Nats Notes: Innings Limits, Ankiel, Solis, Bullpen, Pudge

In 41 days players will begin reporting to the Nationals’ Spring Training home in Viera, Florida. For the most part it would seem the team’s roster is set, though there are still a few holes that will need to be addressed. Of course, there will need to be some resolution to all of the Prince Fielder rumors by then too. There weren’t any significant moves from the weekend to discuss, but there are a few notes from some of the team’s beat writers worth passing along.

Pete Kerzel of MASN Sports tries to pinpoint how the team is going to operate with regards to an innings limit for Stephen Strasburg in 2012. Kerzel concludes that we should expect Strasburg to be limited to somewhere around 170.0 innings in 2012. The figure is based largely on the number of innings the team let Jordan Zimmermann throw in 2011 (161.1) as he returned from the same surgery Strasburg underwent. Kerzel admits it’s not a perfect comparison, but it’s a logical place to start.

Zimmermann was actually the basis of a similar conclusion that I came to back in October, in one of my first posts here at DoD. Kerzel concludes that the team will likely be pretty firm in enforcing an innings limit, considering the long term future of the organization is more important than the 2012 season, even if they are nearing a playoff birth. It’s likely the best scenario, though admittedly I’m curious to see how the organization handles filling his innings come August. Kerzel seems to believe that the the odd man out in the 5th starter race (between Chien-Ming Wang, John Lannan, and Ross Detwiler) can simply step in at that point in time, after spending the bulk of the season working out of the bullpen. I’m not certain that plan is feasible for a number of reasons – none of the three pitchers has ever spent significant time in the bullpen, one could be traded as part of a larger deal, and don’t forget Detwiler is out of options so he can’t be sent to the minors.

Meanwhile, Amanda Comak of The Washington Times has more on the team, starting with an update on Sammy Solis. As you may recall when we profiled Solis last month, naming him the #8 prospect in our first annual Top 15 List, the right-hander experienced some elbow discomfort at the tail end of his stint in the Arizona Fall League. He was slated to meet with Dr. Lewis Yocum before the holidays but it would seem that a case of strep throat has pushed that visit off. According to Comak, Solis has recovered and is working on a light throwing program in preparation for the Spring. The team still wants him to see Dr. Yocum but this has to be a positive sign that there isn’t serious concern over his elbow at this point in time.

Comak also passes along word that the door isn’t necessarily closed on a reunion with Rick Ankiel. In 412 plate appearances with the Nationals in 2011, he batted .239/.296/.363 with 9 HR and 37 RBI. He has experience at all three outfield positions, which does add to his value, but as Comak puts it, it is all going to boil down to what role the organization sees him filling. He may be able to find more attractive offers on the free agent market. We’ll have some more thoughts on Ankiel later this week.

Speaking of free agents, there is further confirmation that neither Ivan Rodriguez or Livan Hernandez will return in 2012. Neither is a surprise, considering I think we’ve known those fates for some time now. Hernandez no longer served a purpose on this pitching staff but Rodriguez could have still provided some value. There has been little said about Wilson Ramos‘ kidnapping earlier this offseason, which perhaps is a good thing. Maybe it hasn’t affected him in any way. But he’s still a young player and relatively inexperienced. Another season working with a veteran like Rodriguez – someone who’s dealt with pressures and adversity throughout a long career – might have helped Ramos in the long term. It could have been an outlet to keep him focused on developing as a catcher. Don’t get me wrong, I think Jesus Flores is a suitable backup catcher but I don’t see him necessarily making Ramos a better catcher.

Finally, Comak also points out that the most experienced members of the bullpen are Sean Burnett and Tom Gorzelanny. While the bullpen composition looks promising, there is no real veteran voice there which could be something to watch for until Spring Training begins.

Tags: Chien-Ming Wang Ivan Rodriguez Jesus Flores John Lannan Jordan Zimmermann Livan Hernandez Rick Ankiel Ross Detwiler Sammy Solis Sean Burnett Stephen Strasburg Tom Gorzelanny Washington Nationals Wilson Ramos

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