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Series preview: Nats at Pirates

Apr 22, 2011, 1:30 PM EDT

Friday, 7:05 p.m. — RHP Livan Hernandez (2-1, 2.88) vs. RHP Jeff Karstens (1-0, 4.50)
TV: MASN2 Radio: WJFK-106.7 FM, WFED-1500 AM
 
Saturday, 7:05 p.m. — RHP Jason Marquis (1-0, 3.26) vs. RHP Kevin Correia (3-1, 2.48)
TV: MASN2 Radio: WJFK-106.7 FM, WFED-1500 AM

Sunday, 1:35 p.m. — LHP John Lannan (2-1, 3.43) vs. LHP Paul Maholm (0-3, 4.30)
TV: MASN2 Radio: WJFK-106.7 FM, WFED-1500 AM

PIRATES UPDATE
Baseball's perennial losers for 18-plus years now, the Pirates got off to a hot start when they opened the season 5-3. Since then, they've fallen back into their usual ways, losing eight of 11 and getting swept by the Marlins this week.

They've actually begun to establish a nice, young corps of position players in center fielder Andrew McCutchen, third baseman Pedro Alvarez, second baseman Neil Walker and left fielder Jose Tabata. The pitching staff, though, remains a mess, with Kevin Correia and Paul Maholm serving as their Nos. 1 and 2 starters. (To his credit, Correia has opened the season 3-1, no small feat.)

Pittsburgh had high hopes for Ross Ohlendorf, but the right-hander came down with a recurrence of shoulder pain and was placed on the DL. Swingman Jeff Karstens, who you may remember as the guy who started against Stephen Strasburg in the latter's big-league debut lastRead more »

  1. P. Cole - Apr 22, 2011 at 1:55 PM

    When are we gonna dump Gaudin and Cora?

  2. N. Cognito - Apr 22, 2011 at 2:26 PM

    P. Cole said… "When are we gonna dump Gaudin and Cora?"…and Hairston and Nix and Stairs, oh my!

  3. MicheleS - Apr 22, 2011 at 2:38 PM

    And when do we get our regular 3rd baseman back?

  4. Doc - Apr 22, 2011 at 2:47 PM

    Yeah, we need RZim ASAP!

  5. Mark Zuckerman - Apr 22, 2011 at 2:55 PM

    I posted this in the previous thread, but if you missed it…–Ryan Zimmerman is eligible to return from the DL on Sunday, but he won't be activated then. The Nationals plan to re-evaluate him Monday when they get back to town. Nothing is official yet by any means, but my educated guess is that he won't return for the start of the homestand. At this point, he's going to need to spend a couple of days on a minor-league rehab assignment. So — and again, this is my best educated guess — the earliest we're likely to see him is probably next weekend's series against the Giants. That would be three weeks after he initially got hurt in New York, which is about how much time team officials expected him to miss when they placed him on the DL.

  6. Doc - Apr 22, 2011 at 2:59 PM

    Thanks Mark! The sooner the better for our 3B guy!! He could make the difference in those close games

  7. Ananimouse - Apr 22, 2011 at 3:09 PM

    N. Cognito said… "…and Hairston and Nix and Stairs, oh my!"The more I watch Nix the more I like him. If Morse doesn't bust out of this slump soon, the Nats are going to be forced to play Nix more and more, maybe even going to a legit platoon situation, with Nix getting the at-bats against right handed pitching.I lost a lot of faith in Stairs after he struck out looking at three straight pitches against the Phillies. I'm sure there are lots of other guys that can do that just fine, and can help the team in other ways that Stairs can't, like running the bases or playing defense.Gaudin has also been a big disappointment. When Coffey comes back, I hope we send Gaudin packing and keep Balester in the long relief role. While Hairston and Cora haven't been great, I'm not sure we can underestimate their impact in the "clubhouse leader" role.

  8. joemktg - Apr 22, 2011 at 3:13 PM

    RE: Zim's returnNow that's interesting: a rehab assignment in the minors. PNats are in the midst of a road trip and won't be back till first week in May. HOWEVER, Harrisburg is home the 25th through the 28th. Hmmmmmmmm: Zim and Bryce in the same lineup during the season.GET YOUR TICKETS!!(this posting NOT from Randy Whitaker, GM of Senators)

  9. Anonymous - Apr 22, 2011 at 3:21 PM

    Mark,How long does Morse keep the everyday LF job if he does not start hitting? Will we see Bernadina in LF this year?

