Aaron Barrett explains his standoff with Brandon Barnes
Aaron Barrett planned nothing. The moment he found himself standing outside the Nationals’ dugout, in a battle of hand-over-heart attrition with the Rockies’ Brandon Barnes, surprised him as much as it did anyone else at Coors Field.
“If you would have told me this morning that I would be doing that,” Barrett said, “I would have laughed.”
Before the Nationals lost to the Rockies, 6-4, Barrett engaged in an organic, pregame standoff/staredown with Barnes, the pinch hitter he struck out in a key spot Monday night. Following the national anthem, Barrett and Barnes remained outside their respective dugouts, hats off, challenging one another to see who could hold out the longest. Barrett won after home plate umpire Paul Emmel threatened Barnes with an ejection.
“It was pretty funny,” Barrett said. “I’m not going to lie. Baseball is supposed to be fun. It was pretty fun to be a part of that.”
The contest materialized after the national anthem. Barrett was standing next to fellow reliever Jerry Blevins. A group had carried an American flag on the field, and Blevins told Barrett, “We’re staying out here until the flag goes out.”
They noticed across the field that Rockies closer LaTroy Hawkins had stayed on the field, too, telling a rookie to stay with him until the flag left. Barnes stayed, too. Hawkins and the rookie left once the flag was carried out. Barnes didn’t.
“Stay out there,” Blevins told Barrett.
Barrett and Barnes nodded at one another, and it was on. Barnes’s teammates poured cooling water over his head and fed him sunflower seeds. Hitting coach Rich Schu poured water down Barrett’s throat. Blevins applied sunscreen on Barrett’s neck. First base coach Tony Tarasco yelled a pep talk at him. Blevins gave him an oxygen mask. Teammates yelled from the dugout, “You better stay out there!” Barrett told himself he had to.
“Otherwise,” Barrett said, “they’re going to give me more [trouble].”
After several minutes, Coors Field showed Barrett and Barnes on a split screen on the video board. Jorge De La Rosa neared the end of his warmup pitches, and leadoff hitter Denard Span walked from the on-deck circle. Someone placed a helmet on Barrett’s head. Bryce Harper wrapped an elbow pad around Barrett’s arm.
“The umpire looked at me and was like, ‘If there’s a pitch and you’re still there, you’re gone,’ ” Barnes told the Denver Post.
Barnes tried to challenge to Barrett to a game of Rock, Paper, Scissors, and Barrett refused. To avoid the most ridiculous ejection in baseball history, Barnes turned and headed into the dugout. Barrett, who had been standing closer to the railing, raised his hands and claimed victory.
“It was a big win for the team,” Barrett said. “They were getting pretty serious behind me. He wanted to do Rock, Paper, Scissors for the end. The guys were like, ‘You better not lose.’ I didn’t want to hear the wrath of the team if I would have lost. Why not? It was fun. It was good camaraderie.”
Alas, Barrett’s performance in the actual game did not match his performance before it. In the seventh inning, Barrett allowed two runs, one of them unearned, as the Rockies made the score 6-2.
“I wish I would have done a little bit better and we could have got a win,” Barrett said. “It would have been two wins for the day.”
Jayson Werth out of the Nationals’ lineup with sore knee
Right fielder Jayson Werth was out of the lineup Wednesday with a sore right knee, Manager Matt Williams said. Werth has played in the Nationals’ last 17 games, after an especially active game in right field Tuesday night, Williams wanted to give him two days off combined with Thursday’s scheduled off day.
“He’s had a little barky knee coming out of the break,” Williams said. “The series against Milwaukee, it was hurting him a little bit. Last night, he had an extraordinary game. He came in after the game last night pretty sore. He texted me early this morning and said he woke feeling pretty bad.”
Both Williams and Werth do not consider the knee soreness an injury, and he should return Friday in Cincinnati.
“He’s available, certainly,” Williams said. “It’s nothing big. We thought if we can look at giving him two days in a row off, maybe it will calm down a little bit. I think it’s fine. It’s just barking in him.”
Scott Hairston took Werth’s place in the lineup, playing left, and Bryce Harper shifted to right field. Here’s the full lineup.
