Nationals

Wizards coach: No timeline for John Wall's return

Wizards coach: No timeline for John Wall's return

WASHINGTON (AP) Already sidelined for more than two months, Washington Wizards point guard John Wall still is not ready to practice, let alone play - and coach Randy Wittman said Monday night he does not know when his best player will return.

Wall hasn't played at all this season for Washington, an NBA-worst 1-13 heading into its game against the defending champion Miami Heat on Monday.

When the Wizards announced on Sept. 28 that Wall was diagnosed with the early stages of a stress injury to his left knee cap, they said he didn't need surgery and probably would be out of action for about two months.

Well, that schedule turned out to be too optimistic.

Asked Monday for an idea of when Wall, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 draft, will be available, Wittman replied: ``I can't give you one. I don't know what you want me to say.''

Wittman continued: ``I mean, right now, we're still progressing the way we are with his rehab. He's not been on the floor to practice. He's been on the floor to shoot some, but he's not progressed to the point that he can get out and practice. So obviously until that happens, I don't know what that timetable's going to be.''

During the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season, Wall led the Wizards by averaging 16.3 points and eight assists. He also topped the team with 95 steals and averaged 4.5 rebounds. The Wizards finished 20-46, the second-worst record in the league.

In September, Wall said he ``started feeling discomfort'' about a month earlier, when he got an MRI exam that did not show any sort of problem. But Wall still was bothered by his knee while working out and went for a second opinion, which uncovered the injury.

Without Wall entirely and also minus center Nene for most games, the Wizards opened this season with a franchise-worst 0-12 record before getting their first victory by beating the Portland Trail Blazers last week.

Against Miami, Wittman tried his fifth different starting lineup in 14 games, inserting Chris Singleton at forward in place of Kevin Seraphin. The other starters remained the same as last game: A.J. Price, rookie Bradley Beal, Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza.

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Nationals win despite having to turn to little-known pitcher for pivotal start

kyle_mcgowin.jpg
USA Today Sports Images

Nationals win despite having to turn to little-known pitcher for pivotal start

WASHINGTON -- If any bump was coming from a return home or Mike Rizzo’s public pregame words or simply being out of New York, it was not apparent Friday.

Three errors committed in the first four innings. The first reliever into the game, Joe Ross, allowed three earned runs before recording a second out. Starter Kyle McGowin barely made it through the fourth inning of an eventual and desperately needed 12-10 win.

The rally kept the Nationals from creeping toward of new level of dubiousness in this muck-filled season. They pushed 2 ½ games in front of the Marlins for the National League’s worst record. Juan Soto hit a three-run homer in the eighth. Matt Adams followed with a solo homer. Sean Doolittle had trouble, but closed the game. Those efforts kept this from being another story about the bullpen (five more runs allowed Friday).

So, here’s a different question to ponder (there are a million or none, depending on point of view) after Friday night: How did the Nationals end up with 27-year-old McGowin starting a surprisingly pivotal game?

The nuts-and-bolts version is because of injuries. Both Anibal Sanchez -- who threw a simulation game Friday -- and Jeremy Hellickson are on the injured list. The deeper answer comes from looking at the recent erosion of pitchers in Washington’s minor-league system.

McGowin made his second career start Friday because there is no one else. No hot minor-league prospect, no early-round pick who has been up and down and received another shot, no veteran stashed in the minor leagues for such situations.

Looming behind all of this is the 2016 trade of three pitching prospects to acquire Adam Eaton. Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and Dane Dunning were all sent to Chicago for Eaton’s advanced-stats and cost-friendly contract. The departure of three starting pitchers in one shot reverberated Friday when the Nationals were forced to use McGowin in a spot start as the seventh starter of the season.

This is more a volume than quality issue. Neither Lopez or Giolito were effective in limited chances at the major-league level with Washington before being traded. Once in Chicago, Giolito became arguably the worst pitcher in baseball in 2018. No one allowed more earned runs or walks that season. Lopez had a quality season, finishing with 3.1 WAR.

The two have reversed outcomes in 2019. Giolito has rediscovered his velocity. After throwing 100 mph in the 2015 Futures Game, his velocity caved. Giolito was down to 92-93 mph with the Nationals and, initially, Chicago. Thursday, he hit 97 mph in the ninth inning of a shutout against Houston. The outing drove his ERA down to 2.77.

Lopez is struggling. His 5.14 ERA is venturing toward Giolito’s status of a year ago. His walk total -- always the concern -- is up, as are his homers allowed.

But what Giolito and Lopez have, at age 24 and 25, respectively, is potential. Giolito, who often fussed with his mechanics in Washington, has discovered a delivery to expedite his fastball and an approach to boost the effectiveness of his changeup. Lopez’s 2018 showed he can be a solid back-end rotation member. They were expected to follow behind Erick Fedde and Joe Ross in establishing a future rotation. But, those two are in Chicago, Ross is in the bullpen, where he gave up three runs Friday, and Fedde just returned to the rotation after being moved to the bullpen.

So, it was McGowin on the mound Friday. Four innings, six hits, five runs, one walk, two strikeouts, two home runs allowed. Why? No better choice is available.

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Make-A-Wish Mid-Atlantic and Nationals grant boys wish to be a player for a day

Make-A-Wish Mid-Atlantic and Nationals grant boys wish to be a player for a day

The Nationals welcomed 10-year-old cancer patient Parker Staples as the newest addition to their team on Friday, in conjunction with the Make-A-Wish Mid-Atlantic Foundation.

While battling lymphoma, Staples learned he would receive a wish and didn’t hesitate about what he wanted to choose. After being sidelined for two years during treatment, Parker couldn’t wait to celebrate his remission by becoming part of his favorite baseball team. 

Staples was introduced to his new teammates and got signed autographs from Matt Adams, Juan Soto, Anthony Rendon, and Yan Gomes. He also got to spend time hitting and playing catch with his new teammates, as well as being interviewed as the newest member of the team. It gets even better than that, Staples threw the ceremonial first pitch at Nationals Park leading up to the Marlins-Nationals game Staples 

"My favorite moment was throwing the first pitch. It was really cool," Staples said.

"Probably the biggest day of my life."

The Nationals are hosted the Miami Marlins in the series opener Friday.

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