Ankiel Rolling In St. Lucie
Digital Domain Park is hilarious. Home to the Mets Spring Training in Port St. Lucie, it is a little slice of New York nestled among the palm trees and endless blue skies. Each of the half-dozen parking attendants or ushers we spoke to responded with a heavy New York accent, clearly late-life transplants to the warmer climate. The park itself is very nice, though we arrived a little late in the afternoon to sample the empenadas stand in right field. The wireless internet signal in the press box was also much improved from years past, we’re told. When you’re on the job and the games have no actual impact on the standings, these things tend to be two of the most important factors in evaluating a ballpark.
Oh, and there’s also a tiki bar down the left field line. So yeah, it’s still very much Florida.
As for the action on the field, Rick Ankiel had an impressive game in more ways than one. He nearly threw out Andres Torres scoring from second on a single in the first, on a play where he looked to have no chance at all. He then got that run back in the top of the second, with a no doubt, opposite-field home run on a 2-0 offering from Dillon Gee. He also drew a walk in his second plate appearance, a good sign for a team looking to improve its on-base percentage this season. Finally, he tracked down a deep fly ball at the wall in center field to finish out his four-inning stint.
“I feel good for where I’m at,” said Ankiel of both his swing and his defensive timing as he watched the end of the game. “It’s still early, but I feel like I’m right where I need to be right now.”
As a member of the non-roster invitee group fighting for one of the final roster spots, he has made a strong opening statement.
Some heads-up baserunning from Eury Perez, who went first-to-third on a single to left by Steve Lombardozzi in the fifth inning, led directly to the second Nationals run of the night, as Mark Teahen plated Perez with a sac fly.
And it wouldn’t be Spring Training without one of these plays. With one out in the top of the eighth, Brett Carroll skied a ball high in the air to shallow center. Mets center fielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis called off the second baseman, who was parked under the ball, then, after a long run in, dropped it. Carroll was hung about halfway between first and second and made a break for the latter. Nieuwenhuis fired the ball in to shortstop Ronny Cedeno in time to apply the tag at second, but Cedeno dropped the ball. This is why they play these games – to shake off the rust and get ready for the ones that count.
Obscure stat of the day: Waldis Joaquin tossed a pair of scoreless innings to earn the save, which brings us to the obscure stat of the day, which will be a regular feature in our recaps. While at Triple-A Fresno last season, Joaquin was 2-0 with a save and a 0.70 ERA (2 ER/25.2 IP) in the 12 outings in which he pitched at least 2.0 innings.
We’ll be back in Port St. Lucie in a couple weeks. Next time, we’ll have to try the empenadas.
Off to Lake Buena Vista to face the Braves today. Here are the Nationals results to date:
vs. Georgetown (exhibition) – W, 3-0
@ Houston – L, 3-1
vs. Houston – L, 10-2
@ New York (NL) – W, 3-1
@ Atlanta – 1:05pm
Overall Record: 1-2