Results tagged ‘ Spring Training ’

The Big Machine

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Stephen Strasburg was pitching, Ryan Zimmerman was playing third base, and all of the Nationals regulars were in the starting lineup for the first time truly in Spring Training Saturday night. Sure, the ballpark was about 40,000 people shy of what it will be when the 2013 regular season launches in Washington, but the exhibition season finally was beginning to feel like a reality.

Most of all, it meant that the Nationals are now just three turns of the rotation away from Opening Day in Washington, just 15 days from now.

The Nationals featured their full projected Opening Day lineup for the first time Saturday night.

The Nationals featured their full projected Opening Day lineup for the first time Saturday night.

Strasburg will start that game, just as he did Saturday night against the Astros. He delivered his second consecutive strong outing, just a taste of what he might unleash on the league in his first full season. In 5.1 innings of work, he fanned eight Houston batters – including four in a row at one point – allowing just a single run. Manager Davey Johnson extended him out to 93 pitches, easily the most thrown by a Washington starter this spring.

Afterwards, Johnson called Strasburg “The Big Machine,” helping support Strasburg’s own desires expressed earlier this spring to be thought of as a workhorse for this squad. He won’t be the only one extending his work over the next week, though, as Johnson made clear after the game that starters would all be expected to play the full nine innings beginning next week.

“It’s my time, boys,” he joked. “The party’s over.”

The game itself was, thankfully, still a Spring Training affair. From the wind-blown balls that escaped Bryce Harper and former National Rick Ankiel, to the drops by both Washington and Houston players, it was not the most cleanly played of contests. But when Ryan Zimmerman charged Carlos Corporan’s slow chopper up the third base line in the second inning – his first defensive attempt of the spring – picked it cleanly, and fired a bullet across the diamond to Adam LaRoche at first base, the crowd at Space Coast Stadium began to see flashes of the hopes of what this team will become.

“I can’t remember the last bad day,” said Zimmerman in reference to throwing, after slowly rebuilding his arm strength this offseason.

Those words should be music to every Nationals fan’s ears. The party may be over, but the fun is just beginning.

Check out the Nationals lineup as they head to Lakeland to take on Detroit, and see a complete list of Spring Training results to date:

Nationals Lineup:

1. Espinosa 2B

2. Lombardozzi 3B

3. Harper CF

4. Moore RF

5. Desmond SS

6. Suzuki C

7. Tracy DH

8. Marrero 1B

9. Owings LF

P. Detwiler LHP

Results:

2/23 @ New York (NL) – L, 5-3

2/24 vs. Miami – T, 2-2

2/25 @ New York (NL) – W, 6-4

2/26 @ Atlanta – L, 9-5

2/27 vs. Miami – L, 5-1

2/28 vs. New York (NL) – T, 4-4

3/1 @ Atlanta – W, 6-5

3/2 @ St. Louis – W, 6-2

3/3 vs. St. Louis – W, 7-6

3/5 vs. Houston – W, 7-1

3/6 @ Philadelphia – L, 6-3

3/7 @ Houston – L, 4-2

3/8 vs. Cardinals – L, 16-10

3/9 vs. Marlins – W, 8-7

3/10 @ Detroit – L, 2-1

3/11 vs. Atlanta – L, 7-2

3/13 SS vs. New York (NL) – W, 8-5

3/13 SS @ Houston – W, 9-7

3/14 vs. Houston – W, 6-3

3/15 @ St. Louis – L, 5-1

3/16 vs. Houston – L, 4-2

Overall Record: 9-10-2

Inter-National Flavor

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As the Nationals enjoy just their second off day of the spring on Tuesday, several members of the team are still hard at work, competing on a much grander stage. The second round of the World Baseball Classic is underway, with the opening games of Pool 2 beginning today in Miami.

The Dominican Republic squares off with Italy at 1:05 p.m. ET, while Team USA will send Gio Gonzalez to the mound against Puerto Rico in the split-doubleheader finale at 8:05 p.m. live on MLB Network. Of course, the United States might not be playing in this round at all if weren’t for another Washington National coming to the rescue.

Ross Detwiler's huge outing against Italy was instrumental in Team USA advancing.

