There were rumors that the Washington Nationals flirted with the idea of pursuing free agent right-hander Zack Greinke this winter, but after adding Dan Haren on a 1-year/$13M dollar deal, D.C. GM Mike Rizzo told reporters that the Nats, "... felt all along that Zack Greinke was the top free agent in the class, but we felt that Dan Haren fit us the best this season because of the length of his contract, the talent, ability and the type of pitcher that he was." The Nationals got Haren on a one-year deal coming off a 2012 season with the LA Angels in which the 10-year veteran struggled with back issues, landed on the DL for the first time in his career and saw his fastball velocity decrease for a third straight season.
Haren replaces Edwin Jackson in a Nats' rotation featuring Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann and Ross Detwiler that helped Washington win the NL East in 2012. The Nationals' general manager described Haren as a, "workhorse" with "quality stuff," whose, "... numbers sabermetrically are off the charts," and Rizzo added that the Nats, "... scouts really love the command of his pitches, his repertoire and his competitiveness." With Haren's addition the Nats' rotation was set early this winter, barring any injuries, hiccups, setbacks or potential suspensions...
The Nationals are expecting Strasburg, pitching without last season's restrictions, to lead the team's defense of its NL East title. Gio Gonzalez led the majors in wins in 2012 and he provided exactly what the Nationals expected when they acquired him from the A's in December of 2011. Jordan Zimmermann finished his first full post-Tommy John surgery strong and found another gear in his final appearances of the year in Game 4 of the NLDS with St. Louis. It was in that same game that '07 1st Round pick Ross Detwiler rewarded the faith the team had in him over the past few years and really came through with the season on the line.
Can Strasburg reach 200 innings like he wants to in 2013? How will Gio Gonzalez's connection to the PED scandal out of Coral Gables, Florida play out? Is Haren healthy? Will the velocity return? Can Zimmermann continue to improve? Was Detwiler's breakout season for real? The Nats' general manager is confident. "I think everyone's capable of going 200+ innings," Rizzo told MLB Network Radio host Jim Bowden in a recent interview. "The increase of workload, I think the formula fits this year and we feel good that everybody's healthy and raring to go at this point." Nationals' pitchers and catchers report today. There aren't many questions about the rotation or bullpen, though one has to wonder how the 7th, 8th and 9th innings will shake out with Rafael Soriano expected to close and Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen in set-up roles after sharing the closing duties last season. Will the Nats add a left-handed specialist or attack the league's lefties with right-handers?
Here are the pitchers who have been assembled for the 2013 campaign:
• 40 Man Roster:
• Tyler Clippard - 27 yo; 6'3''; 200 lb; RHP - Acquired in return for RHP Jonathan Albaladejo in a December '07 deal with the New York Yankees, the starter-turned-reliever turned closer in 2012 (he'd saved one game before this season), with Clippard taking over the ninth inning following an injury to Drew Storen. The Nats tried a few pitchers out in the closer's role. After Brad Lidge and Henry Rodriguez, the Nationals turned to Clippard, who saved 32 games for the NL East Champion Nationals. The right-hander struggled down the stretch and eventually ceded the ninth to a resurgent Storen. Clippard finished his sixth MLB season at +1.0 fWAR with a 3.72 ERA, 3.31 FIP, 29 BBs (3.59 BB/9) and 84 Ks (10.40 K/9) in 74 games and 72.2 IP. Random Quote: "Clippard's good against both [left and right handers]. His high fastball and changeup [are] really effective against left hand hitters." - Davey Johnson
• Erik Davis - 26 yo; 6'4''; 200 lb; RHP - The Nationals added Davis, acquired from the San Diego Padres' system in return for Alberto Gonzalez in a March 2011 trade, to the 40-Man Roster this winter, protecting the right-hander from selection in the Rule 5 Draft. Washington moved the former Stanford Cardinal to the bullpen in 2012 and Davis went (7-3) with five saves, a 2.52 ERA, 2.95 FIP, 18 BBs (2.52 BB/9) and 69 Ks (9.65 K/9) in 40 games and 64.1 IP at Double-A Harrisburg. Davis pitched 8.2 innings at Triple-A Syracuse last year, putting up a 4.15 ERA over eight games. Davis went to the Dominican Winter League this year too, posting a 0.47 ERA, seven walks (3.32 BB/9) and 19 Ks in 17 games and 19.0 IP (9.00 K/9). Random Quote: "'[Davis] was not trying to nibble at the corners,' [Paul] Menhart said. 'He really challenged hitters. His fastball set up his off-speed pitches, which are well above-average.'" - via MASNSports.com's Byron Kerr.