  10. Pete - Apr 22, 2011 at 3:30 PM

    SAN DIMAS HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL RULES!

  11. JamesFan - Apr 22, 2011 at 3:31 PM

    I don't want Zmn limping thru the season. Let him heal. I like Nix, Hairiston. Stairs looks overmatched so far. Cora looks ok. Gaudin can go, but Balester hasn't shown me much this year or in the past. Frankly, I think Broderick is better. I'm waiting on Henry Rodreguez to come up. Bloggers want to turn the team inside out every 5 minutes after a loss. This looks like Dan Sneider logic to me.

  12. NatsJack in Florida - Apr 22, 2011 at 3:35 PM

    Too bad Bryce is playing in Hagerstown instead of Harrisbug. And JamesFan…. what a breath of fresh air. Good post.Funny how the Phillies can have Pete Orr yet Jerry Hairston gets bashed on this site. And I agree on Nix… good ball player.

  13. joemktg - Apr 22, 2011 at 4:07 PM

    NatsJack: thanks for straightening me out in your own inimitable way

  14. Anonymous - Apr 22, 2011 at 4:10 PM

    How long does Morse keep the everyday LF job if he does not start hitting? Will we see Bernadina in LF this year?When you already have 2 left-handed outfielders in Ankiel and the aforementioned Nix? Who is one of the few who are actually hitting? You're suggesting FOUR left-handed outfielders if we include Stairs? The ONLY WAY Bernadina comes back this time is if he really rakes and tears up the IL and management decides to part ways with Stairs.Bottom line Bernadina has to produce big-time in AAA. Everyone is bellyaching about Morse? What about Ankiel? He'll never hit above .220 and he's batting second? Werth and LaRoche aren't setting the world on fire either with two buck twenty averages.AND CLUBHOUSE RESPECT STARTS AND ENDS with PERFORMANCE. Hairston and Cora will have NO RESPECT hitting a buck thirty … a couple of veteran boat anchors which is likely why Bixler has been recalled. Right now Hairston and Cora look like easy releases … heck Ronnie Belliard down with the AAA IronPigs looks a whole hell of a lot better … than Bernadina, than Hairston, than Cora … why not bring him back for veteran leadership? This crap with Hairston and Cora and leadership is just that crap … boat anchors lying on the beach on Giggleman's Isle.

  15. Water23 - Apr 22, 2011 at 4:20 PM

    Anonymous 12:10,I am sure you have heard it here many a times but relax – I do believe Werth will start hitting but he is used to the 5 hole. As to LaRoche, he is a notoriously slow starter. This does not help the Nats but they are 9-9 even with their best hitter out plus two of their other top hitters slumping (It does beg the question "Can you slump if you never actually had success for the Nats?").But Morse, that is another issue. He is auditioning now and if he does not turn it on soon he may be in for a rude awakening.

  16. Steve M. - Apr 22, 2011 at 4:26 PM

    masnstinks said… It just seems like certain players ( and coaches) have a protective shield around them and can't ever be criticized — sorry to keep beating a dead horse, but — Matt Stairs, who is riding on his past record and Eckstein , who may be hard-working and an all-around great guy – but is he effective? April 22, 2011 8:46 AM Very interesting observation on Eckstein. I think you described him fairly. He is always one of the last ones to leave the stadium and most of the players respect him especially Ryan Zimmerman which is why he will probably stay around.I had one player who isn't with the Nats any more who told me that Eckstein tried to change his swing and it really never worked. It was a problem for the player as Eckstein commented to him that he went back to his "old ways". That is where the problem lies I believe. Some guys are what they are and have been successful through Little League and crushed the ball in High School and the Minor Leagues. They just can't change and if they are a .240 hitter and young they may turn into a .260 hitter just with experience but trying to change them can have an opposite negative effect. I said last week that Stairs is topping the ball and it was good to hear on MASN that discussed on Wednesday that he is working on that and I hope he solves his issues—quickly.On Michael Morse, I see they shortened his swing which is a good thing but Michael just doesn't look comfortable in his stance and getting arm extension. So this is where I have to wonder about Eckstein and I mentioned this in Spring Training. Morse is as streaky as they come long HOT streaks and long COLD streaks and in Spring Training what impressed me was how short his cold streak was. Now, he comes to the regular season and setting up with his arms over the plate and just looking uncomfortable. He got a hit yesterday and another comebacker to the pitcher but still is not getting extension. I played the video back a few times and don't have any old video tape for comparison but I think when they shortened his swing his back elbow is too close to his right hip and he isn't extending his arms enough. He is quicker to the ball with the shorter swing but not generating the same bat speed and getting the ball on probably not getting the ball on the sweetspot of the barrel IMO. Morse is a big guy with long arms. It is tough watching a great guy like Morse struggle and hope he finds his swing soon as I can see NatsTown is getting restless.