Ross Detwiler’s huge outing against Italy was instrumental in Team USA advancing.

After dropping its opening game to Mexico, 5-2 in Phoenix, Team USA found itself in an early 2-0 hole in a win-or-go-home game against Italy. The offense finally came through, and manager Joe Torre handed the ball to Ross Detwiler with a 6-2 lead in the sixth inning.

“It’s amazing, playing for your country,” said Detwiler of his pressure-packed outing. “We’ve played some pretty close games. Everybody’s putting their heart and soul into it. Seeing all the fans coming out and chanting ‘U-S-A’ and everything, it really brings chills.”

Detwiler certainly rose to the challenge. After reigning NL Cy Young R.A. Dickey was touched up in the loss to Mexico, Ryan Vogelsong struggled early in his start against Italy before giving way to the bullpen. Detwiler entered and mowed down the competition, allowing just a single and a walk over four scoreless frames, striking out three to record a 12-out save, the first of his career. Another comeback win against Canada in the final game of pool play on Sunday ensured the Americans would play on.

Of course, Detwiler is certainly accustomed – perhaps uniquely so – to pitching meaningful games in March.

“I had to compete for a job the last few years, so it’s not really any earlier than I’m used to,” he said of bringing competitive fire to spring starts. “I’ve never had a Spring Training where I just come in and take it easy and just get ready for the season. I’ve had to win a job in the past. I think that helped me out this year.”

Gonzalez and Ryan Vogelsong chat after playing catch on Monday.

Gonzalez and Ryan Vogelsong chat after playing catch on Monday.

Now it’s Gonzalez’s turn to shine, in the national spotlight during primetime, against a Puerto Rican team that features MLB stars like Carlos Beltran, Yadier Molina and Angel Pagan. Gonzalez did not join the team for the first round, but watched every game on television, including Sunday’s bout with Canada from Flanagan’s, a favorite spot in his hometown of Hialeah.

Upon arriving at Monday’s workout at Marlins Park, Gonzalez immediately sought out his Washington rotation-mate.

“The first thing Ross did to me was give me a big old hug, big pat on the back,” said Gonzalez of his reunion with Detwiler. Gonzalez praised the fellow lefty on his outing against the Italians. “The way he went out there and performed, I think he set the tone. He looked really good.”

Detwiler expects nothing less of Gonzalez, who won 21 games and finished third in the National League Cy Young race last season.

“I think Gio’s gonna be just fine,” Detwiler said with a laugh. “He knows how to go out there and compete and win. And obviously in his home city he’s going to do well. He’s going to bring a big crowd out here, and hopefully they’re chanting ‘U-S-A.’”

Team USA battled a loud, pro-Mexico crowd in their contest in Arizona, and there is sure to be plenty of Puerto Rico fans in attendance on Tuesday night in Miami. But if last season was any indication, Gonzalez alone may well help mobilize the local community in favor of the red, white and blue.

“The last time I was here it was over 600 tickets,” said Gonzalez of the purchases by family and friends for when the Nationals took on the Marlins last season. “I think all of Hialeah came.”

Regardless of Team USA’s results in Miami, one Nationals player has already cemented his spot in the semifinals. Roger Bernadina’s Netherlands squad continued its Cinderella run with an upset of Team Cuba in Japan and will join the Japanese and two semifinalists from Pool 2 in San Francisco.

The Nationals are also represented at the minor league level in the WBC by Mike Costanzo and Matt Torra (Italy), Adrian Nieto (Spain; eliminated), Randolph Oduber (Netherlands), Eury Perez (Dominican Republic) and Jimmy Van Ostrand (Canada; eliminated).

From the Desk of Mark Lerner: Inter-Nationals

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Hello everyone.

Things here in camp could not be better. I think that Spring Training has picked up its pace. Everyone is getting their scheduled innings and at-bats. Mike Rizzo and Davey Johnson could not be more pleased with what they are seeing.

One National who should be extremely pleased with himself is Ross Detwiler, who tossed 4.0 scoreless innings in Team USA’s win-or-go-home victory on Saturday against Italy in the World Baseball Classic. Just like last October, with his team’s season in the balance, Ross put forth his finest performance and picked up the first save of his career.

