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A quick inside look at the Nationals Circle of Trust, which jumpstarts each day

A quick inside look at the Nationals Circle of Trust, which jumpstarts each day

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Flitting around to work on your own ended last Thursday, the first organized day of workouts for Nationals pitchers and catchers.

Several arrived in advance of their mandated report date. Some came to Florida weeks before they needed to. Max Scherzer was happy to abandon the chill-ridden District winter in favor of Florida heat. Anibal Sanchez, displaying his veteran smarts, lives in Florida throughout the offseason. He drove up.

Every pitcher and catcher in big-league camp assembled at 9:30 a.m. for what has become a Davey Martinez staple: The Circle of Trust, a daily gathering which Martinez uses to set the tone for the day. It’s on daily schedules the same way stretching and fielding drills are, an import that came with Martinez’s hiring.  

Martinez provided the first tones of camp by stressing an importance of improving each day. Basic. Straight forward. Steady. Not long after, he turned center stage over to 46-year-old Robert Clifton Henley, better known as Bob Henley, the Nationals’ spirit animal and third base coach.

Henley was born in Mobile, Alabama, and continues to reside in the state during the offseason. When asked, he’ll say he’s from “LA,” in his southern twang, which stands for “Lower Alabama” delivering one of his favorite jokes. Recent home improvements at the Henley homestead include a man-made pond which provided a perfect landing spot for one of his sons following a self-launch off a backyard trampoline. Henley determined the process meant he had a “good redneck” kid on his hands.

What follows is an oral history -- as much as one can be divulged and was audible to those nearby -- of Henley’s rambunctious first-day Circle of Trust speech this spring. Martinez told him to bring the energy. The initial speech subsequently included Henley making fun of himself, claiming to be irritated with a theft of his coffee, as well as a surprise delivery of Valentine’s Day balloons “from” newcomer Patrick Corbin.

Davey Martinez: “As you know, Bobby has an unique personality. He gets the guys fired up in the morning. It’s spring training. It’s early. It’s 9:30 [a.m.]. I told him it’s his job to get the guys up, get them ready for the day and bring that energy. Man, he does it every day. I know when I talk to him I get fired up. The players love it. Last year when I told him what I wanted him to do, he said, ‘Are you sure you want me to do that?’ I said, ‘Yeah.’ It’s your job to get these guys fired up.”

Reliever Aaron Barrett: “Bobby was actually our [minor league] field coordinator when I first got drafted, so Sammy [Solis] would have been there, Matt Grace would have been there. Stras was probably there the year before. He’s kind of always been that way. There were days when he would come in, he’d be real soft spoken and he would mean business. There were other days where he would fire you up. His personality is fantastic. He’s like family.”

Erick Fedde: “Oh, I mean, he’s the man. Every time he talks, you really don’t know what to expect.”

Koda Glover: “I can’t keep a straight face with him. He cracks me up. He’s hilarious. He gets to going and going and going. I can’t help it. I start laughing.”

[Henley steps into the circle, begins to howl, yelling, gesturing, moving around. He claims he had three coffees and someone stole one. Making this incident all the more egregious in his view is it being Day 1.]

Patrick Corbin: “At first... I haven’t met him yet, so I wasn’t really sure who it was there.”

Matt Grace: “You come to expect it year after year, so it wasn’t anything surprising. I still know he’s going to do stuff like that and I still find myself laughing the entire time. And he called me out, too. Yeah. He called me out.”

[Grace is dinged with faux outrage for selecting tea in the morning as opposed to coffee.]

Grace: “He didn’t like that. I try to go the healthier route.”

[Henley pivots to get an authentic point across, telling the pitchers to speak up if they have a “burner” or soreness during workouts.]

Austen Williams: “He was trying to keep it light. But at the same time, he was making points and trying to get everything squared away for camp. The message was all serious. The delivery, he added a little humor to it.”

[Henley, always slathered in sunscreen for personal health reasons, screams, “You might wonder why is he wearing SPF 1000?!” He goes on to announce, “If I can’t see it, I don’t trust it!”]

Fedde: “It’s always good to laugh at yourself. It makes all the guys know that’s the good mentality of joking around. Don’t be afraid to make fun of yourself, but come together as a team.” 

