Results tagged ‘ Doug Fister ’

Mike Rizzo talks injuries, roster moves & more

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by Amanda Comak

ATLANTA — Washington Nationals President of Baseball Operations and General Manager Mike Rizzo met with the media before this afternoon’s game at Turner Field to discuss a litany of topics that have arisen in the season’s first two weeks.

Here’s some of what Rizzo discussed, from injuries to roster moves and the growing rivalry with the Atlanta Braves.

Atlanta Braves v Washington NationalsOn how he feels the team is positioned after losing Doug Fister, Wilson Ramos, Denard Span and Ryan Zimmerman to early injuries: 

“We feel as good as we can with the glut of injuries that we’ve had to key players. We’re talking about your middle-of-the-lineup bats. But we prepared for it this offseason with the acquisitions of (catcher Jose Lobaton) and key guys like (Kevin Frandsen) and (Nate McLouth). We still feel good about the roster.”

On if he feels the Nationals are just not catching any breaks early, with regard to injuries:

“No, nobody cares. The rest of the league doesn’t care. We’re just trying to work our way through it. We’ve got a game every day. That’s the one thing about baseball. The everydayness of it is really what separates the sport. That’s why we have 40-man rosters, that’s why we have Minor League systems.

“Injuries happen and you have to prepare for them. We think we’re well-prepared and well-positioned to handle them. We’ve got games to play and games to win.”

On how Denard Span is doing after being placed on the 7-day DL Saturday with a concussion:

“We’re going to have the doctor re-examine him tomorrow in Miami. He’s going to do some physical activities, and then we’ll take it from there.”

On Ryan Zimmerman’s prognosis after fracturing his right thumb on Saturday night:

“It’s a clean fracture. I saw the X-rays and I talked to the doctor. He’s going to see a hand specialist (at the Cleveland Clinic) on Monday. We’ll get a diagnosis and make our plans from there.”

On infielder Zach Walters, who was called up to replace Zimmerman on the roster

“He’s capable of playing (second base, third base and shortstop). His natural position is shortstop. He’s got the skillset to play shortstop. He’s going to play all the different positions, and being a switch hitter off the bench with power helps us.”

On Doug Fister’s rehab from a strained lat muscle:

“Doug’s involved in his (throwing) program. He’ll progress to another bullpen (on Monday), throwing all this pitches, and he’ll take the next step depending on how it goes.”

On his opinions of the job manager Matt Williams has done in the season’s first 11 games: 

“It’s the same game he’s always watched. Putting the lineups together, running the game in his mind (it’s not unfamiliar to him). Besides the newness of instant replay, it’s baseball as usual.

“He’s got a great support system around him with the coaches. It’s baseball 24/7 with Matt and the rest of them. They’re constantly in the clubhouse talking baseball. It’s a great dynamic and it’s enjoyable to see.”

On his evaluations of Danny Espinosa thus far this season as he bounces back from 2013: 

“We’re glad we drafted him and developed him. We’ve always valued him as a really good Major League player. It’s time for him and for other players on the team to show (what they can do).”

On how he views the Nationals’ games against the Braves: 

“(I’ve seen) great games. They’ve come on the winning side of it more often than we like, but we feel confident against this team. We feel we’re better than this team. We respect them, we respect the organization, but we don’t fear them . We think we’re the better team and we think at the end of the day we’re going to come out on top.”

Opening Day Memories

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by Amanda Comak

NEW YORK — The wait is almost over. In less than 24 hours, Opening Day of the 2014 baseball season will be upon us.

opening weekThis will be the Washington Nationals’ 10th Opening Day since baseball returned to D.C., and there have been plenty of memorable Opening Day moments in that span.

Who could forget Ryan Zimmerman christening Nationals Park with a walk-off on Opening Day in 2008? Or Bryce Harper smashing two home runs on his first Opening Day in the Major Leagues  – becoming the youngest player ever to do so — just last year.

