Flores still the 'win-now' catcher for Nationals

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It’s a common occurrence for contenders to go for the sure thing, rather than trust the youngster. When it comes to surety versus ceiling, surety often prevails with teams that already expect to win 90 games.
But what about with the teams all set to lose 90 games? When the Nationals signed Ivan Rodriguez, the thought was that he’d play 70-80 games, which would hardly make him a backup. Rodriguez thinks he has a shot to be the starter:

“Well I’m ready to play every day. We discussed that. I’m a player that can still play every day and I will play every day and basically do my best for the club. I know it’s hard for me to play 162 games; that’s impossible for a catcher. But as long as I’m healthy, feeling great physically, I’ll be in the field playing.”

GM Mike Rizzo viewed it as more of a job-sharing arrangement, but he didn’t rule out the possibility of Rodriguez starting more than half of the time. As he told the Washington Post:

“He’s a 14-time all-star. He’s a very prideful guy. And he thinks his skills are at their finest, and he might be right, you never know. Like I said at the beginning, he’s going to be a significant contributor to the ballclub. Now if that means 70 or 80 games or 70, 80, 90, 100 games, those are questions that will be answered throughout the course of the season. The best problem I could have all season is, ‘Who of these two hot catchers are we going to play on an everyday basis?'”

Rizzo said all of that right after pointing out that incumbent catcher Jesus Flores is due to be ready for the start of spring training after shoulder surgery. Flores, who arrived in Washington as a Rule 5 pick from the Mets, is 25 now, and he’s spent almost three seasons in the majors. If the Nationals hadn’t sent him down for a month early in 2008, he’d be halfway to free agency. In 574 at-bats, he’s hit .260/.313/.406 with 16 homers and 99 RBI, a very impressive total for someone who has frequently hit seventh and eighth for bad teams. He came in at .301/.377/.505 in the 29 games before he got hurt last season.
To sit down a healthy Flores now would be a terrible idea. He still has a ways to go defensively, particularly when it comes to blocking pitches, but he is learning. He’s thrown out 31 percent of would-be basestealers, and for what little it’s worth, his catcher’s ERA has been better than the Nationals’ mark as a whole during his career.
Rodriguez’s .269/.297/.401 line over the last three years is actually slightly worse than Flores’, and he’s barely toped Flores by throwing out 33 percent of basestealers. With his vast experience, he surely does a lot of the little things better than Flores. However, when it comes to the big things, Flores is the better bet for 2010. If he stays healthy, he should be starting two out of every three games. He’s the future behind the plate, and he’s the one the Nationals’ young pitchers need to learn to work with, not the mercenary who could be out of the league as soon as his contract is up.

And That Happened: Monday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Indians 15, Rangers 9: The Rangers took a 4-0 lead after one, a 7-1 lead after two and had a 9-2 lead heading into the bottom of the fourth before the Indians decided to wake up and score 13 unanswered runs. Francisco Lindor, Lonnie Chisenhall and Carlos Santana each had three RBI as the Indians scored a run in the fourth, four in the fifth, five in the sixth and added three in the seventh. Cleveland set their season high in runs and tied their season best with 19 hits. Every starter except Kipnis had at least two hits. They also regained first place in the central because . . .

Red Sox 4, Twins 1: Chris Sale outpitched Jose Berrios, allowing one run and striking out nine while working into the seventh inning. The Sox got to Berrios early with two in the first, including a Mitch Moreland homer. It was his third straight game with a dong.

Cubs 5, Nationals 4: It was only a 2-0 game heading into the ninth when the Cubs piled on three insurance runs. They needed all of the insurance as the Nats scored four in the bottom half. Close —Wade Davis had to struck out Ryan Zimmerman with runners on second and third to end the game — but no cigar. Willson Contreras hit a leadoff homer. Catchers don’t lead off that much. Jason Kendall used to do it a lot. Kurt Suzuki and John Jaso have. I feel like Russell Martin did a fair amount. But it’s not common. You could probably take all of the catchers who have batted leadoff more than ten times a year in the past 25 years, put them in a Volkswagon Vanagon with the Westphalia camper mod and still have a lot of room leftover for bikes and stuff.

Diamondbacks 6, Phillies 1: Zack Greinke wasn’t efficient — he needed 102 pitches to make it through five innings — but the Phillies got bubkis off of him regardless. Left fielder Chris Herrmann homered and walked with the bases loaded to drive in two. Daniel Delscalso drove in three with a pair of RBI singles.

Cardinals 8, Reds 2: Randal Grichuk homered for the second straight game. He had been in the minors until this past Sunday, spending about a month down there after being demoted for poor play. In his two games since coming back up he’s 4-for-10 with two homers and four RBI. Jedd Gyorko homered too. Michael Wacha, who has been terrible recently, allowed only one run on five hits in six innings. The Reds bein’ kinda interesting and frisky seems like a million years ago.

Yankees 6, White Sox 5: The Yankees had a 6-1 lead heading into the bottom of the ninth. They held on to win, but the Sox made it interesting, scoring four runs off of Chasen Shreve — who gave up a three-run shot to Tim Anderson — and Aroldis Chapman, who gave up an RBI double. Tyler Austin homered and the bottom third of the Yankees order — Chase Headley, Austin Romine and Ronald Torreyes — each knocked in a run.

Giants 9, Rockies 2: San Francisco snaps a five-game skid overall and a nine-game skid against the Rockies as Jeff Samardzija struck out five and worked into into the seventh. Buster Posey hit an RBI double. Brandon Belt and Denard Span each hit RBI triples. Colorado now, just recently the talk of the league, has dropped six straight. They’ve been outscored 57-17 in those losses.

Angels 4, Dodgers 0: Another skid was snapped: the Dodgers’ ten-game winning streak. Doing the snapping was Ricky Nolasco, who snapped a winless streak of ten starts. Nolasco shut out the Dodgers into the seventh inning, only to be knocked out by a comebacker that hit his shin. He’s fine. For the Dodgers, the silver lining here was that Rich Hill pitched seven innings. He lost, but it was the first time he made past five innings all year.

Rockies acquire Zac Rosscup from Cubs

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The Rockies announced a minor swap of relief pitchers on Monday evening. The Cubs sent lefty Zac Rosscup to the Rockies in exchange for right-hander Matt Carasiti.

Rosscup, 29, was designated for assignment by the Cubs last Thursday. He spent only two-thirds of an inning in the majors this year and has a 5.32 career ERA across 47 1/3 innings. Rosscup has spent most of the season with Triple-A Iowa, posting a 2.60 ERA in 27 2/3 innings.

Carasiti, 25, spent 15 2/3 innings in the majors last year, putting up an ugly 9.19 ERA. With Triple-A Albuquerque this season, he compiled a 2.37 ERA and a 43/13 K/BB ratio in 30 1/3 innings.