Daily Wrap: Barrett reacts to making MLB team, Frandsen signs & more

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by Amanda Comak

JUPITER, Fla. — The daily rhythm in Spring Training is relentless. Each day blends into the next as teams inch closer to playing games that count and partaking in moments that really matter. And, as is often the case in baseball, what sometimes moves the meter outside the walls of the clubhouse often gets less attention inside of it. Injuries hurt, but become accepted and moved past. Players come and go as trades and signings happen. It’s an existence that is always in motion.

But one thing that never gets old is the moment a player finds out he has made the Major Leagues for the first time. It’s wonderful in its purity.

2014 Washington Nationals Photo DayWashington Nationals right-hander Aaron Barrett got to experience that very moment on Tuesday, when manager Matt Williams summoned him into his office and told him the one thing Barrett had waited the better part of a lifetime to hear: he is a big leaguer.

“It was one of those moments I’d dreamed about all my life, initially getting the call,” Barrett said, standing outside the visitors’ clubhouse at Roger Dean Stadium. “For me, I pictured myself being at Double-A, Triple-A, and getting the call-up for that experience. To get the call to make the team out of camp, it was unbelievable. Just a great feeling.”

Barrett was in the weight room after Tuesday’s game when he was told the manager wanted to see him. He’d been expecting the meeting to come at some point, knowing they’d need to summon him if they were planning to cut him, too. Only Williams and pitching coach Steve McCatty were in the office.

“Hey, we have some tough decisions that we have to make, and you’re one of those tough decisions,” Williams told Barrett.

“He looked at me, and it was a five- to 10-second pause there that, I think (to me) it lasted 10 minutes,” Barrett said. “And then he dropped the news. He said ‘Congratulations, you made the team.’ I just got very emotional, started tearing up a bit. Tears of joy. McCatty gave me a hug.”

As Barrett made his way back into the clubhouse and word began to spread, teammates made their way over to offer congratulations to the right-hander. But his next stop was the Nationals’ dugout at Space Coast Stadium, where he called up his wife, Kendyl, on FaceTime and shared his good news.

“(At that point) I was just overwhelmed with tears,” Barrett said. “To get to this point, it was just so surreal.”

“(My wife) was so shocked,” he added. “We’ve been through a lot as far as the whole Minor Leagues. She’s working and supported me throughout the whole Minor Leagues. To finally get that call that I made the team, she was just overwhelmed. She started crying. I started crying. It was just an awesome moment that I’ll never forget.

Washington Nationals spring training“After that, my parents and grandparents (who are in town coincidentally), I called them right after. They were just stoked. We went out to dinner last night, had a good time, celebrated a little bit. But overall, this is the start to  a new journey. I plan on taking this step to the next level and continuing to work each and every day to get better so I can stay up here as long as I can.”

Barrett earned his way onto the team, without doubt, putting together quite a resume this spring. On Wednesday, knowing he’d be heading north with the team, Barrett extended his scoreless streak this spring to 10.2 innings. For the humble 26-year-old, it was the culmination to a long, winding journey and a tremendous story of perseverance.

“You come into camp, and for me, I was looking to get a few innings here and there. It was my first camp, just got added to the roster,” Barrett said. “I put myself in position to make the team, and now to be on the team, competing, now let’s go win some ballgames. Just an unreal experience. I’m ready to help the ball club, in whatever role that is.”

Next up: Opening Day

“I’m sure it’s going to be pretty exciting. I’ve never been part of that, obviously, so I’m sure I’m going to soak in as much as I can. Especially Opening Day and the home opener in D.C. I’m going to soak in every single moment that I can.”

Quote of the Day: Matt Williams on Bryce Harper after Harper was ejected from Wednesday’s game by first base umpire Jeff Gosney for expressing disagreement with an out call at first base.

“He said the magic word. I don’t know what he said, but the umpire told me he said something to him. The question I had with it was, did he say something? I didn’t see him make a gesture toward him or anything. But he said the magic word. So I had to go out there and have a discussion about it… Evidently the umpire thought he was addressing it to him, so that’s why he took the action he did. I think everybody’s a little chippy at this point. Everybody’s ready to go. And Bryce is fiery. If he said something he shouldn’t have said, the umpire felt it was appropriate to do that.”

Incidentally, Williams understands how hard it can be to control your emotions when you’re on the field. The Nationals’ manager was once ejected from a rehab game when he was a player. 

