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Saturday, July 3, 2010

Washington Nationals Playbook -- Fourth of July Weekend

Taking a look at what is happening with the Washington Nationals through the Fourth of July weekend.

-- The Nationals celebrated Black Heritage Night with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder throwing out the ceremonial first pitch. The team awarded the inaugural Joe Black Award to the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission's (M-NCPPC) Department of Parks and Recreation-Prince George's County. The award, given to a person or organization that promotes the game of baseball in African-American communities, was accepted by former major leaguer Steven Carter.

Interesting tidbit on Carter -- Unknown to this reporter until researching Carter's Baseball-Reference page is that Carter is from Charlottesville, VA and graduated from the same high school that I did -- Albemarle H.S. Future note to get in touch with Carter and commiserate.

Carter played for the Pittsburgh Pirates in parts of two seasons (1989-90) a registered 23 plate appearances with a home run, double and three runs batted in.

-- The Nats lost the game 5-3 to the Mets when rookie outfielder Roger Bernadina was picked off second base by New York closer Francisco Rodriguez with Willie Harris at the plate representing the tying run.

-- Washington signed Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez to a minor league contract. Hernandez is the older brother to current Nats starter Livan Hernandez. Orlando has not pitched in the majors since 2007 though pitched eight games in the minors for the Rangers last season before being released. He posted a 90-65 career record with a a 4.13 ERA in nine seasons with four different teams and will be reporting to the Nationals' spring training facility in Viera, Fla.

-- The Mets and Nationals will continue their series this afternoon at Nationals Park with pitchers on direct opposites of the spectrum. Rookie flamethrower Stephen Strasburg (2-2 2.27 ERA) will make his sixth professional start looking for his third career win. He is opposed by journeyman knuckleballer R.A. Dickey (6-1 2.98 ERA) who has resurrected his career this season with the Mets at the age of 35.

-- Saturday's Nat's game will be on "MLB on Fox" with first pitch at 4:10 p.m. Gates to Nationals park will open at 1:30 p.m. The game will not be shown on MASN. A touch of irony: Saturday is Replica Patriotic Cap Day at Nationals Park, presented by, you guessed it, MASN.

-- Pitcher Jordan Zimmerman is on his way back from Tommy John surgery and will make his first rehab start Saturday night for Class A Potomac. Zimmerman will be on the mound for the first time since July 18, 2009 after he was yanked in a start against the Cubs with elbow pain. Zimmerman is likely to return by August if all goes well in his rehab schedule.

-- Catcher Carlos Maldonado was reinstated from the 15-day disabled list and optioned to Triple A Syracuse.

-- Trade rumors are starting to heat up for the Nats with the potential of slugger Adam Dunn being shipped out of town. Federal Baseball (part of the SB Nation network) breaks down some Washington trade rumors.

-- On Twitter -- Andy Martino (Surfing The Mets), the Mets beat reporter for the New York Daily news, posted an interesting question to his followers during Friday night's game: Which third baseman would you rather have on your roster, Ryan Zimmerman or David Wright? Given that his follower base is obviously Mets-centric, the overwhelming majority chose Wright, 30-3 at last count.

It is an interesting question. Wright is two years older and had won Gold Gloves in 2007 and 2008 before being usurped by Zimmerman in 2009. Through this season Wright is batting .312/.391/.546 with a 154 OPS+ (54 percent better than average) with a league leading 25 doubles AND 63 RBI in 79 games with 343 plate appearances. Wright's career slash line is an impressive .309/.389/.512 with and OPS+ of 137.

In contrast, Zimmerman's slash line this year is .284/.350/.480 with a 134 OPS+ and 13 home runs with 40 RBI in 73 games and 301 plate appearances. His career line is .284/.375/.498 with a 118 OPS+. That is good but Wright appears to just be in a higher category that Zimmerman at this point in their careers.

-- Happy belated birthday to centerfield Nyjer Morgan who turned 30 yesterday, July 2. He celebrated by going 2 for 4, raising his season average from .254 to .258.

-- The next Nats birthday will be that of Strasburg, who turns 22 on July 20. 

Have a happy and safe Fourth of July weekend.

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