But each player has their own memories of Opening Day, and it’s a special day in the baseball world. Some stand out for obvious reasons. Craig Stammen said the most memorable Opening Day for him was his first, and it also happened to be one President Barack Obama attended at Nationals Park. He shook the President’s hand. That in itself was pretty memorable.

Here are a few others, in their own words:

Adam LaRoche: “It was in Chicago (in 2012). I had like four punch-outs with the bases loaded. Luckily we won or it wouldn’t be real funny. I’ve got to be the first guy to leave like 20 guys on base through one game. I remember thinking after that game ‘Whoa, this might be a rough year.’”

To be fair to LaRoche, he was only 0-for-3 in that game, and he walked to load the bases in the eighth inning which led to the Nationals’ first run. He also went 5-for-9 with two home runs in the final two games of that opening series against the Cubs, and went on to have one of his finest seasons in the Major Leagues. 

Gio Gonzalez: “(My most memorable Opening Day) was at home against Cincinnati (in the 2012 home opener). That was when I got my first Major League hit and when I was warming up, to stretch and go out there, I thought I had plenty of time to just stretch, hear my music, get ready to go. I ended up telling (pitching coach Steve McCatty), ‘I got this. I’m ready to go.’  He said, ‘You know, you’ve got to stretch a little early because of (all the ceremonial events that go on before the game on Opening Day).’

“Next thing you know it was like 12:55 p.m. and the game was at 1 p.m. and I turned to Cat and I was like, ‘Cat, I don’t think I got this.’ I ended up not even long-tossing or throwing just went straight from stretching to the bullpen… Show and go. Sometimes it works.”

Gonzalez threw seven shutout innings that day, allowing just two hits and striking out seven.

Doug Fister: “I got called up in 2009. My first Opening Day was in 2010 in Seattle. There were a couple of us who were fairly new and our biggest thing was trying not to trip on the red carpet. They had carpet that ran from center field all the way to the line (that we had to run down during introductions).”

Matt LeCroy (bullpen coach): “My first one (in the Major Leagues). That was my debut. My first at-bat I hit a double and got a standing ovation. We were in Minnesota at the Metrodome. I made the team out of spring. I was 23 or 24 years old. It was awesome. My whole family was there. I’d just gotten married. I don’t remember (the other at-bats). But that first one was pretty cool.”

Daily Wrap: Zimmermann finishes stellar spring, Fister to be reevaluated, & more

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by Amanda Comak

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — The disclaimer that comes with Spring Training, and all of the stats that accompany it, is, of course, that they don’t count for anything. On Monday, whatever numbers have been accrued over the past five weeks in Florida are wiped away and the real fun begins.

071812-261 jordan zimmermannWhat more veteran players like Jordan Zimmermann look for out of Spring Training is to sharpen his skills, build up his arm strength, and come through it all healthy.

Zimmermann did that. He also threw 18 innings, allowed one run, struck out 15, allowed 11 hits and walked only one. His Spring Training ERA came complete at 0.50.

Five more scoreless innings against the New York Mets to cap his spring — along with a bases-loaded infield hit to score the Nationals’ first run in a 4-0 victory — was more than enough for him to earn Player of the Day honors as the Nationals bid adieu to the Grapefruit League.

“I felt like I did what I needed to do to get ready for the season,” the 2013 All-Star said. “The ball’s coming out well, I have a good feel for all my pitches and I’m healthy. (Spring Training stats) don’t matter, but for me I want to do (well) every time I go out. Spring doesn’t matter too much but you don’t want to get hit around every time, either… I feel good. I’m ready to go.”

Quote of the Day: Matt Williams on Doug Fister

Fister was pulled from his scheduled Minor League start after one inning when he continued to feel tightness in his right lat muscle. The right-hander will be reevaluated in D.C.

