Friday, March 17, 2006

Fouled-Off Bunts: Guzman Out Is Actually Bad Edition

Cristian Guzman's shoulder is hurt worse than we thought. It's been diagnosed as a SLAP tear, adding one more to the Nationals growing number of torn labrums. It's the same injury that Ryan Drese, Jon Rauch, and Jose Guillen had last year. The Nationals are going to rest him for two weeks or so and hope that it heals a bit, but I just can't see that really helping. It's delaying the inevitible. Odds are good that Guzman's going to miss most, if not all, of the season.

Royce Clayton is the presumptive starter now, and if you missed it, I explained why that's a bad idea yesterday. Damian Jackson is penciled in at backup, which cannot be a good thing. He's no shortstop, even if he's worn a glove at the position a few times.

I'm officially starting the Jon Rauch for Freddy Sanchez campaign. Sanchez, a former Red Sox prospect, is on the fence with the Pirates, caught in a numbers game, just like Jon Rauch is here. Truthfully I'd rather have Rauch, but I have a feeling that they're just going to squander him or lose him for nothing anyway.

  • Luis Ayala pitched in the 9th inning of last night's WBC game between Mexico and the US. He looked TERRIBLE. He had no control over his stuff and his mechanics were screwed up. He was practically throwing sidearm -- something he didn't do last year until he started having arm pain -- and when he threw, it looked like his shoulder was accelerating through the zone, leaving his arm behind, and causing a violent snap with the elbow. After a few pitches, the trainer went out, and they removed Ayala. I haven't seen anything about injuries, but seeing how he's coming off surgery, that's not a good sign.

  • Frank Robinson had another team meeting, teaching us a valuable lesson: Always have your team meetings on days that John Patterson is on the mound.

    Robinson's upset with the sloppy play and not having his full compliment of players thanks to the WBC. "Mad Dog" attributes it to something else: Many of those losses could be attributed to defensive miscues and pitchers and catchers that have been unable to call the right pitches to throw to hitters.
    Apparently the quality of the pitches doesn't matter.

    And that's the point. It's not surprising that the Nationals are having a craptastic spring. What's the franchise's biggest weakness? The lack of minor league depth. What's most exposed during spring training? Yep. Minor league depth. The Nationals are doubly harmed. Not only are they losing the battles at the ends of games, when the worst players from both teams are on the field, they're losing the battles at the beginnings of games because players like Kyle Denney and Anastacio Martinez are forced to take on bigger roles than they should because so many regulars are missing for the WBC.

    Yes, by all accounts, the team has played sloppy baseball, but the list of players who've made errors is dominated by players like Wiki Gonzalez, Ian Desmond, and Mike DiFelice, players who are at the fringes of the roster.

    It's not good that they're not winning or, more importantly, that they're losing badly, but don't make too much out of it. There are good signs: Patterson's pitching, Zimmerman's hitting, Byrd's hitting, Watson's improvement, etc. Those are the players that matter, and those are the ones we should be concerned with, not with how many popups that Matt Lecroy (currently at least third on the catcher's depth chart) drops.

  • Jose Guillen took more swings, and still feels good. He's on track to play his first game on Monday.

  • From the same article as above, Tony Armas is glad to be back. He pitched in a minor league game the other day and supposedly threw 94 consistently. Armas could barely hit 91 last season. Either Armas is finally healthy, they're using a bad gun, or someone's lying.

  • Looking forward to eating at Applebee's outside the park in '08? Think again. You're going to have to wait and go elsewhere for your chain restaurant fun.

  • Tom Boswell chats at 11 this morning. I'll bet you anything that he compares Royce Clayton to Mark Belanger at some point.

    Potential questions:
    -- Can Royce Clayton compensate for the loss of Guzman's swagger?
    -- How did you get to be so smart? Educate me, oh wise one!
    -- I think the stadium design stinks, reassure me, gentle Boz!

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