Six days away from Opening Day, Syracuse’s preliminary roster has been revealed, with few surprises. 15 of the team’s 25 active players have been Chiefs in the past, with a whopping 16 having major league experience. Top to bottom, it’s quite possibly the strongest Opening Day roster in the five years the Nationals have been affiliated with Syracuse.
So every day from now until the beginning of the season (Thursday at Lehigh Valley), we’ll examine one of the Chiefs’ positional units and throw out some fast facts about each of the players. Today, we’ll begin with the team’s starting rotation, in alphabetical order:
- 2013 will be his 4th straight year with the Chiefs, and likely his 3rd full year (he pitched just two games for Syracuse in 2010).
- Last Year, Maya was 11-10, 3.88 ERA in 28 Syracuse starts…he finished in a tie for the IL lead in games started, third in innings pitched and fifth in BB/9.
- 48-29, 2.51 ERA in six seasons in the Cuban National Series…won the Cuban equivalent of the Cy Young Award in 2008-09.
- His best career start came last July 27, when he came seven outs shy of a perfect game at Rochester before a Chris Parmelee home run that snuck over the right-field wall – the only Rochester base runner of the game.
- 18-32, 5.10 ERA in 108 career major league games (73 starts)…38-34, 3.94 ERA in 120 career minor league games (104 starts)
- He’s been traded twice – from Arizona to the Yankees in 2007, and from the Yankees to the Pirates in 2008. The Nationals are his sixth different organization (Boston and San Diego last year).
- He’s a Princeton graduate, and thus smarter than all of us. He majored in Operations Research and Financial Engineering.
- In fact, he interned for the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 2009.
- OK, one more – he wrote a 126-page thesis on the investment and financial return of signing major league draft picks.
- OK, actually one more…he got an “A” on it.
- Ryan Perry had what amounts to a cameo as a Chiefs pitcher last year…he threw in 11 early-season games as a reliever with a 4.50 ERA and 23 base runners allowed in 12 innings. He also allowed nine runs in eight innings with the Nationals – six of which came in one outing against Philadelphia, in two-thirds of an inning.
- But things got better when Perry went down to Double-A Harrisburg and turned into a starting pitcher. He threw up a 2.84 ERA in 13 starts and walked just 22 batters in 73 innings.
- Those 13 games were the first ever starts for Perry in his professional career – a career spanning 225 total major and minor league games. The last time he’d started? 2008, with six starts (out of 31 games) for the University of Arizona.
- He has a tattoo on his hand of a skeleton in the MLB logo. And an Abraham Lincoln tattoo. (No word on whether this tattoo also contains an axe and fleeing vampires.)
- Don’t let the 6-17 record with Syracuse last season fool you – the respectable 4.39 ERA and 130 strikeouts (fifth in the IL) are better measure of Roark’s debut Triple-A season.
- OK, this is way oversimplifying some things, but – in his 17 losses, the Chiefs scored a total of 31 runs. That’s 1.8 per game. 1.8! Of course he lost 17 games with that kind of run support. (The Chiefs scored 33 runs in his six wins, by the way.)
- He played two innings in left field last year. In case you forgot that happening, or were asleep by that point, here’s a recap.
- He has a GREAT mustache.
- Just a few days ago, it looked like he might begin the season with the Colorado Rockies – but Rosenbaum was returned from the Rule V draft after the Rockies decided not to put him on their Opening Day roster, and here he is in Syracuse.
- Last year with Harrisburg, he was 6-0 with a 0.99 ERA after the season’s first nine starts, and 7-2 with a 1.94 ERA after 13 starts.
- …then things went somewhat south, to the tune of a 2-9, 5.76 final three months. His final 2012 numbers: 8-10, 3.94 ERA.
- …and that’s by FAR the worst season of Rosenbaum’s career, after ERAs of 1.95 in 2009 (GCL), 2.25 in 2010 (Hagerstown/Potomac) and 2.52 in 2011 (Potomac/Harrisburg).
Next up – a much shorter look at the eight-man bullpen.
Cuts are starting to come fast and furious in major league camps this week, and today, the Nationals trimmed their roster down to 33, sending eight players down to the minor leagues. The first six, reassigned to Syracuse are:
- RP Erik Davis (1-0, 4.15 in 8 games with the Chiefs in 2012)
- SP Yunesky Maya (11-10, 3.88 in 28 starts)
- RP Ryan Perry (1-1, 4.50 in 11 games)
- C Jhonatan Solano (.250/.298/.288 in 13 games)
- 1B Chris Marrero (.244/.333/.307 in 37 games)
- OF Corey Brown (.285/.365/.523 in 126 games)
And two others reassigned to “minor league camp” that you can expect to see in Syracuse…
- SS Zach Walters (.214/.260/.286 in 29 games)
- SP Ross Ohlendorf
Ohlendorf, who was with the Red Sox and Padres’ organizations last year, is the only one of the eight that wasn’t with Syracuse last year.