Trevor Rosenthal: “He was getting after it.”

Corbin: “I was trying to figure out what was going on. Davey spoke. Then [Henley] stepped up and gave his little spiel there. When he said my name at the end, I thought I was going to have some lines or something to say. I thought he missed coming up to me before that and didn’t give me a heads up.”

[Lurking in the background throughout Henley’s speech is “Bob the security guard”, a short, gray-haired Massachusetts native who winters in West Palm Beach and is stationed outside the Nationals clubhouse door. He is holding five balloons.]

[Henley goes on to claim someone stole one of his three air horns, which makes him as enraged as he was with the theft of his coffee, and, presumably, Grace’s tea consumption.]

[Bob approaches, balloons in hand, receives a stare down from Henley.]

Corbin: “[The balloons] were from Patrick Corbin and the pitching staff and [Henley complained about] how I didn’t spend some money to get him a real card.” 

[The gift is enough for Henley to forgive all prior transgressions; he announces it’s 10:03 and apologizes for getting “a little long-winded there.”]

Grace: “He’s awesome. They never get old.”

Williams: “I thought the balloons was a good mix. I didn’t even know what was going on. I thought it was hilarious.”

Rosenthal: “I figured it was kind of his alter ego.”

Wander Suero: [Just starts laughing]

Jeremy Hellickson: [Just starts laughing]

Suero: “A lot of the young guys who don’t know or new guys who don’t know him are probably going to think he’s a clown for what he did. But they’re going to realize the kind of person he really is and they’re going to embrace him because it’s just part of his act to get them to relax and feel welcome.”

Corbin: “The guys were just saying he’s kind of like that a lot. I’m looking forward to more moments like that.”

Joe Ross: “I wouldn’t even say he recycles jokes. He comes up with something new it seems like every year.” 

Hellickson: “It was all my favorite.”

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Washington Nationals Roundup: Anthony Rendon misses fourth straight game

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Washington Nationals Roundup: Anthony Rendon misses fourth straight game

The Washington Nationals fell to the Colorado Rockies 9-5 Wednesday to close out a six-game road trip. Here's the latest Nats and Rockies news. 

Player Notes: 

NATIONALS:

Starting pitcher Anibal Sanchez allowed six runs on nine hits over five innings Wednesday, his season record falling to 0-3. He'll get another chance to get his first win of 2019 next Monday against the Cardinals

Juan Soto launched his fourth home run of the season in Wednesday's losing effort, a two-run shot in the third inning off Rockies starter German Marquez. It was a quiet day at the plate otherwise for the 20-year old, going 0-3 with a walk in his four other plate appearances.

Ryan Zimmerman sat out Wednesday's game after hurting his heel making a leap catch Tuesday. Nats manager Davey Martinez said Zimmerman was gonna get a day off regardless, but added the heel was still bothering Zimmerman "a little bit."

Anthony Rendon also missed out as he continues his recovery from an elbow injury sustained last Saturday. Martinez said Rendon was available to pinch-hit Wednesday, which he did not, and there's hope Rendon can play Friday after Thursday's off-day. Jake Noll earned his first MLB start at third base Wednesday with Rendon sitting out.  

Relief pitcher Justin Miller has begun a rehab assignment at High-A Potomac. Miller is on the 10-day injured list with a lower back strain.

ROCKIES:

Several Rockies had excellent days at the plate Wednesday. Charlie Blackmon launched his third homer of the year in the fourth inning, Nolan Arenado drove in three runs and David Dahl chipped in with three hits, an RBI and a run scored.

German Marquez earned his third win of the season with seven innings of three-run ball Wednesday. Marquez allowed eight hits and walked two, striking out seven Nationals.

Colorado activated former National Daniel Murphy off the 10-day IL for Wednesday's game. Murphy went 1-for-4 in his first game back from a fractured finger, and almost got run over by racing mascots (we're not kidding). Another former Nat, Ian Desmond, was given a day off Wednesday.

The Rockies optioned pitcher Jeff Hoffman to Triple-A Albuquerque after he allowed four runs over five innings in the Nats' win over Colorado Tuesday.