“I’m playing third base. I’ve got four at-bats that day, and it’s kind of my last few days to get back to playing in the big leagues. A play at third, I tagged him, I thought he was out. Umpire said safe. I said, ‘No, he’s out.’ We went back and forth and he tossed me. And I went, ‘Wait a minute, I’ve got three more at-bats!’ It was too late at that point. No do-overs.”

“(But) it’s important for (Harper) to stay in games for us. Especially that early. As it turned out, he would have gotten a couple more at-bats and it could’ve made the difference. … I just think there’s a way to do it. You can express displeasure with a call and not push it over that edge. But again, we love the way he plays the game, because he’s all-out. He desperately wants to win, so we love that about him. But in a situation like that, he just has to not take it too far. That’s all. It happens.”

 Video highlights:
Gio Gonzalez fans four Cardinals in five innings of work:

Danny Espinosa flashes the leather with a tremendous play:

Caleb Ramsey gets the Nationals on the board with a two-run single:

Gio Gonzalez shows off his cat-like reflexes in the first inning:

Stephen Perez smacks a triple in the ninth inning off Trevor Rosenthal:

Notables:

The Nationals signed infielder/outfielder Kevin Frandsen to a Major League deal on Wednesday, giving Williams another versatile player to have on the bench. Frandsen, 31, will join the Nationals for their Grapefruit League finale on Thursday against the New York Mets. He elected to become a free agent on Tuesday after the Philadelphia Phillies outrighted him on Sunday. Read all the details on Frandsen’s signing here… The Nationals now have 29 players in camp, including right-hander Erik Davis, who is on the 60-day disabled list. The team will have to cut three more players before Opening Day on Monday.

Nationals sign Kevin Frandsen

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by Amanda Comak

VIERA, Fla. — The Washington Nationals bolstered their bench with a late addition on Wednesday, signing infielder/outfielder Kevin Frandsen to a Major League contract. Frandsen, who opted to become a free agent on Tuesday after the Philadelphia Phillies outrighted him on Sunday, will join the Nationals in time for Thursday’s Grapefruit League finale against the New York Mets in Port St. Lucie, Fla.

Philadelphia Phillies v Atlanta BravesFrandsen is a career .259 hitter with 49 doubles, five triples, 14 home runs and 93 RBI in 402 big league contests spanning seven seasons with the Phillies, Los Angeles Angels and San Francisco Giants. Against left-handed pitching, Frandsen is a career .289 hitter with a .343 on-base percentage and .435 slugging percentage, and he is also a versatile defensive addition.

The 31-year-old has appeared defensively at six positions during his career (first base, second base, third base, shortstop, left field, right field). Manager Matt Williams has said this spring that when it comes to his bench he prefers to have options. Frandsen’s ability to play multiple positions provides that.

Last season, Frandsen paced all of the Major Leagues with 14 pinch hits despite starting 52 games (35 at third base, 13 at second base, four at third base) and being hit by 11 pitches in what was ultimately his final season with Philadelphia.

Over the previous two years with the Phillies, Frandsen hit .280 with a .333 on-base percentage and a .389 slugging percentage and seven home runs. In 88 plate appearances against left-handed pitching in 2013, Frandsen hit .311 and he is a career .265 hitter with 17 RBI as a pinch hitter.

A graduate of San Jose State University, Frandsen was a 12th-round selection by the Giants in the 2004 First-Year Player Draft.

The Nationals currently have 29 players in Major League camp, including right-handed pitcher Erik Davis, who is currently on the 60-Day Disabled List.

March to Baseball Week 3 Winners

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20Another week of March is in the books, and that means two things for Nationals fans: We are now just five days away from Opening Day, and we’ve got our next batch of March To Baseball winners!

Thanks to all who have already joined the fun this month as we count down the final days until the 2014 season by giving away a prize a day to all Full, Half and Partial Season Plan Holders who renew or purchase new 2014 Season Plans this month.

If you’ve already renewed, you’re already entered. And as the days dwindle before the 2014 season kicks off, the prizes get even more fantastic.

To enter, just visit nationals.com/marchtobaseball. Don’t miss out!

Congratulations to our latest winners…

March 14: Billy Joel Concert Tickets and Parking – Cathy A. from Annandale, VA

March 15: View batting practice with Nationals hitting coach Rick Schu – Stu S. from McLean, Va.