All the roster stability is a good thing, even though the Chiefs went 70-74 last year. Davis and Walters have impressed in their first big league camps and are set to get their first full Triple-A years under their belts. Solano and Marrero are coming off of injury-plagued years and are fully healthy. And Perry’s been turned into a starter with more control after spending most of the season at Double-A Harrisburg. As for Brown and Maya, the numbers speak for themselves.
This group joins outfielder Eury Perez, who’s already been reassigned to Syracuse, as 2013′s Opening Day group of Chiefs. More players should join them within the week as the Nationals get set for Opening Day.
One other returning member of the Chiefs is manager Tony Beasley. Check out our conversation with him from spring training here…
Yesterday’s gloomy weather has made way for gorgeous, streaming sunlight today in Florida. (And thank you for all of your concerns, of course.)
Jason and I are in Kissimmee today, the home of the Houston Astros, for a split-squad game between the Nationals and Astros. A split-squad game, for the road team, typically means that all the major leaguers stay home – and that’s the case today. Here’s a look at the lineup:
Some of those names will surely be in Syracuse at the start of the season – and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see all of them there at some point in 2013. In fact, Tony Beasley’s managing with Greg Booker and Troy Gingrich by his side – so it’s basically the Astros vs. the Chiefs.
Some first-inning news and notes, with the Astros already ahead 4-0 after one:
- Ross Ohlendorf’s been roughed up a bit in the first, giving up four runs on four hits. One of the bigger ones came from a face familiar to Chiefs fans – center fielder Justin Maxwell. The former Syracuse fan favorite tripled to center field to knock in a run.
- Booker and a Nationals trainer came out to the mound just four batters in to check on Ohlendorf. He stayed in the game, but there’s a minor concern for the right-hander, if nothing else.
- Chris Marrero has adopted the Jayson Werth approach of growing hair – though, thankfully, only in the back. He’s got a lion’s mane flowing from below his red helmet. In fact, quite a few Nats have gone hair-wild during camp.
- Osceola County Stadium – the home of the Astros – is in Florida. This is a fact. From closing your eyes and listening to Lone Star-themed songs such as “God Bless Texas” throughout the pregame, you’d never know.
- Random Jersey of the Day: The fan sitting a few rows in front of us with a Brett Lawrie T-shirt. Lawrie, of course, plays for the Toronto Blue Jays.
More to come…
No, I didn’t forget the “t” – it is currently raining and somewhat gloomy here in (typically sunny) Viera. Of course, I don’t expect anyone up north to cry for us, because “gloomy” weather in Florida does not preclude the wearing of short-sleeved shirts and shorts.
The Nationals are off today, with home games coming up on both Wednesday and Thursday. A couple of notes from yesterday:
- We chatted for quite a while with Ryan Tatusko, a Syracuse hurler in 2011 who spent all of last season with Double-A Harrisburg. Tatusko’s hopeful he’ll be in Syracuse for 2013, and we wouldn’t bet against it. He sported a 3.50 ERA in 82.1 innings with the Senators last year, in what was likely the second-best season of his six-year minor league career. Tatusko also got married in the offseason and pitched down in Puerto Rico in winter ball. He’s an engaging and friendly guy – we’d certainly be happy to see him once again.
- We also met with new Chiefs trainer Jeff Allred, who replaces Atsushi Toriida, the team’s trainer for the last two years. “Sushi” is headed back to Japan, where he’ll be working in the Japanese Baseball League and returning home with his family. We’re sad to see him go, but Allred should step in nicely. He’s been in the Nationals’ system for a few seasons now and gets the bump up from Double-A Harrisburg.
- Zach Duke – an All-Star with the Chiefs last year – was roughed up by the Braves in two-thirds of an inning, allowing three hits and two runs. Despite that, Duke, who’s had an otherwise strong spring, looks like a safe bet to make the Nationals’ roster as a relief pitcher. Washington let left-handers Sean Burnett and Mike Gonzalez go in the offseason, and Duke may be the lone southpaw in the bullpen…
- …unless left-hander Fernando Abad makes the team. Abad, the former Astro, has impressed in camp, and may be in a battle with flame-throwing right-hander Henry Rodriguez for the final spot in the bullpen. Rodriguez is out of options, however, so the Nationals would likely lose him if they don’t keep him on the big league roster.
