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News from Nats Town – Wang Throws, Morgan Slows, and Capps’ Rust Shows

On Monday, Nationals’ right-hander Chien-Ming Wang threw his first 25 pitches of the spring under the observation of pitching coach Steve McCatty. Wang, who is recovering from shoulder surgery on July 30 of last year, reported no pain during his session and expressed an interest in extending the workout. McCatty decided to shut him down in order to manage his workload on his recovering shoulder, but was encouraged by Wang’s ball movement and physical progress.

Unfortunately, as Nats’ fans are by now accustomed, this good news was accompanied by a negative development. Starting centerfielder Nyjer Morgan will be unable to improve his poor start (3-21, 2 stolen bases) for at least two games as he is forced to rest his injured right hamstring. Fortunately, the injury – which he suffered against the Cardinals on Sunday – is viewed as minor and the time off appears to be a precautionary measure as he remained in the game Sunday after injuring the hamstring in the first inning.

Finally, right-handed reliever Matt Capps has had to weather a rough start. After struggling with injuries to his throwing shoulder, Capps’ rust has been evident in his performance. In five innings this spring, Capps has allowed eight hits and three walks for five total runs. For what it’s worth, neither Manager Jim Riggleman nor Capps himself is particularly worried about his shaky outings. Capps stated:

“Some pitches, I feel like I’m ready right now…I don’t worry too much about results and home runs the first couples weeks of spring training. If this is happening [in] two or three outings, then that’s a different story. But right now, I feel pretty good with everything.”

Strasburg Likely Bound for the Minors

Per Jim Duquette, it is probable that, according to general manager Mike Rizzo, Stephen Strasburg will soon be sent to the minors. This is merely confirmation of the path that most assumed Strasburg would follow in his ultimate, not-too-distant ascension to the major leagues.

Analysis:

Wang’s progress is certainly encouraging. Though he struggled mightily last year, posting 1-6 win-loss record to go along with a 9.64 ERA, Wang is only three years removed from back-to-back 19 win seasons and a second place finish in the voting for the AL Cy Young Award. While the Nationals surely do not anticipate comparable production, particularly since Wang is not expected back until at least May, the team should be more than satisfied if he can start 15-20 games. The longer he can go in those games (health permitting) the better; however, anything beyond that would be exceeding expectations. On the other hand, Morgan’s injury and performance should not be particularly worrisome at this point. Not only is the injury quite minor, but Morgan is a notoriously slow starter, batting only .264 in the first half of the season as compared to .340 in the second half over his entire career. If the injury becomes a recurring problem then there would be cause for concern; however, that does not seem likely. Finally, while Capps’ self-confidence is preferable to the alternative, it would be nice to see tangible improvement. He has proven himself to be an effective reliever with the Pirates, but his success was not overwhelming. It is important that his internal confidence exhibit itself in on-field production in order to both earn his roster spot and help the Nationals win ballgames.

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