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Five unsung heroes

Feb 5, 2013, 12:00 PM EST

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Ryan Mattheus should be a key contributor out of the bullpen again this year.

There will be no shortage of star power inside the clubhouse or on the field at Space Coast Stadium once spring training commences for the Nationals next week. Stephen Strasburg. Bryce Harper. Ryan Zimmerman. Jayson Werth. Gio Gonzalez. Ian Desmond. Adam LaRoche. Dan Haren. This team certainly isn't lacking in notoriety.

Davey Johnson, though, takes every opportunity he gets to point out the importance of all 25 men on his roster contributing to a winning ballclub. And as we saw last season, there were all sorts of key role players without whom the Nats would not have won their first NL East title.

With that in mind, let's focus today on five guys who won't draw nearly as much attention as their big-name teammates this spring yet all could play significant roles on a club with realistic World Series visions…

The longest-tenured player in the organization — he was signed out of Curacao way back in 2001, when the franchise still calledRead more »

  1. MicheleS - Feb 5, 2013 at 12:10 PM

    It takes 25 to win, good to know we have quality all the way down the line.

  2. Positively Half St. - Feb 5, 2013 at 12:25 PM

    Yes, the "best 25 go north" line doesn't hold much intrigue so far this year. It will make it hard to trade people who are out of options before waiving them, because it will be hard for Rizzo to bluff that they have a real chance of making the squad. Here's looking at you, Mr. Rivero.

  3. Sunshine_Bobby_Carpenter_Is_Too_Pessimistic_For_Me - Feb 5, 2013 at 12:25 PM

    I'm not convinced Suzuki isn't our No. 1 catcher for now and the foreseeable future. What an absolute steal by Rizzo.

  4. Steady Eddie - Feb 5, 2013 at 12:26 PM

    Good story, Mark, and especially interesting stat re Stammen as the longest long reliever in the game.By the way, re Mattheus, it was THREE outs on two pitches in Game 1. A memorable moment to be sure.

  5. Steady Eddie - Feb 5, 2013 at 12:34 PM

    Half St. — yeah, hard to bluff re someone like Rivero. But the other side of that is that teams wanting our AAA depth that's out of options can't be sure another team won't grab them first, so they may be willing to make a deal, maybe even in a package so we can get something of value back.Also, unexpected injury holes do appear on rosters during ST.

  6. Scooter - Feb 5, 2013 at 12:59 PM

    Terrific post. Thanks, Mr. Z.

  7. DaveB - Feb 5, 2013 at 1:25 PM

    Was definitely wondering why Rivero wasn't traded earlier until I heard about Danny's rotator cuff. (Sometimes unexpected injuries have already occurred before ST and just don't show up until then.) I don't think Carlos will get traded before ST ends unless Danny somehow proves he doesn't need surgery.

  8. Theophilus T. S. - Feb 5, 2013 at 1:47 PM

    The first piece of news I want to hear when pitchers and catchers report is how much El Gordo weighs. That will go a long weigh to determining how long Suzuki will/should remain the starting catcher.

  9. Gonat - Feb 5, 2013 at 1:47 PM

    MicheleS said… It takes 25 to win, good to know we have quality all the way down the line. ____________________________________You said it and the 25th player sometimes is that X Factor.Tyler Moore's 25th man impact in the playoffs was huge in helping to win Game 1. If the Nats went on, who knows.

  10. sm13 - Feb 5, 2013 at 1:52 PM

    Great list, Mark. You could add Chad Tracey to the unsung roster, as well. It is great to see Craig Stammen get his due. He's worked his tail off and now he's found his niche. He'll be a key and versatile piece of Davey's bullpen puzzle again this year.

  11. Ghost Of Steve M. - Feb 5, 2013 at 1:59 PM

    I'm hoping Anthony Rendon is added as a September callup and then makes his way on the postseason roster.I am nervous as to which Kurt Suzuki shows up this year. Let's hope we can call him an unsung hero.

  12. Teddy Rochlis - Feb 5, 2013 at 2:10 PM

    I don't think Kurt Suzuki will be an unsung hero, because everybody knows about him and will begin singing Rizzo's praises again for his trade for Kurt. 7 days then the real countdown begins.

  13. NatsLady - Feb 5, 2013 at 2:14 PM

    Nice article, enjoyed it. Good break from the "other news." Tom Verducci–a respected reporter–has a detailed article on SI.Com. Nothing new on Gio, but plenty on Alex R and Cruz, matching dates in the notebooks to location of teams (i.e., were meetings feasible), and also to variations in their stats.

