Nationals Arm Race

"… the reason you win or lose is darn near always the same – pitching.” — Earl Weaver

Injuries and Idiocy lead to interesting Call-ups


Unbelievably, Maya gets another MLB shot. Photo Al Bello/Getty Images

Hey, we’ve all been there Ryan Mattheus.

But clearly Mattheus never watched Bull Durham; Crash Davis‘ last lesson to Ebby Calvin ‘Nuke’ LaLoosh involved exactly what Mattheus just did to himself.  If you’re going to punch something … NEVER punch with your pitching hand.

And then in an even worse move, Mattheus hid the injury from his manager until it was too late to call up someone, meaning the team was short a reliever for last night’s SF game (a predictable 8-0 loss as Zach Duke even more predictably got hammered for 7 hits and 4 earned runs in just 3 1/3 innings).

We may even have an issue with Henry Rodriguez, who apparently “grimaced” as he was throwing one of his FOURTY SEVEN pitches last night, a ridiculous amount of pitches for a max-effort guy who should normally be throwing half that in an outing.  Don’t be surprised to see news of him hitting the D/L either.

So, with the bullpen shredded and now devoid of basically anyone who can throw significant long innings for the next couple of days, the team called up Yunesky Maya to provide some cover.  Maya has been awful in AAA so far this year (1-4 with a 5.07 era) but he’s the best option on the 40-man roster for what they need right now.   They’re also planning on calling up lefty Fernando Abad, one of their slew of lefty minor league free agents who has been excellent in AAA this year.   Abad will likely be a one-for-one replacement for Mattheus when he hits the D/L and has earned his way back to the majors.  Abad will require a 40-man move; he will be the 40th guy on the roster.  Maya likely switches places again with Eury Perez once the bullpen can catch its breath.

A better more interesting question may involve the fate of Duke.  He’s been awful this year, barely appears because of it, and when he is called upon to provide the one thing the team needs from him (an effective spot start) he fell on his face.  He’s not given this team anything close to what Tom Gorzelanny gave us for the past few years, and I’m beginning to wonder if the team really made the right decision keeping Duke over Gorzelanny.  Duke only makes $700k a year (versus the 2yr/$5.7M deal that Gorzelanny got from Milwaukee) but with the marginal value of a “Win” on the open market being in excess of $5M these days, have the Nats ended up being penny wise but a pound foolish?

Regardless of the “hindsight is 20/20” analysis with Duke versus Gorzelanny, I have a feeling we may be seeing another move in the near future; the DFA of Duke and the call up of either J.C. Romero or newly acquired Xavier Cedeno. Both are lefties, both are veterans, both are pitching really well in Syracuse, and both seemingly can do no worse than Duke has done.  This isn’t as exciting as seeing a prospect get called up (for example; Danny Rosenbaum or Erik Davis), but with any more injuries we may get there.

23 Responses to 'Injuries and Idiocy lead to interesting Call-ups'

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  1. I’d like someone to explain to me how a team that had “World Series or Bust” as its offseason mantra and spent big bucks on a new closer could justify not keeping Gorzelanny or Burnett over Duke–or keeping Henry Rodriguez on the active roster for that matter.

    I can forgive some of the other issues with this team–no one could have ever expected Espinosa, Bernadina and Moore to be THIS bad or that Clippard and Storen would struggle as much as they have–but a supposed contender leaving itself vulnerable by expecting to rely on two such obviously unworthy players just to save a few bucks in Duke’s case or to assuage the GM’s ego in Rodriguez’s case is simply not acceptable.

    Hopefully, Bill Bray will get the bump to Syracuse as a result of this and will have soon figured out his delivery issues as we deserately need him.


    21 May 13 at 12:16 pm

  2. I don’t think the team like Burnett’s medical records. He had been pitching with an arm issue last year and has been sidelined a lot of this season. He just didnt look like a guy who was going ti be worth a multivyear deal. I also believe the team, along with many people who follow the team, believed a Duke for Gorzelanny swap wouldn’t be a huge drop off. Hindsight obviously says other wise but at the time of the move there wasn’t a lot of criticism.

