Latest Nats Report piece

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My latest piece on the Rochester Red Wings is now up at Nats Report. Take a look.

Over at The Nats Report: A look at the Red Wings first half

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My work on the Red Wings here and at Pickin’ Splinters has caught some people’s attention, and so I’m proud to announce that I’ll be doing a (mostly) weekly Red Wings update for the folks over at The Nats Report. Click the link to read my first installment.

Over at Pickin’ Splinters: Red Wings beat Omaha

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My latest Red Wings game story is up over at Pickin’ Splinters. It was quite the night, as the Red Wings beat Omaha for the first time in decades (admittedly they haven’t played in decades) and there was an injury scare over the Nationals’ top prospect, Cade Cavalli. Also included in the story: Andrew Stevenson‘s dad strength!

At Pickin’ Splinters: Red Wings falls back in division with 3-2 loss

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My first game story for Pickin’ Splinters is now up. Be sure to check it out and read about the Wings’ loss last night as well as manager Matthew LeCroy’s thoughts on the game.

Rochester Red Wings Report: One line on every new member of the 2022 Rochester Red Wings

During the 2022 season, I’ll have occasional reports on games I’ve attended of the Rochester Red Wings, the AAA affiliate of the Washington Nationals.

Last night’s 3-2 loss to Syracuse was, for such a close game, a rather nondescript one, as the Wings were foiled by a lack of clutch hitting and a would-be tying run being thrown out at the plate.

So, instead, I’m updating my opening day look at the team by having one line on every member of the Red Wings who was not on the opening day roster. I am not including Alcides Escobar, who is on a rehab assignment.

Here we go:

  • Cory Abbott was acquired by the Nationals off waivers from the Giants in May.
  • Joan Adon is looking to get back to Washington after being sent down with a 1-11 record and 6.97 ERA thus far in the show this season.
  • Luis Avilan is an MLB veteran of 458 games, primarily with Atlanta and the Dodgers.
  • Matt Brill came to the Nationals organization after initially being with Arizona, and was moved from AA to AAA in early June.
  • Zack Burdi, currently on the IL, saw some MLB time with the White Sox and Orioles last season.
  • Sam Clay first made his Rochester Red Wings debut in 2019, during the Twins era.
  • Matt Cronin had a minuscule 0.55 ERA in AA Harrisburg before being called up to the Wings in late May.
  • This is Danny Dopico‘s first year in the Nationals organization, having previously been with the White Sox.
  • Aside from Cade Cavalli, Cole Henry is likely the biggest pitching prospect in the Nationals system.
  • Patrick Murphy has pitched in 35 career MLB games.
  • Sterling Sharp is not related to former NFL player Sterling Sharpe, as should be clear by the fact their last names are spelled different.
  • Mason Thompson has a 3.86 ERA in 25.2 career IP in Major League Baseball.
  • Taylor Gushue had a cup of coffee with the Cubs in 2021.
  • Curacao’s Junior Martina has leapfrogged AA to join the Red Wings.
  • Ildemaro Vargas has seen MLB time with Arizona, the Cubs, Minnesota, and Pittsburgh.
  • Josh Palacios‘ uncle, Rey Palacios, is both a former big leaguer and a longtime Rochester firefighter.

The Red Wings continue their series against Syracuse through Sunday.

Rochester Red Wings Report: The Ghosts of Strasmas Past and Present

During the 2022 season, I’ll have occasional reports on games I’ve attended of the Rochester Red Wings, the AAA affiliate of the Washington Nationals.

It is May 19, 2010. The second game of a day-night doubleheader. Over 12.5 thousand people pack Frontier Field to watch the best prospect in baseball face the Red Wings. His name is Stephen Strasburg. He is young, but already accomplished. He won awards at San Diego State, a bronze medal in Beijing, and a $15 million dollar contract with the help of Scott Boras. The world is seemingly watching, with national media in the stands and seemingly every camera in the photo city aimed at the clean-shaven kid. Among those cameras in mine. It’s a clear view from behind the visitor dugout, and I see it all as he dismantles the likes of Trevor Plouffe, Matt Tolbert, and Danny Valencia to the tune of nine strikeouts. He leaves the game to a round of applause from the fans of the team he held to three hits. Admittedly, the 2010 Red Wings end up not being anything particularly special, finishing 49-95. As he enters the dugout, some boo him for not tipping his hat. It’s a silly controversy which fades quickly, the Ghost of Strasmas Past.

Within a few weeks, Strasburg is striking out 14 Pittsburgh Pirates. Within a few years, he’s an all-star. Within a decade, he’s the World Series MVP.