I wonder if Ross’s mental preparation for that game included thoughts about all of the brave U.S. service men and women he met during the USO Tour he took with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey and teammate Craig Stammen back in December. It would not surprise me, as Ross is that type of individual.

Gio Gonzalez is the most popular man in Miami heading into his Team USA debut tomorrow.

Gio Gonzalez is the most popular man in Miami heading into his Team USA debut tomorrow.

Gio Gonzalez left Viera yesterday and joins Ross and his new teammates for the first time today. He’ll get the starting nod tomorrow night as Team USA faces Puerto Rico in Miami (8 p.m. on MLB Network). Gio will be challenged, as the Puerto Rican lineup will likely include the likes of Yadir Molina, Carlos Beltran, Angel Pagan, Mike Aviles and Alex Rios.

Of course, we are equally as proud of Roger Bernadina (Netherlands), Eury Perez (Dominican Republic), Mike Costanzo (Italy), Randolph Oduber (Netherlands), Jimmy Van Ostrand (Canada), Adrian Nieto (Spain) and Matt Torra (Italy) for their contributions for their respective WBC teams/countries. I’d say it is fitting that our organization from Nation’s Capital is well represented in this global event.

Two position players that warrant special notice are a new-look Danny Espinosa (.345 batting average) and Anthony Rendon (.296, three doubles, three home runs). Judging by their Grapefruit League performances, I feel confident that both will enjoy productive seasons.

Last week, I was pleased to be able to share dinner with Astros manager Bo Porter. We are so proud of Bo. Honestly, he was made for this job.

As Bo explained, they are in the midst of implementing a new culture there. His club will face some challenges, not the least of which include Houston’s move to the American League and stiff AL West competition from the A’s, Angels, Mariners and Rangers. I wish Bo and his Astros nothing but the best.

Of course, Bo’s departure created a well-deserved opportunity for first base coach/outfield instructor Tony Tarasco in D.C. Tony’s transition has been seamless as he has preexisting relationships with all of our homegrown players from his days as our outfield/baserunning coordinator. I know he is also thrilled to reunite with Davey, for whom he played for in Baltimore.

As always, I have enjoyed the interaction with fans down here at Space Coast Stadium. For so many reasons, there is genuine optimism in the air among our fan base. And the sheer number of our fans down here is up compared to previous springs. I think this bodes well for a busy and boisterous ’13 campaign at Nationals Park.

Speaking of which, with Opening Day just three weeks away, reports are that everything at Nationals Park is rounding into proper shape. Our dedicated staff is putting the finishing touches on various projects and polishing up the place. Everything will be ready for our final exhibition game on Friday, March 29 against the New York Yankees. The cherry blossoms may even be in bloom in left field.

Until we blog again …

A Chat With Bob Carpenter

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With the MASN broadcast team in town on Friday to watch the Nationals take on the Cardinals at Space Coast Stadium, we sat down to chat with play-by-play man Bob Carpenter to get his perspective on Spring Training so far. Tapping into his three decades of Major League experience, we asked about his routines, the hazards of calling spring games, and his outlook as the Nationals prepare for the 2013 campaign.

Curly W Live: How much attention do you pay to Spring Training, day-to-day?

Bob Carpenter: I check it every day. And I’ll watch from afar, the box scores as games progress. The one thing I really like to do, is once the game gets into the middle innings, if I’m not (in Viera), I’ll check out a box score, look at pitching lines, see what guys have done their first couple at-bats. I would say it’s something I look at several times a day when we’re not here.

CWL: You guys have a similar ramp-up as the players do, getting more intense heading into Opening Day. How does it feel every year to prepare for the season ahead?

Carpenter calls Friday's game from the press box at Space Coast Stadium.

Carpenter calls Friday’s game from the press box at Space Coast Stadium.