    As far as Henry goes he is mop up anyhow. It would be nice now to have another reliable arm but HRod was worth one more look in a low pressure role. Time to cut bait though.

    As far as Romero goes I believe he is in the DL at AAA, hence Abad getting the first call up. Once healthy I concur with Todd that he will be replacing Duke.

    Todd, the only problem with your thoughts on Maya swapping back out for Perez is there has to be an injury for Perez to come back in the next 10 days. If the team wanted to be bold they would swap Maya back out for Rendon and play him at 2nd until Werth comes back.


    21 May 13 at 1:01 pm

  3. Tonight would be an opportune time for Stras’ second career 8 inning game.


    21 May 13 at 1:05 pm

  4. Good point on Burnett and Gorzelanny. I don’t entirely remember what stance I took in this space but believe I was on board with the “like for like” theory that Duke would be the same as Gorzelanny. It was based on Duke’s small-sample-size of performance in September. Clearly he hasn’t been able to replicate it in 2013. He’s being paid so little though that a DFA and a cutting of losses won’t be that expensive. (So there’s that).

    If Garcia was healthy, Rodriguez would be gone. Simple as that. He still has nearly as many BBs as innings. I wonder if the team will turn to Erik Davis next for that extra RHP out of the bullpen? They put him on the 40-man for a reason right?

    Romero/DL: I forgot. good point.

    Maya/Perez/10 day turnaround: what, you don’t think we can invent a soft-tissue injury for someone tomorrow? 🙂 Rodriguez already quoted as “wincing” during his start yesterday; sounds like a 15-day DL trip for a “strained shoulder” or some bs. I like the Rendon thought; he’s starting at 2B in Harrisburg for a reason. Can’t have a .130 hitter in the lineup every day.

    Todd Boss

    21 May 13 at 1:17 pm

  5. On paper, a great matchup (Strasburg v Cain). In reality two guys with concerns. I list the matchup as “even” but wonder what will happen. I’m guessing a 0-0 game broken open by an error late.

    Todd Boss

    21 May 13 at 1:18 pm

  6. I don’t have a blog so I doubt if I said so in writing, but I questioned the Duke move from the beginning. Isn’t one of the basic GM axioms that you shouldn’t base your personnel decisions for the following season on a player’s performance during a September callup? Remember when the universally loathed Jim Bowden made the same mistake with lefty reliever Mike Hinckley? After Rizzo took over, he couldn’t get Hinckley’s overmatched rear end out of town fast enough.

    It all comes down to this: Rizzo isn’t as smart as he thinks he is. It’s nice that he has confidence, and he made some great moves in building last year’s team, but I worry that the success has gone to his head. He needs someone around him to occasionally remind him of annoying little facts like Oliver Perez, who we had stashed at AA for all of 2011, is now sporting a nifty 1.59 ERA with a 12.7 K/9 ratio as a lefty middle reliever with Seattle. That might serve to keep him a little more grounded.


    21 May 13 at 1:49 pm

  7. Then again, Duke provided 1/3 of last night’s total offense. I’m more concerned about the Nat’s basic inability to generate offense. Against one of the NL’s worst starters, the Nat’s were completely shut down–again.


    21 May 13 at 2:12 pm

  8. I didn’t like the Duke move either, seemed penny wise/pound foolish, but I doubt that I thought it was a big deal. Lefty mop up men shouldn’t make too much of a difference. Duke has certainly sucked, but he also hasn’t gotten regular work, which seems like it would affect a soft-tossing guy a lot. I also bet they’ll DL HRod indefinitely.

    NO MAYA!!!!!!!! I cannot take that guy, they should have released him years ago and admitted their mistake. Only stubbornness by Rizzo has him hanging around.

    We have talked a lot about the big differences between this year and last year, but here is a subtle one: they are much less watchable this year. Seems weird, right but try to guess how often you flip channels this year during a game compare to last year. Last year, almost never. I didn’t like watching EJax much, but the other starters and the pen were all fun. Plus the defense was worth watching, and many of their hitters had enough pop to hold on. I basically clicked away from the catcher and pitcher, and maybe Espy when he was in one of those prolonged slumps.

