The Washington Nationals came up with the right package to get 26-year-old lefty Gio Gonzalez in a trade with the Oakland A's this winter. The Nats then waited until 28-year-old right-handed free agent Edwin Jackson came around to accepting a one-year deal and signed him too. The moves added two relatively young two-hundred-inning-plus arms to a rotation that before then was made up of an '09 no.1 overall pick on an innings limit after Tommy John; a 2nd Round pick in his second year back following the same procedure; a one-time Yankee with a surgically-repaired shoulder; an '07 1st Round pick who's yet to have sustained success at the major league level; a left-handed ground ball pitcher who was the closest thing to a sure-thing bet for 30+ starts and two over-achieving arms who'd gotten their first taste of major league action the previous September...
"We felt that we had an innings-shortage and if you do the research, out of the eight playoff teams last year, six of those eight teams had two 200+ innings pitchers on the team," D.C. GM Mike Rizzo told reporters after Jackson signed. The Phillies had Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels throw two-hundred-plus. The Brewers had three with Randy Wolf, Yovani Gallardo and Shaun Marcum all over 200.0 IP. Daniel Hudson, Ian Kennedy and Joe Saunders all reached 200 IP for the D-Backs. The Rangers had C.J. Wilson and Colby Lewis. James Shields and David Price for the Rays. The Tigers had Justin Verlander and the help of 70.1 of the 216.1 IP Doug Fister threw between Detroit and Seattle.
The Nationals were led in innings pitched by left-hander John Lannan, who threw 184.2 IP. In 2010 Livan Hernandez threw 211.2 IP for Washington. Lannan was the only pitcher to reach two-hundred innings in '09. Before that you have to go back to 2005 when both Esteban Loaiza and Hernandez topped 200.0 IP for the inaugural Nationals. "We felt that we had an innings-shortage," Rizzo said again, so they added Jackson, who's reached 200.0 IP in two of the last three seasons, falling a third of an inning short last year, and Gio Gonzalez who's thrown 200+ in each of the last two seasons. "And this not only fixes the innings-shortage, it also gives us a quality standard that we feel can compete with any team in the division," Rizzo said.
A rotation that will consist of five pitchers on Opening Day from a list that includes Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann, Edwin Jackson, Chien-Ming Wang, John Lannan, Ross Detwiler, Tom Gorzelanny, Craig Stammen, 2011 3rd Round pick Matt Purke and Yunesky Maya. A bullpen that will likely include some of the starters left out of the rotation plus Drew Storen, Henry Rodriguez, Tyler Clippard, Sean Burnett, Brad Lidge, Ryan Mattheus, Chad Durbin, Rafael Martin, Atahualpo Severino and Ryan Perry depending on how things sort themselves out this Spring. Pitchers and catchers officially report on Sunday morning. The talent assembled, the Nats' GM told reporters this winter, "... is in the realm of something that we've never had here before."
"We're certainly going to have good competition in Spring Training," the general manager told reporters when asked about the amount of pitchers vying for five spots on Opening Day, "And we're going to bring the best twenty-five north with us."
• Here's A Quick Look At The Pitchers Scheduled To Report To Viera, FL Today:
• Austin Bibens-Dirx: 26 yo, 6'2'', 190lb, RHP (Non-Roster) - Signed to a minor league deal after a 2011 season at Double and Triple-A in the Chicago Cubs' system in which he was (6-7) with a 5.94 ERA in 29 G, 22 GS and 130.1 IP over which he walked 40 (2.76 BB/9) and struck out 91 (6.28 K/9). Bibens-Dirx was (7-3) with a 2.19 ERA, 22 walks and 51 K's in 14 G, 13 GS and 78.0 IP for the Aguilas del Zulia in the Liga Venezuela Beisbol Profesional this winter.
• Sean Burnett: 29 yo, 6'1'', 200lb, LHP - After an 8.86 K/9, 2.86 BB/9, 2.14 ERA, 2.73 FIP, +1.4 fWAR 2010 campaign, the former Pittsburgh Pirates' 1st Round pick was back to being the 3.80 ERA/4.40 FIP he's been for most of his career, finishing the 2011 season with a 3.81 ERA, a 4.51 FIP, 21 BB (3.34 BB/9) and 33 K's (5.24 K/9) in 69 G and 59.2 IP. A year after holding right-handed hitters to a .182/.253/.234 line in 60 games and 151 PA's, with lefties posting a .273/.327/.384 line in 63 games and 110 PA's against, Burnett had a .297/.373/.415 slash against RHB and a .200/.267/.326 line against LHB in 2011.
