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Live from Viera

Feb 13, 2014, 9:46 AM EST

Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER

VIERA, Fla. — Hey, where’s all the snow?

Sorry, I promise this will be the last time I compare the weather in Florida to the weather in D.C. (Fingers crossed behind my back.) Believe me, I’m very fortunate to be writing this from venerable Space Coast Stadium, my flight late last night having barely beaten the heavy snow you’re all dealing with this morning. We took off at midnight, in blizzard-like conditions. There appeared to be only one other plane cleared to depart behind us. Kudos to the folks at United Airlines and Dulles Airport for somehow getting the job done.

It’s officially baseball season again, and if that doesn’t bring some warmth to your otherwise miserable day, I don’t know what will. Nationals pitchers and catchers are due to report to Viera today, though many of them (plus quite a few position players) have already been here for several days getting a jump on things.

There’s no formal activity scheduled for today. Pitchers and catchers are merely required to arrive in town. (Several guys are currently playing catch in the outfield, though.) They’ll take their physicals tomorrow — thank god, by the way, they don’t make beat writers take physicals — and then assemble for their first actual workout Saturday morning under the guidance of new manager Matt Williams.

I’ll have plenty more throughout the day, and for many more days to come. To give you my itinerary, I’ll be down here through March 2, with our CSN TV crew joining me Saturday for a full week. I’ll then return March 19 for the remainder of camp.

As always, there will be lots of articles posted here each day. You can also get instant news updates (and other witty observations) from me via Twitter. As I said, I’ll be appearing on CSN starting Saturday, with many of those video segments posted right here the next morning. And I’m excited to begin another season with ESPN-980 AM, appearing six days a week on their various shows. (Check the updated 2014 schedule on the right side of the page.)

And with that, I’m headed down to the clubhouse to see who’s here. Check back throughout the day for updates…

  1. Faraz Shaikh - Feb 13, 2014 at 9:58 AM

    it is a free physical, I would do it. Not like they can cut you for being unfit. 😛

    Apparently, we will get two more minor leaguers from Tampa if deal happens. Hopefully it is Jake McGee and Alex Torres with options.

  2. nats128 - Feb 13, 2014 at 10:07 AM

    Yep, Lobaton for Karns. That’s a lot to pay.

  3. nats128 - Feb 13, 2014 at 10:08 AM

    Nats do get 2 Minor Leaguers along with Lobaton. Lets see who they are.

  4. scnatsfan - Feb 13, 2014 at 10:11 AM

    Interested to see who the two players are, Hate to lose Karns but hate to have no options behind Ramos. Hopefully Leon steps up and we flip Lobaton for someone.

    • Faraz Shaikh - Feb 13, 2014 at 10:18 AM

      I am expecting Taylor Guerrieri at least.

    • Doc - Feb 13, 2014 at 10:49 AM

      Can’t wait for the flip!

  5. Faraz Shaikh - Feb 13, 2014 at 10:11 AM

    dang, it is final.

  6. Faraz Shaikh - Feb 13, 2014 at 10:15 AM

    I doubt those two minor leaguers are of any great value. I mean, Rays wouldn’t trade away their prospects of some value to obtain a single player like Karns

    • David Proctor - Feb 13, 2014 at 10:18 AM

      Probably not, but remember Ian Krol was the PTBNL in the Morse deal and he helped us fetch Doug Fister (plus, he was good for part of the season). Nothing wrong with acquiring some lottery ticket prospects.

      • Faraz Shaikh - Feb 13, 2014 at 10:21 AM

        True that. Let’s see what we get.

        I guess I can live with Lobaton as backup if he can produce nicely at the plate. I will still miss Karns.

  7. nats128 - Feb 13, 2014 at 10:18 AM

    All the hopes for Snyder, The Onion Solano, Leon, and all the other contenders just got blown out by this news.

  8. David Proctor - Feb 13, 2014 at 10:31 AM

    Here’s Lobaton’s greatest moment:

  9. Candide - Feb 13, 2014 at 10:34 AM

    Small sample size, but his career stats suggest he benefits from getting more playing time. Caught 96 games for the Rays last year and had his best offensive season. Hard to see him anything approaching that much work unless Ramos gets hurt.

    • David Proctor - Feb 13, 2014 at 10:41 AM

      The real difference was that he had more power last year. His OBP has been consistently in the .320 range, but he saw a spike in his SLG last year. He hit 7 of his 9 career homers last year. Whether that’s a legitimate development of power (he was only really in his second full year despite being 29), or a fluke, we’ll have to find out.

      Suzuki, Leon and Solano all have OBP under .300. So that helps some.