March 16: Two Club Level tickets and $50 NatsBucks – John F. from Bethesda, Md.

March 17: Visit the MASN broadcast booth with Bob Carpenter and F.P Santangelo – Mike M. from Quantico, Va.

March 18: Have your catered birthday party at Nationals Park – James S. from Germantown, Md.

March 19: Deliver the Nationals’ lineup card to the umpires before a game – Cynthia C. from Herndon, Va.

March 20: Wave the GEICO flag during the Presidents Race – Rob S. from Washington, D.C.

March 21: Autographed Bryce Harper jersey – Kesh T. from McLean, Va.

March 22: Sit at a table at the annual Board of Trade Welcome Back luncheon – Kathleen S. from Fairfax, Va.

March 23: Announce “PLAY BALL!” before a game – Dave B. from Arlington, Va.

March 24: Two Gold Glove Club tickets and a parking pass – Dave S. from Vienna, Va.

Daily Wrap: Zimmerman’s big day, Nationals win a challenge, the roster gets trimmed, & more

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by Amanda Comak

Stephen Strasburg took the mound Tuesday afternoon for his final tuneup before Opening Day at Citi Field. The Washington Nationals‘ ace was terrific in 5.2 innings, allowing three earned runs off five hits and two walks. He struck out seven. The Nationals’ offense exploded for five runs shortly after Strasburg was touched for the Mets’ three, making those runs moot.

The Nationals won, 7-3.

Player of the Day: Ryan Zimmerman

072112-327 ryan zimmermanRyan Zimmerman looked more than ready for the regular season when he smacked a solo home run to center field in the eighth inning off Mets closer Bobby Parnell, but it was just part of a big day at the plate for the Nationals’ third baseman. On the day, Zimmerman was 2-for-4 with a two-run single that kicked off the Nationals’ five-run third inning, along with a walk.

With two games remaining in the Nationals’ Grapefruit League slate, Zimmerman is now hitting .325 with a .349 on-base percentage and a .575 slugging percentage. In 40 at-bats, Zimmerman has 13 hits, and five of those have gone for extra bases.

Quote of the Day: Denard Span on his catch in the eighth inning. Initially ruled a trapped ball, the Nationals used their challenge and instant replay overturned the call to rule it correctly as the third out of the inning. (Highlights below)

“All I saw was (Ian Desmond) and (Anthony Rendon) screaming for me to throw the ball in just in case they didn’t call it a catch. The runner was still going. But I knew I had caught the ball, (Jayson Werth) knew I had caught the ball, he was already in the on-deck circle. I think Desi looked back at me and asked me. I shook my head, ‘Yes’ (I caught it).

“As long as they’re going to get it right I think it’s worthwhile. It felt a little bit like NFL Sunday, just kind of waiting for the ruling on the field and everybody standing around… (but) I knew I caught it.”

Video Highlights:

Stephen Strasburg strikes out seven Mets in 5.2 innings.

Ryan Zimmerman launches a solo home run in the eighth inning.

The Nationals won a challenge and had a call overturned on Denard Span’s fabulous catch in the eighth.

Bryce Harper smashes a three-run home run off the flag pole in center field to give the Nationals the lead.

Notables:

The Nationals trimmed their roster to 28 on Tuesday afternoon, optioning right-hander Ryan Mattheus, left-hander Xavier Cedeno and first baseman/outfielder Tyler Moore to Triple-A Syracuse. The team also released veteran infielder Jamey Carroll, and right-hander Chris Young… Right-handed reliever Aaron Barrett was informed that he had made the Major League team… The Nationals closed out the home slate of their Grapefruit League schedule on Tuesday and will hit the road for their final two exhibition games in Florida. The team thanks the 77,564 fans who joined the Nationals at Space Coast Stadium this spring. The 5,540 per game attendance is the best in Nationals Spring Training history.

Nationals Magazine preview: Doug Fister; A Monumental Addition

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The following is an excerpt from the Spring Training issue of Nationals Magazine. To read the full story, visit nationals.com/publications to find out how you can subscribe. The Spring Training magazine is on sale now, can be purchased at the Main Clubhouse Team Store at Nationals Park and is also available inside Space Coast Stadium on gamedays.

by Mike Feigen

Standing tall at 6-foot-8, Doug Fister should be hard to overlook. Instead, the Californian with the worm-killing sinker has twice been traded, including an offseason deal that earned the Nationals plaudits in baseball circles. No stranger to sharing the spotlight — he’s pitched alongside four Cy Young Award winners — Fister is ready to make a big splash in a star-studded Washington rotation.

