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Nats showcase international talent in awards press conference

Nats showcase international talent in awards press conference

The Nationals have given out minor league awards in the past and often those players will travel to Washington to meet with media members after receiving their honors. It's a nice way to showcase the future and give their young prospects some deserved attention. 

It is not usual, however, for them to hold a press conference with a host of top front office executives on hand, as they did on Saturday at Nationals Park. It's also not common for them to bring in another player who did not win an award, as they did on Saturday. 

But this year is different, as all three award winners - plus their MVP of the Gulf Coast League - are from the Dominican Republic. The group represents an increased emphasis by the Nats on scouting and signing international players, particularly from Latin American countries. This was a celebration of how those efforts are bearing fruit.

On the dais were Nationals' minor league pitcher of the year Reynaldo Lopez, player of the year Jose Marmolejos-Diaz, Bob Boone award winner Rafael Bautista and Gulf Coast League MVP Juan Soto. They represent the future, not only because they could be big leaguers some day, but in that they represent what the Nats hope is plenty more to come from the international ranks.

"I think it’s a testament to the plan," director of player development Mark Scialabba said. "[VP of international operations] Johnny Dipuglia and the staff do a tremendous job of acquiring talent. Early on we didn’t have the resources, necessarily, to sign some top players in the market but Johnny and their staff did their best job to find the best players we could pay for.

"It’s a credit to the staff and we’re going to continue to be aggressive in that market. As you’ve seen, the signing bonuses have improved. More resources have been devoted to that market and it’s a trust from the Lerner Family to [GM] Mike Rizzo and Johnny Dipuglia and his staff."

DiPuglia isn't often at Nationals Park. He's almost always on the road, sometimes joining the team when they play in Miami. But he was on hand for Saturday's press conference, which represented another feather in his cap.

"I consider ourselves down there like an octopus. I’m the head of the octopus and I got all these guys, all these tentacles finding players. Without the area scouts we can’t be," he said.

DiPuglia shared his thoughts on each player after they met the media.

On Marmolejos, who hit 13 homers and 45 doubles in 136 minor league games.: "Marmolejos was a guy that was a U.S. player and wasn’t even drafted. And we saw him in Latin America and we signed him but without his hitting coaches working with him every day, that’s why he’s the hitter he is today." 

On Bautista, who was honored for his work ethic and character: "Bautista, a premium athlete guy that really didn’t have a lot of baseball skill set but you give him to your minor leagues and they develop that skill set." 

On Lopez, who held a 3.21 ERA in 19 minor league starts: "Lopy was a catcher. We give him to [pitching coach] Paul Menhardt and he makes him a pitcher. He was a fastball guy and he developed a good breaking ball and a changeup."

On Soto: "Juan Soto, who me and Mark have had conversations about him skipping the [Dominican Summer League] level. He trusted me and allowed that to happen and he was able to have a very good year at the GCL because we have a very good hitting coach in the GCL... and that’s what it takes."

Scialabba expounded on Soto, who at 17 years old earned GCL MVP honors with a .361 average, 11 doubles and 31 RBI in 45 games.

"I think you have a premium bat prospect, someone that is extremely advanced for his age. Very mature. He’s someone that has very innate ability to barrel up the baseball. His bat stays in the zone for a long period of time but also leverages the ball well. He can hit the ball to all fields. He has a great eye. Understands the strike zone for a young age. But he’s also a hard worker on the defensive side of the ball. He’s made adjustments and improvements over the last year. He’s physically growing, getting so much stronger and faster. At this age in his life, where you want to build a body that can play an impact on the game on the defensive side. And we’re seeing that with him. He’s getting better and stronger and he’s got the mental makeup that you want."

Everyone in the Nats' front office takes pride in a press conference like the Nats had on Saturday. But it's also a wonderful experience for the players themselves. They get to walk around a big league ballpark and see what it could be like if they continue to work hard and reach the majors.

"You feel very motivated," Bautista said through an interpreter. "Seeing the stadium full of people gives you an exta little motivation. Seeing some of the players that you came up with playing, helping out the team, it just gives you that motivation to continue toward getting here."

"Being here is very motivational," Soto said through an intepreter. "Given the awards and trying to reach those goals to be here and help the team anyway possible and being recognized for your hard work, it’s tremendous."

Lopez isn't the only Dominican player on the big league roster today. Catcher Pedro Severino and infielder Wilmer Difo are two others and both just recently reached the majors.

Difo, in particular, has become a success story that others want to follow.

"It’s been a long journey. We’ve talked about this, five years ago when we were just in the Dominican Summer League. We’d see the team and we’re like, one day we’ll be there," Marmolejos said. "One of my closest friends from here, Wilmer Difo, we’d talk about it, and now to see him there, see that he accomplished it, it’s a blessing. You can see that you can get there too. So, it’s like dreams coming true."

"I saw a lot of players get some awards, some recognition, then when I saw Difo 2014, and I said I want to get those awards too. I want work hard, play good, and now it’s a reality," Bautista said.

Between Lopez and the others highlighted on Saturday, as well as star outfield prospect Victor Robles, the future is bright for the Nationals when it comes to signing and developing international talent.

[RELATED: Nats take right steps in preparing for playoffs in win]


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Turner, Adams power Nats over Giants to end 4-game skid

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Turner, Adams power Nats over Giants to end 4-game skid

SAN FRANCISCO -- Trea Turner got five hits, Matt Adams homered and drove in six runs, and the Washington Nationals broke out of their offensive funk in a big way, routing the San Francisco Giants 15-2 Wednesday to end a four-game losing streak.