“(It didn’t happen) on any particular pitch, had nothing to do with the elbow,” Williams said. “But we took him out after his first inning as a precaution and he’ll see the doc tomorrow in Washington. We’ll see what the doc says. We’ll see where we’re at. He was due to throw 60 (pitches) today and he came out after that first inning, so it certainly is a setback (as far as the regular season goes).”

Video highlights:

Jordan Zimmermann goes five scoreless in another strong outing.

Jordan Zimmermann helps his own cause with a bases-loaded infield hit.

Bryce Harper ropes an RBI-single to center field.

Nate McLouth scores on a wild pitch.

Notables:

The Nationals will travel to Washington, D.C. on Thursday evening in advance of Saturday’s exhibition game against the Detroit Tigers at Nationals Park… The team will participate in a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Youth Baseball Academy before Saturday’s game… Nationals Manager Matt Williams said he is leaning toward starting Anthony Rendon at second base on Opening Day.

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: 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: Strasburg named Opening Day starter, Detwiler talks bullpen, & more

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by Amanda Comak

VIERA, Fla. — The Washington Nationals fell to the Houston Astros, 2-0, on Wednesday night, despite a strong five-inning performance from Taylor Jordan and solid relief work from Ross Detwiler, Rafael Soriano and Tyler Clippard.

To the Daily Wrap…

News of the Day: Stephen Strasburg will be the Nationals’ Opening Day starter.

Stephen Strasburg was named the Nationals' Opening Day starter for the third straight year.

Stephen Strasburg was named the Nationals’ Opening Day starter for the third straight year.

Washington Nationals Manager Matt Williams announced Wednesday night that, for the third consecutive year, Stephen Strasburg will be the team’s Opening Day starter.

“He’s earned it,” Williams said after the team’s 2-0 loss to the Houston Astros. “He’ll toe that slab for us on Opening Day.”

This spring, Strasburg has allowed just one earned run in three starts while working on holding runners and incorporating a new pitch. He’ll make his fourth start of Spring Training on Thursday against the Detroit Tigers, and that start will line him up to be on turn for the Nationals’ March 31 opener at Citi Field against the New York Mets.

And while Strasburg was perhaps the expected choice, the uber-talented right-hander having done it the previous two years, Williams acknowledged that some of the other Nationals starters gave him pause before making the final decision. Jordan Zimmermann, a 19-game winner and an All-Star a season ago, was chief among them.

“We have a number of guys who could fill that position,” Williams said of the Opening Day honor. “But we spoke to Jordan and he’s good with pitching wherever and whenever. Opening Day is important, but the rest of the games are important, too.”

Quote of the Day: Ross Detwiler on taking a team-first attitude on his move to the bullpen.

Detwiler pitched a scoreless inning in relief on Wednesday night, the first step in his transition into the Nationals’ bullpen. Earlier in the day, the left-hander discussed the team’s decision with reporters, taking a team-first attitude to the move.

“I still view myself as a starter,” Detwiler said. “But I’m not going to go out there and hope somebody does bad or somebody gets hurt. We’re in it to win. And I think it’s going to hurt worse if we don’t win the whole thing this year.”

Video highlights:

Taylor Jordan strikes out five in five innings.

Ross Detwiler fans Jason Castro in the sixth.

Danny Espinosa makes a diving stop and shows off his throwing arm.

Notables:

Williams said Wednesday that right-hander Doug Fister, who pitched in a Minor League game on Monday, will return to the Major League rotation on Saturday against the Miami Marlins… Williams also said he expects the top of the Nationals’ rotation to feature Gio Gonzalez behind Strasburg and Zimmermann behind Gonzalez.

Daily Wrap: Detwiler to bullpen, Fister throws in Minor League game, & more

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by Amanda Comak

VIERA, Fla. — The Washington Nationals were rained out on Monday afternoon in Lakeland, Fla., washing away their game against the Detroit Tigers and giving them a little extra time as they head into the lone off day of Spring Training.

