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Spring Training Update – March 27

The Chiefs may have received nearly 25% of their roster today, with the latest round of Nationals’ cuts as follows…

Nats March 27 moves

That’s six non-roster invitees who are all but assured to start the season in Syracuse. Let’s briefly examine them, one by one…

Cutter Dykstra (25-year-old 2B/utility player)

  • Hit .274 with .349 OBP in first Double-A season last year. Career .363 minor-league OBP.
  • Second-round pick of Brewers in 2008; traded to Nationals in 2011 for Nyjer Morgan.
  • Son of former major-leaguer Lenny Dykstra
  • 2015 OUTLOOK: Starting second baseman. Dykstra’s played seven different positions in the field in his career, but only played at second last year. Expect him to continue a slow ascent through the minors.

Emmanuel Burriss (30-year-old SS)

  • Post-Season All-Star last year with Chiefs; hit .300 with .377 OBP in 116 games.
  • Hit seven home runs last year (including one in postseason), surpassing entire professional total from first eight years.
  • Washington, DC native.
  • 2015 OUTLOOK: Starting shortstop. With another season like last year’s, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Manny return to the majors and play for his hometown team. On Opening Day, he should lead the Chiefs onto the field once more.

Steven Lerud (30-year-old C)

  • Career-best .376 OBP last year with Gwinnett Braves.
  • Has played in Pirates, Phillies, Orioles and Braves’ organizations…15 major-league at-bats between 2012-13 Phillies.
  • Set Nevada high-school state record with 60 career home runs. (Joey Gallo has since broken it with 67.)
  • 2015 OUTLOOK: Backup catcher. Dan Butler should get most of the Chiefs’ backstop reps as a member of the 40-man roster, but Lerud’ll get some run after a solid season in the I.L. last year.

Kila Ka’aihue (31-year-old 1B)

  • Played in Japan with Hiroshima Carp over last two seasons.
  • .313/.421/.620, 16 HR in 53 games with Triple-A Reno in 2013 – his last year to date in affiliated baseball.
  • Brother Kala, Jr. and father Kala, Sr. both played minor-league baseball as well.
  • 2015 OUTLOOK: Starting 1B/DH. Matt Skole and Clint Robinson could also end up at first base, but Ka’aihue’s played just 10 career games outside of first in his career. He’ll gladly take aim at NBT Bank Stadium’s short porch in right field.

Derrick Robinson (27-year-old OF)

  • Missed entire 2014 season after shoulder surgery.
  • Played 102 games with 2013 Cincinnati Reds, his big-league debut season, hitting .255 with .322 OBP.
  • Has stolen 321 bases in eight professional seasons, with a high of 69 in 2009.
  • 2015 OUTLOOK: Versatile outfielder. A healthy Brian Goodwin should get most of the reps in center field, where Robinson’s played most of his career, but concerns over Goodwin’s shoulder could get Robinson some look at their position. Expect him to also play quite a bit in left field.

Manny Delcarmen (33-year-old RHP)

  • Led 2014 Chiefs with 46 games pitched, sporting 3.13 ERA.
  • Surrendered just two home runs in 60.1 innings pitched while striking out 55.
  • Former World Series champion with Red Sox; has also pitched with Rockies, Mariners, Rangers, Yankees and Orioles’ organizations.
  • 2015 OUTLOOK: Setup reliever. Rafael Martin and Matt Grace are likely to take care of the final two innings, but Delcarmen should be another reliable bridge in the back of the Chiefs’ bullpen.

Spring Training Update: March 18th

Soooo…remember that post we wrote two days ago? About how Jeff Kobernus was likely to be in the Chiefs’ outfield? And how we expected him to be in Syracuse come Opening Day?

About that…

Kobernus released

 

That news came down yesterday from camp. At first, the move came as a surprise, especially without a corresponding move on the 40-man roster. Kobernus had filled in with the Nationals each of the last two years and had an option year remaining (e.g. he wouldn’t have to clear waivers to be sent to the minor leagues). To shed a little light on the move, here’s Matt Williams’ explanation from today, courtesy of the Washington Post…

Kobernus released 2

So there you have it. Our best to Kobernus as he searches for a new home. Update your Chiefs starting lineup bingo card accordingly.

