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Tag:Chris Volstad
Posted on: March 29, 2011 5:56 pm
Edited on: March 29, 2011 9:35 pm
 

Five teams to improve, five to decline in 2011

By Matt Snyder

Finally, spring training is concluding. Now we have a day or two before your favorite team begins play. In the meantime, I'm here to bring you the top five teams to decline and the top five to improve upon their 2010 performances. In return, you accuse me of bias and call me names. It's fun for everyone, really. One thing to keep in mind is that improving or declining by more than 10 games is pretty drastic. On some of these, I'm looking at something like a seven-game swing.

TOP FIVE TEAMS TO IMPROVE

1. Boston Red Sox. Well, let's see ... Last season Kevin Youkilis only played 102 games, Dustin Pedroia saw action in 75 and Jacoby Ellsbury just 18. Josh Beckett was either injured or ineffective all season. Meanwhile the Red Sox added Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez to a team that won 89 games, despite all those injury woes -- and some underachieving from people like John Lackey. Easiest call on the board here, and even Yankees fans would have to concede this team is loaded.

2. Oakland A's. The pitching staff is stellar, even including the bullpen. The starting rotation is already really good and only getting better. The A's won 81 with one of the worst offenses in baseball last season. A full season of Coco Crisp, Kurt Suzuki bouncing back and the additions of Hideki Matsui and Josh Willingham don't exactly sound like adding Gonzalez and Crawford, but small improvements will do wonders for the pitching staff. Slugger Chris Carter is waiting in the wings, too, and don't be surprised if Billy Beane adds a bat at the deadline.

3. Colorado Rockies. Troy Tulowitzki needs to stay healthy and Dexter Fowler needs to get closer to his ceiling. I'm going out on a limb that both happen, along with steps forward from Chris Iannetta and Ian Stewart. Watch Jhoulys Chacin's development in the starting rotation, too. He's got big potential.

4. Milwaukee Brewers. This is contingent upon the big names staying healthy and Zack Greinke getting healthy as soon as possible, because this team is paper-thin. But the top line is very impressive. Plus, the division is not very good at all. The Brewers are going to score runs, get good starting pitching (again, assuming the health thing) and have a good back-end of the bullpen. If they can overcome defense and depth deficiencies, they'll win the Central.

5. Florida Marlins. Call it a bit of a gut call, but I really like the Marlins. The rotation really has great potential with Javier Vazquez returning to a pitcher's park in the NL East (he's apparently too intimidated by being a Yankee) and Ricky Nolasco having the ability to be a true No. 2 if he can ever stay consistent. Anibal Sanchez and Chris Volstad have -- again, this word -- potential to be solid at the end, with stud Josh Johnson leading the five-some. I love the outfield potential of Logan Morrison, Chris Coghlan and Mike Stanton, so long as all three can stay healthy. Hanley Ramirez is primed to have a big season, too.

TOP FIVE TEAMS TO DECLINE

1. San Diego Padres. Removing Gonzalez from the middle of the batting order changes the complexion of everything. And Mat Latos is already hurt, which does nothing to alleviate the concern of the huge workload increase he's experienced over the past two seasons. Most of all, the Padres just seem outmanned by the Giants and Rockies. Winning close to 90 games seems outlandish. Of course, many people said that last year, too.

2. Houston Astros. They overachieved in a big way last season according to run differential (the 'Stros allowed 118 more runs than they scored) and aren't any better. Other than Hunter Pence, the position players are either getting old (Carlos Lee), still unproven (Brett Wallace) or just not that good (Jason Michaels, Bill Hall, Michael Bourn). I'm not a huge fan of the rotation, but it's going to have to carry the team. Good luck with that.

3. Tampa Bay Rays. This is difficult. It's hard to not love the Rays for being so good at sticking with the Yankees and Red Sox in the mighty AL East on that paltry payroll. The loss of Crawford hurts. Carlos Pena wasn't overly productive -- though he was much better than his batting average said -- last season, but his presence helps everyone else see better pitches. That goes away with Dan Johnson at first. The loss of Matt Garza isn't a big deal, so long as Jeremy Hellickson does his thing and James Shields returns to form. The bullpen is worse, though. Look, I'd pick the Rays to win the NL Central if they were in it, but the Yankees aren't any worse and the Red Sox are way better. The Orioles should be better as well. I think the Rays win in the ballpark of 86 games, but that's 10 worse than last year and good for third place.

4. Toronto Blue Jays. They're still building and are moving in the right direction, but winning 85 games again in that division is a very tall order. Any offensive bounce-back from the likes of Aaron Hill and Adam Lind is negated by Jose Bautista's return to this planet.