But despite the lack of a game there was still plenty of news to go around.

News of the Day: Ross Detwiler will open the 2014 season in the Nationals’ bullpen.

Ross Detwiler

Ross Detwiler

Nationals Manager Matt Williams said on Monday that left-hander Ross Detwiler will open the 2014 season as an integral member of the team’s bullpen. The decision, Williams said, was one based on what the Nationals felt was ultimately the best fit for the team this season, and Williams emphasized that Detwiler’s talents will give them a unique relief weapon.

“We feel like it’s a good move for our team,” Williams said. “He provides something special out of the bullpen for us. We talked to him. I don’t know if anybody would ever be really happy with something like that, but we don’t feel it’s a demotion of any sort. We just feel like we’re a better team with him coming out of our bullpen.

“He offers something that’s special — power lefty, mid-90s (mph) lefty. It doesn’t mean he won’t start at some point in the future, but we’ve asked him to get ready for the start of the season in the bullpen.”

The Nationals have been high on Detwiler’s talent since they selected him in the first round of the 2007 First-Year Player Draft, and his maturation as a starting pitcher was evident in his outstanding performance in Game 4 of the 2012 National League Division Series, as well as his outings early in 2013. But a back injury stole much of last season from Detwiler, and now the Nationals would like to utilize his talents in a way that will make him even more valuable.

In his career, Detwiler has excelled in relief, allowing just four earned runs in 32.1 innings and holding hitters to a .173 batting average against. His heavy sinker, complemented by his hard fastball, coming from a left-hander is exceptionally rare in the Major Leagues. The Nationals simply want to utilize that weapon when it is most favorable.

“He provides something special for us,” Williams said of Detwiler, noting his role in the bullpen will be “fluid.” “I just think it’s a luxury for our team to have a guy in the bullpen who can do (the) types of things (he can).

“I told him, this is something we feel is going to make our team better. We’re here to win games, and here to compete to play meaningful games in September and October, and he’s going to be a big part of that out of our bullpen. For me it’s not a tough decision — it’s a prudent one… There’s a lot of thought and a lot of talk among our staff and our organization in making that move. If I know Ross, he will take that bull by its horns and he will go with it and be really good.”

Williams listed Taylor Jordan, Tanner Roark and Chris Young as remaining competitors for the team’s No. 5 starter job.

Quote of the Day: Doug Fister after pitching two innings in a Minor League game

Fister, who had been previously sidelined with some elbow inflammation, faced hitters on Monday for the first time since March 2. He threw 30 pitches in a Minor League intrasquad game, with Wilson Ramos catching him, and came out feeling positive about his progress. 

“I’m still working out some kinks,” Fister said. “But it’s a lot better… It’s not as sharp as I want it to be, but for being, technically, my first outing in a while, I was fairly pleased with what I had going.”

Notables:

The Nationals will have their only off day of the spring on Tuesday, with players and staff given a day to recoup after several weeks of workouts and games in preparation for the long season… The Nationals will return to action on Wednesday night at home in Viera, Fla., against the Houston Astros. The game will be broadcast on MASN… MLB Network and MLB Network Radio will be on-site at Nationals camp this week, so be on the lookout for some interesting content in the coming days from those two outlets.

Daily Wrap: Souza Jr. has a big day, Zimmerman plays first base, & more

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by Amanda Comak

VIERA, Fla. —  For the next two weeks, as the Washington Nationals‘ 25-man roster comes into focus and Opening Day nears, we’ll post a “Daily Wrap” featuring a Player of the Day, Quote of the Day and any other notables to pass along.

So without further ado, here’s our first edition:

Player of the Day: Steven Souza Jr. 

Steven Souza Jr.

Steven Souza Jr.

The Nationals were a split squad today with half the team heading to Kissimmee, Fla., to play the Houston Astros, and the other half sticking around Viera, Fla., to face the Detroit Tigers. While the home game was the one that most were tuned to, as it aired on MASN, our Player of the Day for March 16 comes from the game in Kissimmee: Steven Souza Jr. 

