FIVE PLAYERS TO WATCH -
• RHP Nathan Karns -- After going 0-1 with a 7.50 ERA in three starts with the Nationals, the 25-year-old Karns was sent back to Harrisburg with general instructions to get better. Duh. That's what the minor leagues are for. Karns left for D.C. with a 4-2, 4.60 mark that was indicative of a young hurler feeling his way through his first trip to Double-A. At times he was awesome. At times he was the opposite of awesome. What will be interesting is to see what Karns does with the big league experience in his pocket. If he's lights-out, Karns could find himself back in the bigs sooner rather than later.
• RHP Taylor Jordan -- Can't ask for anything better than what Jordan's delivered for the Senators, going 4-0 with a 0.84 ERA in six games. The 24-year-old has attacked hitters from the get-go and has done it mostly in hostile territory, as five of his six appearances have been on the road. Jordan, coming of September 2011 Tommy John surgery, appears to be the breakout pitcher Karns was last year in the Nationals' minor league system. Double-A hitters are batting just .186 against him in 32 innings. LINK: JORDAN WINS OUR PLAYER OF THE WEEK
• SS Josh Johnson -- OK, fair enough, folks spying the minor leagues for potential Nationals likely won't pay much attention to a guy like Johnson, a 27-year-old infielder who will no longer wear the label "prospect." But Johnson has been a serious producer for this year's team, compiling .272/.352/.500 splits and showcasing power often not seen by a shortstop.
His first career two-homer game came May 24, and his father, former big league catcher Larry Doby Johnson, died days later. After an extended break to tend to painful family issues, Johnson returned Tuesday and clubbed the game-winning, pinch-hit home run in a 1-0 victory over Richmond -- his first at-bat since his father's death. His coaches and teammates praised the guy, and we should, too. One of those awesome moments that baseball provides.
• RF Steven Souza Jr. -- Hitless in four of his last five games, the baseball gods seem to be catching up to the 24-year-old Souza, but that's only because his early Double-A prowess demanded it. Despite the recent struggles, Souza is still hitting .352/.443/.604 in 26 games while missing more than a month with a shoulder injury. His eight doubles, five homers and nine stolen bases point to the mega-threat Senators manager Matt LeCroy -- Souza's former nemesis -- talks about these days. He is definitely a prospect worth watching.
• RHP Aaron Barrett -- Before the season, nobody really WANTS to label one guy as the closer for a minor league team. And why should they? Let the players/situations dictate it. But it didn't take the 25-year-old Barrett long to seize the role in the Senators' bullpen, especially with a nasty breaking ball that often fools the pants off of hitters. Barrett is 1-1 with nine saves in 11 chances, a 2.52 ERA, and eight walks and 33 strikeouts in 25 innings. Plus he's one of those guys who seems to genuinely enjoy the pressure of late-game situations. In other words, he's kinda crazy.
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