A monumental additionThe last time Doug Fister stepped onto a Major League mound, the stakes were high and his mission clear: with his Detroit Tigers trailing the Boston Red Sox two games to one in the 2013 American League Championship Series, he needed a big performance to knot the series.

Fister came through, holding the eventual World Champions to just one run over six magnificent innings, striking out seven batters in a 7-3 Detroit victory.

It would be the Tigers’ final win of the 2013 season, and the final time an opposing starter would limit the Red Sox to fewer than two runs in the postseason.

It was the kind of display that usually earns pitchers national notoriety and the “big game” label — particularly when they’ve led their team to six wins in seven career postseason starts, as Fister has done. Instead, it simply helped validate what fans, scouts and members of the statistics-based community had been saying for years: this guy is the real deal.

Just six-and-a-half weeks later, Fister became a Washington National.

STCoverThumbTo continue reading “A Monumental Addition” on Nationals right-hander Doug Fister, along with more great content from Nationals Magazine, please visit nationals.com/publications, or pick up a copy at the Main Clubhouse Team Store at Nationals Park, as well as inside Space Coast Stadium on gamedays.

Daily Wrap: Jordan counters in fifth starter battle, Treinen draws raves, & more

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by Amanda Comak

JUPITER, Fla. — The Washington Nationals trekked to Jupiter, Fla., and battled the raindrops for most of Monday afternoon, but they squeezed in a 4-1 victory over the Miami Marlins and slashed their remaining number of Grapefruit League games to three.

Player of the Day: Taylor Jordan

The Washington Nationals defeat the New York Mets 5- 4Nate McLouth would be a worthy choice for this honor on Monday, the Nationals’ outfielder smacking an RBI-double to right field in his first at-bat, walking in his second and crushing a home run over the right field wall in his third.

But as Spring Training winds down, the competition for the No. 5 spot in the team’s rotation is one of the most compelling remaining decisions. And with that in mind, Taylor Jordan‘s 5.2-inning performance in which he allowed one run off five hits, with one walk and two strikeouts, is too hard to overlook.

Jordan and Tanner Roark appear to be the main contenders battling for the final spot in the Nationals’ rotation and manager Matt Williams admits the team is in a no-lose spot when it comes to making that decision.

“He’s made a case,” Williams said of Jordan, one day after similarly lauding Roark. “He’s pitched well the whole spring for us. It’s going to be a very difficult decision. They’re both pitching very well, and that’s a good thing… They both have unique ways of going about it… They both make a great case, and that’s a very nice problem to contemplate.”

“It’s (tough) because they both have pitched really well. What are you going to do? They both have answered the bell every time we’ve asked them to, so it’s been great.”

Jordan, who rocketed through the Nationals’ system in 2013 and pitched well in his first Major League call-up, said he’s stopped worrying about the competition and is focusing on being ready for the season, regardless of where his season begins.

“I’m just going to play it by ear,” Jordan said. “I’m happy to go to Triple-A. It’s still a bump up for me. I’ve never even been to Triple-A. Last year was just a blessing to be up in the big leagues. I don’t expect anything… Honestly I’m really pleased that I came back this strong after I broke my ankle this offseason. I’m extremely pleased that I’m as healthy as I am right now.”

Quote of the Day: Matt Williams on right-hander Blake Treinen, who was reassigned to Minor League camp on Monday morning but left having made an incredibly strong impression on the Nationals’ decision makers. He will be stretched out a bit in the Minor Leagues to keep the option of being a starting pitcher open.

474998153“He’s just an exceptional young man,” Williams said. “We let him know that he is our next wave, if you will. He proved everything that he had to prove to us this spring. We’re all certainly pleasantly surprised with his progress and the way he threw the baseball.

“His stuff plays at any point later in a game. It’s a bowling ball at 97 (mph). That’s all good. We have some depth, certainly, in the starting roles, so he may be able to help us in the bullpen, as well. And we asked him the question this morning – he likes the bullpen, as well.”

