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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

Souza-Size Me

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Steven Souza has more to work with than he did when he made his professional debut last year. The third baseman found that out quickly this spring. After bulking up from about 190 pounds to 205, he showed improved power in accelerated minor league spring training. A sore right shoulder kept him in extended spring, but he hit five home runs in less than a week and promptly reported to low Class A Hagerstown.

Majors | #2008#Organization Reports#Washington Nationals

Smoker’s No Joker

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At age 19, lefthander Josh Smoker has a long way to go before taking a permanent spot in a big league clubhouse. This spring, though, he received a temporary taste. The contract signed by the 2007 supplemental first-round pick stipulated that he receive an invite to major league camp this spring. He even got to pitch at Space Coast Stadium, striking out three in two shutout innings in a 15-0 victory against Georgetown University.

Majors | #2008#Organization Reports#Washington Nationals