As for today’s move…

Cole option

No surprise here. Cole split time between Harrisburg and Syracuse last year, and with the Nationals’ rotation set in stone, A.J.’s back in Triple-A. As a reminder, he made a strong first impression with the Chiefs last year, throwing to a 3.43 ERA in 11 starts. (The offense also liked him; the Chiefs scored more than six runs per game in his starts, helping Cole to a 7-0 record.) Cole’s a candidate for the top spot in Syracuse’s rotation this year.

Spring Training Update: March 16th

With exactly one month to go before Opening Day at NBT Bank Stadium, we figured this was as good a time as any to start our periodic spring training updates. Here’s an early look at some Nationals’ transactions as Syracuse’s roster begins to take shape…

Saturday: IF/OF Jeff Kobernus optioned to Triple-A; RHP Erik Davis continues rehab from Tommy John surgery in Minor-League camp

With 154 games played over the last two years at Syracuse, Kobernus’ return to Triple-A is no surprise. Last year, he struggled with injuries and sported a .257/.338/.359 slash line in 59 games with the Chiefs, stealing just 15 bases. But a healthy offseason could turn Kobernus back into the All-Star-caliber player we saw in 2013. That season, he hit .318 in 95 Chiefs games with a healthy .366 OBP and 42 stolen bases. Expect Kobernus to continue his transition into a full-time outfielder and trot out to left field on Syracuse’s Opening Day.

Meanwhile, Davis went under the knife last April 2nd, putting his return to game action still a number of weeks away. In December, he told reporters at NatsFest that he’s expecting to return in late April or early May. A healthy Davis would be great news for the Chiefs’ bullpen – he sported a 3.10 ERA in 45 games in 2013, the same year in which he made his major-league debut.

Sunday: RHP Taylor Hill optioned to Triple-A; RHPs Eric Fornataro, Mitch Lively & Scott McGregor reassigned to Minor-League camp

(A quick word on terminology here: Hill was “optioned” because he’s on the Nats’ 40-man roster. The other three were “reassigned” because they’re non-roster invitees.”

An early theme of this spring – a dynamic Chiefs pitching staff could be taking shape. Hill’s a likely Opening Day candidate after leading the rotation with an All-Star season in 2014. Lively, who struck out 11 in the Chiefs’ division-clinching win at Pawtucket, could join him, while McGregor might be destined for Syracuse or Harrisburg depending on numbers.

The new guy in the bunch is Fornataro, a sinker-dominant reliever who comes over from the Cardinals. He put up a 2.57 ERA in 44 games with Triple-A Memphis in the notoriously hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League and threw in eight games with the big league club to boot. Fornataro owns a career 1.68 GO/AO (groundout to air out) ratio in the minors. He won’t strike out many batters, but he gets results. Expect him in the back end of the Chiefs’ bullpen.

Monday: OF Brian Goodwin optioned to Triple-A; LHP Sammy Solis optioned to Double-A Harrisburg

Though Goodwin struggled offensively in his first Syracuse season, remember this – he’s only 24 years old and he’s played just three years of professional baseball. The Nationals still think highly of Goodwin, promoted to their 40-man roster in the offseason. His plate discipline’s not in doubt – with 50 walks in 81 games, he was by far the Chiefs’ most patient hitter last season. An increased approach to contact could turn 2015 into a breakout year for Goodwin.

Solis, meanwhile, is a name to monitor at a lower level. The Nationals grabbed him out of the University of San Diego in 2010 as a second-round pick – but injuries have hampered Solis’ progress throughout his minor-league career. He threw in just five total games last year because of elbow discomfort, two years after Tommy John surgery, and hasn’t yet thrown 100 innings in a professional season. At 26 years old, however, Solis’ talent still remains – as evidenced by Director of Player Development Mark Scialabba’s continuous praise. With a healthy season, Solis could finally find his way to Triple-A.

