Weekend Wrap: Espinosa and Roark impress, Nationals travel as a full squad, & more

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by Amanda Comak

The Washington Nationals have entered their final week of Grapefruit League play. With few remaining roster decisions left, Nationals Manager Matt Williams admitted on Saturday that one or two more strong performances may not sway a well thought-out roster decision, but they don’t hurt to add to a body of work, either.

With that in mind, and as the Nationals’ slate of remaining games dropped to four with a 3-1 loss to the New York Mets on Sunday afternoon, here’s the weekend version of the “Daily Wrap.”

Players of the (Weekend): Danny Espinosa & Tanner Roark

040311-312 danny espinosaWilliams has said positive things about Danny Espinosa’s approach at the plate all spring, but often it was accompanied by a disclaimer that the infielder’s numbers may not reflect just how positively the Nationals were viewing him. That changed on Saturday when Espinosa smacked two home runs (including a walk-off shot to give the Nationals the victory) and reaped the rewards of his altered approach while continuing to play stellar defense.

“I feel like I’ve really been sticking to what I’m trying to do, and just simplify as much as possible,” Espinosa said. “It was nice today to see it… I was just trying to stay short to the ball and just be on time. Not swinging as hard as I can, but just short and on time and trying to barrel the ball.”

Washington Nationals v Houston AstrosOn Sunday, it was Tanner Roark, who filled out his final application for the No. 5 starter spot with a strong performance against the New York Mets. Roark tossed 5.2 innings and allowed just one run on two hits and a walk in his his final Grapefruit League start. (Highlights below)

Taylor Jordan will start on Monday, and by week’s end, perhaps, the Nationals will have filled out the back end of their rotation.

“I think he’s made a very good case,” Williams said of Roark. “We’ll get a good look at Taylor again (on Monday). But Tanner certainly made a really strong case.”

“I went out there and competed, “Roark said. “Got outs. Didn’t walk many guys. I did have leadoff walks, and those come back to bite you, and they did (Sunday). Other than that, I feel like I’ve done pretty well.”

Quote of the Day: Matt Williams on why the entire Nationals roster is traveling to the team’s final four Grapefruit League road games — even if they’re not scheduled to play. It started Sunday, with the dugout filled in Port St. Lucie.

“We’re a team. It’s important. It’s important for us to travel as a team. It’s important for us to be a team. There’s going to be adjustments in the next few days. We’ve got some guys going to the Minor League camp to get some at-bats. But today is a good day to have everybody here, regardless of whether they’re going to pitch or not.”

Video highlights:

Tanner Roark looks strong, allowing just one run on two hits in 5.2 innings vs. Mets.

Bryce Harper shows of his cannon arm with a strong throw to get Chris Young at third base.

Nationals win a challenge of a caught-stealing call on Bryce Harper at second base, getting the call overturned.

The overturned call pays dividends as Harper scores on Ryan Zimmerman’s infield single.

Notables:

The Nationals won their first challenge on Sunday, with Williams getting the umpires to go to instant replay to reverse an out call of Bryce Harper on an attempted steal of second base… Winning the challenge gave Williams another challenge to use later in the game, which he did on a play at first base in the top of the ninth. That call was upheld… The Nationals will travel to Jupiter, Fla., to face the Miami Marlins on Monday before returning to Space Coast Stadium for their final home game of the spring on Tuesday.

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