That’s all for now. Tweet us @ChiefsRadio if there’s something you’d like us to keep an eye on over the week.
1. Five For Hitting
Odds are Corey Brown won’t make the Nationals’ Opening Day roster in 2013. It’s nothing against Corey Brown – the Nats are stacked, with a Harper/Span/Werth triumvirate that starts and a likely Roger Bernadina/Tyler Moore bench. But Brown proved in 2012 that he’s simply too good to be considered a Triple-A player – and the middle of May defined just the reason why.
May 20 @ Toledo: Brown leads off against left-hander Casey Crosby. He sees a strike and a ball before teeing off on the game’s third pitch…
May 21 @ Toledo: Third pitches are so May 20…
May 22 @ Toledo: Brown decides not to homer in his first at-bat. How kind of him. At-bat number two is a different story…
May 24 vs. Columbus: One game shy of tying a Syracuse club record for consecutive games with a home run, Brown returns to his old ways (“old” meaning “May 21″)…
May 25 vs. Columbus: Brown goes 1 for 4 with a triple and two strikeouts in his first four at-bats, and it seems the streak will end. But Corey gets one more chance, batting in the bottom of the eighth with a chance for history…
Five games. Five home runs. Three in the first inning, one in the second, one in the eighth. Corey Brown may return to Syracuse for some amount of time in 2013 – but he’s Washington material through and through.
2. Buffalo Soldiers
Last year, the #1 spot on my list was a Chiefs loss. This year, the #2 spot is a Syracuse defeat. Some upbeat broadcaster I am, right? Of course, I’m not looking at this series negatively – it’s just happened that ridiculous and unforgettable things have happened in Chiefs losses over the past two years – and my #2 spot on this year’s list is no exception.
You’ve read about this game already in Jason’s countdown, at #6, but the Chiefs’ 14-inning loss to Buffalo on July 5 clocks in at the second-to-first spot on my list. It’s hard to quantify just how ridiculous this game was, but let’s give it a shot, in retro-live-blog style:
Top 2nd, 0-0: Mitch Atkins gets the inning’s first out by striking out Matt den Dekker, who somehow managed to go hitless in the game. Things unravel from there. Lucas May doubles in a run, Atkins wild-pitches in another and Josh Rodriguez singles in one. Next batter: Adam Loewen. Next strike: uh-oh.
Bottom 3rd, 7-0 Buffalo: The Bisons have just added another run in the top of the inning on a Lucas May single. Thanks for coming, Chiefs fans, get out while you can, we’re done here…Syracuse is only going to get one hit in this inning.
…of course, that one hit, a Carlos Maldonado single, was followed by a walk, a fielding error allowing pinch-hitter Zach Duke (yes, that one) to reach and a pair of sacrifice flies. Two runs without an extra hit after a leadoff single? Might be worth your time to stick around after all.
Bottom 4th, 7-2 Buffalo: Not many players would bunt to lead off an inning down five runs, but not many players are Brett Carroll. He lays down a beaut for an inning-starting hit. Carlos Rivero singles to follow and Maldonado walks, and Buffalo starter Dylan Owen’s on life support. Should Wally Backman go to the bullpen, with the bases full and Jesus Valdez up?
Bottom 5th, 7-6 Buffalo: Carlos Maldonado left this game at .207 – AFTER a 2-2, three-walk performance. So to say he was struggling may be a bit of an understatement. But we’ve only told you about one of those hits so far, haven’t we?
How is this game tied?!?! In the FIFTH, no less???
Top 7th, 7-7: Atahualpa Severino enters for the Chiefs. Worth noting: Severino’s had a solid season, but he gives up a lot of home ru…oh, whoops.
Bottom 7th, 8-7 Buffalo: Do the Chiefs have another comeback in them? They load the bases with nobody out, and it seems that Syracuse is about to take its first lead of the game – but then Rivero grounds into a double play. It scores a run, but the Bisons escape with nothing further, and it sure feels like Buffalo’s dodged a major bullet…
Bottom 10th, 8-8: Yunesky Maya steals a base. Seriously. This happened. (He was pinch-running for Maldonado.) But the Chiefs can’t score.
Top 12th, 8-8: Everyone is tired.
Bottom 12th, 8-8: Two on, two out, 3-2 count on Corey Brown, and Jeremy Hefner throws a curveball in the dirt…that’s called strike three? Huh?