Souza Jr. has been making a strong impression on the Nationals’ during his first Major League camp. While they certainly thought well of him prior to this — the Nationals added the 24-year-old to their 40-man roster this offseason — his performance this spring has, if anything, validated their evaluations. In 17 Spring Training games, Souza has hit .355 with a .429 on-base percentage and .806 slugging percentage.

On Sunday, he went 3-for-3, homered twice, walked once and capped his day with a triple off good friend and former teammate, Brad Peacock.

Quote of the Day: Ryan Zimmerman

Zimmerman moved from third base to first base at the start of the sixth inning in the Nationals’ game against the Tigers, marking the first time the Nationals’ third baseman has ever played first in his Major League career.

“When it comes down to it, you just catch the ball,” Zimmerman said. “You do the same thing you do (at third base) but you have a few different responsibilities. Those I’ll have to learn, but other than that it’s about the same.

“Being a third baseman, shortstop, growing up, I appreciate a good first baseman, so it makes me want to be that much better over there. I know, as a position player, if you can save an error or make them feel confident that if they just get it close over there they’re going to be good, it does a lot for the fielder. That’s the goal: to try to make those guys think that way of me when I’m over there, so they have enough confidence to just let it go and know if they get it close, I got it.”

Video highlights:

Jordan Zimmermann tosses four innings in pitchers duel with Justin Verlander.

Jeff Kobernus scores on a wild pitch.

Notables:

Manager Matt Williams said right-hander Doug Fister, who has been working back from some slight elbow inflammation, is scheduled to pitch in a Minor League game on Monday and Wilson Ramos will likely catch him… Sunday was the Nationals’ final split-squad day of Spring Training… The Nationals and Tigers will be well acquainted by Tuesday as the Nationals will travel to Lakeland, Fla., on Monday for the second time in four days and will play their third game against Detroit in that span.

When Pitchers Hit

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by Amanda Comak

VIERA, Fla. — There was a new notation on the Washington Nationals’ daily schedule Monday morning. The spot that had been filled the past few days by the rundown for live batting practice sessions was replaced.”Pitchers Hitting Game,” it read.

Some Nationals pitchers prepare for a new hitting game during Monday's workout.

Some Nationals pitchers prepare for a new hitting game during Monday’s workout.

Around 11:15 a.m., the pitchers departed from the Minor League fields and moved the rest of their workout back toward Space Coast Stadium. One group, Team Zimmermann and Team Strasburg, made their way onto the auxiliary field just outside the stadium. Another, Team Young and Team Fister, took their places on the field inside the stadium.

The game, made-up in the mind of Rehab Pitching Coordinator Mark Grater, seemed simple. The teams were picked schoolyard style with Doug Fister and Chris Young named captains in one group, and Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann captains in another. The object was to score more runs than your opponent in a nine-inning game. The focus was on bunting, moving runners, and doing the little things that pitchers need to do at the plate but in a competitive atmosphere.

“It breaks up some of the monotony,” said Fister, who has noted his excitement about being in the National League. “There are things that we have to focus on every day that are very important, and hitting and bunting and moving runners are (some) of them. For (Manager Matt Williams) to schedule things like that where we’re able to have fun with it, it’s going to stick in our brains.”

For the teams playing on the field inside Space Coast Stadium, Grater ran the show. As pitchers gathered their helmets and bats, he ran through the rules.

