Posted on: April 12, 2010 3:07 pm

Stasburg: Who knew he could hit?

The word on Stephen Strasburg's professional debut is that he hit 100 mph on at least one radar gun and looked good.

"As advertised," Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said.

And then there was the double.

Yes, one game into his pro career, baseball's best-known minor league pitcher has a 1.80 ERA -- and a .500 batting average, with a 1.000 slugging percentage.

"I never saw him swing a bat in my life," Rizzo said. "So if he turns into a big hitter, I can't take any credit for it."

Strasburg told the Washington Post that he had always wanted to hit at San Diego State, but that coach Tony Gwynn wouldn't let him.

"I'm definitely going to call Gwynn up and let him have it," Strasburg told the Post . "I'm sure he's eating his words right now."
Category: MLB
Posted on: April 11, 2010 9:13 pm

3 to watch: The week ahead

The Phillies and Blue Jays come home 5-1. The Astros leave home without a win.

The pennants go up in Philadelphia and New York. The roof comes off (so to speak) in Minnesota.

And we're here with the first Sunday night/Monday morning edition of 3 to watch:

1. Last year, the Phillies got so caught up in their home-opening celebrations that they lost two of three to the Braves. They get a smaller ring and a lesser banner this year, but an easier opening opponent. There's a better chance that the celebrations extend to the game this time, with Nationals at Phillies, Monday afternoon (3:05 EDT) at Citizens Bank Park . Cole Hamels and Jason Marquis are the scheduled starting pitchers.

2. Like the Phillies, the Twins had a successful first week on the road. Like the Phillies, the Twins have a celebration planned for Monday. It's the first outdoor opener in Minnesota since 1981, Red Sox at Twins, Monday afternoon (4:10 EDT) at brand-new Target Field . It's Carl Pavano and Jon Lester in the opener, and the Weather Channel is calling for 63 degrees, but with a 40 percent chance of rain. The weather will be a story to watch all season in Minnesota, and we'll also watch to see if the Twins have anything near the home-field advantage they enjoyed at the Metrodome. Chances are, they won't. And chances are, there'll be a lot of nights where the temperature is nowhere near 63 degrees.

3. Andy Pettitte started the last game played at Yankee Stadium in 2009, beating the Phillies in Game 6 of the World Series. Andy Pettitte started the last time the Yankees hosted the Angels, winning Game 6 of the American League Championship Series. So sure enough, on the day the Yankees raise their 27th world championship banner and receive their World Series rings, Andy Pettitte will be on the mound for Angels at Yankees, Tuesday afternoon (1:05 EDT) at Yankee Stadium . Yogi Berra and Whitey Ford will be there. Bernie Williams will be there. And Hideki Matsui will be there, too.
Category: MLB
Posted on: April 9, 2010 1:52 pm

3 to watch

It's Opening Day in Detroit (and yes, in that city, it deserves upper-case). It's opening night in Miami (no upper-case there).

It's the first weekend of the baseball season (but please also watch the Masters on CBS).

And here's the season's first edition of 3 to watch:

1. All over, there are great matchups of opening day starters. Colleague Scott Miller is excited about Josh Beckett and Zack Greinke, Saturday night at Kauffman Stadium. That's a good one, but I'm going with Chris Carpenter vs. Yovani Gallardo, Cardinals at Brewers, Saturday afternoon (3:10 EDT) at Miller Park . Why? Simple. Of all the games I saw last year, the best-pitched game was Carpenter vs. Gallardo, on Memorial Day at Miller Park. Gallardo carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning. Carpenter carried a perfect game into the seventh. It was scoreless into the 10th, when Bill Hall won it with a two-out single off Kyle McClellan.

2. The Mets began the season with Alex Cora in the leadoff spot, and Mike Jacobs in the cleanup spot. So yes, you could say that they miss Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran. Reyes hasn't played a game that counts since last May 20, but he's scheduled to return this weekend, and that makes Nationals at Mets, Saturday afternoon (1:10 EDT) at Citi Field worth watching. In fact, if Reyes proves to be anything like the guy who led the National League in triples three times in four years, he'll actually make the Mets worth watching. And that's quite a task.