• Tyler Clippard: 27 yo, 6'0'', 200lb, RHP - Clippard, the Nats' set-up man and 2011 All-Star rep was (3-0) with a 1.83 ERA, 3.17 FIP, 26 walks (2.65 BB/9) and 104 K's (10.60 K/9) in 72 G and 88.1 IP in 2011. Opposing hitters had a .197 BABIP against Clippard last season, and his 95.6 LOB% was baseball's best amongst qualified relievers. Random Quote: "We have Tyler Clippard. He throws an invisi-ball. No one can hit him." - Michael Morse.
• Ross Detwiler: 25 yo, 6'5'', 185lb, LHP - The Nationals' 1st Round pick from 2007 seemed to find himself and finally get comfortable on the mound at the end of the 2011 season with Davey Johnson handling the left-hander carefully all year. In 15 games, 10 of them starts, Detwiler had a 3.00 ERA, a 4.21 FIP, 20 walks (2.73 BB/9) and 41 K's (5.59 K/9) in 66.0 IP. You might hear that he's out of options a few times this Spring. Random Quote: "Young pitchers with great promise can take longer. I know [Detwiler] had a number of starts last year, but what he's done this year, starting once, being in the bullpen and then getting back in the rotation, he's pitched against some good-hitting ballclubs and done okay. Held his head above water." - Davey Johnson.
• Chad Durbin: 34 yo, 6'2'', 225lb, RHP (Non-Roster) - Chad Durbin pitched for the Cleveland Indians in 2011, going (2-2) with a 5.53 ERA, 4.85 FIP, 26 walks (3.42 BB/9) and 59 K's (7.77 K/9) in 56 games and 68.1 IP. The Nationals signed Durbin to a minor league deal on February 1st. The 12-year MLB veteran will be competing for one of the few open spots in the Nationals' bullpen.
• Jeff Fulchino: 32 yo, 6'5'', 285lb, RHP (Non-Roster) - The Nationals signed the 32-year-old former '01 Florida Marlins' 8th Round pick Jeff Fulchino in mid-December. The right-hander had a combined 5.71 ERA, a 4.90 FIP, 22 walks (5.71 BB/9) and 33 K's (8.57 K/9) in 39 games and 34.2 IP for the Astros and Padres in 2011.
• Gio Gonzalez: 26 yo, 6'0'', 205lb, LHP - Acquired along with RHP Robert Gilliam in a 12/23/11 trade with the Oakland A's, Gio Gonzalez is coming off a 2011 season in which he was (16-12) with a 3.12 ERA, 3.64 FIP, a league-leading 91 walks (4.05 BB/9) and 197 K's (8.78 K/9) in 32 starts and 202.0 IP. The Nationals parted with three of their Top 10 prospects on Baseball America's 2011 list in order to get Gonzalez, a pitcher D.C. GM Mike Rizzo described as, "... a front-line starter with glowing credentials, the vast majority of which were achieved before his 26th birthday." The Nats' general manager thinks he'll slot in nicely between power right-handers Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann at the top of the Nats' rotation.
• Tom Gorzelanny: 29 yo, 6'2'', 210lb, LHP - Tom Gorzelanny was the left-handed starter the Nationals acquired last winter in a 3-for-1 deal with the Chicago Cubs. Gorzelanny started the season in the Nats' rotation but moved to the pen when the Nationals decided to make Ross Detwiler a starter again. In 30 games, 15 starts and 105.0 IP last season, the seven-year veteran had a 4.03 ERA, a 4.19 FIP, 33 walks (2.83 BB/9) and 95 K's (8.14 K/9). Gorzelanny's expected to end up being Davey Johnson's left-handed long-man out of the pen in 2012. In 22.1 IP out of the pen in 2011, Gorzelanny had a 2.42 ERA, a 2.76 FIP, 8.06 K/9 and 2.42 BB/9. Random Quote: "I really like Gorzelanny, Gorzelanny doesn't have anything to prove to me." - Davey Johnson.
