Before the series finale with the Atlanta Braves on Sunday night, Washington Nationals' Assistant GM and VP of Player Development Doug Harris was a guest on the MLB Network Radio show "Minors and Majors" talking about some of the Nats' prospects and one pitcher in the majors with Grant Paulsen, who hosts the show every weekend in addition to his duties on the Nationals flagship station, 106.7 the FAN in D.C.
Harris appears on "Minors and Majors" at least once a year and he always offers something of interest to fans of the nation's capital's Nationals so we try to make sure to catch those interviews and pass along any interesting notes or quotes.
The Sunday morning conversation started just hours after the Nationals beat the Braves at around 2:30 AM in an eleven-inning game that didn't start until 10:50 PM because or a long rain delay.
"It was a hard-fought ballgame," Harris said. "We're very fortunate to come out on top. Some quality situational pitching throughout and we were able to grind out some good at bats late and take the win home."
Tanner Roark went seven innings on Saturday night/Sunday morning, giving up six hits and one earned run, but receiving no decision in what ended up a 4-1 extra innings win.
On the year, the 27-year-old right-hander is (11-7) after 23 starts with a 2.86 ERA, a 3.38 FIP, 33 walks (2.01 BB/9) and 112 Ks (6.81 K/9) in 148 IP.
Nationals' GM Mike Rizzo has talked often about Roark, who was acquired from the Texas Rangers in a July 2010 trade for Cristian Guzman, as an organizational success story.
Roark too has talked often, and did again during last night's broadcast on ESPN Sunday Night Baseball, about his transition from underwhelming minor league starter to integral part of the Nats' rotation being in large part mental.
"It's a combination of things," Harris said Sunday. "First, Jay Robertson, one of our scouts, did a tremendous job identifying the player, had had some history with him -- both Jay and I were actually a part of the Rangers when Tanner was drafted -- and he came here, was a talented individual, just hadn't had a chance to put it all together.
"Really fought through a lot of adversity, found himself as a person and his stuff began to grow from there. Once he realized who he was and what he had to do to be successful, he took off and he deserves a lot of credit."
The conversation on Minors and Majors moved from Roark, an '08 25th Round pick taken 753rd that June by the Rangers, to the no.16 overall pick of the 2012 Draft, Lucas Giolito, the Nationals' first-round pick that year and the no.1 overall prospect in the Nats' organization.
In his first full-year back from Tommy John surgery, Giolito, now 20, is (8-2) in 18 starts with a 2.35 ERA, a 3.33 FIP, 26 walks (2.66 BB/9) and 99 Ks (10.13 K/9) in 88 IP for the Low-A Hagerstown Suns.
"Really pleased with what he's been able to accomplish," Harris said. "We shut him down for a short period of time -- one of our goals this year was to get him through a full season, so we had to really manage the innings, we skipped him a few times, really at the midway point -- but he understands the everyday-ness of a full season at this point, what he has to do to take the ball every fifth day and he's really done a nice job for us. Really pleased."
Grant Paulsen, who was in Minnesota to cover the Sirius/XM All-Star Futures Game, talked about the maturity on display from Giolito in that showcase in the way he dealt with all the media coverage.
Harris explained that it's all part of what makes Giolito so impressive.
"He's a wonderful young man," he said. "Probably the most striking thing with him is the maturity, but he's got great humility that goes with it. Really is comfortable in his own skin and enjoy being around him. Wonderful young man."
The breakout success story of the season in the Nationals' system has to be Michael Taylor, who was called up and in uniform in Atlanta last night though he didn't get into the game.
Taylor started the 2014 campaign at Double-A Harrisburg, putting up a .313/.396/.539 line with 17 doubles, 22 HRs and 34 stolen bases in 98 games and 441 plate appearances before he moved up to Triple-A Syracuse for a brief four-game stay in which he went 5 for 13 with three doubles and a triple before he got the call to join the Nats.
"He's put together a really good year," Harris told the Minors and Majors host.
"In the past it would take Michael a few days to make adjustments. Early in the year you started seeing some day-to-day things and now he's at the point where he's making adjustments at-bat-to-at-bat or even pitch-to-pitch and that is what has allowed him to have the success he's had this year."
The last prospect Harris discussed was the no.2 prospect in the Nationals' organization, A.J. Cole, who also made the jump from Double to Triple-A this season.
Cole, a 2010 4th Round pick by the Nats who was dealt to Oakland in 2011-2012 and reacquired a year later after a rough season in the A's system, has moved as quickly since coming back, as Nats' GM Mike Rizzo predicted.
Harris was asked Sunday what went wrong in Cole's season in the Athletics' organization.
"I can't speculate on what transpired in Oakland," Harris said. "But [they're] a fine organization and they do a great job with pitching, obviously. I think A.J. feels very, very comfortable here.
"We had done somethings with his arm action that have allowed him to command the fastball very well, changeup has developed. The breaking balls are on the come. He's throwing a slider now that when it's right he can get some swings and misses with it. He's learning how to use it along with a curveball that he's able to mix in there for a strike at times. So, we think the breaking balls are on the come, but I think most of all it's a comfort level."
In 14 starts for Double-A Harrisburg, Cole was (6-3) with a 2.92 ERA, a 2.58 FIP, 15 walks (1.90 BB/9) and 61 Ks (7.73 K/9) in 71 IP.
After giving up a run on nine hits in seven innings on Sunday and earning the win for the Triple-A Syracuse Chiefs, Cole is now (4-0) with the Nats' top affiliate, with a 2.87 ERA, 4.06 FIP, 11 walks (2.11 BB/9) and 34 Ks (6.51 K/9) in eight starts and 47 IP.