1. Denard Span, CF
2. Scott Hairston, LF
3. Anthony Rendon, 3B
4. Adam LaRoche, 1B
5. Ian Desmond, SS
6. Bryce Harper, LF
7. Danny Espinosa, 2B
8. Jose Lobaton, C
9. Stephen Strasburg, SP
1. Charlie Blackmon, RF
2. Josh Rutledge, SS
3. Corey Dickerson, LF
4. Nolan Arenado, 3B
5. Ben Paulsen, 1B
6. Drew Stubbs, CF
7. Michael McKenry, C
8. DJ LeMahieu, 2B
9. Jorge De La Rosa SP
Nationals await Ryan Zimmerman’s MRI results, may consider trades
An MRI exam taken Wednesday morning revealed Ryan Zimmerman suffered a “pretty substantial” right hamstring strain that will leave the Washington Nationals without one of their most indispensable players for an indeterminate stretch, Manager Matt Williams said.
The Nationals placed Zimmerman on the 15-day disabled list with a right hamstring strain, called up infielder Zach Walters and considered contingencies for how they will chase the pennant without their bedrock third baseman for the second time this season.
“It’s pretty tough,” Zimmerman said. “Those are things that happen. There’s nothing you can really do about it. There’s no reason to pout or feel sorry for yourself. You try to be here for these guys. We’re playing good baseball, and I think we’ll continue to do that before I get back. Hopefully, I’ll get back sooner than later.”
Zimmerman planned to travel with the Nationals to Cincinnati, where the team will play a three-game series beginning Friday, and then return to Washington for treatment and further consultation with team doctors. When asked how early he could return, Zimmerman chuckled. “I wish I knew,” he said. He did not want to place an estimate before learning more.
“We haven’t really heard much yet, so it’s hard to say anything in the long term,” Zimmerman said. “I’m sore today, just like we thought I would be. We don’t really have any timetable or anything like that, other than it’s a pretty decent strain.”
Early on, the Nationals knew it would not be good. Nationals team physician Dr. Wiemi Douoguih had yet to interpret results from the MRI exam Wednesday morning. But when Zimmerman arrived in the Nationals clubhouse following the test, it did not portend an optimistic outlook.
“It’s actually a little worse,” Williams said. “When I spoke with him this morning, he hadn’t had any treatment on it. When you’re hot and it happens, it doesn’t feel quite as bad as the next morning when you wake up. But we’ll see what the results are.”
In June, catcher Wilson Ramos strained his hamstring running to second base and missed only the minimum 15 days on the disabled list. Even without test results, it’s evident Zimmerman suffered a more serious injury.
“He’s acting a little bit worse than Wilson’s was,” Williams said. “Wilson came in the next day and said, ‘It’s not too bad.’ He didn’t have any issues walking. Zim’s pretty sore. He’s pretty tight. We’ll have to see. I would venture to say it’s probably a little bit worse.”
Zimmerman did not require crutches to walk, but “it’s ginger,” Williams said. “He’s certainly not straightening the leg all the way. That’s a concern.”
Zimmerman already missed 44 games on the disabled list this year after he broke his right thumb. The Nationals have gone 33-19 and averaged 4.9 runs when Zimmerman plays. Without him, they’ve gone 22-24 and scored 3.5 runs per game. Having regained his timing coming off his first DL stint, Zimmerman had been one of the Nationals’ best hitters, batting .362 with a .418 on-base percentage and .569 slugging percentage with two homers in 58 July at-bats.
The Nationals will move Anthony Rendon to third base and Danny Espinosa to second base. Espinosa, a switch-hitter, has been far better against left-handed pitchers than right-handed pitchers. Walters, who has played mostly second base at Class AAA Syracuse, may see time against right-handed starting pitchers. Wednesday afternoon, Walters sparked a two-run, ninth-inning rally with a two-out, pinch-hit single.
“We want to get him reps, certainly,” Williams said. “With the lefty today, Danny’s back in there. We’ll see what the coming days give us. But Zach’s been playing really well.”
