Spring Training is always an optimistic time in baseball. Fresh off a cold winter, and usually full of fresh faces, it’s easiest to have hope for even the most doomed club. Look at the throngs that travel from Chicago to Mesa, Arizona to HoHoKam Park and swear that this will finally be the year for the Cubbies. Sorry Rachel, I don’t think they’ve got it this year. The Nationals probably don’t either, but you wouldn’t know it to talk to their fans.
Nationals fans flocked by the hundreds to Space Coast Stadium in Florida this February and March to watch the Nationals take the field with unusual lineup combinations and positions, as they try to figure out what the team will look like come Opening Day on March 31st. The sunny picture in their minds may still be brought down to Earth by May, but for now, these are some happy and optimistic fans.
Spring Training is full of common hero tropes, and that’s part of what makes Sports into big entertainment and big drama for the fan. Today, we got a bit of the “underdog makes good” plotlines as the Nationals beat the Yankees 6-5 in the bottom of the ninth off the bat of a young phenom that the club is very excited about.
No, I don’t mean Bryce Harper (though he was right there when it happened, he was on second base), I mean catcher Derek Norris.
The Nationals are off to quite a start in their Spring Training in Viera, Florida. Their 7-3 start makes it the best start since the club left Montreal, but March baseball isn’t the sort that counts in the longterm. Today’s matchup with the Mets was delayed slightly by a torrential downpour that covered much of Florida, but that didn’t seem to dampen the spirits of the fans or the club.
In front of a light audience, the Nationals put on a clinic in the first, getting a pair of singles from Nyjer Morgan, and Ian Desmond, and a nice full-count walk to Jayson Werth put Adam LaRoche up against the Mets’ Mike Pelfrey with no one out and the bases loaded. Another six feet on the ball he crushed to dead center would’ve put the Nationals up by four, but it was enough to put the Nationals ahead by a pair.
The Mets would threaten against the Nationals in the fourth, but Chad Gaudin worked himself out of a 1-out jam with runners on the corners with a filthy off-speed strikeout and a well-timed short fly. The Nats play a pair today, we’ll have a full wrap of the games after this evening’s tilt against the Astros.
‘Nats pitcher Jordan Zimmerman’
courtesy of ‘afagen’
The Nats have kept their word as far as cutting the dead-weight on their current pitching staff loose. Senior Vice President and General Manager Mike Rizzo made the announcement today that LHP Victor Garate and RHP’s Logan Kensing and Joel Peralta were sent back to the minors. Lefty’s Shawn Estes and Eddie Guardado were also released.
Now Riggleman & pitching coach Steve McCatty can focus on grooming the guys who are still around for the regular season.
The head count in Viera, Fla. is now 53.
‘Basics for Baseball’
courtesy of ‘Jinx!’
If you couldn’t find yourself an AM radio or don’t follow any baseball writers on Twitter, allow me to re-cap young Strasburg’s first outing:
Total Pitch Count - 25
Total Strikes – 15
Total Hits – 2
Total K’s – 2
Plus — his first career strikeout was against Miguel Cabrera with a 98 MPH fastball on a full-count.
Way to go, kid. Now let’s see if your teammates can back you up with some run support after your first two innings.
‘Waiting for the call’
courtesy of ‘afagen’
Stephen Strasburg’s first start with the Nationals is being welcomed during a desperate time.
Here’s the set-up: In 6 games, the Nats have been outscored 67-30 and haven’t won a single game so far. Granted, this is Spring Training. The games don’t matter. What DOES matter is prepping for the regular season. The hopeful pitching staff isn’t showing much in the prep department as of yet. They have given up 91 hits, 28 walks and 12 home runs in 50 innings.
If that wasn’t bad enough, the real killer is – 17 pitchers have an ERA of 9.00 or higher – with a team ERA of 10.98.
Here’s to hoping that the six previous losing were just the Nats “taking a few for the team” while waiting for Strasburg to take the mound. But – if that’s the case – there’s no excuse for such poor performances.
“You don’t like to see your guys get knocked around,” Riggleman told Nationals Journal writer Adam Kilgore. “You hate to see your guys giving up runs. We’re trying to win the ball game. Nobody’s trying to give up hits. Nobody is satisfied that we’re not winning ball games […] It’s just part of what we got to go through to get through these first couple of weeks of spring training. Our guys are just taking it on the chin a little bit.”
Tune-in to WFED 1500 AM at around 12:30 for the 1 pm Strasburg debut. Charlie Slowes and Dave Jageler will be announcing the play-by-play.
Update 9:56 am — (Via Adam Kilgore’s Twitter) “The #Nationals will make cuts earlier next week, and it will consist mostly of pitchers.” Good thinking.
Spring Training games start today. The Washington Nationals are in Viera, Florida and ready to play the best the Grapefruit League has to offer. Opening Day is 33 days away. Here’s your sneak peak into what you have to look forward to this season.
It’s safe to assume that 2010 will not be the year the Washington Nationals win a World Series. They’re still building a franchise and are mere youngins when compared to the veteran clubs in the Major Leagues today.
The Nationals haven’t had a winning season since moving to the District. They came close in 2005 by going 81-81, but since then they have finished last in their division (National League East) every year except 2007 when they finished second to last. So – it’s easy to understand if you haven’t made your way to the ballpark these past few years.