  14. NatsLady - Feb 5, 2013 at 2:16 PM

    Unless you count this note as possibly linked to Gio…• A holiday discount with a Dec. 14, 2011 notation of drugs associated with University of Miami trainer Jimmy Goins. "Gift certificate. $75 off X-mas," it notes, as well as a credit of "$100 for referral."Read More:

  15. Sec. 3, My Sofa - Feb 5, 2013 at 2:22 PM

    fifteen jugglers and five unsung heroesall dressed like menTell your mama not to worry'cause they're just my friends.

  16. natsfan1a - Feb 5, 2013 at 2:32 PM

    Nice break from The Story That Would Not Die. That said, can one be featured on a sharkarine and still be unsung? :-)

  17. 3on2out - Feb 5, 2013 at 2:42 PM

    Ross Detwiler and Kurt Suzuki unsung heroes? Hardly. Ross established his major league creds last year. He is a stud among studs on arguably the best starting rotation in MLB. And Kurt is the starting catcher for that fearsome fivesome and played a critical and successful role in that role. AND added some solid offense as well. Ramos may be in Nats plans but a repaired ACL on a catcher whose BMI is not what it should be? I have some major doubts.

  18. Sec. 3, My Sofa - Feb 5, 2013 at 2:43 PM

    And speaking of unsung heroes, without these guys, there'd still be Roger, but no Sharkadina.

  19. Theophilus T. S. - Feb 5, 2013 at 2:58 PM

    Previously Rodriquez admitted to steroid use in 2001-2003. The most recent episode begs the question how much of his career has been influenced by PED use. Did steroid use begin w/ his 1999 torn meniscus? His apparent liberties with the truth suggest that the whole decade of the aughts (01-10) may have been colored by steroids. Thus, subject to a miraculous cleansing by investigators, he potentially descends with Bonds to a door guarded by the Marshall Petains of baseball, "They shall not pass."

  20. Ghost Of Steve M. - Feb 5, 2013 at 3:13 PM

    I got my fingers in my ears and doing the "Lah lah lah lah lah" thing when you mention PEDs. Lets talk about something else like guessing where Michael Bourn and Lohse ends up.I'm hearing Lohse to the Nats for a 1 year deal as Boras has to place him in safe keeping. I don't see it unless he became the long man in the 'pen and I don't see Boras agreeing to that. Still hoping that Rizzo can get Javier Vazquez!

  21. Sec. 3, My Sofa - Feb 5, 2013 at 3:26 PM

    They may both wind up waiting for somebody to get hurt.

  22. Faraz Shaikh - Feb 5, 2013 at 3:32 PM

    yeah I like Javy also and if Oswalt is fit, him too.

  23. Sharkadina - Feb 5, 2013 at 3:33 PM

    Shark was listed first…as he should be.This year, the Shark will be sung.

  24. Ghost Of Steve M. - Feb 5, 2013 at 3:45 PM

    Faraz Shaikh said… yeah I like Javy also and if Oswalt is fit, him too. February 05, 2013 10:32 AM I don't see them doing Oswalt after his disaster in Texas last year. Unless its a noticeable upgrade Rizzo will roll the dice and stick with his AAA depth in Garcia, Ohlendorf, etc.Javier Vazquez is perfect as he has the velo to be a gun in the bullpen and be the guy if they need a 6th starter.I just can't see Lohse making sense although I'm sure Boras is doing his best to convince Mr. Lerner.

  25. Faraz Shaikh - Feb 5, 2013 at 3:53 PM

    Reason I listed Oswalt because his advanced stats were pretty good. His HR/FB% was double the career number, better than career K/BB ratio, and an absurd lack of luck for him.since him being a right-handed and probably seeking a major league deal, we may not see either party interested in a deal.But yeah Javy makes sense on many levels.

  26. John C. - Feb 5, 2013 at 3:57 PM

    Here's how you can tell that Detwiler is still unsung: there is a persistent, noisy group of fans on various sites that are constantly trying to move Detwiler to the bullpen in favor of a pitcher that didn't pitch last year (Vazquez) or one that turns 33 this year and until very recently was an extremely mediocre pitcher (Lohse) – both options will be expensive in money, and Lohse also costs a high draft choice (second round, since the Nats already forfeited their first round for Soriano).No thanks to either, I say. There's a substantial chance that Detwiler has a better season than either of the alternatives, at a fraction of the cost. Yeah, Vazquez tore up the winter leagues. So did Yunesky Maya. Paying a lot while making the starting rotation worse makes no sense to me!

