FREDERICKSBURG, VA – Joel Hanrahan recorded 14 saves while pitching for the Nationals from 2007-09.
Now a first-year pitching coach in player development with Washington, the native of Iowa has a key role in guiding the next wave of pitchers to the majors.
Hanrahan, 40, will be the pitching coach this year for low Single-A Fredericksburg, and he told Federal Baseball here on Tuesday that Rodney Theophile will be the starting pitcher in the opener.
Theophile was 4-11 with an ERA of 5.56 in 22 starts for Fredericksburg last season.
These Nationals start the season Friday at the Delmarva Shorebirds, a farm team of the Baltimore Orioles located in Salisbury, Maryland.
Other starting pitchers for the weekend series on the Eastern Shore, according to Hanrahan, will be Dustin Saenz in Game 2 Saturday and Andry Lara in Game 3 on Sunday.
Lara made two starts last season for Fredericksburg while Saenz was taken in the fourth round out of Texas A & M last year.
“There is a lot of big, physical arms” in the system, Hanrahan said after a light workout for pitchers. Hanrahan was formerly a minor league pitching coach in the Pittsburgh system.
The top prospect with Fredericksburg is infielder Brady House, drafted in the first round by the Nationals last year out of a Georgia high school.
“The only way to describe it was learning,” House said of Spring Training. He arrived in Virginia earlier this week, along with most of his new teammates.
House said he was able to meet Carter Kieboom, another high pick from a Georgia high school.
Kieboom was a first-round selection in 2016 by Washington and broke into the majors in 2019. He came up as a shortstop but has since been switched to third base.
House played shortstop in his pro debut but said Tuesday he will play wherever he is needed.
The manager for the Virginia team is Jake Lowery, who finished his playing career at Double-A Harrisburg in 2019.
He was the skipper in Florida with the Gulf Coast Complex. A former catcher at JMU in Harrisonburg, Lowery was drafted in the fourth round by Cleveland in 2011 and went as high as Triple-A in Washington’s system.
Fredericksburg began last year 0-15; Lowery said there is a new focus on winning at the minor-league league while still concentrating on player development.
Lowery went to Cosby High near Richmond and lives near the capital city in the off-season.
He figures to see family and friends during home games and also on the road in Salem, Lynchburg and even some of the stops in North Carolina.
“It is very special,” Lowery said of managing close to home. “I’m glad to be back in Virginia.”
House hit .322 for Lowery last year in Florida with a .970 OPS in 59 at-bats.
Among the Fredericksburg pitchers is Brendan Collins, who went to Sherwood High School in Montgomery County, Maryland, and grew up rooting for the Nationals.
“Pure shock,” he said of being drafted by Washington. He was taken in the 17th round in 2021 out of college at UNC Greensboro.
Collins, who spent part of last season at Fredericksburg, is excited to be part of the rebuilding of the farm system – which was sped up by several late July trades for prospects.
“All of the spots are opening up” in order to advance up the ladder, he noted.