Welcome to Harrisburg
As part of the typical in-season organizational roster moves, the Senators welcomed three new players to the team this past week.
Right-handed pitcher Zech Zinicola (right) returns to Harrisburg where he has pitched well in parts of the last four seasons compiling a sub-4.00 ERA. Zinicola though has been unsuccessful at the next level as his ERA balloons to almost 7.00 in AAA. While he has pitched better in his most recent stint in Syracuse, Zinicola needs to use this time on City Island to find his footing and bolster the backend of the Senators’ bullpen.
Marvin Lowrance also returns to the Sens after struggling in 19 games at Syracuse with a .226 batting average and only two RBIs. Hopefully, Lowrance can regain his stroke and add a much-needed shot to the Senators’ anemic offense.
Infielder Josh Johnson was probably the lone guy of this bunch glad to get the news that he was headed to Harrisburg since it’s a promotion for him. Johnson brings some infield flexibility (as he has already played 2B, SS, and 3B in his first four games as a Senator) and an extensive professional career with six seasons under his belt in the Kansas City farm system. Even at the relatively young age of 24 though, one has to wonder what his upside is after toiling in Rookie and A ball most of his time in the Royals’ organization.
Up, Down, and Out
To make room for the newest Senators, the organization had to move three players off its current roster.
The first of these was infielder Pedro Lopez, who despite hitting a paltry .174 was promoted to AAA Syracuse. The only reason the light-hitting Lopez would be moved up in the organization was to take Seth Bynum’s roster spot after he was suspended 50 games for a positive test for amphetamines. The Chiefs’ roster is already littered with aging utility infielders like Eric Bruntlett and Pete Orr, so the 26-year old Lopez becomes the new kid on the block. Although he had a cup of coffee in the major leagues with the White Sox in 2005 and the Reds in 2007, Lopez doesn’t add much value to any team at this point in his career.
Fan favorite Bill Rhinehart (left) also left the squad when he was reassigned to the Class A Advanced Potomac Nationals. The former 11th round pick had been a Senator since he arrived here halfway through the 2008 season. Rhinehart had a very slow start to his season that saw him scuffling below the Mendoza line at .196 and losing at-bats to prospect Chris Marrero at first base. Being demoted at age 25 doesn’t bode well for the big lefty, but at least the organization hasn’t given up on him yet.
And that is exactly what has happened to the enigmatic outfielder and former 7th round pick, Michael Daniel, who was outright released by the Nationals. Daniel had been struggling (but then again who hasn’t on this Senators’ squad?) only batting .182 with two runs driven in. For his part, Daniel remained optimistic about his chances with another organization and that this gives him “an opportunity to be myself again.” Two days later, the Atlanta Braves signed Daniel and assigned him to Class A Myrtle Beach.
One Step Beyond (Alumni Corner)
Roger Bernadina – The Curacao native who spent the majority of two seasons with the Senators in 2007 and 2008 had the best day of his young Major League career on Wednesday. Bernadina hit his first two career home runs, including the game-winner off of Francisco Rodriguez in the top of the 9th, and made a game-saving catch (right) in the Nationals’ 6-4 win over the New York Mets. Bernadina has played in 13 games so far this year and appears to be establishing himself as a viable platoon outfield option for the surprising Nats.
Stephen Strasburg – The phenom continued his buzzsaw through the minor league system as he threw six innings of no-hit ball against the Norfolk Tides while striking out seven and walking one. In seven minor league games, Strasburg has compiled a 5-1 record with a 1.06 ERA. At this point, the decision to leave Strasburg down at AAA Syracuse appears to be merely a financial one to prevent him from becoming a Super Two player and earning millions more through the arbitration process. Expect an early June call-up that will finally put fans in the seats and electricity in the air at Nationals’ Park every fifth day.