• Edwin Jackson: 28 yo, 6'3'', 205lb, RHP - The Nationals signed Edwin Jackson to a one-year/$11M dollar deal, adding the 9-year-veteran after a 2011 season spent with the White Sox and Cardinals in which the right-hander had a 3.79 ERA, 3.55 FIP, 62 walks (2.79 BB/9), 148 K's (6.67 K/9) and a (12-9) record in 32 games, 31 GS and 199.2 IP. Jackson joined the eventual World Series champion Cardinals after a late-July trade with the Blue Jays and was (1-1) in the postseason with St. Louis (3-1) in games Jackson started. Random Quote: "We're going to make a few tweaks to his delivery. Last year he was a different pitcher out of the windup than he was from the stretch. We feel that there [are] certain tweaks we can make to his delivery that will make him more difficult to see." - Mike Rizzo on Edwin Jackson.
• Waldis Joaquin: 25 yo, 6'0'', 240lb, RHP (Non-Roster) - Signed as a free agent in mid-December, Waldis Joaquin, a former San Francisco Giants' prospect with 21.2 IP at the major league level on his resume, is (1-0) with a 5.40 ERA, 4.87 FIP, 17 walks (4.26 BB/9) and 17 K's (4.26 K/9) in 19 appearances. In six minor league seasons, Joaquin is (13-13) with a 3.50 ERA, 135 walks (4.14 BB/9) and 262 K's (8.04 K/9) in 167 games, 26 starts and 293.1 IP.
• Cole Kimball: 26 yo, 6'3'', 225lb, RHP - After a strong Spring, Cole Kimball made his MLB debut in mid-May 2011, but he pitched in just 12 games before having season-ending surgery to repair what turned out to be a torn rotator cuff in his right shoulder. Kimball had a 1.93 ERA, a 4.03 FIP, 11 walks and 11 K's in 14.0 IP before the injury. Kimball's best-case scenario has him returning to the mound by the All-Star break. He was claimed off waivers by the Blue Jays and then re-claimed by the Nats this winter.
• John Lannan: 27 yo, 6'4'', 215lb, LHP - The Washington Nationals' '05 11th Round pick lost his arbitration case with the Nats and saw his name appear in rumors on the same day this winter that the Nationals signed Edwin Jackson to a free agent deal. Lannan was given a $5M dollar one-year deal by the Nationals. In his 5th MLB season, Lannan was (10-13) with a 3.70 ERA, 4.28 FIP, 76 walks (3.70 BB/9) and 106 K's (5.17 K/9) in 33 GS and 184.2 IP. Will Lannan still be a National when the 2012 season begins? Several reports say he's being shopped around the league, but the Nats are expected to see what they have this Spring before making any moves. Random Quote: "[Lannan] still has a tendency to just kind of overthrow. He gets in a groove in [the 2nd, 3rd and 4th] where he starts pitching, but sometimes he tries to power the ball and his misses start coming up and he usually does that early in the ball game." - Davey Johnson.
• Brad Lidge: 35 yo, 6'5'', 215lb, RHP - Another former Phillie, Brad Lidge signed a one-year/$1M dollar deal after failing to find an offer from a team that thought he could still close games at the major league level. The veteran of 10 MLB seasons, six with Houston and four with Philadelphia, Lidge brings a veteran presence to Washington's bullpen to work alongside young right-handers Drew Storen, Tyler Clippard and Henry Rodriguez. After recovering from a strained right posterior rotator cuff last year, the right-hander was (0-2) with a save, a 1.40 ERA, 2.82 FIP, 13 walks (6.05 BB/9) and 23 K's (10.71 K/9) in 25 games and 19.1 IP for the Phillies. Random Quote: "This is a guy that brings us a vast amount of knowledge about how to pitch back-ends of the game. He'll rub off on Storen and Clippard and H-Rod, Henry Rodriguez, and [Ryan] Mattheus." - Mike Rizzo on Brad Lidge on ESPN980.
• Rafael Martin: 27 yo, 6'2'', 195lb, RHP (Non-Roster) - When 27-year-old right-hander Rafael Martin signed with the Nationals in February of 2010, ESPN.com's Jorge Arangure predicted that the reliever who'd previously pitched for the Saraperos de Saltillo in the Mexican League might end up in a set-up role one day, perhaps working alongside Drew Storen in a future Nats' bullpen. Martin pitched at Class-A Potomac last year, where he was (1-0) with a 1.13 ERA, 1.45 WHIP, two walks (2.25 BB/9) and 10 K's in 8.0 IP, Double-A Harrisburg, where he was (4-1) with 13 saves, a 1.77 ERA, 2.11 FIP, nine walks and 44 K's in 32 games and 35.2 IP and then went to the Arizona Fall League where he walked six and K'd nine in 10 games and 12.0 IP.