• Ross Detwiler - 26 yo; 6'5''; 190 lb; LHP - The Washington Nationals' '07 1st Round pick, guided by Davey Johnson, finally turned into the pitcher the Nats expected him to be when they drafted him with the 6th overall pick in 2007. Detwiler finished his fifth MLB season with a 3.40 ERA, a 4.04 FIP, 52 BB (2.85 BB/9) and 105 Ks (5.75 K/9) in 33 games, 27 starts and 164.1 IP, over which he was worth a career-best +1.8 fWAR. With the season on the line in Game 4 of the NLDS with St. Louis, the Nats sent Detwiler out to the mound in Washington, D.C. and Det held the Cards to a run on three hits in 6.0 IP after which Jayson Werth hit a walk-off home run to keep hope alive for at least one more day. Random Quote: "I've seen [Detwiler] pitch some great ballgames, but he's got outstanding stuff and good poise. I haven't ever seen him get really rattled by the situation." - Davey Johnson
• Zach Duke - 29 yo; 6'1''; 205 lb; LHP - In his first season in the Nationals' organization, Duke, an eight-year MLB veteran, led the International League (AAA) in wins and earned himself a call up to the majors in September by going (15-5) with a 3.51 ERA, 4.09 FIP, 39 BB (2.14 BB/9) and 91 Ks (4.98 K/9) in 26 starts and 164.1 IP at Triple-A Syracuse. In 13.2 IP with Washington at the end of the year, Duke had a 1.32 ERA, 2.51 FIP and 6.59 K/9. Along the way, the lefty appears to have convinced the Nationals he's capable of filling the role Tom Gorzelanny played in 2012 as the left-handed long man in Davey Johnson's pen. The role is Duke's to lose as pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training. Random Quote: "The back of the bullpen is going to consist of [Rafael] Soriano, [Drew] Storen, [Tyler] Clippard, [Craig] Stammen, [Ryan] Mattheus, Henry Rodriguez will be competing for a job. We've got Zach Duke as our lefty." - Mike Rizzo on 106.7 the FAN in D.C.
• Christian Garcia - 27 yo; 6'5''; 215 lb; RHP - After two Tommy John surgeries and a third separate procedure on his right elbow, D.C. GM Mike Rizzo said that former New York Yankees' prospect Christian Garcia's 2012 campaign in the Nats' system was, "... a true scouting and player development success story." In an interview with 106.7 the FAN in D.C.'s Holden Kushner and Danny Rouhier this winter, Rizzo described Garcia as "... kind of a scrap-heap guy that our scouts discovered, our front office went after very, very hard, our rehab guys rehabbed him and our player development guys developed him." Garcia was (1-0) with seven saves, a 1.80 ERA, 1.30 FIP, six walks (2.70 K/9) and 28 Ks (12.60 K/9) in 18 games and 20.0 IP at Double-A Harrisburg. At Triple-A Syracuse, the right-hander had 14 saves, a 0.56 ERA, 1.87 FIP, 11 walks (3.06 BB/9) and 38 Ks (10.58 K/9) before he was called up to D.C. where he had a 2.13 ERA and 3.73 FIP with two walks (1.42 BB/9) and 15 Ks (10.66 K/9) in 13 G and 12.2 IP. The Nats' GM and manager have talked of stretching him out in case they need starting depth. Garcia could still end up in the major league bullpen. Random Quote: "He's got three pitches like a starter would have. Good changeup, good curve ball, good hard fastball. So he would be a candidate, for me, to start next year." - Davey Johnson