3. Stephen Strasburg pitches Sunday for Double-A Harrisburg (at Altoona, Pa.). Aroldis Chapman pitches Sunday for Triple-A Louisville (in Toledo, Ohio). And Mike Leake, who got nowhere near the money and nowhere near the hype, debuts in Cubs at Reds, Sunday afternoon (1:10 EDT) at Great American Ballpark . Leake, who won the Reds' fifth-starter job in spring training, will be the first college pitcher to jump to the big leagues without stopping in the minors since Darren Dreifort in 1993. Like Strasburg, he grew up in the San Diego area (though they never faced each other in high school). He went on to Arizona State. He was the eighth pick overall (seven picks behind Strasburg), and signed for $2.27 million ($12.83 million behind Strasburg). Now he makes it to the big leagues, ahead of Strasburg.

Posted on: March 17, 2010 4:15 pm
Edited on: March 17, 2010 4:16 pm

Releasing Dukes fits National plan

Is it a shock that the Nationals released Elijah Dukes?

Yes . . . and no.

Yes, because the Nationals had been saying that Dukes would be their starting right fielder. I spent three days with the Nationals last week, and no one was suggesting then that Dukes was fighting for a job.

But here's what everyone with the Nationals was talking about, and why the release of Dukes shouldn't be a complete shock: In just the last year, the Nationals have become more professional, from the front office to the clubhouse. Dukes was a typical Jim Bowden acquisition, a skillful player with a troubled past. He's not a typical Nationals player now, not in the way general manager Mike Rizzo sees the Nationals.

"Character means something here," Rizzo said last week, when I asked about the new professionalism. "It's very calculated. We believe that in a short time, we've begun to change the culture of the franchise and the organization."

Sure enough, that culture changed again today, a change for the better.

At one previous low point in Dukes' career, when he was with Tampa Bay, I asked scouts and executives how the Rays could keep him, and why any other team would want him. I kept getting assured that someone would take him. Sure enough, someone did take him, and the Dukes-less Rays, a much more pleasant and professional team, went straight to the World Series.

I won't predict that the Dukes-less Nationals will now be playing in October, but I'll ask again why anyone would want him.

Especially now that Jim Bowden is no longer running a team.
Category: MLB
Posted on: March 14, 2010 7:14 pm
Edited on: March 14, 2010 7:15 pm

From Florida to Arizona, Chapman to Strasburg

VIERA, Fla. -- Aroldis Chapman is the guy everyone wants to see in Arizona. Stephen Strasburg is the guy everyone wants to see in Florida.

Imagine if they were both in the same spring training camp.

"I spent a lot of time imagining that," Nationals president Stan Kasten said with a smile.

The Nationals were one of a few teams that went deep into the bidding for Chapman, along with the A's, the Marlins and the Reds, who eventually got the deal done for $30.25 million over six years. The Nationals' final bid was for about $25 million.

"I give [Reds general manager] Walt Jocketty a lot of credit," Nats GM Mike Rizzo said.

Strasburg made his second start of the spring today, overcoming strong winds to throw three scoreless innings against the Cardinals. In two starts, the 21-year-old right-hander has pitched five scoreless innings, impressing just about everyone who has seen him.

The Nationals will almost certainly have him start his pro career in the minor leagues, but they see him joining their rotation soon. And they still dream of what it would have been like to have had Chapman in that rotation, too.

"It would have been an excellent 1-2 punch," Rizzo said.


One question I had about Chapman: If he's as good as advertised, what happened to the big-spending teams? Nothing against the Reds, A's, Marlins and Nationals, but couldn't the Yankees or Red Sox have blown them out of the water?

One possible answer is that the big-money teams weren't as impressed. The other, though, is that Chapman told teams he was very focused on getting to the big leagues quickly, and was most interested in going to a team that would give him that chance.


I missed Chapman's first start for the Reds, because I had to be at the Brewers camp that day. I missed Jason Heyward, because he didn't play either of the times I saw the Braves.

I wasn't about to miss a chance to see Strasburg. He doesn't disappoint, even if his velocity today wasn't as good as it can be (94-96 mph). As one of the scouts watching said, he shows two legitimate strikeout pitches (fastball and breaking ball), and he's willing to throw the breaking ball at any time.


