Miami Marlins Series Preview: Marlins Head to Nation’s Capital

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May 3, 2015; New York City, NY, USA; Washington Nationals left fielder Jayson Werth (28) high fives Washington Nationals pitcher Drew Storen (22) after getting the save to win the game against the New York Mets at Citi Field. The Nationals won 1-0. Mandatory Credit: Gregory J. Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

Ehsan Kassim: After a slow start, the Nats are picking up steam. What’s been the main difference the past couple of weeks? 

Ricky Keeler: The main difference for the Nationals the last few days has been their starting pitching and defense. First on the pitching side, this rotation has put up five quality starts in a row and should have won all five games, had it not been for Matt Harvey last Friday. Max Scherzer has been great for the Nats, but when Gio Gonzalez and Doug Fister are putting up good starts consistently, that’s what makes the rotation as special as it looks on paper. As for the defense, this was the worst fielding team in the bigs to start the year. However, they won the last two games against the Mets because of very good defensive plays, such as throwing out Juan Lagares at the plate on Saturday in the first inning of a 1-0 win. 

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The offense has still struggled to get the big hit at times, but early in the season, this team will win games because of pitching and defense. Plus, that comeback win in Atlanta had to help propel this team as they ended a road trip 5-5 after being swept by the Marlins at the beginning of it.

EK: What’s the latest on Anthony Rendon? Any other significant Nat injuries right now?

RK: The latest on Anthony Rendon is that he has missed the last couple of rehab games in Harrisburg because he has had trouble getting his left side loose. This is the second time that Rendon’s rehab on his knee has been started, then stopped. At first, this injury didn’t seem serious, but he still is not back in the lineup. As far as other injuries go, this team is healthy on offense right now. The only other injury is to reliever Casey Janssen. Janssen is recovering from a rotator cuff injury. He threw an inning in an extended spring game a few days ago and the Nats hope he can begin pitching in rehab games soon.

EK: On a scale of 1-10, how worried are you about the bullpen? How can it be fixed?

RK: Right now, I would be at a 5 when it comes down to the bullpen. Since the season began, I always thought that once Janssen comes back, the Nationals will have a reliever that has experience in the eighth inning. That being said, Aaron Barrett has emerged as a leading candidate for that role as he has not given up a run in four straight outings. Matt Williams likes to mix and match the seventh and eighth innings and he’s had to use a couple of rookies such as lefty Matt Grace, who has done a good job in the early stages or a starter turned reliever in Tanner Roark. Plus, they just signed Jose Valverde to a minor league deal. However, I can’t go to a 8 or a 9 because Drew Storen has looked good as the closer, with the exception of the blown save against St. Louis. It’s the bridge to Storen that Matt Williams is still trying to figure out.

EK: Trea Turner, a prospect the Nats acquired this off season, is still a Padre. Can you explain what’s going on with that?

RK: Turner is still a Padre because of a rule that Major League Baseball has where a new draft pick can’t be officially traded until the one year anniversary of the day in which he signed his contract, which is why he is still technically a player to be named later. Once June 13 happens, Turner will be officially a member of the Nationals organization and play for their double-A affiliate, the Harrisburg Senators, in all likelihood. Recently, MLB is changing the rule and allowing recently drafted players to be traded once the World Series ends, which is a great rule. To be fair, San Diego has been fair in this process in how to handle Turner until he arrives. That being said, Washington is very excited about this player as a potential middle infield combination with Wilmer Difo, another top infield prospect in their organization. If Washington doesn’t re-sign Ian Desmond this winter, it’s because they feel Difo or Turner could be the shortstop of the future in the Nation’s Capital.

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