Quick Links

The Solanos' night to remember

775984.png

The Solanos' night to remember

MIAMI -- Imagine the thoughts racing through Jhonatan Solano's mind as he stepped to the plate last night.

Twenty-four hours prior, he learned he was being called up by the Nationals, who were playing in Miami, where his brother Donovan happened to have been called up by the Marlins nine days earlier. Now the 26-year-old catcher was being summoned by manager Davey Johnson to pinch-hit with two outs in the top of the ninth against All-Star closer Heath Bell. With his brother watching from the other dugout. And with his parents (who flew in from Colombia earlier in the day to attend their first major-league game) watching from the stands.

Good luck dealing with all that, kid.

"Yeah, you know, it's a little pressure," Solano would say later. "There's a lot of people in the stadium, all my family here, all together. But I breathed like 50 times. Hopefully I get a hit."

He did get a hit. A double down the right-field line. On an 0-2 count. To keep the game alive for the Nationals.

"I pray on that," he said. "I say: 'God, I don't want to be the last out to the game.' He heard my prayer and he give me double. That's good."

It's all good right now for the Solano family, which last night experienced the thrill of a lifetime. Two sons on the same major-league field, each having been summoned to make their debuts in the span of nine days.

"Super-happy," mother Myriam Preciado, wearing a Marlins jersey, said before the game through an interpreter.

"We weren't expecting it," father Luis Solano, wearing a Nationals jersey added.

The path each Solano brother took to reach the big leagues was anything but conventional. Growing up in Colombia, a nation that until last week had produced only 11 major-league ballplayers, opportunities were extremely limited. Luis, though, had been a pitcher and infielder before an injury derailed his career, so he passed along his love for the game to his sons.

Even so, it's difficult for Colombian players to get noticed by scouts. Thus, a teenaged Jhonatan Solano found himself traveling across the border to Venezuela for a tryout, in a van full of passengers lugging produce (including one woman with a tied-up pig).

Solano was seated next to a heap of onions. To this day, teammates and coaches refer to him by the nickname "cebolla" (Spanish for "onion.")

Solano was signed by the Nationals, but his trek to the big leagues was a long one. He spent seven years in the minors, rooming with Ian Desmond at both Class AA and Class AAA in 2009. He was sent back to Class AA in 2010, then returned to Class AAA last season.

Added to the Nationals' 40-man roster over the winter so he couldn't be lost via the Rule 5 draft, Solano was in big-league camp this spring but stood no realistic chance of heading north with the club. And there was little reason to believe he'd be called upon at any point, not with Wilson Ramos and Jesus Flores in Washington, veteran Carlos Maldonado at Syracuse and touted prospect Sandy Leon at Harrisburg.

But then those fellow catchers started dropping like flies. Ramos tore his ACL and was done for the season. Leon suffered a bad ankle sprain four innings into his big-league debut. And then Sunday night, Flores tweaked his hamstring, sidelining him for at least a couple of days.

Thus the call finally was placed to Solano to get down to Miami as quickly as possible.

"When you sign, your first goal is to make it to the big leagues," said Solano, who only returned in the last week from his own stint on the DL due to a neck injury. "But when they put me on the 40-man roster last year it was exciting. When they called me Monday ... wow, I can't believe that."

Neither could Donovan, his younger brother who spent eight seasons in the minors (most in the Cardinals organization) before getting called up by the Marlins last week. A natural infielder who can play anywhere on the field (aside from, ironically, catcher), Donovan Solano debuted for Miami on May 22 and singled in his first career at-bat.

His parents, however, weren't there to see it in person. Myriam has always had a fear of flying, so she and Luis stayed at home. That was, until they learned their other son had also been promoted to the majors.

"With that news, she didn't want to stay home," Donovan said.

Luis and Myriam arrived Tuesday afternoon. Jhonatan had arrived the night before, flying in from Syracuse, greeted at the Miami airport by none other than his brother and fellow major leaguer.

The two embraced and shed a few tears.

"Hey, bro," Donovan told Jhonatan. "We did it."

Quick Links

Ivan Rodriguez becomes first former Nationals player to be voted into Hall of Fame

Ivan Rodriguez becomes first former Nationals player to be voted into Hall of Fame

Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez became the first former Nationals player (2005-present) to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame on Wednesday. He was inducted in his first year of eligibility, marking the 52nd first-ballot hall of famer in history. 

Rodriguez, who was the first free agent signed by current Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo, played the final two seasons of his career with Washington in 2010-11. During his time in D.C. he hit .254 six homers and 68 RBI. Pudge's greatest contribution to the Nationals came from his leadership and work ethic. He guided Stephen Strasburg through his rookie season and also helped develop Wilson Ramos so he could pass the torch to him. 

During his 21-year career, Pudge made 14 all-star teams, won 13 gold gloves, won seven silver slugger awards, led his league in caught-steeling percentage nine times, and was named American League MVP in 1999 with the Texas Rangers. He became a World Series champion in 2003 with the Florida Marlins. Pudge's 13 gold gloves are the most ever by a catcher, and his 2,844 career hits are the most ever by a player who appeared in 50 percent or more of their career games as a catcher.  

In addition to Rodriguez, former Montreal Expos great Tim Raines was inducted to the Hall of Fame. Raines is the franchise leader (Expos/Nationals) in walks (793), runs (947), stolen bases (635) and triples (82). Raines was an all-star seven times and he won a silver slugger in 1986 with the Expos. He is the only player in MLB history with at least 100 triples, 150 homers and 600 RBI in a career, and the only player to steal at least 70 bases in six consecutive seasons. 

Related: Bryce Harper wants Nationals to spend money on players, not team store

Quick Links

Bryce Harper wants Nationals to invest in Matt Wieters, Greg Holland more than facilities

Bryce Harper wants Nationals to invest in Matt Wieters, Greg Holland more than facilities

Bryce Harper isn't one to keep his opinions to himself. The Nationals slugger is outspoken about what he wants, whether that's to "Make Baseball Fun Again" or to make at least $400 million on his next contract

On Wednesday, he gave his take on how the Nats should be investing their money this summer. Here's Harper responding to a tweet from ESPN's Jim Bowden.

Harper's message: Players over everything else. Sorry, gift shop. 

It's plain to see where the 2015 NL MVP is going with this. Obviously, he wants as much talent around him as possible for a chance to win the World Series. 

Matt Wieters, a four-time All-Star catcher, and Greg Holland, a two-time All-Star closer, could be significant additions to Washington's roster. 

Harper is set to become a free agent in 2018, at which point an organization like the New York Yankees will be prepared to offer him both a massive salary and a massive investment in the players around him.

The slugger probably hopes his current team will try to surround him with winning pieces in an effort to keep him. But if a report about the Nationals' reaction to his contract demands proves accurate, they may have another agenda. 

There's Harper drama around the Nationals? Just a regular Wednesday here in Washington.

MORE NATIONALS: Nationals avoid arbitration with Harper, three others