      • Candide - Feb 13, 2014 at 10:47 AM

        If Ramos has an injury-free year, I think we’d all be delighted if Lobaton’s could put up numbers similar to last year’s, over 30-40 games.

    • Steady Eddie - Feb 13, 2014 at 10:45 AM

      Frankly, I trust Matt Williams to be more aware and responsive to those kinds of dynamics and needs then Davey was last year or would have been had he stayed. Obviously, the number one priority at catcher is to see what a healthy Wilson Ramos can produce. But Williams seems to be all about pacing guys over the course of the season, giving them enough rest, and after the last couple of years, Ramos will be high up on that list.

      Don’t mean to be Pollyanna-ish. If Rob Moss is healthy, Lobaton will get fewer at-bats then would be ideal for him.

      But let’s face it, that’s the kind of dilemma faced by any contender with a deep bench. If you’re going to have guys sitting on the bench who are capable of turning in a solid job as starters, barring injury they won’t get the number of starts that would be best for them. But they become more valuable if they can adapt to that.

  10. Steady Eddie - Feb 13, 2014 at 10:47 AM

    Rob Moss? Maybe that’s the Buffalo’s alter-alter identity?

    • scnatsfan - Feb 13, 2014 at 10:51 AM

      When did we get Rob Moss? I NEVER thought we’d get him.

      • Steady Eddie - Feb 13, 2014 at 11:03 AM

        Just got him from the autocorrect squad.

  11. Section 222 - Feb 13, 2014 at 10:51 AM

    Glad you made it Mark, and I look forward to your fifth year of reporting from Viera on Nats Insider.

    This seems like an opportune time to pay tribute to this venerable blog, and recount a little of its history.

    Mark started it on Feb. 1, 2010, having lost his job at the Washington Times when the paper decided to deep six its sport section. This is the first post:

    The comments are pretty entertaining, including some from some familiar faces (or their identifiable facsimiles).

    Mark originally thought he’d be passing along tidbits about spring training from afar, but the reaction from his readers gave him the brilliant idea to try to cobble together contributions to make the trip. This is the key post, which got the ball rolling:

    He raised the necessary $5,000 in a matter of days, and then some. Here’s a status report from exactly four years ago today:

    The rest is history, so to speak, and we’ve lived it with him. Mark gets to fly to Viera now instead of drive. But he still makes promises not to talk about the weather, and then fails to keep those promises:

    (I’ve linked to blogspot because the jump pages for these posts aren’t available on the CSN site. Any way that can be repaired Mark?)

    The Nats have come a long way too, thank goodness. Mark’s first month of posts reminds us that they lost 103 games in 2009. The starting rotation in 2010 was going to be Lannan, Marquis, Livo, Scott Olsen, and Mock/Chico/Martin/Stammen/Battista. Oy. Already, people were speculating on how soon Stras would get to DC, but he still had work to do in Hagerstown, Harrisburg, and Syracuse.

    I know my enjoyment of baseball in DC has been greatly enhanced by Mark’s successful effort to stay on the Nats beat, and by the community that supported him from the start, and now loyally follows him.

    Thanks to everyone, but especially to Mark. Let’s play ball!

    • Faraz Shaikh - Feb 13, 2014 at 11:35 AM

      Dude, awesome post. Thanks for digging all this up.
      I wasn’t there. I think I probably joined in later that year or next (can’t remember that well).
      Anyways, read an interesting comment:
      “This is a much better way for me to spend my money than on Haiti. I’m in.”

    • natsfan1a - Feb 13, 2014 at 12:36 PM

      Thanks for the memories, 222.

      Sure, Mark has a fancy-schmancy site now, but the post below showcases my all-time fave Nats Insider high-tech graphic:

    • Mark Zuckerman - Feb 13, 2014 at 3:18 PM

      Thanks, Sec 222, for the trip down memory lane. Can’t believe it’s been four years!

      Unfortunately, during the last site redesign in August, the article jumps didn’t make the transfer. It looks like the only way to fix it is to do every single one by hand. (Not exactly something I’ve got a lot of time to do.) I did try to do it with a handful of key articles that people may go back to find in the archive, but obviously there are plenty more. If anyone ever sees one that they’d really love to read in full, let me know and I can try to update that one. And, as 222 did, you can still access the old site at You just won’t find anything that’s been posted since Aug. 22, 2013.

  12. Doc - Feb 13, 2014 at 10:55 AM

    Karns has more talent than all three of those clowns together.

    I wonder who scouted Lobaton for the Nats? Rizzo’s girlfriend??

  13. Drew - Feb 13, 2014 at 10:56 AM

    Karns seems a significant price, but Lobaton fills a glaring weakness. Karns also was about to find himself buried behind Detwiler, Roark, Jordan, Cole, Giolito — and don’t forget Solis.

