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1/17/08 Is Ryan Wagner, The Washington Nationals' "Sinker Machine", Repaired?

     Striking out 148 batters in 38 games and 79.1 innings will get you noticed, and doing so while posting a (6-5) record with a 1.93 ERA as a twenty year-old right-hander in Conference USA baseball at the University of Houston will get you drafted 14th overall in the MLB Draft like it did for Ryan Wagner.

     The Cincinnati Reds selected Ryan Wagner with the 14th pick in the 1st Round of the 2003 MLB Amateur draft, two spots after the NY Mets took Lastings Milledge at #12, and six spots before the Montreal Expos chose Chad Cordero with the 20th overall pick. (And now all three '03 1st Round picks figure to be teamates in Washington, DC this season.)

     Wagner only put in 9.0 innings of work in the Minors, striking out 10 at two levels of the Cincinnati system before making his Major League debut on July 19th of '03, just five weeks after signing with then-GM Jim Bowden's Reds. In 17 games and 21.2 innings, Wagner went (2-0) with a 1.66 ERA and 25 K's as a rookie.

     Over the next two seasons Wagner failed to match his early success, as he went (3-2) with a 4.70 ERA in '04 and struggled to a (3-2) record with 6.11 ERA in the '05 season during which he allowed 31 earned runs while striking out 39 in 45.2 innings.

     Wagner started the '06 season with the Louisville Bats, the Reds' Triple-AAA affiliate, where the twenty-three year-old righty was (1-3) with a 6.34 ERA in 38.1 innings before GM Jim Bowden once again acquired Wagner, this time in Bowden's new role as the Washington Nationals' GM.

     According to Bill Ladson's article on the trade between the Reds and Nationals that brough Wagner to DC entitled, "Nats land Kearns, Lopez from Reds", (which notably leaves Wagner, a former 1st Round pick, out of the title), Mr. Bowden believed that Wagner wasn't solely to blame for his regression in the Reds' organization, stating:

          "Unfortunately, [the Reds] made a lot of mechanical
          changes on him over the years, and we are hoping to get
          him back to where he was."

     Wagner went to the Nationals' old Triple AAA affiliate in New Orleans after being acquired by Washington on July 13 of '06 along with Austin Kearns and Felipe Lopez from the Reds in exchange for Gary Majewski, Bill Bray, Royce Clayton, Brendan Harris and Daryl Thompson. Two weeks later Wagner was called up to DC to replace an injured Mike O'Connor on the roster.

     According to Bill Ladson's article, "Notes: O'Connor's elbow ailing him", the following conversation between former Nationals' Manager Frank Robinson and GM Jim Bowden preceded Wagner's promotion, with Mr. Ladson providing Mr. Robinson's recollection:

          "'I asked him who was available down there,' Robinson
          said. '[Kevin] Gryboski hasn't been [in the Minor Leagues]
          for 10 days, Bergmann (Jason) is down there, and then
          there's Wagner, and I asked him, 'What about Wagner?'  
          [Bowden]said, 'He is OK. He's throwing the ball well.'"

     With that high praise heralding his welcome, Wagner arrived in DC and finished the '06 season with the Nationals, going (3-3) with a 4.70 ERA in 30.2 IP. The 2007 season, however, would only last 14 games for the twenty-seven year-old. A torn labrum in his throwing shoulder required surgery which would cost Wagner the rest of the year...

     ...Wagner resigned with the Nationals on December 12, 2007, avoiding arbitration, and, if he's healthy in time for the start of the '08 season, adding another arm to a crowded bullpen that should include right-handers, Wagner, Saul Rivera, Jesus Colome, Luis Ayala, Chris Schroder, Jon Rauch and closer Chad Cordero along with lefties Ray King and Mike Bacsik.

*Ryan Wagner Links*

Ryan Wagner's career stats at

Ryan Wagner's career stats at's Bill Ladson's article, "Nats land Kearns, Lopez from Reds", at ws_was&fext=.jsp&c_id=was's Bill Ladson's article, "Notes: O'Connor's elbow ailing him", at ws_was&fext=.jsp&c_id=was