  27. Faraz Shaikh - Feb 5, 2013 at 3:58 PM

    Lohse is definitely a no because that means forfeiting another draft pick unless rizzo does not care about drafting due to weak class.

  28. Ghost Of Steve M. - Feb 5, 2013 at 4:02 PM

    As we go through the unsung heroes and the great bench Davey has, I think Davey has to do a better job of resting players. While you always have the urge to write in the same 7 guys (everyone but the catcher), Davey needs to strategically rest Werth, LaRoche, and Zim.I'm concerned about Espi's shoulder and his production this year. Heck, I was concerned about Espi prior to the revelations of the extent of his shoulder injury.

  29. Ghost Of Steve M. - Feb 5, 2013 at 4:08 PM

    John C., I don't think it would be fair to move Detwiler to the 'pen. I think any deal for another starter would have to be either a Minor League deal or a MLB deal with the understanding they would go into the 'pen.

  30. SCNatsFan - Feb 5, 2013 at 4:12 PM

    Please say no to Oswalt. A prima donna with little left in the tank. Only way I want to see him is pitching against us so we can light him up.

  31. Section 222 - Feb 5, 2013 at 4:13 PM

    John C., I can't say for sure, but I think the continuing interest in Vasquez, Lohse et al. is because of our suspect starter depth (Maya? Oy.) and the significant chance that Gio won't be available for the whole season. I haven't seen anyone arguing that Det should go to the bullpen. He was on that bubble last year with Wang. I think he's pretty well assured of a pitching every five days this year.

  32. Ghost Of Steve M. - Feb 5, 2013 at 4:14 PM

    That's my feeling SCNatsFan. I think he won't be picked up again until mid-season anyway.

  33. 3on2out - Feb 5, 2013 at 4:15 PM

    Detwiler to the pen? Really? Who are these people? I would move Haren there before Detwiler.

  34. Ghost Of Steve M. - Feb 5, 2013 at 4:21 PM

    Sect222, I agree with you on Detwiler. When you listen to his interview with Chase you can tell he gets it.

  35. JD - Feb 5, 2013 at 4:23 PM

    Ghost, I don't think Vazquez is signing anywhere that doesn't guarantee him a spot in the rotation. He wasn't very good in a bullpen role for the Yankees anyway. I don't think his personality fits a bullpen role and I think his repertoire support a spot in someone's rotation. If Rizzo knows something about Gio that we don't then that's another story because I don't think you want to go with Maya or Ohlendorf in your rotation for a third of the season.

  36. Ghost Of Steve M. - Feb 5, 2013 at 4:36 PM

    I'm excited about the addition of DH from the standpoint of what he can teach to a young dominant rotation that are all fastball throwers.When Chase asked Ross Detwiler if he had been working on a new pitch, Ross was kind of stunned by the question (huh?) and instead talked about how he is a fastball pitcher and can work in the changeup and curveball, but what about throwing that fastball to dance even more like Haren.Haren can throw a fastball 4 different ways consistently for strikes. I think McCatty needs to use Haren as an example of trying to add to your arsenal. Not so much Strasburg, but the other 3 could use another fastball that can spin in another direction.

  37. Ghost Of Steve M. - Feb 5, 2013 at 4:37 PM

    JD, absolutely on Vazquez. He will take the contender who offers him a rotation spot before he takes a contender with a bullpen spot.He's not going to take a MiLB deal.

  38. Ghost Of Steve M. - Feb 5, 2013 at 4:41 PM

    JD, Vazquez was certainly a mixed bag out of the bullpen for the Yankees but that was out of a demotion.I have to think if he accepts a bullpen role and can get in that frame of mind that he can do well in that role.Owalt did really bad out of the bullpen also after his demotion.

  39. Section 222 - Feb 5, 2013 at 4:50 PM

    From the very first time Vazquez's name came up I've been with JD: We're not signing him unless we have a need for another starter (like if Gio is likely to be out of action for awhile, or someone gets hurt in ST), And Vazquez isn't going to sign anywhere on a MiLB deal or to get stashed in the bullpen.

  40. Ghost Of Steve M. - Feb 5, 2013 at 5:11 PM

    Sect222, Rizzo wanted Vazquez before the name Anthony Bosch became a dirty word in NatsTown.I'm ok with spending Uncle Ted's money. I'm not ok moving anyone from the rotation to the bullpen.