    This year, it is easier to say who I hang in there for: 3-6 in the line up certainly; Ramos when he is healthy, maybe Span. I’ll hang for the starters usually (although I don’t love watching Haren) but the bullpen is almost an immediately click away, and their defense is hard to watch so far (Zim is literally a cringe moment). I am sure that their TV and attendance rates are still good compared to last year, but this kind of stuff could really hold them back from talking the next level in fan support.


    21 May 13 at 2:14 pm

  9. Did the loss of Michael Morse, not only from an offense-generation perspective but also from a personality/charisma/clubhouse influence perspective? This goes towards your watchability point. When Morse comes up … there’s always a chance he absolutely mashes a ball 450 feet.

    Todd Boss

    21 May 13 at 3:53 pm

  10. Offense issues: I don’t think anybody saw this coming. How are they going to turn it around?

    Todd Boss

    21 May 13 at 3:55 pm

  11. Todd, this column was spot-on and badly needed, with wjat is going on. Not a lot of controversy here, as I agree with just about everybody on the subject.
    Keep up the good work.

    Mark L

    21 May 13 at 4:20 pm

  12. How are they going to turn it around? Start by admitting they made a bunch of mistakes in putting the team together already.

    Duke and H-Rod should be gone, immediately. Swap Moore for Marrero and give the latter one last MLB evaluation before he runs out of options. Shut Espinosa down, insist that he have the surgery and insert Rendon into the lineup. I would even consider dropping Bernadina for Kobernus even though I loved The Shark prior to this year. Oh, and I’d also make it clear to Mr. Storen that there is a young man named Erik Davis in AAA waiting to take his spot if he doesn’t figure things out in a hurry.

    Wally is right about the team being far less watchable this year. It might be that not all of the above moves would work, but they would make the team more interesting than watching the same group predicatbly fail night after night. It would also instantly disperse any and all clubhouse complacency.


    21 May 13 at 4:45 pm

  13. Wally–I wouldn’t have thoughtthe Duke move was a big deal IF they had jettisoned Gorzo, Burnett and Gonzalez. As the last guy in the bullpen he might have been an okay risk. But as the pen’s sole lefty? That made me nervous right from the start.


    21 May 13 at 4:52 pm

  14. I thought the team should have kept Gorzelanny but was ok with swapping him out for Duke with the thought that another lefty ala JP Howell or Randy Choate would be brought in. That was not the case and that is the move I 2nd guess. Bill Bray was not a legit option to bank on. I also agree with Todd that if Christian Garcia was healthy HRod would have been gone. Hopefully Duke is gone soon to make way for Romero once healthy and Henry is shown the door so Davis can get a look. Davis has options so if he stinks it up he can be sent down and at that point you can look at the trade market if need be.

    A bullpen like below would at least give Davey more match up options.


    Davis is a former starter so he should be more than capable of joining Stammen in the hybrid long reliever role.

    As far as the offense goes it definitely seems to be time to shut Danny down. Replace him with Rendon and bat him 2nd like the team did with Harper. Even if Rendon doesn’t light the world on fire and only hits .250 with his good eye that plays out to probably a .330ish OBP which is light years ahead of Espinosa right now.

    Chad Tracy has had 2 nice pinch hit at bats lately so maybe he is coming around a bit. Bernadina is what he is. A 4th outfielder who bats left handed, has speed and plays all 3 spots. No reason to get rid of him. Moore may need to go play every day for awhile to get his stroke back. Marrero could be the righty bat off the bench. He hit for no power when he was called up but I do remember him doing well with “productive outs” and a couple of sac flys. At this point someone who can do that would be valuable for this team.


    21 May 13 at 7:16 pm

  15. I think the craziest thing is as bad as this team has been so far this year they have so much talent in the locker room that they are still OVER .500. If they were a “bad” team they would be sitting in a position like the Angels. They are reminding me a lot of the Tigers from last year. All the talent in the world but not meeting expectations.


    21 May 13 at 7:19 pm

  16. Why get rid of Bernadina? .125/.197/.161, that’s why. Espinosa is Babe Ruth compared to The Shark this year. What does it matter which way he bats if he can’t hit anymore?

    And as for us being over .500, we’re 18-21 against any team not named the MAAAArlins.