If you wanted to see a team win, a trip to Baltimore, dare I say … Philly, might be a better idea. Not this year though. The 2010 season has the potential to be different for the Nationals. And no – that’s not a joke. Continue reading
‘Nyjer Morgan makes a great catch’
courtesy of ‘afagen’
Now that the Olympics are over we can all breathe a collective “sigh” and get back to our regularly scheduled programming. With that said, guess what the end of the Olympics means? Time for beer, hots dogs, and the 7th inning stretch!
ESPN.com Senior Baseball writer Jayson Stark puts it best (via Twitter), “Here’s a thought that ought to warm you up out there. This was the last Sunday without a baseball game to watch until Nov. 7. Play ball!”
Riggleman is forced to split the squad for the Nationals TWO (yes, two) first games of the season since the Florida Grapefruit League doesn’t start playing until Thursday. One half of the team will be facing the Astros in Kissimmee and the other half face the Marlins in Jupiter. For now, the team is scheduled for three more days of full-squad workouts.
courtesy of ‘MissChatter’
Baseball – like any sport – is a mental game. Attitude is everything. Jason Marquis is a firm believer of that fact.
He is the projected starter for Opening Day, bringing 231 starts over 10 major league seasons, and his head is in it to win it.
“I feel like you play 162 games, to win 162 games,” Marquis told Florida Today. “You don’t put expectations like, ‘Oh, I hope we get to .500 this year.’ I hope we win 162 games.
“Now, obviously has it ever been done? No. But that’s the mentality you should take. Treat each and every day as an individual, treat each game as its own and try to win one game at a time, get an out at a time, make plays and execute, and I think it will lead to a good season.”
Marquis’ guidance and leadership as a veteran could prove to be a moral boost for a team that’s trying to carve a new, winning path this season.
courtesy of ‘philliefan99′
Injuries in Major League Baseball are inevitable. This year – the Nationals are trying to limit the amount of times their players take a trip to the disabled list. How? By going over base sliding fundamentals.
“I’ve always slid feet-first,” the 29-year-old Nyjer Morgan told the Associated Press. “But I guess I’m getting a little older and I’m getting a little wiser.”
Getting a little older and a little wiser? A headfirst slide is the sole reason Morgan was left sidelined after fracturing his left hand while sliding into third base last August in Chicago – less than two months after being traded from Pittsburgh to Washington.
Sure, Nyjer – it does look like you’re working harder if you slide head-first into the bases (the Nationals outfielder says he likes to get dirty while playing ball because it looks like “you’ve been playing harder”, no pun intended … please feel free to let your mind wander into gutter territory with that one), but the injuries aren’t worth it if you want to play for a team who has a winning record at the end of the 2010 season.
Riggleman’s also got the entire roster working on the feet-first approach to sliding in order to cut down on hand/finger/wrist related injuries. Good thinking.
ALSO – THIS JUST IN – there’s a new guy in town by the name of Adam Kilgore. He’ll be the voice of WaPo’s Nationals Journal/the new Nationals beat writer this season. Welcome to town, Adam!
‘LivÃ¡n HernÃ¡ndez back pitching for the Nats’
courtesy of ‘afagen’
The most wins any Nationals pitcher has under his belt is 26. That record is held by right-handed pitcher Livan Hernandez who signed a minor-league contract with the Nationals today, which includes an invitation to Spring Training.
Hernandez is back in Washington after going 9-12 with a 5.44 ERA in 31 starts last season (having split his time between DC and New York with the Mets).
Word on the street (aka MLB.com) is the Nats have been looking for a second veteran starter since they signed right-hander Jason Marquis to a two-year deal in December.
Hernandez now enters the competition to fill the final two starting spots in Riggleman’s 2010 rotation.
courtesy of ‘jpangan3′
It looks like Jesus will be taking the mound pretty soon. It’s been put in ink, so it must be true — Stephen Strasburg will be making his first start with the Nationals at Spring Training on March 9 against the Detroit Tigers.
At this point, he’s expected to pitch a couple innings.
“This will be my first chance to see him face hitters. Everybody is really excited,” Nationals pitching coach Steve McCatty told MLB.com. “We’ll see how it goes. Who knows what’s going to happen after that. We are just going to go and see how it’s going to works out. We are going to have a rain day every once in a while, so everything is always done in pencil.”
courtesy of ‘Steve Riley SEA’
It looks like the Nats have gone all religious on us after just one day in Florida. They’ve seen the light … and that light is Stephen Strasburg’s pitching ability.
Centerfielder Nyjer Morgan and the rest of Strasburg’s teammates have given the rookie a new nickname — Jesus. Why Jesus? “‘Cause what’s the first thing you say when you see him pitch?” Morgan told the Washington Post, “Jeee-sus!”
For now, Strasburg will be starting the season in the minors. “I wouldn’t really want to say that he’s competing for a spot in the rotation,” Riggleman told the Post. “I think we’re open-minded, but… he could pitch real well down here, but we still might feel like the development, the process is to be respected of going through the system and getting really used to the rigors of throwing every fifth day [in the minor leagues].”
All signs point toward things starting off on the right foot this season. Now we have to wait and see what happens when the rest of the team reports in a week and a half.