Injuries:

3B Anthony Rendon: Elbow hit by pitch, sidelined

RP Austen Williams: Shoulder, 10-day IL

RP Justin Miller: Back, 10-day IL

SS Trea Turner: Finger, 10-day IL

RP Koda Glover: Elbow, 10-day IL

Coming Up:

Friday, 4/26: Padres @ Nationals, 7:05 p.m. ET, Nationals Park 

Saturday, 4/27: Padres @ Nationals, 4:05 p.m. ET, Nationals Park 

Sunday, 4/28: Padres @ Nationals, 1:35 p.m. ET, Nationals Park 

Source: Rotoworld

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Nationals' pitching staff rocked in Colorado as Nats close out ugly road trip

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Nationals' pitching staff rocked in Colorado as Nats close out ugly road trip

The Washington Nationals lost to the Colorado Rockies, 9-5, Wednesday afternoon and fell to 11-12 on the season. Here are five observations from the game...

1. The Anibal Sanchez experiment is not going well so far.

The veteran right-hander came to Washington over the winter fresh off a fantastic season in Atlanta, one that was an aberration from previous years and may have extended his career. The Nationals hoped he would be much more like his 2018 version and not the guy he was from 2015 through 2017. 

But through five starts, the results have not been pretty, and Wednesday was his worst game yet. Sanchez got rocked for six earned runs on nine hits and five walks in five innings of work. His season ERA sits at 6.00 and he has 16 walks in 27 total innings.

The early returns on the Nats rotation have not been great. Patrick Corbin is their only starter with an ERA below 4.00. But Sanchez has been far and away the weakest link.

The Nats closed out their road trip with a 2-4 mark. Both series were against teams with losing records. They have lost three of their past four series overall.

2. Adam Eaton also had a rough day. His worst moment was in the bottom of the third, when Raimel Tapia knocked a bases-clearing double over his head in right field. 

Eaton appeared to misjudge the ball by stepping in too far. He jumped in an attempt to make up for it with a leaping grab, only to have the ball sail past him and to the wall. Though Victor Robles sprinted over to back him up, Eaton made the play look even worse by giving up on it and doubling over with his hands on his knees in frustration.

Just one frame later, Eaton struck out with the bases loaded to end the top of the fourth. He went 1-for-5 on the day with his lone hit a single in the top of the ninth.

Eaton also had a minor injury scare. While running out a grounder in the first, he slowed down and appeared to be limping. He was then shown on TV chatting with trainer Paul Lessard in the dugout. 

3. Because this is the 2019 Nationals, the bullpen of course played a factor and once again it was an adventure for Trevor Rosenthal.

Per usual, he was pumping heat but with zero control. He began the eighth inning by hitting Charlie Blackmon and finished the frame with three runs allowed on two hits and a walk. Of his 31 pitches, only 16 were strikes and three were wild. 

Those three runs were costly because the Nats scored two in the ninth and left runners on the corners. If Rosenthal had pitched a clean eighth, it would have been a one-run game.

Rosenthal has allowed runs in six of his seven appearances this season. He now leads the majors with five wild pitches.  

Rosenthal remains one of the Nats' highest upside relief options, so it may pay off down the road if they show patience in him. But it continues to be a disaster just about every time he takes the mound.

4. It wasn't all bad for the Nats. Juan Soto, who fouled a pitch off his right ankle in Tuesday's game, played in this one and launched his fourth homer of the season over the right field fence. He also drew a walk.

Jake Noll made the first start of his MLB career and landed his first hit. He rifled a double down the left field line in the second inning to score Matt Adams. 

Noll started at third base, which was a bit of a strange sight. By now everyone knows of him as the guy who looks like Ryan Zimmerman; now he's playing his old position?

5. The Rockies got a key piece back in their lineup, a guy who is a familiar face to Nats fans. Wednesday was Daniel Murphy's return from a fractured left finger. 

The injury gave him a four-to-six week recovery timeline, but he came back a few days early. Perhaps that can be taken as a sign of hope for Trea Turner, who remains out with a broken finger himself.

Murphy did some damage against his former team. He singled in his first at-bat off Sanchez, then walked and scored in the third inning. He also moved a runner over on a lineout in the fourth that contributed to a run.

Murphy's best highlight, though, came in between innings when he barely avoided disaster while running onto the field during the Rockies' equivalent of the Presidents Race.

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