Notables:

Anthony Rendon, who has been sidelined by a chest cold the past few days, was put through a full infield workout this morning with Williams and Defensive Coordinator/Advance Coach Mark Weidemaier. Williams said Rendon is feeling better and “ideally” will be able to return to game action on Tuesday… The Nationals will play their final home game of the spring on Tuesday, welcoming the New York Mets to Space Coast Stadium for a 1:05 p.m. home finale. They will then visit Jupiter, to play the St. Louis Cardinals on Wednesday, and Port St. Lucie, to face the Mets once more on Thursday in their final game before heading north.

Nationals Magazine preview: Matt Williams; Trust the Process

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The following is an excerpt from the Spring Training issue of Nationals Magazine. To read the full story, visit nationals.com/publications to find out how you can subscribe. The Spring Training magazine is on sale now, can be purchased at the Main Clubhouse Team Store at Nationals Park and is also available inside Space Coast Stadium on gamedays.

by Amanda Comak

The spotlights bore down on Matt Williams as he sat front-and-center on the main stage. To his left was Washington Nationals President of Baseball Operations and General Manager Mike Rizzo. To his right, Mark D. Lerner, one of the Nationals’ Principal Owners.

trust the processIn front, throngs of red-and-white-clad fans waited pensively as Williams brought the microphone to his mouth.

“You have no idea,” Williams said, “how happy I am to be here.”

Applause followed.

The Nationals will enter the 2014 season with a new manager, the fifth in the organization’s history. And while the reception that Williams received at NatsFest in late January was one of rousing approval, the reception he’d been preparing for more happened roughly 900 miles to the south.

In early February, Williams stood inside the Nationals’ clubhouse at Space Coast Stadium and looked around. The men who’ll make up the first Major League team he’ll ever manage sat around him. From the Minor Leaguers getting their first taste of big league camp, to the most wily of veterans inhabiting their usual lockers in the back left corner, they gathered together.

Williams thrust one message upon each of them: trust the process.

Williams doesn’t shy away from the fact that while his team is among league heavyweights in preseason predictions, flush with talent and driven to do better than they have, he is a rookie manager. A decorated and championship player, well-liked and respected coach, former broadcaster and one-time front office member, Williams has finally found the role that he’d searched for since retiring from playing.

He knows questions remain, because until a challenge presents itself — whether on the field or in the clubhouse — there is no iron-clad answer for how the manager will respond to it. He’s ready, make no mistake, but he also expects to learn a great deal this season.

STCoverThumbSo the one thing he wanted to impress upon his team in that first meeting was simple.

Trust the process.

Believe in the work they’re putting in, and they’ll get to where they want to go.

“Day one,” he said, “we have to understand the process.”

To continue reading “Trust the Process” on Nationals Manager Matt Williams, along with more great content from Nationals Magazine, please visit nationals.com/publications, or pick up a copy at the Main Clubhouse Team Store at Nationals Park, as well as inside Space Coast Stadium on gamedays.

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.

Daily Wrap: Treinen continues to impress, second base competition ongoing, & more

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by Amanda Comak

The Washington Nationals‘ Grapefruit League slate was whittled to six remaining games on Friday afternoon when they fell to the St. Louis Cardinals, 2-0. Gio Gonzalez tossed 4.2 innings before a high pitch count cut his day a bit short, but the Nationals’ relievers did well against the Cardinals’ lineup after his departure.

Player of the Day: Right-hander Blake Treinen

Right-hander Blake Treinen is impressing in Major League camp.

Right-hander Blake Treinen is impressing in Major League camp.

Blake Treinen has been garnering a bit more attention of late, as the Nationals’ make cuts to their roster in Major League camp and the young, flamethrowing right-hander remains. Treinen, acquired from the Oakland Athletics in the trade that sent Michael Morse to the Seattle Mariners in January, 2013, has allowed just one run in his last 8.2 innings and scouts have continued to rave about his electric arsenal of pitches.

In a conversation with reporters on Friday afternoon, after he got two outs against the Cardinals, Treinen called the fact that he remains in Major League camp a “pleasant surprise.”

“My intentions and expectations coming into spring training were just to leave an impression,” Treinen told reporters. “And the fact I’m still around is an absolute blessing. I can’t thank them more for giving me the opportunity they’ve given me so far. I’m just trying to make the most of it, go day-by-day. Whatever their decision is at the end of spring training, it’s their decision. But I feel like I’ve done my absolute best to leave an impression with the big club.”

