Youth Is Served
One of the great parts of Spring Training is the excitement of the young players getting their first shot in a big league uniform, facing off against players they were watching on television just a couple years prior. With split-squad games (which started today, the Nationals hosting the Mets and traveling to face the Tigers), those opportunities become more abundant. Teams will take a handful of players from Minor League camp to fill out each roster, giving them an opportunity to get a few innings in. Their youthful exuberance is fun to watch, although sometimes it betrays them.
Enter Michael Taylor, one of the most talked-about young outfield prospects in the Nationals system, who came in as a defensive replacement in center field in the fifth inning of the Nationals 8-2 victory over the Mets in Viera today. He showed some nice patience in his first plate appearance, working a one-out walk in the bottom of the sixth. He was then put in motion on a hit-and-run, as Sandy Leon pulled a ball perfectly through the hole vacated by the second baseman, who was covering the bag with the runner going. Taylor motored around second on his way to third, but got a little too far ahead of himself, his weight out over his front feet. Try as he might, he couldn’t stay upright, tumbling to the dirt about 50 feet shy of third base.
Mets right fielder Cesar Puello, another minor leaguer added to fill out the roster, saw the opportunity to make a play as he went to collect the ball. In fact, he saw it clearly enough that he took his eye off the ball, which he bobbled, allowing Taylor enough time to collect himself and lope down to third safely, both he and third base coach Bo Porter laughing the whole way.
“The umpire came over and was explaining to me about second base and how you have to step on it and stay on your feet,” said Taylor after the game, as his wide smile denied his attempt at deadpan humor.
Taylor will no doubt hear from his teammates about that play for the rest of camp, but he can take solace in one fact – at least this game wasn’t on television, so it’s unlikely to make him a YouTube sensation. He said that he didn’t even feel that nervous playing on a bigger stage – his body simply didn’t want to cooperate.
“I was actually kind of surprised, I was comfortable and relaxed,” Taylor said. “But for some reason my feet didn’t want to stay underneath me.”
Taylor was rewarded for continuing on to the next base, though, as players are taught to do in those situations. With runners at the corners and one out, Blake Kelso lifted a ball into right-center, where Puello redeemed himself with a nice catch. Leon had advanced almost all the way to second, and Puello fired back to first for the inning-ending double play. But Taylor made a heads-up play and tagged at third, crossing the plate before the final out was made at first base. Since the double play was not of the force out variety, the run counted. Who’s laughing now?
In other news, Ryan Zimmerman had a pair of doubles and two RBI, and Wilson Ramos also drove in a pair on two hits. Brad Lidge looked very sharp, pitching around an error and striking out the side in the sixth. The first two batters never got the bat off their shoulders on strike three, as Lidge locked up each of them with his signature slider.
Tyler Moore had a nice game as well, with two hits and an RBI. The second of his hits was a rocket to dead center field, high up off the 30-foot batters eye. Needless to say, it would have been a home run in any big league ballpark, but Moore had to settle for the RBI double.
Meanwhile, the other half of the split squad overcame a 4-0 deficit to earn a 10-inning, 5-5 tie with the Tigers.
It’s back to Jupiter tomorrow, as Washington takes on St. Louis at 1:05pm. Here are the 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 – W, 5-2
vs. St. Louis – T, 3-3
vs. Houston – W, 8-0
@ Miami – L, 3-0
vs. New York (NL) – W, 8-2
@ Detroit – T, 5-5
@ St. Louis – Sunday, 1:05pm
Overall Record: 4-3-2