It is June 3, 2022. Over a dozen years have passed. Now, the great Stephen Strasburg returns to Rochester. He’s no longer the wonderboy of 2010. Time and injuries have forced him to go from the high heat to more finesse. Where once he could seemingly send it at 95 on demand, now his most dangerous pitch is likely the curve. Regardless, he is Stephen Strasburg, hero of the 2019 World Series. Over 10.5 thousand people pack Frontier Field to see the now-bearded veteran. While the eyes of the world have turned elsewhere, there are still plenty of cameras. One of those cameras is mine, shooting around the protective netting that slightly obstructs the view behind the visitors dugout. The Buffalo team Strasburg faces is a far better opponent than the Wings team he faced in 2010. The Red Wings he’s rehabbing with are better, too. The two Western New York teams are in a fight for the lead of the International League East. When he leaves the game after six innings, the Wings are leading 1-0 thanks to a Donovan Casey solo shot off a nearly-as-dominant Max Castillo. Strasburg has thrown 83 pitches, 50 of them for strikes. He has struck out four, walked one, and given up just a single hit. Early on, he humiliates the Blue Jays’ top prospect, Gabriel Moreno. Outside of a few at-bats that saw deep counts and a few possible would-be hits that are prevented by Rochester gloves, he never really struggles. The Bison eventually tie the game, but the Red Wings win it in the bottom of the ninth as Joey Meneses gets a bases-loaded single that just falls out of the third baseman’s glove. The win extends Rochester’s lead in the division to 2.5 games. By then, I imagine, Strasburg is already on a flight back to join the Nationals. After all, when he leaves the game after the sixth to applause he does some fist-bumps, talks to coaches quickly, and then disappears into the clubhouse. Gone. The Ghost of Strasmas Present.

And so now, he is gone, likely to never see Frontier Field again barring any future injuries. What the future holds for him is anyone’s guess, but in the near-term, it almost certainly sees him stepping on the mound in Washington once again. It will be a far cry from that night he struck out 14 Pirates as the world watched. Still, he is Stephen Strasburg. The best pitcher on a team having a horrific year. The greatest pitcher to spend the vast majority of his career in Washington since Walter Johnson. Beyond that, who knows? Perhaps this is the twilight of his career. Perhaps he’s just one more injury away from hanging it up. Or perhaps this is still just the end of the beginning or middle stage. Perhaps he has many years left in him. Perhaps it even leads to Cooperstown. Right now that feels iffy, but who knows how the career of Stephen Strasburg will end? Nobody knows, save perhaps the Ghost of Strasmas Future.

The Red Wings (without Stephen Strasburg) finish up their series with Buffalo over the weekend.

Rochester Red Wings Report: Can’t Win Them All

During the 2022 season, I’ll have occasional reports on games I’ve attended of the Rochester Red Wings, the AAA affiliate of the Washington Nationals.

For two batters on Tuesday night, it appeared that the Rochester Red Wings were going to win their 10th straight game and further solidify their place at the top of the IL East and one of the bright spots for the Washington Nationals organization. For two batters on Tuesday night, Cade Cavalli was the best pitcher in the minors.

Alas, the game did not end after two batters. After striking out Matt Vierling and Austin Wynns in quick succession to begin the game, it all fell apart. While Cavalli maintained the high speeds that have made him the Nationals’ best pitching prospect, the control left him and the Lehigh Valley IronPigs (Phillies) found themselves able to sit on the pitches he was able to get in the zone. Four hits, two walks, and eventually five earned runs later, and the Wings found themselves down 5-0 after the first inning, with Cavalli only going 0.2 on the day as his ERA increased to 7.62.

It was undoubtedly a disheartening display for prospect-watchers. Cavalli has yo-yo’d a bit in quality this season. At times, such as a 5.1 IP no-hit performance in late April, he has been every bit the future MLB fireballer that Nationals fans are hoping for. On other nights, such as Tuesday, he has been a messy pitcher who calls to mind Nuke Laloosh early in Bull Durham, with plenty of pure talent but none of the refinement needed to make it to the show. Whether he settles into one or the other as far as results is one of the things that Nationals fans and Red Wings fans most want to know.

While the Wings lineup was able to make it something of a game again later, the deficit was just far too great to truly make it competitive, as they fell 11-5. Outside of two good two-inning stints by Jace Fry and Andres Machado, the pitching just couldn’t hold off the IronPigs enough to allow for another comeback.

Luis Garcia, who remains by far the position player on the Wings most likely to become a mainstay in Washington, also had a rough game, going 0-3 and leaving four on base before being pulled later in the game. While the hitless game wasn’t entirely his fault (Lehigh’s Vierling made a nice diving catch to rob him in the first), the same couldn’t be said for his fielding. Often mentioned as his weakest tool and one reason why he hasn’t become a permanent fixture in the bigs yet, Garcia sadly lived down to that complaint on Tuesday, committing his fifth error of the season while also showing a lack of range at shortstop. On a few occasions, there were balls hit up the middle that a top-level shortstop may have been able to make a play on, but Garcia wasn’t able to. Some (but not all) of these may have been because of shifts in play, but it was still concerning. Shifts or no shifts, though, it is pretty concerning. While hardly something that justifies him staying in the minors (after all, Derek Jeter was infamous for his inability to get to balls hit to his left), it does show some of why the Nationals are concerned about his play in the field.

In some ways, the loss on Tuesday was inevitable. The Wings had been soaring this month, but there had been some big caveats. As I mentioned in my previous article, they’d been playing teams under .500 (with Tuesday’s loss they actually have a losing record against teams with winning records). What’s more, some of those wins during their now-ended nine-game winning streak were perilous, involving comebacks and at times shaky play that forced the Wings to win narrowly. It also felt a bit too good to be true for Rochester sports. Last week, the weather was beautiful (so, of course, the Wings were on the road) and the local hockey team, the Amerks, were storming to wins in the playoffs. Between the Wings win streak and the Amerks’ success on the rink, good vibes were at a high for Rochester sports. On Tuesday, though, the weather was cold and bitter, so perhaps it wasn’t surprising that the Wings lost and the Amerks lost on the same night.

However, the ultimate reason is the probably the simplest. The thing you say after any loss:

“You can’t win them all.”

The Red Wings continue their series with Lehigh Valley for the rest of the week.