  • At the start of an inning, they needed to reach base with a hit — a line drive off the L-screen protecting Grater was a single, but one-hop off it was an out. Grater himself decided whether a ball was a hit or an error. Home runs did count, but they were not the goal of the exercise, so if a pitcher hit one, he’d have to run out beyond the fence and get the ball himself.
  • The pitchers weren’t running the bases, but if they “reached” based on their plate performance, the following “hitters” had to follow the proper directions. Number of outs, where the runners were, where the defenses were playing (as determined by the team captains) all played into what the hitter would have to do (bunt, hit a ground ball to the right side of the field, etc). If they couldn’t, they were out. Successful bunts were not outs (as most would be in real games), and those who were able to produce them were allowed to stay in the batters’ box. But if a hitter bunted twice in a row, they were out.
  • If one captain decided that, with a man on second and a line drive hit into the gap, he wanted to “send the runner home,” the outcome would be decided by Grater throwing at a pre-determined target. If he hit it, the runner was out. If he missed, the runner was safe.

There was, of course, one humorous twist. Grater, as the game’s overlord and head umpire, made the rulings — and the rulings were final. Only captains could voice dissent, and others who did were required to run a lap around the infield as penalty. Gio Gonzalez found himself running several laps.

Trash talk, of course, was plentiful. And the competitive juices flowed throughout, as did the watchful eyes.

When Taylor Jordan hit a home run in the late innings, (Telling Grater, “You’re pitching me inside! What do you expect?”) he marched himself only to the outfield fence, picked up a different ball and then returned. Pitching Coach Steve McCatty would have none of that, and sent the young right-hander back down the left field foul line to properly retrieve his home run ball.

Team Fister took a late lead, but Team Young won it in the ninth when, with the “bases loaded” Christian Garcia roped a home run over the left center field fence. As Gonzalez — hands raised in victory pose — sprinted around the bases in celebration and by choice, Grater noted that because Garcia wasn’t supposed to be hitting a home run, his run didn’t count but the first three “runners” who scored would. The final score was 8-6, Team Young.

On the other field, Team Zimmermann topped Team Strasburg.

“Oh yeah,” said one reliever on the Nationals’ 19-game winner’s team. “We dominated.”

And while the purpose of the game was to get pitchers to work on their situational hitting, it also allowed them to think along with a manager and how the game would be run in those various situations.

“You’ve got to put pressure on the defense,” said Fister, who was aggressive in “sending” his baserunners. “That translates into a game. I come from an area where, playing with (Torii Hunter) last year, that’s one thing that he stresses: take that extra base. Try and stretch that single into a double, that double into a triple. It’s amazing how many extra runs you pick up just because of one extra base with that mentality.”

The pitchers enjoyed the exercise so much, that they took an amendment to the rules to Williams.

“They made a new rule,” Williams said. “This was supposed to be, we break the groups up, they play against each other, we have two winners. Now they have a championship game they want to do. So we’ve got to fit that in there, into the (schedule).”

From the Desk of Mark D. Lerner: Hello from Viera

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Hello, everyone.

Greetings from sunny Space Coast Stadium, where the weather started so-so, but spring suddenly arrived on Sunday. We are currently enjoying a gentle breeze and temperatures in the high 70’s. Perfect. I am also glad to read that things are warming up back in DC after a prolonged spate of snowy and cold weather. Sounds like spring is genuinely in the air!

Bryce Harper in the batting cage. (Photo credit: Donald Miralle)

Bryce Harper in the batting cage. (Photo credit: Donald Miralle)

Matt Williams’ first spring camp is already well underway. Pitchers have already been through two or three bullpen sessions and, yes, everyone looks great. I’ll get to that in a moment.

What has impressed me the most is just how many position players reported for duty early. With few exceptions, we have enjoyed full position-player batting practice sessions each of the last three days. So many that we have had to split the BP session over two fields.

Ryan Zimmerman in the cage. Adam LaRoche scooping balls at first base. Ian Desmond working the pivot with Anthony Rendon, Danny Espinosa, Jamey Carroll and Mike Fontenot. Nate McLouth working on his jumps in the outfield. All sights to behold.

