Bloxom Is Tarasco's Latest Discovery





WASHINGTON—Tony Tarasco has what he calls his "pork chop theory." If a piece of meat—or $100 for that matter—were thrown on the ground, a few ballplayers would be the first to get it just because of their dedication.

This year, the low Class A Hagerstown batting coach has an unsung player who fits that mold in 22-year-old Justin Bloxom.

"Justin Maxwell, Steve Lombardozzi, Michael Burgess and (fellow Suns standout) Destin Hood are all that type, too," Tarasco said, as he included other Nationals hopefuls in the club. "(Bloxom) has moved himself into that area. He has some leadership qualities.

"He's a natural ballplayer who has a natural instinct for the game . . . He's a diligent worker, but it's not eyewash. He doesn't overdo it. He has a certain amount of savvy about it."

Bloxom, an 11th-round pick in 2009 out of Kansas State, is a switch-hitter who was batting .313/.360/.486 for Hagerstown. He had 10 home runs and 10 steals while showing versatility by playing all the corner infield and outfield spots, with the most time coming at first base. Tarasco said Bloxom is even "always eager to catch a bullpen, but he hasn't yet."

The 22-year-old does have catching in his background. Out of high school, only the Wildcats offered him a partial scholarship, though he also received calls from Gonzaga, Long Beach State and Oregon State.

"Kansas State was the only place where I took a recruiting trip," the 6-foot-1, 205-pound Bloxom said. "I was just a 170-pound catcher coming out of Phoenix."

Bloxom and righthander A.J. Morris, also a Nationals minor leaguer, helped Kansas State make its first-ever regional in 2009.

Farm director Doug Harris raves about Bloxom's makeup. Tarasco added that Bloxom uses all fields and that he isn't afraid to experiment at the plate, which has helped him enjoy a breakout summer.

During the South Atlantic League all-star break, Bloxom even had a chance to find out what it would be like to play at Nationals Park. He and three teammates hit against rehabbing righthander Jordan Zimmermann, who was already throwing in the mid-90s about 10 months after Tommy John surgery.

CAPITAL GAINS

• Short-season Vermont catcher David Freitas, a 15th-round pick this year out of Hawaii, had a franchise-record hitting streak of 21 games and counting.

• The Nationals agreed to terms with 28-year-old righthander Yunesky Maya, who pitched for Cuba in the World Baseball Classic in 2006 and 2009.