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We’ll continue to update the Chiefs as spring training rolls along. For more on Syracuse and its parent club, tune into The Score 1260 today at 5:15. I’ll be on with Mike Lindsley for a Chiefs’ Spring Training Update.

We also welcome your thoughts and comments. Email me at kbrown@syracusechiefs.com or tweet us @ChiefsRadio – we’d love to hear from you.

A.J. Cole – A Top-Tier Pitching Prospect in Syracuse

Happy Fourth of July, Chiefs fans! As if a sold-out crowd, gorgeous weather and spectacular fireworks weren’t enough, the Nationals’ widely-regarded second-best prospect will make his second Chiefs start of the year today – right-hander A.J. Cole. Here’s our broadcast intern, Daniel Comisi, with a look at the 22-year-old out of Florida:

Labeled as the #2 prospect in the Washington Nationals organization and #69 overall on MLB.com’s Top 100 list earlier this year, A.J. Cole made his Syracuse Chiefs debut on Saturday against the Buffalo Bisons. In 5.2 innings, Cole allowed eight hits, six runs (only one earned), one walk and five strikeouts. Selected in the fourth round of the 2010 draft by Washington, Cole was traded with Derek Norris, Tommy Milone and Brad Peacock to the Oakland A’s for Gio Gonzalez in December 2011. In one full season with Class-A Burlington and High-A Stockton, Cole started in 27 games, sporting a 3.70 ERA with 133 strikeouts in 133.2 innings. Cole was traded back to Washington along with Blake Treinen and Ian Krol in a three-team trade that sent Michael Morse to Seattle and John Jaso to Oakland. In 2013, the 22 year-old was named to the 2013 All-Star Futures Game and promoted to Double-A Harrisburg, where he started in seven games and was 4-2 with a 2.18 ERA and a 0.94 WHIP in 45.1 innings.

According to Nationals GM Mike Rizzo, Cole’s struggles in Oakland’s organization were not a worry and he was thrilled to reacquire Cole…

His developmental curve is on track, and we’re going to get him with our pitching people and kind of straighten out his delivery and I think that this guy will be a quick mover for us from this point forward.

While some scouts are comparing Cole to Matt Cain, a fly-ball pitcher who occasionally struggles to get lefties out, others have compared him to Justin Verlander, a tall, lanky pitcher with a high-velocity fastball. Cole is listed as 6’5” and 200 lbs, so his peak 95 mph fastball seems even faster to hitters with his long stride to home plate. Cole also has a power curveball and a decent changeup, but his fastball is his best pitch and he gets most of his strikeouts by throwing it past hitters. It appears that most scouts say that if Cole is able to develop his curveball, he has the possibility a major-league starter for many, many years.

Cole’s next start will be on Friday against Pawtucket after Thursday’s game versus Lehigh Valley was postponed.

Gregory Polanco: A Future Star in Syracuse?

Indianapolis Indians star prospect Gregory Polanco takes the field once again against the Chiefs today in what could be Polanco’s final series in the minor leagues. Need a quick guide on who Polanco is and what you might see on him? Here’s a look from one of our interns here in the broadcast booth, Daniel Comisi:

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The 22 year-old Dominican came into the 2014 season listed as the 10th best prospect in all of major league baseball according to Baseball America. But if you take out the guys who are in the majors right now, (Bogaerts, Taveras, Tanaka), he is the seventh top prospect still in the minors and the second-best outfielder, behind the number one prospect, Byron Buxton. Even though Polanco is ranked the seventh prospect in all of the minors, only Archie Bradley with the Arizona Diamondbacks is in Triple-A and there has already been plenty of questioning of why Bradley was not called up in April. The other five are in Double-A or lower.