  • Camp Williams is crisp, precise, upbeat and full of hustle. With that said, there have been a good number of competitive moments built in that have seized the pitchers’ attention. For example, every team has pitcher-bunting drills. However, here in Viera, pitchers and fans alike have enjoyed a competitive tweak as the pitcher attempt to bunt balls into a pair of strategically-placed ball bags. These competitive drills have resulted in good-natured hooting, hollering and trash talking. But they also demand concentration that at least partially mimics a real game.
  • Sunday morning's first bullpen session featured two decent right-handers...

    Sunday morning’s first bullpen session featured two decent right-handers.

    Nothing new here, but Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann all look fantastic. And I have a suspicion that Doug Fister is really going to have a positive influence on the others. First of all, Fister is an accomplished pitcher in his own right. He won 32 games in two-plus seasons with the Tigers. And, he’s been a part of another vaunted pitching staff. Doug has pitched in a World Series. He watched the likes of Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer win Cy Young awards. There is value in that, and I doubt that it is a coincidence that his locker is located next to/near Stephen, Gio and Jordan.

  • Lots of emphasis on defense and defensive fundamentals. It was also interesting to see that Matt has some of his pitchers moonlighting at different positions during some bunt plays. There is a belief that the multi-position perspective will help fine tune the execution. At the very least, it’ll give our pitcher’s some perspective they may not have experienced since their days playing prep baseball.
  • Incidentally, Livan Hernandez used to work out almost daily at shortstop and he was the best fielding pitcher I have ever seen. I cannot express how fantastic it is to have Livan on hand as a coach. The players are really enjoying his presence and he is a heck of a teacher. Livan is a true gem who has a fantastic feel for our fans and for baseball in DC.
  • I was talking to some of our player development folks and there is great enthusiasm for the projected rosters/lineups/rotations in Triple-A Syracuse and Double-A Harrisburg. It is too early to know where various players will be assigned, but there are very real layers of talent in the upper reaches of our system that will be inevitably be called upon as the season progresses. The Opening Day 25 is important, but it is really only a fleeting glimpse of the talent assembled.
  • There are ex-Expos everywhere you look around camp: Luis Ayala, Jamey Carroll, Ian Desmond (last player left who was drafted by the Expos), Randy Knorr and Bob Henley. Ayala and Carroll were inaugural-season Nationals.
  • Matt Williams’ coaching staff is filled with a lot of former catchers, which is never a bad thing. Randy Knorr, Bob Henley and Matt LeCroy. Those catchers understand the game from all angles.
  • Rafael Soriano looks good. And so do his pitches. I think there is a certain comfort that comes with a second season.
  • The local DC media has descended upon Viera this week. (Photo credit: Kyle Brostowitz)

    The local DC media has descended upon Viera this week. (Photo credit: Kyle Brostowitz)

    The local DC television media has descended upon Viera, so be sure to tune into all the local channels for in-depth interviews with Matt Williams and all of your favorite Nationals. Earlier today, we hosted ESPN and the Baseball Tonight Bus at Space Coast Stadium. Karl Ravech and Tim Kurkjian were on hand. Both are great ambassadors for their network and the game of baseball. Matt Williams and Bryce Harper were their main guests, so you will be seeing both on SportsCenter tonight.

  • Little more than a week until our Grapefruit League opener (Fri., Feb. 28 at Mets) and our Grapefruit League home opener (Sat., March 1 vs.  Braves). There is still plenty of time to plan a great family trip for Spring Training baseball in Viera. At the risk of dating myself, I still remember childhood trips to Pompano Beach to see the likes of Mike Epstein, Frank Howard, Eddie Brinkman and all of the old Senators. Great memories.
  • If you do make it down to Space Coast Stadium for a visit, please don’t hesitate to stop me and say ‘Hello.’ Our fans’ enthusiasm and spirit are infectious and I am always impressed with everyone’s knowledge of not only the Nationals, but baseball in general. Isn’t this the best time of year? Well, outside of a busy October I suppose.

Until next time …

Mark

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