  17. DCPowerGator - Apr 22, 2011 at 4:33 PM

    sorry i missed this but why are we in a position of having to start lannan on three days rest? we have a five man rotation, is somebody getting skipped? or is it due to the recent doubleheader? thanks!

  18. ronnied 3 - Apr 22, 2011 at 4:37 PM

    leaving florida with 4 veteran position (if you consider pinch hitter a position) players on their last legs for a bench was not the best of ideas. i understand "veteran leadership" but rizzo took it to a new level.cora and pudge (until mid summer when he implodes) are enough. stairs and hairston can go. with his longggg slow swing i think mr morse is also on the soon to depart list.eventually we need to find out if beradina can play at the major league level. belliard would be a good addition.

  19. Mark'd - Apr 22, 2011 at 4:40 PM

    SteveM, golfer are a good comparison. Not all of them employ a swing coach. Tinkering with any athlete can have a negative effect. If you haven't seen Harold Reynolds on the MLB Network do analysis of a swing, it is worth the watch. He took video of good Pujols 2010 and Bad Pujols two weeks ago and it was as simple as Pujols opening up quicker and showed this past week that he corrected it.As Water23 points out "Morse is auditioning now and if he does not turn it on soon he may be in for a rude awakening".

  20. Anonymous - Apr 22, 2011 at 4:45 PM

    Don't be surprise that the Nationals will be playing another double header either Saturday, Sunday, or their off day Monday. They could be rained out and most likely will be rained out tonight and fairly likely Saturday, 1 to 2 of rain tonight in Pittsburgh and it's raining now. Tomorrow night a half to three quarters of an inch more, and believe it or not, it could happen Sunday as well…UNTERP

  21. PAY TO PLAY - Apr 22, 2011 at 4:53 PM

    ronnied3 – So, basically throw away everyone and bring back Ronnie Belliard?Rizzo is sticking with most of his veterans because he has nobody better to replace them with as everyone has set their rosters so it is either Minor Leagues or Trades and I think Belliard is in the Phillies AAA unless something has changed. When Zim comes back, somebody will have to go. If Bixler shines in the next week, maybe he stays and Stairs goes. Just don't expect Rizzo to make drastic changes.Morse doesn't have options left (I believe) so doubt he is going anywhere except possibly a platoon. Morse will start to hit again as will Jayson Werth. I thought Nix and Stairs were a repetitive pairing in Spring Training and suprised they both made the team and thought Nix brought more to the party and if you dump Stairs, who takes his place? Bixler, Bernadina, Brown, or as you suggest Belliard?

  22. Steve M. - Apr 22, 2011 at 4:59 PM

    P2P – You are correct. Belliard is doing well in AAA for the Phillies and Maxwell is sucking it up for AAA Yankees as you will see in the attached boxscore.http://www.minorleaguebaseball.com/milb/stats/stats.jsp?sid=t1410&t=g_box&gid=2011_04_21_swbaaa_lhvaaa_1

  23. Steve M. - Apr 22, 2011 at 5:08 PM

    Mark'd said… If you haven't seen Harold Reynolds on the MLB Network do analysis of a swing, it is worth the watch. He took video of good Pujols 2010 and Bad Pujols two weeks ago and it was as simple as Pujols opening up quicker and showed this past week that he corrected it.Its a shame the Nats couldn't have gotten Pujols when he hadn't found his swing. I am sure that Eckstein is using similar video analysis to work with these hitters and sometimes it is the mental aspect of the game and not seeing the ball well.I enjoyed this about Bryce Harper in the previous post that Anon8 put up this morning:Anonymous8 said… The other big news is that Bryce Harper was having vision issues. Here's some quotes:“I have been getting work in the batting cage with my dad,” Bryce Harper said. “And I got contacts. I was told my vision is really bad.”Harper said he wore his new contacts for the first time on Wednesday in the Suns’ 8-3 loss. He got two singles in his first two at-bats and finished 2-for-5 in the game. He is 3-for-7 with a home run and four runs scored since starting to wear them. He is now hitting .261.“I’m seeing the ball really well now,” Harper said. “I’m seeing the spin and I’m seeing the strings really well. My vision is now in HD.” April 22, 2011 7:07 AM

  24. Anonymous - Apr 22, 2011 at 5:11 PM

    As I have said many times, why do we think we know more than the guys who live, work and play baseball every day all day and have done so all their lives?