Quote of the Day: Manager Matt Williams on the ongoing competition for the starting second base job between Anthony Rendon and Danny Espinosa

“I’m not ready to make that decision yet. We’ve got a week left. They’ll continue to play and get at-bats. I like what I’ve seen. They’ve competed well. Anthony has played really well. His swing is right on. Danny’s swing is right on right now. They’re both quality defenders in the infield. They both play multiple positions. So, there’s options there.”

Video highlights:

Caleb Ramsey makes a phenomenal play to throw out Kolten Wong at third base from deep in right field foul territory:

Notables:

The Nationals will play their penultimate home game on Saturday afternoon when the Miami Marlins visit Space Coast Stadium. Doug Fister will start for the Nationals… Jordan Zimmermann will pitch in a Minor League game on Saturday as well.

Daily Wrap: Nationals top Tigers, Strasburg reacts to Opening Day nod & more

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by Amanda Comak

VIERA, Fla. — Thursday afternoon started with a tremendous pitching match-up: Washington Nationals right-hander Stephen Strasburg vs. reigning American League Cy Young winner Max Scherzer.

It ended with the Nationals taking home an 8-1 victory in which Strasburg continued his stellar spring and the Nationals’ offense rapped out five runs off seven hits against Scherzer — including a long home run to left center field by shortstop Ian Desmond.

Player of the Day: Second baseman Danny Espinosa

Washington Nationals v New York YankeesThere were plenty of candidates for the “Player of the Day” on Thursday. Jayson Werth went 2-for-3 with a double, Ryan Zimmerman smacked a triple and Desmond crushed his third home run of the spring. But the honor goes to second baseman Danny Espinosa.

Espinosa, who went 1-for-3 with a base hit, scored the Nationals’ first run of the day and played stellar defensively.

In the first inning — moments after an uncharacteristic fielding error by Denard Span allowed Ian Kinsler to reach base — Espinosa snared a high feed from Desmond on a Tyler Collins grounder. With Kinsler bearing down on him at second, Espinosa still managed to zip off a strong throw to Adam LaRoche at first to complete the double play.

An inning that opened with a baserunner off Strasburg soon turned into a frame in which the right-hander faced the minimum.

It was a day that continued the positive impression Espinosa has been making on manager Matt Williams this spring.

“(His approach has been) fantastic,” Williams said. “He’s eager to play every day, and it’s really hard to get him out of a ballgame, which is a very good trait to have. The numbers are misleading both ways in Spring Training and I’m encouraged by the way he’s going about it. It’s really good.

“I’m pleased with his approach, I’m pleased with his work ethic every day and the way he’s going about his approach within the game. Sometimes they fall, sometimes they don’t, sometimes you swing and miss. But as long as he’s going about it the right way, I think he’ll be just fine.”

Quote of the Day: Stephen Strasburg on earning his third straight Opening Day start

Williams announced Wednesday night that Strasburg would take the ball for the Nationals on Opening Day in New York. Strasburg was honored by the decision, but admitted he has bigger goals.

050412-197 stephen strasburg“I hope my career isn’t just a reflection of how many Opening Day starts I have,” he said after tossing five scoreless innings against the Detroit Tigers to bring his spring ERA to 0.64. “There are a lot of guys in this rotation who deserve it and I’m just the first one out. I think every game is going to be just as important.

“The biggest goal as a team is that we’re playing in the playoffs, and I want to focus on trying to make starts in the playoffs more so than just an Opening Day start.”

Video highlights: Did you miss any of the Nationals’ feature on MLB Network’s 30 clubs in 30 days? Catch up with all of the highlights right here.

Notables:

The Nationals trimmed their roster to 36 players in Major League camp on Thursday, optioning right-hander Ross Ohlendorf, catcher Jhonatan Solano, infielder Zach Walters and right-hander Christian Garcia to Triple-A Syracuse, along with reassigning right-hander Manny Delcarmen, first baseman Brock Peterson and infielder Will Rhymes to Minor League camp… The Nationals have just two games left at Space Coast Stadium this spring, playing Saturday against the Miami Marlins and Tuesday against the New York Mets… The team will finish the Grapefruit League slate with two road games, in Jupiter, Fla., and St. Lucie, Fla., against the St. Louis Cardinals and Mets, respectively, before heading north to face the Tigers in an exhibition game at Nationals Park on March 29.

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