Polanco has shot up the Pittsburgh organization after being signed as an international free agent with the Pirates in 2009. In the year of 2013 alone, he went from High-A Bradenton, to Double-A Altoona, and spent the final two games of the year with Triple-A Indianapolis. If you only look at his Double-A and Triple-A stats: through 127 games, he is batting .303 with 12 home runs, 7 triples, 29 doubles, and 28 steals in 40 attempts (70% success rate). But the stat that I was drawn to was this: through 467 games and through 1944 plate appearances to date, Polanco has only struck out 303 times and has walked 184 times. That is a very low strikeout rate (15.5%, the MLB average is 23.1%) and a high contact rate (74.9%, the MLB average is 71.5%).  With his speed, he has the capability of turning a routine ground ball into a base hit – as he did last night – and would be great at the top of the Pirates lineup.

Polanco is the best prospect in the International League and has the capability of being the next Wil Myers or Yasiel Puig, who will make an immediate impact and be in the running for Rookie of the Year award even though he has spent the first 60 games in the minor leagues. Similar to Puig, if Polanco was born in the U.S. he would most likely be a star running back or linebacker in football with his 6-foot-4, 220-pound build. But since he was born in the Dominican Republic, where baseball is the best way to get off the island, he was surrounded by baseball.

So why is he still in the minors if he is the next great prospect in Triple-A and the Pirates desperately need him in right field? Well, the most educated guess that I can make is that the Pittsburgh Pirates are using a strategy that most MLB teams use when dealing with the “Super Two” exception. While this is a very complicated rule, here is the simplest way I can put it. A “Super Two” player is a player who is the top 22 percent of the players with more than two years of service time but less than three. David Schoenfield of ESPN wrote a very good article about Polanco and why he is still in the minors. In Polanco’s case, the first professional game he played was with Low-A State College in 2011, which would make the 2014 season his third year in the Pirates organization. Since he is in the top 22% of prospects and is between two and three full seasons in the Pirates organization, Polanco would have the ability to file for arbitration a year earlier than the other 78% of players and receive drastically more salary because he projected to be a top player and is hitting the ball extremely well in the minors. But if the Pirates hold Polanco in the minors until mid-June, it will delay his arbitration clock and Polanco will have to wait an extra year to file for arbitration and get the big contract. Most small-market teams like Houston (George Springer this year) and Tampa Bay (Wil Myers last year) do this because they do not have the money to pay for their top prospects like the Los Angeles Angels can do with Mike Trout, who signed a six-year $144.5 million deal this offseason.

So if you can make it to the ballpark during the next three games, I highly encourage you to do it, because he will be one of the next big stars in the major leagues. But Chiefs tickets are much cheaper than the Pirates and you will be able to see two of the top teams in the International League playing each other. First pitch for every game of this series is at 7:00.

Triple-A Trickledown: Pawtucket

With 11 games to go between the Chiefs and PawSox this year, we figured we’d dust off Triple-A Trickledown once more to take a look at the Triple-A Red Sox. Here’s our intern Daniel Comisi with an oversight of Pawtucket’s roster…

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Catcher: Dan Butler, Ryan Lavarnway, Christian Vazquez

There’s good catching depth here between Lavarnway (26 years old), Butler (27), and Vazquez (23). All three have spent at least 10 games behind the plate, but only Lavarnway has worn the catcher’s mask in the major leagues, playing 88 games the past three years in Boston. Vazquez was drafted in the ninth round of the 2008 draft and has risen through the Boston organization. He’s in his first go-round at Triple-A after batting .289 with five home runs and 48 walks in 96 games with Double-A Portland last year, though his biggest strength has always been a tremendous arm and defensive presence. Butler, meanwhile, is in his second full year with Pawtucket after cameo appearances with the PawSox every year from 2010 to 2012. All three catchers are on the 40-man roster, but Lavarnway might be the next in line thanks to his previous major-league experience.

First Base: Brandon Snyder

Snyder splits first baseman duties with Lavarnway and has also spent some time roaming the outfield. The 27-year-old has played 83 games in four years between Baltimore, Texas, and Boston. Now in his fifth season with Pawtucket, Snyder will be used in a platoon with Lavarnway. Snyder’s path back to Boston is tough as he’s not on the 40-man roster and there are a multitude of first base-eligible players already in Boston.

