We caught up with Day Two of the Nats Caravan today at lunchtime at Ben's Chili Bowl on U Street in downtown DC. The place was over-packed with a bustling lunch crowd, and a dozen or so players, manager, and front office personnel from the Washington Nationals.
Pitchers Drew Storen and Ryan Speier, and SS Danny Espinosa, along with President Stan Kasten, GM Mike Rizzo, Manager Jim Riggleman and MASN broadcaster Rob Dibble were all there to munch on chili dogs and wash them down with milkshakes.
We caught up with Storen to ask him about leading off the caravan the first couple days for the team. "It's real exciting. Obviously I'm not the complete face of the franchise with guys like Zim and Stras coming in. I'm just coming out, trying to make a difference, make people's day. If I'm leading the way, that's fine. It's pretty exciting to see people fired up about the upcoming season."
Wednesday night, the right-handed reliever was named as one of the Top 50 prospects in all of baseball by MLB Network. "It's quite an honor to be in the top 50 like that. It's one of those things that it's a great honor but on top of that I'm not going to be worried about it too much."
"There's still a lot of work I need to do and I need to go out and prove myself. You know, impress those guys [motions to Rizzo, Riggleman], the ones that make the real decisions."
General Manager Mike Rizzo was proud of having three players, Stephen Strasburg, Storen and C Derek Morris all named in the Top 100. "It shows the progress that we're making. We feel proud about a lot of our players."
"We feel that we have 10 or 12 good solid prospects. Three of them are recognized, and we feel there could be a couple of others on that list. It's all in the eye of the beholder. But we feel good about it. We're proud of where we're going as an organization and we stress player development, so it's gratifying for us."
Rizzo was taken with his young reliever in another regard. "He's as good as it gets as far as [being] media-friendly, and maturity in handling the media. He's way beyond his years as far as that goes. He's one of our crown jewels of our system, so it's good to get him and Danny [Espinosa] out in front of the cameras. We feel that these guys are going to be cornerstone players for us for years to come."
"[Storen]'s very media-savvy and he's an outgoing personality, so there's going to be no problem with that in his career."
To further reinforce the idea of Storen's being good with the media, he'll be appearing on the Jack Diamond Show at 7:30 am tomorrow (Friday) morning on 107.3 FM, and appeared on Fox-5 Morning News with Riggleman to talk about the team Tuesday morning.
And we couldn't let the opportunity go without sneaking in a question about the hot topic of the possibility of the Nationals signing free agent second baseman Orlando Hudson. "I would describe it like this; there's interest on our part," Rizzo said. "We have interest in him and several others."
"It's been no secret I like Orlando Hudson. He fits what we're trying to do, get stronger defensively up the middle. We like him, we've got several other options beyond him. But obviously he's a guy we'd like to acquire, if it's a fit for him and for us, we'd like to get something done. If not, we have other options to go in a different direction."
"It's safe to say he'd be the top guy that we'd like to acquire, just because he fits the parameters of a young, athletic guy that's really good defensively."
The entire entourage then loaded into the buses and headed to Fort Belvoir and Pfitzner Stadium, home of the Potomac Nationals, the next two stops on the Caravan. They'll be hard-pressed to find a better chili dog on either stop.
The Nats beat the Marlins 6-4 on Michael Morse's 30th home run of the season, a three-run shot in the ninth inning. By virtue of that win, the Nats are 79-80 and have clinched third place in the N.L. East. If they win out they'll finish above .500.