• Backstop Battle Update: Ideally, as Nats' Skipper Jim Riggleman explained it to MASNSports.com's Byron Kerr in an article entitled, "How much will Ivan Rodriguez play in 2011?", the Nats' future Hall of Fame catcher Pudge Rodriguez will play a reduced role this season after playing the majority of time in 2010, and though he'll likely carry the bulk of the load early, "...as we get in the middle of the year, maybe Ramos or Flores - whoever is the backup - that person starts catching about half the time and we go from there."
"'Pudge is not going to catch forever,'" Riggleman explained, "'so we got to have a guy who is learning our staff and learning the league and filing information away as to how to pitch guys.'" Whether it's Jesus Flores or Wilson Ramos behind Pudge behind the plate will be decided this Spring with the 23-year-old Ramos the early favorite since Flores, 26, hasn't played regularly since 2008 due to a string of shoulder injuries and a prolonged recovery. The big question, however, which was raised by Mr. Riggleman's comments was whether or not Rodriguez, the veteran backstop holding on for 3,000 hits, who's convinced he's got a few more years left, would accept a reduced role? MLB.com's Jesse Sanchez asked Pudge what role he expected to play Friday night when the catcher threw out the first pitch in Isidoro Garcia Stadium before Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic played in the Carribean series, as recounted in Mr. Sanchez's article entitled, "Pudge electrifies crowd at Caribbean Series."
"'This isn't a competition,' Rodriguez said. 'Ramos and Flores are the catchers of the future, and I know that. I've always been the type of person that likes to help my teammates, and that's what I'm going to do with them. I'm happy to do it.'"
That's a slightly different sounding Pudge than the one who last winter, upon signing with the Nationals, told the D.C. press corps, much to everyone's surprise, that he was ready to play every day when most thought he was expected to split time behind the plate with the recovering Jesus Flores, who never made it back onto the field last year. Pudge instead split time behind the plate with Wil Nieves, who's since moved on to Milwaukee after three years in D.C. in which the one-time Padres' prospect and Yankees' backup put up a .244/.293/.315 line with 23 doubles, 5 HR's and 62 RBI's in 199 games and 617 plate appearances...and spawned one classic call and response gimmick...Of course, it wouldn't be Pudge if he just handed the kids the job. At the end of MLB.com's Mr. Sanchez's article, the veteran receiver says, "'I'll show up to Spring Training, and we'll see what works best. All I know is that I'm ready and I feel great.'" Flores and Ramos are going to have to take the time from him, that's for sure.
• Adrien Nieto Update:
Major League Baseball announced in a press release on Thursday that 20-year-old Cuban-born Nats' backstop prospect Adrien Nieto, an '08 5th Round pick by Washington, had been given a "50-game suspension after testing positive for Oxandrolone and metabolite in violation of the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program." MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo caught up with Nieto for an article on Friday entitled, "Nieto blames careless mistake for violation", in which the catcher claims an over-the-counter supplement, the contents of which were unknown to him, caused the positive test:
"According to Nieto, he got in the habit of grabbing protein shakes and liquid supplements like that from the refrigerator in his local gym. He never suspected that they would cause him to land in the situation he's currently facing.
"'That's what happened here,' Nieto explained. 'Every time I went to the gym, I'd grab any protein shake before I worked out, not thinking that one day I'd fail a drug test.'"
Nieto, a switch-hitting catcher taken behind only RHP Aaron Crow, outfielder Destin Hood, SS Danny Espinosa and LHP Graham Hicks, (who was dealt to Chicago this winter for LHP Tom Gorzelanny) in the '08 Draft, signed for an above-slot $376,000 bonus in the final days before the '08 signing deadline. In 3 seasons since then, the catcher has put up a .210/.312/.273 slash line in 110 games and 392 plate appearances, while throwing out just 36% (36 of 101) base stealers from behind the plate.
• Nats Get C+ From Stark:
ESPN.com's Jayson Stark graded the NL East's team's offseasons yesterday for an article fittingly entitled, "Offseason grades for the NL East", in which he gave the Nationals a C+ for signing Jayson Werth and Adam LaRoche though they failed to get the starter they actively pursued. Any improvement the Nats make this year, though, Mr. Stark believes, is dependent upon, "Werth's ability to live up to his contract," and, "...handle being the kind of offensive centerpiece he never had to be in Philadelphia." What the Nationals did add, however, might be enough to lift them above the Mets into fourth in the NL East, "But there's still a long ways to go," Mr. Stark writes.
• Link: Pinstripe Alley Asks About Maxwell - Brandon C. from the SB Nation's NY Yankees site Pinstripe Alley is writing about the Yanks' offeason acquisitions in a series of articles over there, and he asked about Justin Maxwell, who was traded to New York last week in exchange for 24-year-old reliever Adam Olbrychowski, a 6'3'' right-hander the Yankees selected in the fifth round of the 2007 Draft out of Pepperdine University who had walked 145 (4.5 BB/9) batters and K'd 231 (7.2 K/9) over 4 seasons, 100 games and 287.1 IP in the Yankees' system before the deal.