Second Base: Ryan Roberts, Justin Henry

The platoon between Roberts (33) and Henry (29) is favoring Roberts this season by almost a two-to-one margin. Roberts has plenty of MLB experience, playing 518 games over nine seasons for Toronto, Texas, Arizona (where he played the majority of his games including 143 in 2011), Tampa Bay and Boston. In that 2011 season, he played 107 games at third base and only 28 at second base, but gradually has moved over to the right side of the infield. Henry has yet to reach the majors, but is currently in his second full season with Pawtucket after collecting 17 doubles in 102 games in 2013. The road to the majors is once again slim for both players barring an injury to All-Star Dustin Pedroia.

Third Base: Garin Cecchini, Carlos Rivero

In his first Triple-A year, Cecchini (23) has started every game for Pawtucket, leads the team in batting average and steals, and is in the top three in runs, walks, RBIs and doubles. Cecchini led all of minor league baseball in on-base percentage last season and could earn his way to his first career major-league call-up at some point this year, though it likely wouldn’t be until later in the year, as Brock Holt was recently recalled to replace the injured Will Middlebrooks. Rivero, a former Chief, was just promoted from Double-A Portland a few days ago and should serve in a utility role.

Shortstop: Mike McCoy

33 year-old McCoy has played 170 games in four seasons in the major leagues, making stops in Colorado and Toronto. He has struggled in the big leagues, batting .190 with three home runs in those games, but has hit well in Triple-A. Between 2008 through 2012 at Colorado Springs and Las Vegas, he batted well over .300 and had more walks than strikeouts each year. At age 33, however, and hitting sub-.200 on the year, McCoy will likely spend the season with the PawSox.

Outfield: Bryce Brentz, Corey Brown, Alex Hassan, Daniel Nava

Chiefs fans will recognize Brown from his time roaming the outfield from 2011 through 2013 for Syracuse, crushing 58 home runs in 357 games, including 25 in 2012. Brentz (25) is in his third year at Pawtucket and leads the Red Sox in both home runs and RBIs. Hassan (26) is now in his fourth season at Triple-A after tearing the cover off the ball last year with a .321 batting average in 55 games. Thanks to that performance last year, he is now an everyday player at either first base or in the outfield. Nava, a contributor to Boston’s World Series-winning team, was sent down from Boston on April 23rd after batting .149 in 17 games. Brentz, Hassan and Nava all are on the 40-man roster and there’s a very good chance that at least one of them will be called up. The current outfield for Boston includes three players with a sub-.700 OPS: Grady Sizemore, Jackie Bradley, Jr. and Shane Victorino.

Starting Pitchers: Matt Barnes, Rubby De La Rosa, Anthony Ranaudo, Allen Webster, Brandon Workman

Rubby De La Rosa

The Pawtucket rotation is full of young, powerful right-handed arms. It’s led by De La Rosa, a center piece of the 2012 blockbuster that sent Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett, and Adrian Gonzalez to the Dodgers – a deal that also netted the Red Sox Webster. Both players made their major-league debuts last year with mixed results. Workman has the most experience in the majors of the young pitching rotation, having pitched in 23 games (three starts) with Boston. Barnes (4.35 ERA in six starts) and Ranaudo (3.27 in 10 starts) have also posted strong starts.

Boston’s rotation, meanwhile, is in a bit of flux. Felix Doubront was just placed on the Disabled List, and Clay Buchholz has been uncharacteristically awful (71 hits in 47.0 innings, 6.32 ERA). It wouldn’t be a surprise to see one or more of these young pitchers in the majors sooner rather than later.