  14. scnatsfan - Feb 13, 2014 at 11:01 AM

    MLBTR has it 1 for 1

  15. Faraz Shaikh - Feb 13, 2014 at 11:01 AM

    apparently no minor leaguers. just lobaton and karns, according to ladson.

    • therealjohnc - Feb 13, 2014 at 2:15 PM

      And, once again, Ladson is wrong.

      • Faraz Shaikh - Feb 13, 2014 at 2:16 PM

        no surprise! geez, i am gonna stop quoting him. 😛

  16. Section 222 - Feb 13, 2014 at 11:04 AM

    I’m very comfortable with this deal, and very happy Rizzo didn’t stand pat at catcher. I said quite some time that relying on Solano or Leon to be our backup catcher (much less Snyder) would have been a triumph of hope over experience. Lobaton isn’t a star by any means, but he’s a capable backup who won’t create a black hole in the lineup every time he plays. And even if Karns turns out to be a decent reliever one day, he won’t be missed here.

    • Steady Eddie - Feb 13, 2014 at 11:21 AM

      Agreed re both, especially Karns. He may actually become quite a solid reliever, but he’s a good example of someone who’s more valuable to another team then he is to us. Too much better talent ahead of him at pitcher, especially RHP, in the Nats organization.

  17. David Proctor - Feb 13, 2014 at 11:11 AM

    Dan Kolko ‏@masnKolko 3m
    Funny note from earlier: When Taylor Jordan heard Nathan Karns had gotten traded, he asked him, “What team? The A’s?” Nope, but solid guess.

    • Steady Eddie - Feb 13, 2014 at 11:17 AM

      The A’s are definitely the default setting for Nats trading partners!

      And if Ramos stays healthy and Leon tears it up at the plate in Syracuse the same way he did in the Venezuelan winter league, we could probably find a deal we could use to move Lobaton to the A’s in late July in exchange for some other need we find. As SCNatsfan and I both suggested (though not the A’s part!).

      • scnatsfan - Feb 13, 2014 at 11:19 AM

        The A’s part was understood lol

  18. snerdblurter - Feb 13, 2014 at 11:22 AM

    What are the odds we see any of Cole this year before September?

    Assuming he and Giolito are still a year or more away, this could come back to bite us if TJ/Roark don’t pan out (which is entirely possible). That said, its still a deal that needed to be made to address what had become the most glaring weakness on the roster.

    • David Proctor - Feb 13, 2014 at 11:33 AM

      I don’t think Cole is necessarily more than a year away. I think the hope is that he can compete for a rotation spot next year. He’ll have to maintain his success from last year at AA and do well during a short stint at AAA. It wouldn’t be ideal, but I could see them bringing him up for a cup of coffee if there’s an emergency. He’s well down the depth chart though. If someone goes down, Ohlendorf, Roark and Jordan would all get a shot before him.

      Giolito is definitely more than a year away.

      • Steady Eddie - Feb 13, 2014 at 11:41 AM

        Don’t forget Solis, too.

        Frankly, assuming Detwiler gets the fifth spot, the likelihood that TJ and Roark and Ohlendorf and Solis would all represent a poorer option then Karns is about as Remote as they come.

  19. David Proctor - Feb 13, 2014 at 11:35 AM

    Adam Kilgore ‏@AdamKilgoreWP 23s
    Nats are getting back two prospects as well as Lobaton from Tampa. Don’t have names, but both are ranked in BA’s top 30 Rays list.

    • Steady Eddie - Feb 13, 2014 at 11:37 AM

      To DP and 222, if our timestamp is the same, does that count as a tie?


  20. Steady Eddie - Feb 13, 2014 at 11:35 AM

    “@AdamKilgoreWP: Nats are getting back two prospects as well as Lobaton from Tampa. Don’t have names, but both are ranked in BA’s top 30 Rays list.”

    • Faraz Shaikh - Feb 13, 2014 at 11:48 AM

      Rays top 30 isn’t what it used to be. If it said top 3, I would be jumping up and down. 😛

  21. David Proctor - Feb 13, 2014 at 11:38 AM

    Chris Cotillo ‏@ChrisCotillo 50s
    Source: LHP Felipe Rivero traded to #Nationals in Lobaton deal.

    Decent numbers. Don’t know anything about him.

    • David Proctor - Feb 13, 2014 at 11:41 AM

      Scouting report on Rivero:

      “As far as pure stuff is concerned, Rivero is packing. His fastball sat 91-94mph in his first inning of work with late tail, a true plus offering that showed even better at times. Rivero lost velo, however, as his outing wore on. He was showing mostly 87-90mph as early as the third inning and struggled to amp things up above 91mph when he wanted it later. There are several potential causes for this drop, obviously. Again, if this is something Rivero experiences habitually, it’s something that could contribute to a move to the bullpen.