  25. Water23 - Apr 22, 2011 at 5:18 PM

    Steve M,On Harper, that is downright funny! I remember a few years ago when Guzie got laser eye surgery and all of a sudden starting hitting again. It makes you wonder why the team and more importantly the players do not get yearly or more often eye checkups. I mean, it would cost them a few hundred bucks per player at most with large dividends.

  26. Anonymous - Apr 22, 2011 at 5:23 PM

    Anonymous said… As I have said many times, why do we think we know more than the guys who live, work and play baseball every day all day and have done so all their lives?It's fun! LOL. We like to hear ourselves and have others hear us, especially when we hit the lottery and get something right, and then we can say how smart we are. This isn't just true in sports but all aspects of life.

  27. Sec 3, My Sofa - Apr 22, 2011 at 5:27 PM

    It does beg the question "Can you slump if you never actually had success for the Nats?"No, it doesn't. It brings up the question, maybe, but it doesn't assume an answer.

  28. Grandstander - Apr 22, 2011 at 5:57 PM

    Bryce Harper = Rick Vaughn?

  29. Mark'd - Apr 22, 2011 at 6:15 PM

    Anon @ 1:23 The best hitting coach I have met is a local guy who runs the Maryland Baseball Academy. He was a Triple Crown Winner at the University of Maryland and drafted by the Cleveland Indians.He does video analysis and used to say it isn't the stance, it is the swing and your body in relation to the ball at contact. Just look at Kevin Youkilis or even some of Cal Ripkens unorthodox stances.I agree that too much tweaking can be counter-productive and Rick Eckstein's approach may be no better than Derek Hacopian at the Maryland Baseball Academy. I hear Pujols and Matt Holliday singing the praises of Mark McGwire so I think there is a difference between all hitting coaches on philosophy and mechanics.Plenty of wannabee coaches have bought the Charlie Lau book on hitting and couldn't turn their own kids into decent ballplayers so it goes back to athletic basics which there is only one person with Albert Pujols swing and that is Albert Pujols.

  30. Tim - Apr 22, 2011 at 6:54 PM

    All this talk about dumping our bench is ridiculous. We have one of the best benches in the National League. It's full of experience and what it means to be on a winning organization. That's part of what it's gonna take to change the culture of a perrenial loser.Plain and simple, we miss Zim. We need our everyday lineup to begin to heat up: Werth, LaRoche, and Morse, in particular.

  31. Steve M. - Apr 22, 2011 at 6:56 PM

    Mark'd – That's just it. Nobody is exactly the same and each approach has to be tailored to the player.Sometimes it is the student and not the teacher if you know what I mean which is why some have better success in other systems. I thought that if Kevin Long could fix Justin Maxwell it would prove a lot about Rick Eckstein and it doesn't look like Maxwell is any better now so it is probably the "student".I don't know Rick Eckstein's philosophy when he is one-on-one with a player. I would think with most of these guys he is just tweaking their approach. I noticed Ryan Zimmerman has a more open stance this year and he seems to adapt well to any changes Rick Eckstein has made. There are just so many guys struggling right now at the plate that the obvious place for people to show their frustration is at the hitting coach and the player.

  32. Anonymous - Apr 22, 2011 at 7:07 PM

    The whole team isn't hitting. Eckstein not-withstanding. Ankiel still looks like the .220 hitter he has been since his first year as a position player in the majors. He is one of Eckstein's prodigy's. I think it might just be about time to find a new hitting coach. Matt Stairs? Better that than on the 40-man/25-man.

  33. Anonymous - Apr 22, 2011 at 7:10 PM

    ESPN's Jayson Stark: Though the Nationals could probably afford Pujols or Fielder, one source who has talked with them extensively told Stark they're more likely to spread their money around.Don't you dare "spread it around". To guys like Hairston, Cora, wanting an easy ride into retirement? Just go out and don't stop until you sign Pujols. Do not pass go, do not collect $200.