    21 May 13 at 9:13 pm

  17. I think bdrube outlined the moves that are there to be made right now, but other than Rendon for Espy, they are smaller moves that probably won’t move the needle much. I wouldn’t do anything with Storen; I think he has been as unlucky as bad. His stuff seems good still, and I’d bet on a turn around. Btw, I think that I would just trade Epsy. i have kind of defended him here for the last couple of years, but he just looks so impotent at the plate i have a hard time seeing his bounceback. kind of looks like Gordon Beckham now. And I think he’ll have more trade value than you might think. An above average SS who has hit 20 HRs recently and has three years of control left. I bet he has more value than Morse did, and I thought that was a decent haul.

    But why not think bigger? Why not bring up Karns for the pen? The guy is 25/26, so he is no young puppy that can be ruined by rushing him, give him some big league exposure in the pen and let him air it out close to 100. Maybe he gets scorching hot and lifts the whole pen with him. Momentum like that seems to happen sometimes. Isn’t that what STL did last year with Rosenthal and Kelly? Worked out pretty well. They can always pop him back as a starter next year.

    And for the offense, it won’t be easy but maybe they need to replace Werth somehow. If Vernon Wells can be traded TWICE there has to be some kind of market for Werth. Then maybe they can use some prospects for a high OBP corner OF, maybe take on a contract to do it.

    I dunno, just thinking out loud, but it feels like something bigger needs to happen.


    21 May 13 at 10:01 pm

  18. Trading Espinosa: we know he can play SS … but do other teams? And even if he’s a plus defender at SS (some think he’s a better shortstop than Desmond), what kind of value do we get for him while he’s hitting .159? I think the Espinosa answer is; surgery, rest, recouperation and try again next season.

    Bullpen replacing HRod/Mattheus/Duke with Abad/Romero/Davis: i like it, and agree it may give the team more options. Only thing i’d worry about is the viability of Abad and Romero. I mean, they were both *really* bad last year, hence their availability on minor league deals. We caught lightening in a bottle with Mike Gonzalez in 2012; can we do it again?

    Karns callup: I completely see the comparison to what STL has done with Rosenthal/Kelly. Can’t disagree. BUT, given how unbelievably thin our starting pitching in the farm system is right now, I honestly want to keep Karns on schedule in AA. Look at B-R’s pitching depth chart for our organization this year: there’s not a single right hander in the minors worth a call-up right now. Even Karns’ numbers are inflated right now by a couple bad starts. Best call-up starter option is Rosenbaum, he of the 5 k/9 rate.

    Offense: we do have some decent hitting options in the minors this year. Marrero has been raking as others pointed out. Kobernus hitting .330 but without much power (as expected). And Rendon has a frigging 1.100 ops in AA since returning. Maybe its worth replacing some of our bench guys….

    Todd Boss

    22 May 13 at 7:17 am

  19. Wally I think you are over estimating Espinosa’s trade value. His offense has tanked since September of last year when he hurt his shoulder. He is playing injured and has limited big league experience at SS. The team can easily remove him from the active roster by either optioning him to the minors or putting him on the DL. Why not let him get healthy and then trade him?

    Werth hsa a full no trade clause as well so things would have to be bad in DC for him to waive that.

    The Karns idea could work IF they do it like the Cardinals did. They kept Rosenthal a starter at the minors all year only using him breifly as a reliever during a couple of call ups when someone else was injured. They did not add him to the roster full time until September call ups. I could see the Nats doing something similar with Karns this season. Kelly was a bit of a different case. He was used 16 times as a starter and then they kept him on the roster as a reliever after that.

    I would be interested to see what Kobernus could do as the utility guy. This team is lacking guys who put the ball in play at key times. The game last night should have been 4-1 or more if they could have just lofted a couple of sac flys. It isn’t always about batting average and on base percentage. Just getting the runs homes from 3rd with less than two outs should not be such a struggle.