• Ryan Mattheus: 28 yo, 6'3'', 215lb, RHP - Acquired along with RHP Robinson Fabian in the July '09 trade the sent left-handed reliever Joe Beimel to Colorado, Ryan Mattheus, a Rockies' '03 19th Round pick, made his MLB debut this past June. Mattheus was (2-2) with a 2.81 ERA, 4.28 FIP, 15 walks (4.22 BB/9) and 12 K's (3.38 K/9) in 35 games and 32.0 IP before he was shut down in August with a "tired" shoulder. The right-hander returned to make three appearances late in the season. Syracuse or D.C. to start the season? Davey Johnson's a fan. Random Quote: "You just gotta ignite, the light, and let it shine. Just own the night like the 4th of July." - Katy Perry
• Yunesky Maya: 30 yo, 5'11'', 170lb RHP - In 10 games, five starts and 32.2 IP for the Nationals last season, Cuban-born right-hander Yunesky Maya was (1-1) with a 5.23 ERA, 4.40 FIP, 10 walks (2.76 BB/9) and 15 K's (4.13 K/9). In 22 starts and 129.2 IP at Triple-A Syracuse, Maya was (4-9) with a 5.00 ERA, 3.86 FIP, 28 walks (1.84 BB/9) and 98 K's (6.80 K/9). The "first major international signing" by D.C. GM Mike Rizzo's front office hasn't worked out too well thus far. There's a chance he ends up in the bullpen, but there are likely some more Syracuse starts in his future.
• Ryan Perry: 25 yo, 6'4'', 200lb RHP - Right-hander Collin Balester was dealt to Detroit this past December and Washington received Tigers' '08 1st Round pick Ryan Perry in the swap of stalled right-handers. Perry was (2-0) with a 5.35 ERA, 3.94 FIP, 21 walks (5.11 BB/9) and 24 K's (5.84 K/9) for the Tigers in 2011. More importantly for the Nationals, Perry has a remaining option so he can be sent down to Triple-A Syracuse if he doesn't surprise a lot of people and earn a spot in the pen on Opening Day (Balester had no options remaining). A one-time closer-candidate, Perry's struggled with control, walking 4.57 BB/9 so far in 161.1 IP in the majors.
• Matt Purke: 21 yo, 6'4'', 180lb, LHP - The Nationals' 2011 3rd Round pick out of TCU is a left-hander D.C. GM Mike Rizzo described in an ESPN980 interview last summer as a, "... polished accomplished pitcher," who, "... really performed outstandingly well from his high school days through his freshman and sophomore year at TCU." Purke said he'd patterned himself after left-handers like Clayton Kershaw and Cole Hamels when the Nationals introduced the lefty to the nation's capital last August. Purke was hit hard early in his first pro action in the Arizona Fall League, but rebounded with a few strong outings at the end of the AFL season. Purke will be in camp with the big club early as a result of the well-above slot 4-year/$4.15M dollar major league deal he signed.
• Henry Rodriguez: 24 yo, 6'0'', 220lb, RHP - Acquired from the A's in the December 2010 trade that sent Josh Willingham to Oakland, Henry Rodriguez was as advertised in 2011, leading the Majors in wild pitches (w/ 14), striking out 70 (9.59 K/9) and walking 45 (6.17 BB/9) in 59 games and 65.2 IP over which he had a 3.56 ERA and a 3.14 FIP. Rodriguez lasted the entire season in the majors last year, and is expected to be part of the Nationals' 2012 bullpen. Random Quote: "I think he's maturing into either a set-up guy or [possible] closer down the line, so I'm pleased at how he's progressing." - Davey Johnson on Henry Rodriguez.
• Atahualpa Severino: 27 yo, 5'9'', 170lb, LHP - Signed as an amateur free agent by the Montreal Expos in 2004, Atahualpa Severino worked his way up over six seasons in the Expos/Nationals' system in which he was (27-11) with a 2.93 ERA in 203 games and 16 GS before making his MLB debut this past on September 6th. (1-2) with a save, a 4.50 ERA, 3.98 FIP, 23 walks (6.47 BB/9) and 38 K's (10.69 K/9) in 32.0 IP at Triple-A Syracuse, Severino was (1-0) in six games and 4.2 IP with the Nationals.