The Nationals had totaled just eight runs during their skid. Andrew Stevenson had two doubles, two singles and four RBIs as Washington set season highs for runs and hits (18).

Manager Dave Martinez's ballclub has been stunted by a rash of injuries this season but salvaged the final game of the three-game series at AT&T Park series to end a rough 4-5 road trip. Max Scherzer (5-1) did his part, striking out 10 in six innings.

Turner came into the game batting .232, and the leadoff man's slow start had contributed to the Nationals' struggles. He raised his batting average 35 points, tying a career high for hits in a game. He also scored twice, drove in two runs and stole his 10th base this season.

Adams matched his career best for RBIs. He singled as part of a three-run first, put the Nationals up 6-1 with a three-run homer off Jeff Samardzija (1-1) in the fourth and added a two-run single in the eighth.

The Nationals scored 14 of their 15 runs with two outs.

Scherzer earned his fourth consecutive win, all of them coming after a Washington loss. He allowed two runs and five hits, and reached double figures in strikeouts for the fourth time in six starts this season.

Brandon Belt and Pablo Sandoval each two hits apiece for the Giants.

Samardzija labored through a 30-pitch first inning and was done after retiring 11 batters. He gave up six runs on eight hits with three walks.


Nationals: 1B Ryan Zimmerman and 2B Howie Kendrick were given the day off.

Giants: Mac Williamson was a late scratch because of neck stiffness, one day after stumbling over the bullpen pitching mound and crashing into a low fence while chasing a foul ball. ... RHP Chris Stratton was placed on the paternity list. ... RHP Roberto Gomez was called up from Triple-A Sacramento.


Nationals: RHP Stephen Strasburg (2-2, 2.97 ERA) pitches against the Diamondbacks on Friday in Washington. He has yielded six earned runs and three homers over his last 13 innings.

Giants: LHP Derek Holland (0-3, 4.98) faces the Los Angeles Dodgers in the opener of a four-game series at AT&T Park on Friday night. Holland is winless in two career starts against the Dodgers.

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Williamson homers again, Giants top Nationals 4-3


Williamson homers again, Giants top Nationals 4-3

SAN FRANCISCO -- Mac Williamson had to dust himself off after crashing into a low padded wall near the stands in left field while chasing a foul ball.

More frustrated than hurt, Williamson took it out on Nationals pitcher Tanner Roark a few moments later after undergoing a series of concussion tests in the dugout.

Williamson homered for the second straight night and third in five games, hitting a tiebreaking shot in the sixth inning to lead San Francisco to a 4-3 victory over Washington on Tuesday night.

"I got pretty lucky," Williamson said. "I felt fine then and I feel fine now. I'm sure once the adrenalin wears off later tonight, tomorrow we'll see how the body feels. I'm sure I'll be a little sore."

Brandon Belt hit his fifth home run in six games, Joe Panik added three hits and scored twice, and the Giants won their third straight and fourth in the last five.

One night after hitting a 464-foot homer in the series opener, Williamson hit a first-pitch solo shot to center off Roark with two outs in the sixth inning that bounced off the top of the wall and broke a 3-all tie. It wasn't as far as Monday's clout -- this one went 423 feet -- but was just as pivotal for the Giants.

"We've talked about what a shot in the arm he's been and he's more than that," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "He came through again tonight. Good for him because he's worked hard at it."

Williamson's deciding home run came one inning after he stumbled over the bullpen mound in foul territory and crashed into a low wall near the stands while trying to chase down Bryce Harper's foul ball. Williamson stayed down briefly as team trainers rushed out before getting to his feet.

"I tried to roll my neck a little bit and my head down a little bit when I started going down," Williamson said. "I think that helped break my fall. I was just a little frustrated I didn't come up with the play. I had it in my glove and it came out."

Belt hit a two-run shot off Roark (1-2) in the third.

Michael Taylor had a three-run homer for Washington, which has lost four straight and 14 of 20 since opening the season 4-0.

"It seems like that sixth inning's been biting us in the rear as of late," Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. "We're swinging the bats. We just can't get the big hit with people on base."

Reyes Moronta (1-0) retired six batters for his first career win. Sam Dyson pitched one inning and Hunter Strickland worked the ninth for his fifth save.

The Giants got a run off Roark in the first but left the bases loaded when Evan Longoria struck out looking to end the inning. Belt homered on a 3-2 pitch from Roark in the second to make it 3-0.

Washington tied it on Taylor's three-run homer off starter Ty Blach in the third. Ryan Zimmerman walked and Moises Sierra singled before Taylor's deep drive into the right-field stands.

Roark went into the game 6-0 in seven career games against San Francisco but couldn't find a rhythm this time. He allowed four runs on six hits, walked two and hit a batter and threw a pair of wild pitches.


Panik hit a soft comebacker to Roark in the fifth that glanced off the pitcher's glove then bounced up on the top of his cap before falling to the turf. Roark initially couldn't locate the ball but found it in time to throw to first for the out.


Blach allowed three runs and four hits in five innings. After the game, Bochy said the left-hander suffered from food poisoning last week and was given an IV on Monday. "That was a really gutty effort that he gave us," Bochy said.


Nationals: Placed RHP Shawn Kelley on the 10-disabled list with ulnar nerve irritation in his right elbow. Infielder/outfielder Matt Reynolds was optioned to Triple-A Syracuse and outfielder Rafael Bautista and infielder Adrian Sanchez were called up.


Nationals RHP Max Scherzer (4-1, 1.36 ERA) and Giants RHP Jeff Samardzija (1-0, 0.00) take to the mound for the series finale at AT&T Park on Wednesday. Samardzija is making his second start after beginning the season on the disabled list.