Day 18 in Viera: Happy Friday

Nationals Principal Owner Mark D. Lerner will be blogging throughout the 2011 Grapefruit League Season, giving Nats fans a unique perspective of the goings-on at the Nats Spring Training home in Viera, Fla. Check back often for the latest updates.


Hello NatsTown. I am writing to you from sunny and warm Viera, Fla. Today is very windy and comfortable.


Since my last blog, your Nationals have topped the Mets (5-3 on Wednesday at home) and lost a 7-5 decision to the Cardinals on Thursday in Jupiter. So, we stand 3-1 and host the Braves today here at Space Coast Stadium.


Today’s 1:05 p.m. contest will likely be a bit strange without Bobby Cox guiding the Braves. Bobby is going to be missed. He is the ultimate ambassador, for not only the Braves, but the game of baseball. I wish him all the best in his retirement, but I bet we run into him at a ballpark or two over the next few years. Bobby’s never going to leave the game entirely. At least I hope not.


I took in a 2-inning Minor League contest down the street at the Washington Nationals Training Complex. The game was set up for Tom Gorzelanny, Chien-Ming Wang and Ryan Mattheus to ease themselves into game conditions in a controlled setting. Wang pitched well during his 15-pitch inning, during which he threw in the mid-80s and induced 3 outs (one out was negated by a fielding error). Tom Gorzelanny looked good too. He recorded 5 outs in 30 pitches (a pair of 15-pitch innings). Tom retired the side in order during his 2nd inning. Lastly, righthander Ryan Mattheus struck out 2 in a scoreless inning. He is the pitcher Mike Rizzo acquired from the Rockies in July of 2009 in exchange for Joe Beimel. He is returning from July 2009 Tommy John surgery and is essentially on the same time line as Jordan Zimmermann.


Speaking of Zimmermann, his performance yesterday in Jupiter was especially pleasing. 3.0 scoreless innings against the Cards lineup that featured Albert Pujols. I’ll take that in a heartbeat, especially in a Grapefruit League debut. I see Jordan as a silent-killer type. He is a quiet and polite guy when you meet him, but the coaches tell me that he is as fierce a competitor as we have on the pitching staff. Like Marquis, I can hope for nothing more than full health for Jordan, because that is all he’ll need to succeed. His arm is electric and other teams know it.     


This morning, Rizzo, Jim Riggleman and Steve McCatty reassigned Shairon Martis, Matt Chico and Joe Bisenius to Minor League camp. Hopefully this move affords the trio more innings, but I think it also speaks to our ever-increasing pitching depth. McCatty has a lot of good arms to look at in a relatively short amount of time. It is going to be tougher than ever to earn a spot on this pitching staff. We are getting there.


I am very excited to see our guys face the Yankees tomorrow. As previously disclosed here, we will face C.C. Sabathia, but word came out yesterday that Joba Chamberlain is also likely to pitch for the Yanks. Should be fun.


I was anxious to see Jason Marquis’ spring debut today. The wait was worth it, as he allowed just one hit in 3.0 scoreless innings (he just finished up a moment ago, score still tied 0-0 after 3 innings). Jason struggled with injuries last year, but everyone knows he is better than that with full health. We saw a good number of ground balls today (6 outs on the ground). That’s a good clue that Jason is on track for an improved performance in 2011.


Please, everyone have a good weekend! Oh, don’t forget to tune into Sunday’s game against the Braves on MASN and/or on our new flagship radio station, 106.7 WJFK-FM.

I will be in touch again soon.

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