    22 May 13 at 9:57 am

  20. I could definitely be overstating Espy’s trade value. I am just guessing, really. But when I look around the league, I see guys like Brendan Ryan, Dee Gordon, Ruben Tejada, Marwin Gonzalez, Clint Barmes getting large chunks of playing time, and I think almost anyone would take Espy over those guys. Let’s not forget that he is something like top 10 in 2B WAR over the last few years. And Espy has enough of a track record in the minors and majors to show he can play SS. That is my argument, anyway. The potential injury is certainly a limiting factor. I said trade now, but implicit in that was that we’d get a decent return that could fill some holes now. If not, then I agree to wait.

    Btw, I think Rizzo is an excellent GM. There is a ‘But’ coming, but I really do mean that. But one of his flaws is that it takes him forever to accept he made a mistake. Maya is not a major league pitcher. He just isn’t, and that was apparent two years ago. He should have DFA’d him back then, when no one would have touched his salary, and then outrighted him off the 40 man roster. But he wouldn’t admit his mistake, and since he doesn’t want to risk losing anyone now, he has to call him up. So we get stuck with a PoS in a ‘World Series or bust’ year. Ditto for Duke and HRod and even Solano – Davey gets saddled with guys that he will not use in game situations unless the outcome is decided. Rizzo gets so concerned with exposing marginal guys to waivers that we play with limited rosters at times. Back in 2011, that was ok because we weren’t going anywhere. But now? every game counts. Let’s put our best 25 man roster out there.


    22 May 13 at 11:11 am

  21. I agree with everyone you mentioned except Solano. Solano is an adequate backup catcher. Davey is using him a way a manager would use a backup catcher. Once a week. The difference is, when Ramos is healthy, we have 2 starting catchers vs 1 clear cut starter.

    Maya is garbage and I think the reason he got this call up is because when it is over they will be DFAing him and exposing him to waivers. This is a very short term move until they figure out what to do with Detwiler. That very well could have been Maya’s only appearance because now Stammen and Henry (I know, I know) should be recovered from their long outings. The only reason Maya was even used last night was because Davey used Clipp and Soriano to try to get the win and that only left Abad, Maya and Storen available. He was holding Storen in case they got the lead to close a game out and Abad is a situational guy. Hopefully I am right and he is gone by the end of the weekend.

    If it was a long term move I think they would have called up Erik Davis but instead of putting the actual prospect in for a short term stint and making him fly across the country for 1 or 2 appearances then shipping him back down (which would also mean he could not immediately be called back up if there is another injury) they went with someone who was expendable. Hopefully that means the team thinks Detwiler will only miss one start.

    Sorry for being long winded haha


    22 May 13 at 12:35 pm

  22. Solano; you never give up catcher depth if you can help it. Hence the re-signing of Maldonado for AAA.

    Maya: interesting take. He’s still owed $2M this year on the last of his original 4 year deal … does that play into the decision? Given his MLB track record and his AAA numbers this year, you have to think a waiver claim will go unanswered. A question I dont’ know the answer to; if someone claims Maya do they pay the rest of his salary?

    40-man roster is full now; we’re in a one-in out out mode now. If you wanted to call up the likes of Kobernus, Rosenbaum someone has to make way. I don’t perceive that any of our 15-day d/l guys are 60-day transfer candidates, even Mattheus who supposedly will be back in 6 weeks. I think they could sneak either Maya or Brown off right now if need-be. Why is Brown still even on the roster? Think about the OF injury epidemic we’d have to have in order to give Brown more MLB at bats. Span, Werth, Harper starters, Moore, Bernadina known backups. Then you’d go Lombardozzi (as we’ve already seen), and then Perez. Only then do you get to Brown on the depth chart. And he’s not even starting in AAA and is hitting .237.

    Todd Boss

    22 May 13 at 2:05 pm

  23. PDowdy – not long winded, good explanations that I hadn’t really considered.

    I’d say that Brown is still there because Rizzo hates to give up on anything. Generally speaking, that is good thinking, but I do think that a GM’s mindset should change given the circumstances of his major league team. And right now, Rizzo should be in ‘go for it’ mode and not trying to get by with sub standard players. That doesn’t mean mortgaging the farm necessarily, but it certainly does mean no Maya even for one pitch. I am much more forgiving of keeping Moore or Bernie, even Espy, to a lesser degree, since they have a previous track record of production, but Rendon should be up here, and some better bullpen options as well.


    22 May 13 at 3:50 pm

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