  41. bowdenball - Feb 5, 2013 at 5:34 PM

    Craig Stammen was a starter until late in 2011, and a decent one at that. He can make spot starts and Christian Garcia can replace him in the bullpen. Same goes for Zach Duke, although then you lose your lefty in the pen. Or maybe Garcia will work out as a starter. Those aren't ideal options for #6 starter, but they're a lot better than most teams have, in fact better than some people have at the 4 or 5 spot. There's no reason to worry about the depth at SP, or assume that Maya would be the first option. I seriously doubt he would be.

  42. Ron In Reston - Feb 5, 2013 at 6:13 PM

    Bowden-He was a starter in 2011 only at AAA. His stints as a starter at the major league lever were far from "decent". In 2009, he started 19 games and went 4-7 with an ERA north of 5.00. In 2010, he also started 19 games before being moved to the bullpen, going 4-4 again with an ERA over 5.00. His return from AAA in 2011 he appeared in 7 games, going 1-1 with an ERA under 1.00. And last year he went 6-1 with an ERA under 3.00. I think he has clearly shown he is NOT a starter and has settled in nicely to his role in the pen. Does that mean he couldn't start in a pinch? No, of course not, but I don't think he would be at the top of the list, either.On another note, I'm pretty sure Rizzo is going to hold off on anything with regards to Vazquez until he sees how he recover from the knee surgery he had two weeks ago. If he returns to what seemd to be excellent form quickly, then I would love to have him as an insurance policy. But as others have mentioned, he is most likely going to only go where he can be a part of the rotation, and that won't happen here, barring any injury to our staff (knock on wood, cross fingers, sacrifice chickens, etc.)

  43. sm13 - Feb 5, 2013 at 6:16 PM

    I hope Maya is not our first, second, third, etc option. He is not a major league pitcher.

  44. Tcostant - Feb 5, 2013 at 6:19 PM

    I'll take Dice-K on a minor league deal. Send him to AAA and coach him up and you might have something in a league with no DH. If not, you move on. I like Vazquez too, but I think he will have options with a better chance at the bigs and more money; so I don't really see that happening…

  45. NatsLady - Feb 5, 2013 at 6:30 PM

    Jerry Crasnick ‏@jcrasnickCatcher Chris Snyder has agreed to a minor league deal with #nationals.

  46. Ghost Of Steve M. - Feb 5, 2013 at 6:38 PM

    Tcostant said… Did anyone notice that Brad Peacock got trade to Astros?Yes, I posted on it yesterday. Bo knows! Good luck to Peacock!

  47. Ghost Of Steve M. - Feb 5, 2013 at 6:40 PM

    NatsLady said… Jerry Crasnick ‏@jcrasnickCatcher Chris Snyder has agreed to a minor league deal with #nationals. February 05, 2013 1:30 PM Anyone with any intel on why they would get another catcher with Leon and Solano as the #3 and #4 with Maldanado as the #5.

  48. Ghost Of Steve M. - Feb 5, 2013 at 6:41 PM

    Ron in Reston, I agree on Stammen. I was very happy that the bullpen gave him a place in the MLB. Craig is genuinely a very good person so glad he found his spot.

  49. IKN8wxU2 - Feb 5, 2013 at 6:43 PM

    I'm not convinced Vasquez will only go to a contender with an open spot in the rotation. Here's my reasoning.1. He apparently wants a team located in a spot where he can go to Puerto Rico easily. That would seem to rule out teams on the West Coast and maybe others.2. How many contenders have open spots in the rotation? Not Atlanta, Cinncinati or St. Louis. The Phillies have one or two spots, but they aren't contenders. There may be a AL contender, especially the Rangers, I guess. You could say the Yankees, but I'm willing to bet that he doesn't want to go back there.3. He's not young. This could be his last chance at a ring. The Nats fit that perfectly. Think Grant Hill on the Clippers this year, or Battier on the Heat last year. 4. Yes, the Nats have 5 starters, but it's extremely unlikely that none will miss some time. (Last year, we used 6 starters until the Strasburg shutdown.)5. He's not young. I said that before, as to a ring, but it also applies to whether he could make it through 162 games as a starter. Maybe he likes the idea of being a reliever to start the season?

  50. baseballswami - Feb 5, 2013 at 6:45 PM

    I am super concerned about Espi, especially with him playing in the WBC. He needs to get it fixed or deal with the axe hanging over his head ( and the whole teams'). I foresee Lombo playing second — and what about Theriot on the bench? The man is a walking, talking World Series good luck charm. Middle infield depth, veteran presence, good clubhouse guy, contact hitter off the bench. I just don't see that he is done. The last two years – two rings.