5. St. Louis Cardinals. If anyone can pull this off, it's Dave Duncan, but losing Adam Wainwright was a death blow. Chris Carpenter is old and injury-prone. Jaime Garcia is due a massive regression. Kyle Lohse was awful last year and Jake Westbrook doesn't have good stuff. Kyle McClellan could very well prove a solid No. 5 starter, but he hasn't exceeded 75 2/3 innings the past three seasons in the bullpen. Can he really double that and remain effective? The outfield defense won't do the staff any favors, either. The Pujols/Holliday/Rasmus combo -- and even Lance Berkman in a best-case scenario -- is very solid, but there's only going to be so much they can do on some nights. I feel like mid-to-high 70s in wins, but Duncan and Tony La Russa find ways to make people wrong often.

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Posted on: March 13, 2011 8:12 pm
Edited on: March 13, 2011 8:17 pm
 

Morgan says Marlins still targeting him

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Nyjer MorganThey say time heals all wounds. But different wounds have different timetables.

The wounds created by last year's brawl between the Marlins and Nationals haven't seemed to heal. Sunday, Florida starter Ricky Nolasco hit the Nationals' Nyjer Morgan, the center of last year's brawl.

Morgan charged the mound after Florida's Chris Volstad hit him twice in a Marlins victory on Sept. 1, the day after running over catcher Brett Hayes.

Coming to the plate to a chorus of boos from Marlins fans on Sunday, Nolasco hit Morgan with his first pitch of the game. Morgan didn't charge the mound. Instead, he took his base, stole second and later scored on Rick Ankiel's single.

Nolasco was making his first start since last August. Nolasco missed the end of last season with a  knee injury and then injured his thumb in late February. He blamed that injury on the errant pitch, saying the ball slipped out of his hand. Nolasco also hit Danny Espinosa later in the innning.

"Obviously, no matter who is up there, I'm not trying to do that. It's my first outing coming off an injury," Nolasco told reporters.

Morgan, though, had no doubt that it was intentional. From MLB.com:

"No question, without a doubt. It's obvious because of what happened last year. Obvioulsy, they haven't turned the page. But I'm going to be a stronger player, better person. I'm not going to react to it. I felt better by going out there and being able to steal that bag, getting myself over to third and generating a run.

"I felt more satisfied after that than starting at him and putting on my mean mug. Basically, what am I going to get out of it [by fighting]? I'm just going to hurt my team and somebody could get hurt. It's spring training, anyway.

"It's a plus on our side because they know we are not going to react to their negativity. It's part of the game. I know I got tested for a reason. It will probably be the last test I will get. I felt a lot better by just walking down to first, stealing second and generating a nice rally in the first inning."

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Posted on: September 3, 2010 1:09 pm
Edited on: September 3, 2010 2:56 pm
 

Nyjer Morgan suspended eight games

Nyjer Morgan Nyjer Morgan has received an eight-game suspension for his actions this week according to Jon Heyman of Sports Ilustrated , which is on top of a seven-game suspension for throwing a ball at a fan in Philadelphia.

Morgan has appealed the original seven-game suspension and may see it reduced after a Phillies fan rushed to his defense , but his eight-game suspension for his latest actions are well deserved. He clocked Bryan Anderson for no reason, was benched the next day for the transgression and compounded the incident by calling out his manager.

Things ratcheted up when he bowled over a Marlins catcher in extra innings in a play that could have won the Nats a game had he slid. The catcher -- Brett Hayes -- will miss the rest of the season with injuries sustained in the crash. He then cussed out a Marlins fan and things finally came to a boil Wednesday night when the Marlins plunked Morgan.

The center fielder then swiped two bags, angering the Marlins more, feeling Morgan hadn't been taught his lesson. Chris Volstad threw at him again in the sixth (although he and manager Edwin Rodriguez have denied the purpose pitch -- but there's no denying the evidence). An honest-to-god fight then broke out between two teams (see video ) that featured some punches landing and a WWE-caliber clothesline of Morgan by Florida first baseman Gaby Sanchez.

The Marlins were to blame for the fight -- after all, the punishment was doled out in the plunking, and Morgan was within his rights to steal the bases. However, there's no questioning he's brought all this upon himself, and there's near-zero chance that his eight-game suspension will be reduced.

And in light of recent events, that seven-game suspension might stand, knocking Morgan out for 15 games. If he has any brains in him, he'll serve the suspensions immediately so he doesn't miss any time in 2011. It's not as if the team needs him now, anyways: the Nats are out of the postseason race and expanded rosters mean they can cover Morgan's absence in the field without losing any other players.

Joe Capozzi of the Palm Beach Post notes that Volstad was suspended six games, Alejandro Sanabia five and Gabe Sanchez three.

UPDATE : The Associated Press has revealed the rest of the suspensions. Nats pitcher Doug Slaten was docked three games for throwing at Sanchez in the seventh inning, and Jim Riggleman was suspended two games along with third-base coach Pat Listach (three games), who jumped in the beginnings of the fray and got in some shots at Volstad. Fish manager Edwin Rodriguez was docked one, and reliever Jose Veras was fined, as were all suspended players.

-- Evan Brunell

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Posted on: September 2, 2010 12:50 pm
 

Marlins say they're done with Morgan

As far as the Marlins are concerned, their war with the Washington Nationals is finished.