• Craig Stammen: 27 yo, 6'3'', 200lb, RHP - The Versailles, Ohio-born, University-of-Dayton-educated Craig Stammen made 38 starts for the Nationals between 2009-10, but he spent the majority of the 2011 season at Triple-A Syracuse where the right-hander was (10-7) in 25 G, 24 GS and 142.0 IP. Stammen had a 4.75 ERA, 3.93 FIP, 40 walks (2.54 BB/9) and 127 K's (10.45 K/9) for the Chiefs and a 0.87 ERA, 1.86 FIP, 4 walks and 12 K's in 10.1 IP for the Nationals. Can he win a spot in the bullpen this season, or is Stammen headed back to Syracuse for another year of starting and waiting for an opportunity at the major league level?
• Drew Storen: 24 yo, 6'2'', 180lb, RHP - The Nationals' second 1st Round pick in 2009 saved 43 games, walked 20 batters (2.39 BB/9), struck out 74 (8.84 K/9) and posted a 2.75 ERA and a 3.32 FIP in his second major league season. The former Stanford Cardinal closer claimed the Nats' ninth-inning job and combined with Tyler Clippard to form one of the better bullpens in baseball. 127 games and 130.2 IP into his career, the right-hander has a 3.10 ERA, 3.29 FIP, 8.68 K/9 and 2.89 BB/9. Random Quote: "Our entire bullpen is almost borderline overkill. That's what's kind of fun about it." - Drew Storen on 106.7 the FAN in D.C.
• Stephen Strasburg: 23 yo, 6'4'', 220lb, RHP - The no.1 overall pick worked his way back to the majors in 2011 following Tommy John surgery in 2010. In five starts and 24.0 IP last year, the right-hander had a 1.50 ERA, a 1.28 FIP, two walks (0.75 BB/9) and 24 K's (9.00 K/9). Strasburg is (6-4) with a 2.54 ERA, 1.87 FIP, 19 walks (1.86 BB/9) and 116 K's (11.35 K/9) since making his MLB debut in June of 2010, and he's entering his third pro season 100% healthy though he'll be on what is expected to be a 160-inning limit in his first full year back following surgery. Random Quote: " I mean, somebody came up with this idea, 'Maybe you'll save [Strasburg's] innings if you don't have him no. 1 on this club [in 2012].' How am I going to do that? You guys would run me out of town wouldn't you?" - Davey Johnson.
• Chien-Ming Wang: 31 yo, 6'3'', 230lb RHP - The shoulder injury seems to finally be behind two-time 19-game winner Chien-Ming Wang, who was confident enough in his surgically-repaired right arm to thrown in the Taiwan All-Star Series for his home country this winter. Wang enters camp 100% healthy and ready to go from the start this season for the first time in years. Wang's the favorite to claim the fifth spot in the rotation behind Strasburg, Gonzalez, Zimmermann and Jackson. Will he be able to make it through an entire season on the mound for the first time since 2009? Wang's (59-29) in 120 games and 115 career starts with a 4.15 ERA, 4.04 FIP, 4.11 K/9 and 2.58 BB/9 so far in six major league seasons, five of them with NY's Yankees. Random Quote: "If you'd seen him throw in December," the Nats' manager continued, "and where he is right now, it's just...my hat goes off to him, he worked hard and he's a dominant pitcher. He looks great." - Davey Johnson on Chien-Ming Wang.
• Jordan Zimmermann: Before the 2011 season, D.C. GM Mike Rizzo told MLB.com's Bill Ladson that '07 2nd Round pick Jordan Zimmermann, "... is going to turn into the pitcher we think he is and 14 other clubs think he is. He is the guy that is in demand every time we try to make a trade." With an (8-11) season in which he posted a 3.18 ERA, 3.16 FIP, 31 walks and 124 K's in 26 starts and 161.1 IP, the 25-year-old right-hander established himself as a top of the rotation starter that will combine with Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez to give the Nats three power arms that can compete with the best in baseball. All from a player Rizzo and scouting director Kris Kline had to convince former D.C. GM Jim Bowden to draft.
• Pitchers and catchers report today. The 2012 season can't start soon enough.