  51. bowdenball - Feb 5, 2013 at 6:49 PM

    Ron in Reston-Of course you and I and all Nats fans would be much, much happier with Stammen in the pen. But we're talking about a #6 starter here- exactly the sort of "in a pinch" situation you refer to. Stammen's K and BB rates for his career are decent, and you have to remember he put up those weak ERA numbers with a pretty bad defense behind him, instead of the great one that would back him this year. I think if someone goes to the DL, he can make 2 or 3 spot starts without costing us too much. And more to the point, I'm not sure there's that a better option out there that remains unsigned and would take a one year deal. And of course, he'd go right back to excelling in the pen as soon as the starter returned to health.

  52. NatsLady - Feb 5, 2013 at 7:02 PM

    No insight in particular, but I would say Snyder replaces Flores in the depth chart, and Rizzo is really hedging his bets on when Ramos will be back. Must feel that neither Solano or Leon is ready yet.

  53. Ghost Of Steve M. - Feb 5, 2013 at 7:06 PM

    baseballswami, I brought up the Espi cloud earlier. I somehow see Rendon on the fast track if Danny needs 2 months off. I also think its a bad decision to let him play in the WBC.

  54. SCNatsFan - Feb 5, 2013 at 7:06 PM

    RE : Peacock to the Astros… their highest paid player now makes $3M… Bo shouldn't even bother to unpack

  55. Ghost Of Steve M. - Feb 5, 2013 at 7:06 PM

    By the way, a week from today Pitchers and Catchers report.

  56. John C. - Feb 5, 2013 at 7:11 PM

    One argument that I've seen to send Detwiler back to the bullpen is that you open up a rotation spot to award to Vazquez/Lohse/etc. Then you have five starters, a LHRP, and Gio insurance, see? What's not to like?Well, for my part, there's a lot not to like, starting with spending a lot (money and potentially a draft pick) to likely make your rotation worse. Also there is Detwiler's career development. The Yankees ruined Joba Chamberlain by jerking him back and forth from the rotation to the bullpen; I'd rather not see the Nationals do that with Det. As for Gio insurance, I admit that I think it is very unlikely that any suspension comes from this unless a lot more stuff surfaces. Even in the unlikely event that there is a 50 game suspension, the Nats only require a #5 starter six times in the first 50 games. That can easily be covered by some combination of Duke, Garcia, Stammen, Maya or Ohlendorf.

  57. Ghost Of Steve M. - Feb 5, 2013 at 7:11 PM

    SCNatsFan said… RE : Peacock to the Astros… their highest paid player now makes $3M… Bo shouldn't even bother to unpack February 05, 2013 2:06 PM If he doesn't lose 100 games they should give him Manager of the Year.

  58. Ghost Of Steve M. - Feb 5, 2013 at 7:21 PM


  59. John C. - Feb 5, 2013 at 7:22 PM

    IKN8wxU2 said …2. How many contenders have open spots in the rotation? Not Atlanta, Cinncinati or St. Louis. The Phillies have one or two spots, but they aren't contenders. There may be a AL contender, especially the Rangers, I guess. You could say the Yankees, but I'm willing to bet that he doesn't want to go back there….4. Yes, the Nats have 5 starters, but it's extremely unlikely that none will miss some time. (Last year, we used 6 starters until the Strasburg shutdown).These two points are somewhat at odds; each of the other contending teams with a full rotation is also at the mercy of injuries. Given the overall youth of the Nats' rotation, probably other teams are more likely to have injury opportunities than the Nationals.The Phillies are flawed, but still dangerous. It's too early to count them out of playoff contender status, especially with two wild card teams. They also think they have five starters (Hamels/Halladay/Lee/Kendrick/Lannan). Vazquez has been to NY twice, and been bad to terrible both times. I don't think either party wants any more of that.

  60. djinFl. - Feb 5, 2013 at 7:53 PM

    The more I read about the info handed to the Miami New Times the more I am thinking of a Clifford Irving situation. Some of the "facts" do not make sense. If you weave it just right, old facts rewritten with a new history, you have a blockbuster.

  61. peric - Feb 5, 2013 at 9:22 PM

    because it will be hard for Rizzo to bluff that they have a real chance of making the squad. Here's looking at you, Mr. Rivero.Well 1/2 Street you have been paying attention now have you? Because Mr. Espinosa has a rotator cuff injury perhaps worse than that which Adam LaRoche suffered in 2011? Uhmmm and who do you think would make a decent UTL infielder able to play those three positions if Lombo starts? Keeping in mind that Lombo does not do well at short and third? Yep, that's right Mr. Carlos Rivero. He has as good a chance to make the roster just for that reason as any of those backup outfielders including Bernadina.





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