• Gio Gonzalez - 27 yo; 6'0''; 200 lb; LHP - Gio Gonzalez led the majors in wins. Gonzalez became the first left-hander to win 20+ games for a D.C.-based team since 1933 and he led the Nationals to the postseason for the first time since that year, ending a 79-year drought for teams from the nation's capital. Gonzalez's first season in the NL following a December 2011 trade from the Oakland A's ended with the lefty (21-8) with a 2.89 ERA, 2.82 FIP, 76 walks (3.43 BB/9) and 207 Ks (9.35 K/9) in 32 games and 199.1 IP. Gonzalez had the NL's second-highest fWAR at +5.4 to LA's Clayton Kershaw's +5.5 fWAR, the lowest FIP, lowest HR/9 (0.41 HR/9 to the Braves' Tim Hudson's 0.60 HR/9). Gonzalez has been tied to the Miami New Times' PED report this winter. He's also been invited to pitch for Team USA in the WBC. Quite a year. Random Quote: "Gio was telling me days ago," Johnson said, "'We're going five; we're going five. Skip, don't worry about it, we're going [to] Game 5.' And today he said, 'What did I tell you, Skip? What did I tell you?'" - Davey Johnson
• Dan Haren - 32 yo; 6'5'', 215 lb; RHP - This is what a down year for Dan Haren looks like: (12-13), 4.33 ERA, 4.24 FIP, 1.94 BB/9, 7.23 K/9. A back issue resulted in a rough first half, but Haren was back to being the pitcher he had been throughout the rest of his career in the second half of the 2012 campaign. Nats' GM Mike Rizzo said recently he's hoping the Nationals will be getting the pitcher who was (16-10) with a 3.17 ERA, 2.98 FIP, 33 walks (1.25 BB/9) and 192 Ks (7.25 K/9) in 35 games (34 starts) and 238.1 IP in 2011. With a healthy Haren as their no.5 starter, the Nationals, on paper, have an even stronger rotation than the one that led them to the NL East crown last season. Random Quote: "It took me a while to kind of remember how to pitch like I was," Haren said, "but toward the end of the year I started feeling really good." - Dan Haren on 2012 campaign.
• Nathan Karns - 25 yo; 6'5''; 230 lb; RHP - Nathan Karns was named the Nats' 2012 Minor League Pitcher of the Year after the '09 12th Round pick out of Texas Tech University went (11-4) with a 2.17 ERA, 47 walks (3.65 BB/9) and 148 Ks (11.48 K/9) in 24 games, 18 starts and 116.0 IP between Class-A Hagerstown and High-A Potomac. Karns, who has just two years on his minor league resume after a shoulder injury in 2010, wound up no. 99 on ESPN.com's Keith Law's Top 100 Prospect list this winter and Mr. Law said that if his shoulder holds up, he has, "front-line starter potential," though he did caution that it was a big "if"...
• Cole Kimball - 27 yo; 6'5''; 250 lb; RHP - The Nats' '06 12th Round pick returned from surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff to pitch a combined 5.2 innings at four levels in the Nationals' organization in 2012. Kimball returned to the Arizona Fall League this year, posting a 4.80 ERA in 15.0 IP and earning the 2012 Dernell Stenson Sportmanship Award for his work in the AFL. Kimball will likely start the year at Triple-A Syracuse assuming he's healthy, but he's still on the way back from surgery. Random Quote: "'I am glad to be playing again,' Kimball said. 'I haven't even had to put ice on my shoulder or take an Aleve. It feels amazing. It pretty much feels like I have a brand new arm.'" - via MASNSports.com's Byron Kerr.
• Ryan Mattheus - 29 yo; 6'3'', 205 lb - RHP - Acquired along with RHP Robinson Fabian in a July '09 deal that sent LHP Joe Beimel to Colorado, Mattheus had a breakout campaign in 2012, putting together his second strong season as part of the Nationals' bullpen. Mattheus finished his second major league campaign with a (5-3) record, a 2.85 ERA, 4.42 FIP, 19 walks (2.58 BB/9) and 41 Ks (5.56 K/9) in 66 games and 66.1 IP. In his first postseason action, Mattheus gave up three hits and two earned runs in 3.0 IP in the NLDS with St. Louis. The right-hander is expected to be a part of the 2013 bullpen barring any injuries or setbacks this spring. Random Quote: "A guy that goes under the radar? Ryan Mattheus? Great arm. I don't need to go out and get a bullpen guy. We've got a lot of bullpen guys." - Davey Johnson on MLB Network Radio.
