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Posted at 07:00 AM ET, 08/07/2012

Kurt Suzuki’s crash course in learning the Nationals’ pitching staff


As he walked to his locker late Monday night, Kurt Suzuki passed Ross Detwiler, the latest pitcher he will have to catch for the first time. Detwiler gave him a quick rundown of how he likes to pitch. “I like that,” Suzuki said, smiling as he walked away, his head awash in more new information.

In the Nationals’ wild, 5-4 win, Suzuki had caught four pitchers for the very first time in a game. He is in the middle of a crash course on the Nationals’ pitching staff, necessitated by the Nationals trading for him Friday.

On the fly, he had to learn their pitches – how Edwin Jackson’s slider breaks straight down, say, or how Ryan Mattheus’s sinker dives. Suzuki has also had to learn how they pitch – the way Tyler Clippard reads swings, or when Sean Burnett likes to use his slider.

“It’s been going pretty fast,” Suzuki said. “I’m still not used to pitchers in the bullpen and seeing, I’m still getting kind of thrown off guard on some of their pitches. It’s tough, but as I catch them more and more I’ll be more comfortable. Right now it’s just like getting thrown in the fire and just going. It’s a little tough, but it’s fun at the same time.”

Suzuki has learned how difficult it is to stop base stealers with the Nationals’ pitching staff. The Astros swiped four bags in four attempts last night, despite quick releases and strong throws by Suzuki. He also made a stellar catch on a foul pop, reaching into the Astros’ dugout to end an inning.


(RICHARD CARSON - REUTERS)
Suzuki’s main defensive task remains learning the staff. Sunday, Suzuki trekked to the Nationals’ bullpen and caught Sean Burnett, Drew Storen and Craig Stammen to get a feel for how their pitches moved. The sessions helped when he caught them in a game tonight, but “it’s not even close to what it usually is in the game,” Suzuki said.

“Right now probably the first week I’ll go with what they want to throw just because I’m still trying to learn what pitches they like to throw and what they can do in each situation,” Suzuki said. “I’m not really going to come in and say ‘You have to throw this.’ I’m still learning what they like to do in certain situations.”

>>> Jayson Werth left last night’s game after seven innings with tightness in his legs, Manager Davey Johnson said. Werth has been excellent at the plate since he returned from a broken wrist, going 7 for 16 with five walks. But he is still playing his body back into shape after missing nearly three months.

“He’s pushed it pretty hard since he’s been out a long time,” Johnson said. “They’ve been some tough ballgames. I’ll check on him and see how he feels tomorrow, see if maybe a day off isn’t in order.”

Werth said he will be fine.

FROM THE POST

The Nationals outlasted the Astros, 5-4, thanks to pure folly in the 11th.

FROM YESTERDAY’S JOURNAL

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Izturis an insurance policy

Nats need to beat Astros

Nats sign international players

Nats acquire Izturis

Harper breaks his bat

NATS MINOR LEAGUES

Syracuse 5, Buffalo 4: Eury Perez went 2 for 3 with a walk. Sandy Leon went 1 for 2 with a walk. Zack Duke allowed three runs in six innings on five hits and a walk, striking out eight.

Buffalo 4, Syracuse 3: Eury Perez went 1 for 4 with a double. Jarrett Hoffpauir went 1 for 2 with a double and a walk. Mike MacDougal struck out one in a perfect inning.

Harrisburg was off.

Potomac was off.

Lexington 3, Hagerstown 1: Billy Burns went 2 for 3 with a walk. Adrian Nieto went 1 for 2 with two walks. Brian Rauh allowed two runs in six innings on two hits and two walks, striking out five.

Brooklyn 3, Auburn 1: Shawn Pleffner went 2 for 4. Michael Boyden allowed no runs in three innings on no hits and a walk, striking out one.

By  |  07:00 AM ET, 08/07/2012

 
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