the Nats. They added only four players on major-league contracts, signing Joey Gallo, Nick Senzel and Dylan Floro for a combined $9.25 million and adding Nasim Nuñez (who has never played above Double-A) via the Rule 5 Draft. They didn’t make a single trade.

Even by recent Nationals standards, this was a dead winter.

But does that mean they’re done adding players? There were reasons all along to believe they might not be done. And then they did do something Monday evening, albeit on a minor-league deal.

Mike Rizzo and Davey Martinez were pretty clear about their wish list back when the offseason began. Both specifically mentioned an experienced starting pitcher. Both specifically mentioned more power for their lineup.

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Source: Nats add veteran outfielder Winker on minor league deal

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It didn’t happen until the second-to-last day of the offseason, but the Nationals finally added another potential bat to their 2024 lineup.

The Nats have signed veteran outfielder Jesse Winker to a minor league contract with an invitation to big league spring training, a source familiar with the deal confirmed. Though he didn’t get a guaranteed contract, Winker should have a good chance to make the Opening Day roster if he’s healthy after an injury-plagued 2023 season.

An All-Star with the Reds in 2021, Winker is the owner of a strong .369 on-base percentage and .813 OPS over a seven-year career. His breakthrough 2021 campaign included 32 doubles and 24 homers in only 485 plate appearances, with a .305/.394/.556 slash line.

But the last two seasons saw a drastic drop in Winker’s production, from a .688 OPS with the Mariners in 2022 to a .567 OPS last season with the Brewers. His one year in Milwaukee, though, was marred by neck, back and leg injuries, leading to two long stints on the IL.

A minor league deal signed two days before pitchers and catchers report for spring training signals the lingering doubts the Nationals and other clubs had about Winker. But the 30-year-old’s track record, combined with the Nats’ specific need right now, suggests he’s likely to come north with the team if he proves he’s healthy again.

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