      Quality secondary stuff is a rarity in Hi-A ball so it was a treat to see not one, but two potential weapons in Rivero’s curveball and changeup. The curve will spin in the 76-78mph range with impressive vertical depth. The pitch is consistently average and will show plus more than a few times. Like the fastball, Rivero’s breaking ball was less and less enthralling as his start progressed. It was never bad, it was simply less dangerous. The changeup is behind Rivero’s other two pitches but it isn’t bad. A tad firm at times (mostly 83-86mph), it featured quite a bit of arm-side run and arm speed to match the heater, showing a tad better than average in a few instances while settling in as a grade 45 pitch overall. Rivero clearly has a feel for it and it’s not unreasonable to think it might be a swing and miss weapon one day.

      Overall we’re looking at what I think will be three useful big league pitches one day and a control/command profile that should improve enough to play out of the rotation. The one concern I have is the stamina. ”

      Sounds to me like he’s a good fit for the bullpen down the road.

      • Faraz Shaikh - Feb 13, 2014 at 11:49 AM

        why down the road? we can try him now and see if he fits the second lefty role.

      • David Proctor - Feb 13, 2014 at 11:50 AM

        He’s only 22 and hasn’t pitched above high A ball. His WHIP was very high there, too. I’d convert him to a reliever, plop him down in Potomac and see how he does. If he does well, accelerate him quickly like we did with Ian Krol.

      • Faraz Shaikh - Feb 13, 2014 at 11:52 AM

        Hope you have Rizzo’s ears.

      • Sonny G 10 - Feb 13, 2014 at 7:58 PM

        Maybe he needs some of MicheleS’s cookies. :)

  22. NatsLady - Feb 13, 2014 at 11:41 AM

    Pitchers are the coin of the realm. Rizzo has traded away Alex Meyer, Rob Ray, (flipped Ian Krol) and now Nate Karns–and we STILL have a backlog. We just got Ayala, we don’t know where Christian Garcia is, and on it goes.

    • David Proctor - Feb 13, 2014 at 11:46 AM

      This is why I think Rizzo will continue drafting pitchers early and often year after year. You can never have enough, we develop pitching well and we can use that surplus to fill other needs.

  23. trochlis318 - Feb 13, 2014 at 11:48 AM

    The Year in Review: Rivero broke the 100-inning mark for the second straight season in 2013 while pitching in High-A ball. He struggled (uncharacteristically) with his control by walking 52 batters and he struck out just 91 batters in 127.0 innings.

    The Scouting Report: Rivero is a talented southpaw but he needs to improve his command — especially with the fastball. Getting ahead in the count more often will certainly help him cut down on the base runners and improve his strikeout rate. His fastball works in the low 90s and he shows potential with his curveball. The changeup is also making strides and could be an average offering when all is said and done.

    The Year Ahead: The Venezuela native should open the year in Double-A and will need to polish his command if he’s going to succeed against the more advanced hitters in the league.

    The Career Outlook: As mentioned, Rivero needs polish and improved command but he has the ceiling of a No. 3 starter if he realizes his full potential.

    • David Proctor - Feb 13, 2014 at 11:54 AM

      Seems like a pretty good get to me. Helps even out the trade for those who were high on Karns.

  24. philipd763 - Feb 13, 2014 at 11:55 AM

    Not very nice weather to greet you in Viera, Mark! I am down here in Vero Beach and it’s chilly and windy after being warm with no wind for most of January and to date in February. Weather always seems to get a bit nasty when spring training starts. Maybe that is why so many teams have moved to Phoenix.

  25. janebeard - Feb 13, 2014 at 12:39 PM

    Have a ball, Mark! I’m so glad that you get to go and give us the scoop.

  26. Theophilus T.S. - Feb 13, 2014 at 12:57 PM

    It sounds to me like the Rays heat for Karns was higher than Rizzo’s for Lobaton. Possibly the Rays see Karns as a middle innings reliever this year. Those kinds of expectations — including by those on our side — mystify me. Karns was less effective than Jordan. He’s like the toy you get from the box with the swinging crane in the turnpike service plaza. Exciting at first but ultimately not worth more than the dollar it cost. I think people on this side liked him more for the story — salvaged from injury, found himself, raced through High A and Double A — than for what he actually showed. I’m excited to get Lobaton — better than anything affordable on the FA market — and with four years of control, if he’s good.





As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2015 schedule (subject to change)...

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