Brown, understandably, is upset, and spikes his helmet in disgust. Home-plate umpire Jon Byrne, not a fan of getting helmets dirty, or dirt helmety, throws Brown out of the game. Not good for Tony Beasley, who now has to replace Brown. Let’s see here, who’s on the bench…Seth Bynum? No, he came in for Brett Carroll at some point. Koyie Hill? Nope, he’s catching after Maldonado left. Manny Mayorson? Pinch-hit in the sixth. Erik Komatsu? Pinch-hit in the eighth. Chris Marrero? Pinch-hit in the 10th. All right, let’s move on down the lineup card, to…
Top 13th, 8-8: …TANNER ROARK IS NOW PLAYING LEFT FIELD.
(Yes, that’s Syracuse starting pitcher Tanner Roark, with only me, you and Dupree still available.)
Of course, the inning endings with a fly ball to Roark, who catches it with the world’s widest smile on his face, and promptly airmails a fan in the seats asking for the ball.
Top 14th, 8-8: 1st and 2nd, one out, Jeff Mandel in…gee, I wonder if the ball’ll find the pitcher in left field again?
Bottom 14th, 9-8 Buffalo: All credit to Tony Beasley and Wally Backman by this point for not screwing up the lineup card. The Chiefs are set down 1-2-3 by Hefner, however, and that’s all she wrote, after 4 hours, 40 minutes, 462 pitches and one starting pitcher in left field. I’m tired just thinking about it.
3. Complete Domination
The complete-game shutout has gone the way of the dinosaur, basketball short shorts and Eddie Murphy’s acting career – a once-prominent standard, now essentially vanished from this earth. In fact, going into last season, the Chiefs hadn’t had a pitcher toss a complete-game shutout since Garrett Mock on June 22, 2009. And after the year’s first four months, there was more of a reason to expect a Coming to America sequel than a nine-inning, no-run game by an individual Syracuse hurler.
But on August 11, Zach Duke twirled a three-hit gem at Lehigh Valley, shutting out the IronPigs, 6-0. The soft-tossing left-hander was on fire, throwing first-pitch strikes to 15 consecutive batters at one point. It stood to reason that Duke’s performance would stand the test of 2012, frozen as the best Chiefs pitching performance of the season. Perhaps we’d even have another three-year gap in between complete-game shutouts.
As it turned out, we wouldn’t even go three weeks. Just 14 days later at Gwinnett, John Lannan turned the trick in a 1-0 win over the Braves. Lannan allowed just three hits and one walk, getting the shutout despite a mere two strikeouts.
That’s when things got really wacky. Mock to Duke took three years and two months. Duke to Lannan took two weeks. And Lannan to Jeff Mandel took 24 hours. The very next day – Mandel battled through 102 pitches to shut out the G-Braves on six hits in a 7-0 Chiefs win for his first ever nine-inning shutout. Fifteen days, three complete-game shutouts.
But Lannan had one more for the road. In his next start – his last of the season with Syracuse before a return to the major leagues – he provided the most memorable Syracuse pitching performance of the year. Lannan struck out a season-high 10 Knights and wriggled out of jam after jam, scattering eight hits in a 2-0 win. He threw an astonishing 122 pitches – a number that exceeded any other effort by a Chiefs starter this season.
Lannan’s early struggles this season were well-documented with Syracuse. He was roughed up in his first start and had a difficult couple of months after his very public trade demand following a demotion to Triple-A. But the Lannan we saw at the end of the season was the Lannan that’s been an Opening Day starter in the past for the Nationals. He’ll be across the division this year in Philadelphia – and if the end of 2012 is any indication, he’ll be a difficult task for Washington’s bats.
JB, I know this is more of a cumulative entry, but four complete games in a month? How could I leave that out?
4. Bryce Chopper
Had to happen at some point, right? Though Mr. Harper’s first Triple-A home run shows up one spot higher on my list than it did on yours, JB, we’re back-to-back with the same event. And you’ve just heard the call of it – so perhaps there’s not much more to say. It was a 3-1 pitch from Jheurys Familia drilled over the right-field fence – I remember the shot like it was yesterday. Did I exaggerate the call somewhat? Yes. Is it the most majestic home run I’ll ever see? No. But – considering it was Harper’s only Triple-A home run – the swing was unquestionably unforgettable.
No one thought it would be his last Triple-A home run of the year, of course, after seeing the colossal blasts that Harper delivered over the fence in batting practice day after day. But after just four more games with Syracuse and sporting a not-otherworldly .243 average, the Nationals snatched up Harper when injured third baseman Ryan Zimmerman went on the Disabled List. The rest, of course, is history – a double in his debut at Los Angeles, an All-Star selection, a National League Rookie of the Year award and a key part in the Nationals’ NL East championship. All before he turned 20 years old.