• Yunesky Maya - 31 yo; 5'11''; 210 lb; RHP - The "first major international signing" by Mike Rizzo's front office spent the entire 2012 season at Triple-A Syracuse, posting a 3.88 ERA and a 4.52 FIP over 28 starts and 167.0 IP in which he was (11-10) with 40 walks (2.16 BB/9) and 89 Ks (4.80 K/9). What the future holds for Maya, who signed a 4-year/$8M dollar major league deal that ends after this season, is unclear. The right-hander is far down the depth chart amongst starters and hasn't yet shown that he has the stuff to be successful at the major league level. Another year in Syracuse is likely for the Cuban-born starter.
• Ryan Perry - 26 yo; 6'4''; 215 lb; RHP - The Detroit Tigers' '08 1st Round pick was acquired in a December 2011 trade for Collin Balester. The right-hander asked for a chance to start again in 2012, and was moved into the rotation at Double-A Harrisburg, where he was (2-3) with a 2.84 ERA, 3.54 FIP, 22 BB (2.71 BB/9) and 46 Ks (5.67 K/9) in 13 starts and 73.0 IP. Perry's been mentioned this winter as part of the starting depth in the organization, but it will take a lot of injuries or a strong season for the right-hander to end up starting in the majors in 2013. Likely part of the Triple-A rotation to start the season.
• Matt Purke - 22 yo; 6'4''; 205 lb; LHP - The Nationals' 2011 3rd Round pick fell to the 96th overall pick two years after the Texas Rangers selected him 14th overall but failed to sign him. In order to get him in the organization, the Nats signed the left-hander out of Texas Christian University to a 4-year/$4.15M dollar major league deal in spite of the fact that a shoulder injury limited his innings in his sophomore year. Purke underwent surgery on his shoulder after making just three starts in the system last season, and he's at Spring Training and reportedly 100%. The 2013 season could be a big year in the development of the left-hander. As the Nats noted on Twitter today, Purke threw his first bullpen session of the Spring this morning.
• Henry Rodriguez - 25 yo; 6'1'', 225 lb; RHP - Acquired along with OF Corey Brown in a December 2010 trade for OF Josh Willingham, Henry Rodriguez started the 2012 season strong, with a 2.00 ERA and five saves in 9.0 IP in April and he saved four more games in May before things started to fall apart. It was all downhill from there. An injured finger, a few DL stints and then eventual surgery to clean up a bone spur and remove a bone chip in his right elbow which the pitcher threw with for a while before admitting to the injury. Davey Johnson and Mike Rizzo both love Rodriguez's stuff, but he's out of options and he's been given several chances to establish himself. Four years into his major league career, Rodriguez has a 4.26 career, 3.66 FIP, 5.83 BB/9 and 9.81 K/9. His role in the 2013 pen is unclear. Random Quote: "You give up on these guys too quick and they turn out to be Joel Hanrahan on you and it makes you look pretty bad." - Mike Rizzo on 106.7 the FAN in D.C.