Relief Pitchers: Drake Britton, Chris Hernandez, Dailer Hinojosa, Tommy Layne, Chris Resop, Rich Hill, Alex Wilson

This is a good bullpen with a bunch of decent hurlers. There is no definitive closer on the team, with six different Red Sox tallying one save. However, 26 year-old Alex Wilson leads the team with five saves and 24 year-old Drake Britton is right behind him with four saves in five chances. Both Wilson and Britton spent part of last year throwing at Fenway at the end of the year and seem to be stepping up their game with hopes to head up to Boston for good. 29 year-old Tommy Layne leads all relievers with four wins in 14 appearances with a sparkling 1.61 ERA and a 1.34 WHIP in 22.1 innings. He also spent some time in the majors but with San Diego, pitching in 40 games for the Padres. Only Britton and Wilson are on the 40-man roster and after strong showings so far in Triple-A, their numbers might be called back to the majors any day.

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(An editor’s note: Wilson was literally just recalled to Boston as I typed those dashes above, so it appears Daniel was on to something.)

30 in 30: A Chiefs Countdown to Opening Day – Day 25

We’re counting down until Opening Day with a new post on our Inside the Chiefs blog every day until Syracuse’s opener on April 3rd. Here’s what’s on tap today…

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Less than a week away. And these next six days are going to be crazy. There are phone lines to test, media credentials to complete, interviews to moderate, interns to train, game notes to prepare…oh, and on top of all of that, there’s also the whole “broadcaster” part of the job to prepare for. How much do I know about the players on the 2014 Chiefs? And how much can I learn in the next six days?

For the rest of the office here at NBT Bank Stadium, the specific responsibilities are different, but the workload is the same. There are suites to prepare, tickets to sell and snow to shovel. And in some ways, this is the down time. Starting next Thursday, the Syracuse Chiefs will play 144 baseball games in 152 days. In other words, the Syracuse Chiefs will have eight scheduled days off in 152 days – an average of one day off every 19 days.

Here’s a block-by-block look at the Chiefs’ 2014 schedule:

April 3-29: 27 consecutive days with a game

April 30: Day off

May 1-20: 20 consecutive games. That’s 47 scheduled games in 48 days to begin the season.

May 21: Day off

May 22-June 10: 20 consecutive games

June 11: Day off

June 12-July 13: 30 consecutive games

July 14-16: The three greatest days on a baseball calendar: the All-Star break.

July 17-28: 12 consecutive games

July 29: Day off

July 30-August 5: 7 consecutive games

August 6: Day off

August 7-September 1: 26 consecutive games

September 2: Scheduled date of offseason beginning, unless you’re called up to Washington, in which case, you’ve got at least another a month of games. (*Unless, of course, the Chiefs make the playoffs this season, go on to win the Governor’s Cup and defeat the P.C.L. in the Triple-A National Championship, which will happen.)

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It’s an absolute grind like no other sport, baseball. (The Washington Post‘s Barry Svrluga wrote an incredible piece on that very subject today, profiling the Nationals’ Ryan Zimmerman.) The glamour and glitz that seemingly come with playing a professional sport for a living don’t apply quite as much as the casual fan might think. Sure, playing in the major leagues means you’ll likely make millions of dollars and be financially set for the rest of your life by your 30s – but the vast majority of professional baseball players don’t get all that close to that level.

And that’s why baseball in Syracuse is so special. Most of the Chiefs players either have or will make the major leagues. A grand total of 35 players who appeared in at least one game for Syracuse last year have played in Major League Baseball at some point. 35! We’re talking about the best of the best players in the entire world here, and we’re privileged enough here in this city to see them practically every other night from April 1st to September 1st.

Walters post HR

So, a quick thought, without trying to sound too holier-than-thou – the next time you’re at a game, and a player strikes out or makes an error, consider the fact that he might be playing in his 20th consecutive game without a game off. And maybe he didn’t get much sleep last night, because he didn’t get home from the ballpark until 11:30, and he returned to take extra batting practice for a noon game the next day. Does it beat plenty of other ways to make a living? Sure, it does. But that doesn’t mean baseball’s all flowers and roses and giant checks falling from the sky. Heck, they’re humans, too.