It seems somewhat silly to remember so many seemingly minute details, but I remember driving home from the ballpark on April 27 after the Chiefs’ game against Charlotte was postponed due to cold weather. I remember Harper’s name out of the starting lineup on the lineup card, with Tony Beasley saying he was giving his young outfielder the day off. I remember finding out once I was home that Harper was called up to the Nationals, and calling Jason, who was still at the ballpark.
Sure, they all seem like insignificant details – but we seemed to know that once Bryce was gone, he wasn’t coming back. And last year was just the beginning of a long and prosperous career. I’m glad to witness at least a few weeks of it firsthand.
Jason, the Expectancy that the preceding game shows up on my list somewhere down the line is 100.0%. On to today’s #5
When starting pitcher Yunesky Maya gets into a groove, there are few better pitchers to watch in the International League. The Cuban baseball veteran hasn’t had a consistent major league career in his three seasons with the Nationals’ organization, but he’s been a solid starter for Syracuse, and he’s as much of a rhythm pitcher as perhaps anyone in baseball. When Maya’s on, the results take place at a breakneck speed. Get the ball. Throw the ball. Get it back. Throw it. Get it. Throw it. When the bases are clear, Maya works as fast as anyone in the International League.
What made last July 27 in Rochester such a gem was that the bases were always clear. Maya cut down the Red Wings 1-2-3 in the first inning. He notched his first strikeout in a perfect second. He claimed two more in a flawless third. He aced Rochester in the fourth and fifth, with three groundouts to second base in the two innings. And he got three consecutive outs in the sixth.
Meanwhile, Syracuse had staked Maya to a modicum of run support. RBI singles from Jarrett Hoffpauir in the fourth inning and Chad Tracy in the fifth had the Chiefs on top, 2-0. That seemed to be more than enough for Maya, who entered the seventh inning nine outs away from the unthinkable.
In the seventh, Brett Carroll entered the game in right field for rehabbing major league Jayson Werth. And the baseball gods, cruel as they are, would make sure Carroll’s number came up in some way. After groundouts from Brian Dinkelman and Tsuyoshi Nishioka put Maya just seven outs away from perfection, Chris Parmelee spoiled the party.
A visibly frustrated would punch out Wilkin Ramirez swinging to end the inning. The damage was done in terms of perfection – but Maya still did his part, tossing a 1-2-3 eighth, before Christian Garcia slammed the door shut with a scoreless ninth. The Chiefs had won behind Maya’s best pitching performance in his minor league career. But a few feet closer on one fly ball, and I’ve a feeling this post would be ranked four spots higher.
6. The Negrych Who Stole A Hit
Now this was weird.
On July 6, the Chiefs swept the league-worst Louisville Bats in a doubleheader, 2-1 and 1-0. That’s a nondescript beginning for sure – the Bats performed slightly better in 2012 than the remake of Total Recall. So why was this twin bill so special? Consider the following:
- The Chiefs’ finale in Louisville weeks beforehand had been washed out. Since Syracuse only makes one trip to Louisville, the second game counted as an “away” game for Syracuse in their own ballpark.
- In Game One, the Chiefs escaped the fifth inning by inducing Joey Gathright, maybe the fastest runner in Triple-A, to hit into an inning-ending double play. They then got out of the sixth inning on an RBI double – when Danny Dorn was thrown out at home plate.
- In the bottom of the seventh inning in that game, Chiefs second baseman Jim Negrych stepped up with two runners on and one out, hoping to hand Syracuse its first walkoff win of the season – in its 59th total game…
But then things got really, really weird in Game Two…
- Starting pitcher Jeff Mandel – in his first Triple-A start of the season – retired the first 11 batters he faced. In fact, he served up a grand total of one baserunner – a Neftali Soto single – in his five innings of work.
- But one hit is better than no hits. Despite facing right-hander Wirfin Obispo, who ended the game with a 5.52 ERA, Syracuse was no-hit through five innings. They walked four times against Obispo, who threw a mere 44 strikes in 80 pitches, but couldn’t get a hit. And in the sixth inning, Travis Webb also threw a hitless frame.
- So – the Chiefs, in their home ballpark, after the first two outs of the seventh inning, were one baserunner away from potentially being no-hit, since Louisville would have the final turn at bat. But Negrych, he of the heroic Game One hit, inside-outed a double down the left-field line that slammed off of third base. It won’t go on Jim’s personal highlight reel…
- …and neither will James Skelton’s result two batters later. After an intentional walk of Seth Bynum, Skelton had a chance to play hero…
- That sent home Negrych with the Chiefs’ second hit, and the game’s first – and only – run. In the least weird moment of the series, Christian Garcia would slam the door shut with a scoreless seventh, handing the Chiefs a bizarre doubleheader sweep.