12/11/2013 10:45 P.M. ET
Bench help remains on Nats' radar
By Bill Ladson / MLB.com
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- This offseason, the Nationals have acquired a starting pitcher (Doug Fister) and a left-handed reliever (Jerry Blevins). What's next?
They are still looking for a backup catcher and possibly an infielder. The team still has its sights on catcher John Buck, who played for the Mets and Pirates last season. The Nats are looking for someone who could play every day in case Wilson Ramos misses a significant amount of time.
General manager Mike Rizzo said he is going to give infielder Danny Espinosa every chance to make the team, most likely as a backup infielder. Espinosa is coming off the worst season of his professional career.
If Espinosa is not ready to be a backup, Zach Walters could come off the bench. He can provide power, but needs to improve his defense. The Nationals could go outside and sign a free-agent infielder, but the team doesn't want to break the bank to get one.
Nats and A's have been frequent partners
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- On Wednesday, the Nationals acquired left-hander Jerry Blevins from the Athletics for outfielder Billy Burns, Washington's Minor League Player of the Year in 2013.
It marked the seventh time in three years the two clubs were able to complete a trade. For example, the Nats were able to acquire pitchers Gio Gonzalez, A.J. Cole and catcher Kurt Suzuki from Oakland, while the A's were able to trade for outfielder Michael Morse, left-hander Tommy Milone and catcher Derek Norris from Washington. Morse was part of a three-team deal that sent him to the Athletics and then on to the Mariners in January.
Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo didn't seem to think the frequency with which he deals with Oakland was a big deal.
"I think the relationship between [A's GM] Billy [Beane] and I is a little bit overstated," Rizzo said. "We kind of speak the same languages, as far as the way we approach trades. We are both very up front and very decisive when we see a match. … [The Athletics] scout our system extremely well. They know our players very well. They have had the players we were looking to acquire on quite a few occasions."
NatsFest tickets on sale Thursday morning
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Nationals fans are invited to celebrate baseball's return in 2014 when the club hosts NatsFest on Jan. 25, 2014, at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center.
Tickets will be available for purchase online at nationals.com/natsfest starting Thursday at 10 a.m. ET.
Scheduled from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Jan. 25, the annual fun-filled baseball festival will offer a variety of interactive games and activities, including live batting cages, exclusive Q&A sessions with players and team personnel, skills challenges and much more.
Tickets purchased in advance will cost $20 for adults and $10 for children 12 and under, with prices increasing to $25 for adults and $15 for children 12 and under the day of the event. Season Plan holders will receive $5 off the entry fee when tickets are purchased in advance. In addition, Season Plan holders will have exclusive access to the event for an entire hour (10-11 a.m.) before NatsFest opens to the general public.
A limited number of autograph vouchers will also be available online for $25 at the time of the ticket purchase. All proceeds from the autograph vouchers will benefit the Washington Nationals Dream Foundation.
The Nationals worked closely with Events DC in an effort to return to the Walter E. Washington Convention Center this winter but were unable to move forward due to limited availability.
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.