And the fact that we get to see it on a daily basis for a wildly affordable price? There’s no better deal on Earth.

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Have something you want to see or talk about on the blog? Hit us up on Twitter @ChiefsRadio – or shoot me a message at kbrown@syracusechiefs.com.

Kevin Brown

30 in 30: A Chiefs Countdown to Opening Day – Day 24

We’re counting down until Opening Day with a new post on our Inside the Chiefs blog every day until Syracuse’s opener on April 3rd. Here’s what’s on tap today…

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One week. Baseball in Syracuse will be happening in one week. That seems utterly preposterous, and yet, here we are, seven days away from George Lonergan throwing out the ceremonial first pitch before the new-look Chiefs take the field.

And “taking the field” finally seems like something plausible. There’s snow and ice behind the backstop and in short right field, but other than that, it’s all a beautiful shade of green. In fact, as we speak, head groundskeeper John Stewart and his grounds crew are chipping away at that ice right behind second base. There’s also some sort of rolling heating machine being used on the warning track. (I imagine there’s a more technical term for this, but since I don’t have it, we’ll go with “rolling heating machine”.

As I sit from my bird’s-eye view in the press box, I can also see new signs being put up on the outfield wall. The fence may look like a wiry work in progress now – but just wait until next Thursday. It’ll be packed like never before.

We’re also preparing our in-game presentation for this year. We’ll have new on-field contests and in-game promotions to enhance the ballpark for a fan-friendly experience.

It’s funny…we’ve talked so much about baseball and the roster on this blog that you might almost forget everything else that goes into a game. And this office is buzzing with excitement for Opening Day. There’s nothing quite like the anticipation of a ballpark before the season starts. I want to take a snapshot of today and compare it to seven days from now. The difference will seem almost impossible.

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Mike Gonzalez

Baseball-wise, the Nationals re-signed left-hander Mike Gonzalez – whom they cut just a few days ago – to a minor-league contract. That makes Syracuse a logical destination for Gonzalez, a veteran of 509 major-league games. We’ll see how the trickle-down effect changes the rest of the Chiefs’ bullpen, if at all.

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Have something you want to see or talk about on the blog? Hit us up on Twitter @ChiefsRadio – or shoot me a message at kbrown@syracusechiefs.com.

Kevin Brown

30 in 30: A Chiefs Countdown to Opening Day – Day 23

We’re counting down until Opening Day with a new post on our Inside the Chiefs blog every day until Syracuse’s opener on April 3rd. Here’s what’s on tap today…

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OK, new game plan…completely ignore yesterday’s blog post. (Yes, the one I’m linking to right now. Why do you ask?)

We here at the blog theorized that either Jamey Carroll or Tyler Moore would get the Nationals’ final bench spot. And, true to form – Carroll was cut yesterday while Moore was optioned to Syracuse. Oops.

It’s not entirely our fault, however. While we began to speculate that either Jeff Kobernus or Sandy Leon would be Washington’s 25th man, news trickled out that the Nationals were interested in infielder Kevin Frandsen. Today, that news is unofficially official: Frandsen joins the Nats on a one-year contract, coming over from their division rivals, the Philadelphia Phillies.

What does that mean for Syracuse? That means Kobernus, as we’ve speculated all along, likely returns to the Chiefs for the start of 2014. As we speculated yesterday, there could be a slight chance the Nationals aren’t sold on Scott Hairston after a difficult spring, so it’s possible Kobernus could take his spot. However, Hairston is a generally proven veteran due to make $2.5 million this year, so his spot is probably good to go.

Jeff Kobernus

Jeff Kobernus

The Nationals also finalized their bullpen yesterday, informing right-hander Aaron Barrett that he’s made the team. When Barrett enters a Washington game this season, he’ll throw his first inning ever about Double-A, let alone Triple-A. That news meant Xavier Cedeno and Ryan Mattheus were both officially optioned to Syracuse, giving the Chiefs a pair of reliable relievers in the back end of their bullpen.