• Rafael Soriano - 33 yo; 6'1'', 230 lb; RHP - Rafael Soriano opted out of the third year of his 3-year/$35M dollar deal with the New York Yankees after a 42-save season in NY in which he had a 2.26 ERA, 3.32 FIP, 24 walks (3.19 BB/9) and 69 Ks (9.18 K/9) in 69 games and 67.2 IP over which he was worth +1.2 fWAR. The Nationals signed the 11-year veteran to a 2-year/$28M dollar deal this winter, "strengthening a strength" as D.C. GM Mike Rizzo was fond of saying. Soriano will close in 2013 according to the Nats, meaning Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen will have to adjust to different roles in the Nationals' pen. Random Quote: ""Suffice it to say, Raffy's here to pitch the ninth inning. He's done it successfully everywhere he's been and we expect him to continue that." - Mike Rizzo
• Craig Stammen - 28 yo; 6'4''; 225 lb; RHP - Craig Stammen finished his fourth major league season with a (6-1) record, a 2.34 ERA, 3.45 FIP, 36 BB (3.67 BB/9) and 87 Ks (8.86 K/9) in 59 games and 88.1 IP, finishing a transition to the bullpen that began late in the 2011 campaign. Stammen's 2.34 ERA was the seventh-lowest amongst qualified relievers in the NL in 2012. His +0.8 fWAR was the third-highest amongst Nats' relievers, behind only right-hander Tyler Clippard (+1.0) and left-hander Sean Burnett (+1.1). Unless the Nationals decide to put him back in a starting role, Stammen's likely going to be a part of the 2013 bullpen, working in long relief as he did last season in the best year of his career. Random Quote: "When you know you're just in there for an inning or two, generally, almost 9 times out of 10, the fastball becomes more alive and that sets up everything else. Stammen's a good example." - Davey Johnson
• Drew Storen - 25 yo; 6'2''; 190 lb; RHP - "Eventually I'm sure it will be a learning process," Drew Storen told reporters of the ninth-inning collapse in Game 5 of the NLDS with St. Louis, but not then, as he spoke to reporters immediately after the game, "Gotta let that wound heal I guess, first." Storen started the year on the DL after elbow surgery, worked his way back, reclaimed the closer's role and finished his third major league season with a 2.37 ERA, 2.40 FIP, eight walks (2.37 BB/9) and 24 Ks (7.12 K/9) in 37 games and 30.1 IP. Storen will have to adjust to a new role if Rafael Soriano's going to be the no.1 closer, but there should be plenty of opportunities to close for Storen in 2013. The Nats' '09 1st Round pick may have to find another way to get his adrenaline going in the eighth inning instead of the ninth this season. Random Quote: "Drew Storen is a closer. He's going to be a closer. He's got closer stuff. He's got a closer's mentality." - Mike Rizzo
• Stephen Strasburg - 24 yo; 6'4''; 220 lb; RHP - The days of the innings limits are over. Stephen Strasburg will be pitching without restrictions in 2013 after being held to 159.1 IP in 2012 in his first full year back from Tommy John surgery. The Nats' '09 no.1 overall pick finished his third major league season with a (15-6) record, a 3.16 ERA, 2.82 FIP, 48 BB (2.71 BB/9) and 197 Ks (11.13 K/9) in 28 starts. That he didn't get to pitch in the postseason was tough for Strasburg to take, but he told reporters in his first interviews this year that he was over what happened in 2012 and looking forward to throwing 200 innings in 2013. The Nats' ace. Bill James is projecting a 2.68 ERA, 2.33 FIP, 11.03 K/9 and 2.47 BB/9 next season. Strasburg's back at full-strength, he's angry and he's got something to prove. Random Quote: "I trained really hard this offseason, coming here knowing that 200-plus innings is a huge goal for me. So hopefully everything works out and I can do that and be the workhorse in the rotation." - Stephen Strasburg
• Jordan Zimmermann - 26 yo; 6'2'', 220 lb; RHP - The Nats' '07 2nd Round pick finished his fourth MLB season with a (12-8) record, a 2.94 ERA, 3.51 FIP, 43 walks (1.98 BB/9) and 153 Ks (7.04 K/9) in 32 starts and 195.2 IP. Zimmermann struggled in his first postseason start but bounced back with a strong inning of relief in Game 4 of the NLDS. Zimmermann's first full year back from Tommy John surgery was a success even though he struggled late in the year after a real strong first half. The right-hander is the only arbitration-eligible pitcher who hasn't yet agreed on a deal for the 2013 campaign and he and the Nationals are headed for an arbitration hearing if they can't get a deal done before February 19th. Zimmermann's in the top three of one of baseball's strongest rotations. Six years after then-assistant GM Mike Rizzo promised Zimmermann would be a top-of-the-rotation starter, he's right where the current GM predicted he would be when he was drafted. Random Quote: "I mean, his slider was like 91, and he just -- some guys in our [dugout] said, 'That's our next closer.' I said, 'No way.'" - Davey Johnson on Zimmermann in Game 4 of the NLDS.
• Note: Non-Roster Invitee and catcher reports to follow...