The two teams will meet once more this season, Sept. 10-12 at Nationals Park -- and it's highly unlikely Nyjer Morgan will be around for that meeting.

Said Marlins third baseman Wes Helms to MLB.com : "I know it's over for me. I hope it is for these other guys."

It seems nobody is too upset about the first time Morgan was hit in Wednesday's game -- not even Morgan himself.

What seems to be in debate is whether Morgan's two stolen bases after being hit in the fourth inning crossed the line. Most of the former players serving as commentators on MLB Network and ESPN all seemed to agree Morgan's two stolen bases escalated the disagreement.

Nationals manager Jim Riggleman told reporters (via NatsInsider.com ) that he didn't see much of a problem.

"The Florida Marlins will not decide when we run. We will decide when we run," Riggleman said. "He felt that's the way I'm going to get my payback. Sometimes some guys get it in the form of going in hard at somebody at second base on a double play. I've seen that many times. But Nyjer took his revenge in the form of a stolen base. And I don't have any problem with it."

It seems that if you put a guy on base for free, you shouldn't complain about what he does when he gets there. The Marlins, apparently did.

Oddly enough, Marlins manager Edwin Rodriguez wouldn't admit to the fact Chris Volstad was throwing at Morgan in the sixth inning, even though it was obvious to everyone -- and even justified by some.

"Everything was resolved. We were trying to pitch inside," Rodriguez said. "We were still trying to pitch inside the third time he was up. He was playing his game, we were playing our games, let's put it that way."

Yeah, like trying to hit him.

Morgan then went after Volstad and there were actual punches thrown and one player (Volsted) left with blood on his jersey -- much different than most baseball brawl hug-fests.

Nyjer Morgan Morgan's had one heck of a bad week or so. Quick roundup: he was suspended for throwing a ball in the stands (even though he was defended by a Philadelphia fan ), moved down in the lineup from leadoff to eighth, ran over Cardinals catcher Bryan Anderson, called out by his manager for the action, benched the next day, called out his manager for not having his back, ran over a Marlins catcher in a play that would have won the game had he slid instead of trying to bowl over the catcher, a YouTube video of him cussing out a Marlins fan showed up Wednesday, and then, you know, the whole fracas.

He also didn't help himself for the way he left the field -- taunting the fans like a hockey goon as he left the field. That's understood in hockey (Morgan played juniors hockey), but looked down upon in baseball.

What's interesting is that Morgan was brought to D.C. in a trade with alleged "bad apple" Lastings Milledge.

"People are going to have their own opinions," Morgan said after Wednesday's game (again, from NatsInsider.com ). "I know what kind of player I am. I'm going out there balls out. I'm not going to go out there and take anything for granted. I'm going to show that I'm a hard-nosed ballplayer, and that's the way it is."

Morgan's teammates had his back on the field; in the clubhouse, it was a little more subdued.

"He's definitely done some things over the past couple of weeks that are a little questionable, I think," Washington's Ryan Zimmerman said. "We've all talked. Me and [Ivan Rodriguez] have talked to him. … He obviously has to learn a little more about the game. But you can't take away from how hard he plays. That's what he does every day. It's not like he's changed over the last week or two. That's the attitude, the way he's played ever since he's been here. That's who he is."

He'll also be suspended for a good while in the next day or so. You'd think his recent actions won't play well in his appeal, either.

One thing's for sure, people now know Morgan for more than just his awesome stirrups. Although, stylish hosiery may be a better claim to fame than hot-head problem child.

-- C. Trent Rosecrans

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Posted on: September 1, 2010 9:34 pm
Edited on: September 1, 2010 10:27 pm
 

Brawl after Marlins throw at Morgan

Nyjer Morgan
It seemed like a matter of when, not if, the Marlins threw at the Nationals' Nyjer Morgan on Wednesday night.

Everyone in the ballpark knew payback was likely after the outfielder barrelled over Marlins catcher Brett Hayes on Tuesday night, causing a season-ending shoulder injury. It came in Wednesday's fourth inning, when Chris Volstad hit Morgan. Morgan responded by stealing second and third, with the Nationals already trailing 14-3.

Then Morgan came up again in the sixth and the fireworks really started, as Volstad threw a ball well behind him. According to this video and accounts of those at the game via Twitter, Morgan charged the mound and took a few wild swings at Volstad, connecting with a left, before being taken down by a Gaby Sanchez clothesline. Volstad then got a couple of punches in on Morgan as benches emptied. This wasn't your normal baseball scrum, this was a real fight.

Morgan has put up quite a tally lately: allegedly throwing a ball at fans and drawing a seven-game suspension, mowing down two catchers (though at least the one against Hayes looked clean), apparently cursing a Marlins fan Tuesday night, then inciting a bench-clearing brawl.

UPDATE: Nationals pitcher Doug Slaten plunked Sanchez in the midsection in the seventh, earning the hook for himself and manager Jim Riggleman.

-- David Andriesen

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