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Winter To Remember

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Before Ponce brought in reinforcements for the Caribbean Series, 22-year-old righthanded reliever Chris Lugo enjoyed an unforgettable postseason outing. He pitched 2 2/3 perfect innings in his one Puerto Rican League playoff appearance, and more significantly he had that success with Ivan Rodriguez as his catcher.

Majors | #2009#Organization Reports#Washington Nationals

Back On Track

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Steven Shell turned his career around last November with two events—a victory for the United States in the clinching game of the IBAF World Cup and a minor league deal with a new team. The switch from the Angels, who drafted him in the third round in 2001 out of El Reno (Okla.) High, helped send him on his way to a successful rookie season. He made his big league debut in June and then held hitters to a .194 batting average for the Nationals, going 2-2, 2.16 in 50 innings with 34 hits and 20 walks allowed and 41 strikeouts. He also picked up two saves.

Majors | #2008#Organization Reports#Washington Nationals

Back To Form

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Mike Hinckley began the year unsure of his future and ended it by pitching if not like a No. 1 prospect, at least like a first option as a lefthanded reliever. The 26-year-old from Oklahoma City put up a 0.00 ERA in his first 14 big league innings and likely will head to spring training expected to fill a valuable role with the Nationals.

Majors | #2008#Organization Reports#Washington Nationals

Late Bloomer

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In the past year, Michael Martinez has shown durability and versatility. The late-blooming middle infielder is playing shortstop for his second straight winter for Estrellas de Oriente. In between those trips to his native Dominican Republic, he played a full season at high Class A Potomac for the Carolina League champions.

Majors | #2008#Organization Reports#Washington Nationals

Return To Form

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A healthy Luis Atilano was having a much easier time in the high Class A Carolina League than he had two years earlier, when he was headed toward Tommy John surgery. The 23-year-old righthander doesn't have the 92-93 mph velocity he had when he was in the Braves organization, but he has shown improved command and made use of a new pitch with Potomac. He was 5-1, 2.05 with 39 hits, 30 strikeouts and 10 walks in 53 innings in the same league in which he allowed 134 hits in 116 innings in 2006.

Majors | #2008#Organization Reports#Washington Nationals

A Money Pick

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If "Dolla" Bill Rhinehart continues hitting, he might never shed the nickname he has had since junior high. An 11th-round pick out of Arizona in 2007, Rhinehart was leading the low Class A South Atlantic League with 56 RBIs while hitting .298/.345/.496 with nine home runs in 252 at-bats for Hagerstown. From his point of view, he's merely cashing in on the opportunities the rest of the Suns give him.

Majors | #2008#Organization Reports#Washington Nationals

Making The Leap

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Once Cory VanAllen uncovered an effective secondary pitch, he may have made himself one of the Nationals' primary pitching prospects. The 6-foot-3, 180-pound lefthander scrapped his curveball during spring training and was dominating with his slider. He won his first six decisions of the season between high Class A Potomac and Double-A Harrisburg.

Majors | #2008#Organization Reports#Washington Nationals

Something To Crow About

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Having monitored all 15 of Missouri righthander Aaron Crow's starts firsthand this season, the Nationals had no doubts that he can deliver as a frontline pitcher. The organization made the 6-foot-2, 205-pound Golden Spikes Award, Roger Clemens Award and Dick Howser Trophy finalist the ninth overall pick, and the choice came easily according to club officials.

Majors | #2008#Organization Reports#Washington Nationals