The Nationals chose Walters over outfielder Steven Souza, who leads the International League in average (.359), on-base percentage (.436) and slugging (.597). With a full outfield and two extra outfielders in Scott Hairston and Nate McLouth, the Nationals may not have been able to find at-bats for Souza.
Walters can play second base against right-handed starters, and the Nationals valued his defensive versatility. He’s also hitting .300 with a .608 slugging percentage in 60 games, not enough to qualify for league leader boards. At Syracuse, Walters has played second base, shortstop, third base and even some outfield.
“If we were to think about another outfielder, then we’d be really limited in our infield,” Williams said. “Souza’s playing well. Zach’s playing well. With the injury to Zim, we needed some middle infield backup there, and to balance the bench with infielders and outfielders.”
Utility man Kevin Frandsen will be the Nationals’ backup first baseman behind Adam LaRoche.
Zimmerman’s injury could spur the Nationals to explore a trade prior to the July 31 trade deadline. Because of Rendon’s ability to play both second and third base, the Nationals could seek a second baseman or a third baseman on the trade market.
“Injuries certainly help you make decisions on what you would want or need,” Williams said. “You look at Zim’s injury, and that could potentially speak to you and say, ‘Well, let’s look at that.’ Depending on how long he may be out, that’s something that we may take a look at as well. But we have constant dialogue about who may be out there, what it could potentially mean for your team and what it would cost. … Certainly, Zim’s injury, him being out at least two weeks, we have to take a hard look at that.”
Martin Prado and Aaron Hill, both of whom Williams coached with the Arizona Diamondbacks, would fit the Nationals’ needs. An excellent defender and an all-star in 2009, Hill owns a paltry .664 on-base-plus-slugging percentage this season. But he’s also come out of the all-star break hot, going 8 for 19 with a homer and two doubles.
Prado, who went to the Diamondbacks when they traded Justin Upton to the Braves, is hitting .272/.317/.365. He can play left field, third base and second base and is regarded as a hard-working, team-first player.
Both Prado and Hill have contracts that would make a deal difficult. Hill will make roughly $4.2 million the rest of the season and $12 million in both 2015 and 2016. Prado will also make about $4.2 million the remainder of this year and then $11 million in each of the next two seasons.
Prado’s defensive flexibility would make his contract more palatable. The Nationals could make either player fit in seasons to come. If Adam LaRoche leaves in free agency, Zimmerman could take over at first base, Rendon could play third and a player they trade for could stick at second, with Espinosa continuing to serve in the bench role. Still, General Manager Mike Rizzo seemed content to use Espinosa as Zimmerman’s replacement.
“We’ve got a third baseman,” Rizzo said. “We’ve got Zim signed for a long time. We’re not worried about filling Zim’s shoes, which would be almost impossible to fill in a trade scenario, anyways. We like the team we have. We got where we’re at with Danny playing meaningful innings.”
It remains unclear if the Nationals could add any salaries at the trade deadline. On opening day, Nationals owner Mark Lerner said the Nationals were “beyond topped out” with a payroll of nearly $140 million.
“We’re not going to talk about our strategy,” Rizzo said. “Ownership has been very fair with me. They’ve given us all the tools we need to get where we’re at right now.”
Nationals-Rockies discussion thread: Game 99
The Nationals are going for a sweep, and their seventh win in eight games, this afternoon in Denver. The Nationals and Braves have remained within two games from one another since June 4, but that can change today. The Nationals enter with a two-game lead in the NL East. If Stephen Strasburg can beat Jorge De La Rosa, then they’ll have a chance to move three games ahead. Talk about the game right here.
Ryan Zimmerman appears headed to the disabled list
Zach Walters’s name is on the card. Ryan Zimmerman headed to the DL. Real question is how long.
Ryan Zimmerman’s absence from the Nationals’ lineup for this afternoon’s game against the Rockies seems to indicate another trip to the disabled list, this time with a hamstring injury.
Adam Kilgore is in the clubhouse waiting to talk to Zimmerman and/or someone who knows the severity of the injury, so stay tuned. He’ll update Nats Journal when he gets back to the press box.