Livan Hernandez, who followed Strasburg, has a chance to open the season in the Nationals rotation. But what was more interesting to me is what Hernandez, who left Cuba in 1995, had to say about Chapman, who left last year.

While first saying that the decision on whether to have Chapman start in the big leagues is up to the Reds front office, Hernandez said that he thinks any Cuban defector can benefit from time in the minor leagues.

"I think the language will be the most difficult thing for him," Hernandez said.

Hernandez spent all of the 1996 season and part of the 1997 season in the minors.

"I think it helped me a lot," he said. "I think [Chapman] is going to be all right. But the game here is different from Cuba."

And what about Reds fans, who are so anxious to see the guy the Reds gave all that money to?

"Their fans can wait a little bit," Hernandez said.
Posted on: December 8, 2009 12:58 am
Edited on: December 8, 2009 1:54 am

Nationals sign Pudge for 2 years

INDIANAPOLIS -- Pudge Rodriguez is headed to the Nationals.

The veteran catcher has agreed to terms on a two-year contract for $6 million, CBSSports.com has confirmed. The Nationals want Rodriguez to mentor and share time with young catcher Jesus Flores, who is recovering from shoulder surgery and may not be ready for the start of the season. Rodriguez will help the Nats bridge the gap until top catching prospect Derek Norris is ready for the big leagues.

The two-year deal is big for Rodriguez, who turned 38 last month but has said many times that he doesn't plan to retire anytime soon. Last year, Rodriguez waited into spring training before finding a job with the Astros. He hit .251 in 93 games for the Astros, and then was traded back to the Rangers, his original team.

Rodriguez has 2,711 career hits, so he could top the 3,000-hit mark during his time in Washington.

Category: MLB
Posted on: August 19, 2009 11:47 pm
Edited on: August 20, 2009 12:37 am

Rizzo to be named Nationals GM -- really!

The Nationals are expected to name Mike Rizzo as general manager at a news conference Thursday.

Major league sources confirmed late Wednesday night that Rizzo, who has been the acting general manager since Jim Bowden was forced out of the job in spring training, has been given the full-time job. The decision comes as a surprise, because Diamondbacks executive Jerry DiPoto has told some friends that he expected to be offered the position -- and planned to accept it.

CBSSports.com reported earlier Wednesday that DiPoto was expected to get the job.

Rizzo, who joined the Nationals from Arizona is July 2006, has been widely praised in baseball for the way he has handled a difficult position. Most recently, Rizzo was the point man in the Nats' successful effort to sign top draft pick Stephen Strasburg.

Rizzo played in the minor leagues with the Angels, and he worked with the Red Sox, White Sox and Diamondbacks before coming to the Nationals.

Category: MLB
Posted on: August 19, 2009 10:55 am
Edited on: August 19, 2009 2:04 pm

DiPoto expected to be named new Nats GM

The Nationals appear to have chosen Diamondbacks executive Jerry DiPoto as their new general manager.

DiPoto has told friends in Arizona that he plans to accept the job, which opened when Jim Bowden resigned under pressure this spring. Mike Rizzo has been serving as acting general manager, and Rizzo was one of three final candidates for the job, along with DiPoto and Red Sox assistant Jed Hoyer, according to sources.

It's not certain how soon the Nationals intend to finalize their deal with DiPoto, or how soon he would be announced as the new GM.

"[DiPoto] will be a heck of a pick, but what hasn't [Rizzo] done to earn the opportunity to stay?" said one National League executive who knows both men.

The 41-year-old Dipoto, who pitched in the major leagues for eight seasons, has spent the last four years in the Diamondbacks front office, most recently as vice president, player personnel. He came close to getting the Mariners GM job last winter, apparently losing out after telling the M's he wanted to bring Pat Gillick in as a consultant.

"He has great people skills," said one person who knows DiPoto. "He has everything you look for in a manager of people. And he has a great feel for the game. He's a solid evaluator. He also has a charismatic personality that you just can't walk away from -- and it's real, unlike some in this game."

The Nationals decision was reported earlier by Yahoo Sports.

Category: MLB
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com