We now officially know that Syracuse will start the year with Cedeno, Mattheus and Christian Garcia in the bullpen. As previously speculated on the blog, we also expect Tyler Robertson, Josh Roenicke and Manny Delcarmen to join them.

Ryan Mattheus

Ryan Mattheus

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Have something you want to see or talk about on the blog? Hit us up on Twitter @ChiefsRadio – or shoot me a message at kbrown@syracusechiefs.com.

Kevin Brown

30 in 30: A Chiefs Countdown to Opening Day – Day 22

We’re counting down until Opening Day with a new post on our Inside the Chiefs blog every day until Syracuse’s opener on April 3rd. Here’s what’s on tap today…

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We’re in the final days of spring training for the Nationals, with decisions still to be made. Let’s outline what the big-league club’s looking at, and how that trickles down to Syracuse…

#5 Starter

The Candidates: Taylor Jordan, Tanner Roark, Chris Young

Roark WAS

The Skinny: This is all but officially a two-man race at this point, with Jordan and Roark duking it out, though Matt Williams has continued to bring up the veteran Young’s name. Roark – baseball’s “reigning king of the called strike” – emerged from a red-hot Chiefs season to sport a 1.51 ERA in 14 games (five starts) at season’s end. Jordan was no slouch himself, putting up a 3.66 ERA in nine starts with Washington in his rookie campaign. Young’s best shot? The fact that he’s healthy again and has an opt-out in his contract, meaning the Nationals likely can’t send him to Syracuse without losing him.

The Favorite: It’s a true coin flip between the first two. I’ll guess that Jordan gets the nod based on his youth and a slightly higher ceiling. Plus, Roark pitched well in relief last year, meaning the Nationals could keep both Jordan and Roark on the roster in this scenario. Hey, speaking of…

#7 Reliever

The Candidates: Tanner Roark (if not starting), Aaron Barrett, Xavier Cedeno

Cedeno

The Skinny: I would have put left-hander Mike Gonzalez in here, but he was released five minutes ago, so the race is down to three. Barrett, who closed for Harrisburg last year, hasn’t allowed an run or walked a batter in nine games in his first ever spring training. Cedeno’s sported a 3.68 ERA in nine spring games after a 1.50 mark in 11 games (but only six innings) for the Nationals last season.

The Favorite: Roark will probably be on the Nationals one way or another, and if Jordan ends up starting, this should be Tanner’s spot to lose. If not? I’d say Barrett has a 51-49 edge because of his impressive spring. Don’t discount the possibility of the Nationals keeping a third left-hander, though, with nine of the team’s first 12 games against the lefty-heavy Braves and Mets.

Last Two Bench Spots

The Candidates: Scott Hairston, Jamey Carroll, Tyler Moore

Moore

The Skinny: This assumes that Jose Lobaton, Nate McLouth and Danny Espinosa will all make the Nationals, and there’s no reason to suggest otherwise. Hairston should also be close to a lock, as he’s guaranteed to make $2.5 million this year, but Matt Williams wasn’t entirely committal when talking about his potential fifth outfielder recently. After a season in which he posted just a .191/.237/.414 slash line, Hairston’s at .194/.256/.333 this spring. Carroll, a 40-year-old super-utilityman, is also hitting just .194 in spring, but provides leadership and versatility. Moore’s .607 spring OPS matches his mark from last regular season in 63 games with Washington, though he improved toward year’s end.

The Favorites: Hairston will probably get a bit of a longer leash because of his contract and the fact that he’s on the 40-man roster. He’ll likely start with the club. The decision then comes down to Carroll – plays every position, not on the 40-man roster – and Moore – plays 1B and corner OF, on the 40-man roster. The Nats would have to clear some space to make way for Carroll, but it’s highly doubtful he’d go to Syracuse, and Moore still has an option. Washington may go the conservative route and keep Carroll – in order to keep both.

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Have something you want to see or talk about on the blog? Hit us up on Twitter @ChiefsRadio – or shoot me a message at kbrown@syracusechiefs.com.

Kevin Brown

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