  34. PAY TO PLAY - Apr 22, 2011 at 7:11 PM

    Tim said… All this talk about dumping our bench is ridiculous. We have one of the best benches in the National League. It's full of experience and what it means to be on a winning organization. That's part of what it's gonna take to change the culture of a perrenial loser.______________________Tim, chill out. One guy suggested dumping everyone. On the other side of it, you don't take up roster space for anyone who can't put up the numbers. Personally speaking, I think there is good veteran leadership on this team and a couple players don't deserve to be here right now. I think Rizzo made many good decision and a few poor decisions and the sign of a good GM is rectifying the mistakes.My 2 cents.

  35. Anonymous - Apr 22, 2011 at 7:11 PM

    Make Wilbon cry: sign Pujols to DC!

  36. PAY TO PLAY - Apr 22, 2011 at 7:18 PM

    Mark'd said… Plenty of wannabee coaches have bought the Charlie Lau book on hitting and couldn't turn their own kids into decent ballplayers so it goes back to athletic basics which there is only one person with Albert Pujols swing and that is Albert Pujols. April 22, 2011 2:15 PM ______________________Isn't that the truth. Nicely written!

  37. Anonymous - Apr 22, 2011 at 7:21 PM

    Tim, chill out. One guy suggested dumping everyone.Quickly don't think about "veteran leadership" on Giggleman's Isle. Let's ask the "Professor" not the damned "Skipper" (more like first mate) about the other side … the pitching?Tom Milone, Cole Kimball, Henry Rodriguez, Craig Stammen, Ross Detwiler, perhaps Bradley Meyers and Josh Wilkie.OR? Chad Gaudin, Rodd Coffey, Brian Broderick (AA guy for sure), Doug Slaten, and even Colin Balester.WHO consistently gets the lower WHIP? What makes the 2nd list of retreads better than the "A" team in Syracuse? And the "Professor" is supposed to be an expert judge of pitching? Who has been reliable?I'm not seeing it from these Giggleman castaways the "Professor" picked up. Just not seeing it.

  38. Feel Wood - Apr 22, 2011 at 8:34 PM

    "I don't know Rick Eckstein's philosophy when he is one-on-one with a player. I would think with most of these guys he is just tweaking their approach."Based on published reports from when he was originally hired by the Nats, Eckstein's approach is to study film of what a player was doing at a time when he was hitting well, and then to try to get him back to those mechanics if he has somehow drifted away from them. Thus he's not trying to sell some specific approach to the player, or trying to put all batters into the same cookie-cutter mold. He's working with each one of them as an individual. It certainly is an approach that makes sense to me.

  39. Anonymous8 - Apr 22, 2011 at 11:07 PM

    FeelWood, catching up on posts. I find it interesting what you wrote because that is a great approach in theory and glad to read that.My only issue is I am thinking I know the player Steve M. referred to above and can also confirm that was the player's story on his way out the door. I can give the benefit of the doubt that the player's impression could have been different from Eckstein's however I have no reason to think at that point in time the player wasn't telling the truth. I hope I said that in a diplomatic way. An alternate theory is that while Eckstein was with the team he changed his approach."I had one player who isn't with the Nats any more who told me that Eckstein tried to change his swing and it really never worked. It was a problem for the player as Eckstein commented to him that he went back to his "old ways". "

Archives

NL EAST STANDINGS

W L GB
WASHINGTON 57 47 --
ATLANTA 58 48 --
MIAMI 53 53 5.0
NEW YORK 51 56 7.5
PHILADELPHIA 47 60 11.5
Through Tuesday's early games

UPCOMING SCHEDULE
WED: Nats at Marlins, 12:40 p.m.
THU: Phillies at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
FRI: Phillies at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
SAT: Phillies at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
SUN: Phillies at Nats, 1:35 p.m.
MON: Orioles at Nats, 7:05 p.m. TUE: Mets at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
Full season schedule

Mark joins Rob Carlin and Joe Orsulak every Thursday at 4 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet for a half-hour show on the Nats, Orioles and rest of MLB. Re-airs Thursdays at 11:30 p.m., Saturdays at 9 a.m. and Sundays at 11:30 a.m.

ON THE RADIO

As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2014 schedule (subject to change)...

MON: 12:45 p.m.
TUE: 2:30 p.m.
WED: 4:30 p.m.
THU: 2:30 p.m.
FRI: 1:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m.
SAT: 10:30 a.m.

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