BC: You know, that’s a good thought. I used to have a horrible time getting ready for Spring Training games. Now that this is my eighth year (with the Nationals), you kind of know all the guys. And this is a unique spring, because we don’t have a bunch of guys battling for jobs this spring. Things are pretty well settled. So this has probably been the easiest spring to keep an eye on, to get a pulse on, and to get ready for the games. They’re just so much more settled about the ballclub right now, and that’s fantastic for us. I’ve been doing this a long time, but I keep finding that I learn something every year that maybe I didn’t know about the year before. Spring Training always has a few surprises, but I’ll be real happy this year if we head north and there’s not one surprise that came up. Now it might be something good like Anthony Rendon hitting .400, but it’s really cool to come and see this ballclub now compared to some of the springs we had a few years ago.

CWL: When you have a ton of guys taking part in one game, it can wreak havoc on a broadcast. How do you go about keeping track of everybody?

BC: We don’t get a whole lot of help in that respect, we’re kind of on our own. The most effective thing you can bring to Spring Training – which I naturally forgot for our first broadcast – is binoculars. So Dan Kolko from MASN Sports, he didn’t want to loan me his binoculars, but he did. But I’ve got them now. If you can get through the first couple spring broadcasts, you’re fine. About the middle of the month, which is about a week away, guys start getting three at-bats, four at-bats, and instead of playing four innings they’re playing six or seven innings.

So, as a broadcaster, the key is surviving those first couple of spring telecasts, letting the people in D.C. think you know what you’re talking about with all these players. Because there’s a lot of guys to keep track of. I do a huge file on the Nats. All the guys on the 40-man roster are in my file. When we get into some of the guys who don’t play much, or who are destined for minor league camp, we’ll delve into the archives a little bit and get stuff on them. So yeah, it’s kind of like the players in that we gear up for Opening Day like the team does.

CWL: Coming off the excitement of the 2012 season and with a long spring due to the World Baseball Classic, how hard is it to pace yourself heading into Opening Day?

BC: I think a lot of that comes with experience. As a Major League broadcaster, this is my 30th Spring Training. I think the first time I went to Spring Training in St. Petersburg, Florida in 1984, I didn’t really know what I was doing. You just kind of learn on the job. With experience comes the calm that you’re kind of feeling before the storm. Once the season gets going, it kind of explodes out of the gate, then you kind of settle into a little routine.

When I was a younger broadcaster, I was all charged up about Spring Training telecasts. I wanted to accomplish this and accomplish that. And I did those not only for the team I was with, but for many years, I did broadcasts for ESPN and you really half to gear up, because you have to tell the story of two teams when you do that. But I think with experience comes the feeling that, “I know what’s going on here, I’ve got a good feel for the camp.” And I think that comes from talking to the guys and talking to the coaches. So I think it’s just like the players – the more Spring Trainings that you’re involved in, the more you feel relaxed about it and you know what you have to do step-by-step to get ready for the season.

CWL: Have you ever sensed as much anticipation heading into the season as there is around this ballclub?

BC: Well I think it’s high. I think the real eye-opener for me – and everybody knew we were going to have a good team, then we pick up Denard Span, we pick up Dan Haren, we pick up Rafael Soriano – it’s like icing on a cake that already tastes pretty good. Then I went to NatsFest and I saw the excitement with our fans, with 7,000 people there on a cold afternoon in January, going crazy about this team. It was like “Wow, our fans have now taken this thing to the next level.” And now it’s up to the team to take them along for the ride. I think that’s really where it hit me, when I went to NatsFest and just saw the enthusiasm and how in love Washington is with this team now. We saw that to a certain extent for a number of years. Fans would come and say, “I hope we can do this, I hope we can do that.” Now it’s, “We’re going to do this, we’re going to do that.” And I know sometimes hopes and expectations, going from one to the other, can be kind of a dangerous thing, because there are expectations now, along with the hopes that this team is going to do great things. I think this is by far, as a Nationals broadcaster, the most anticipated Spring Training that I’ve been through, leading up to the most anticipated season. And with all those home games we have in April, like 16 of them, it’s important that this team get out of the gate well, because they have to take advantage of that time. This thing might become pretty revealing pretty quickly once the season starts.

Launched Into Orbit

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This year’s Grapefruit League schedule pits the Nationals against the Houston Astros six times, providing a chance for former Washington third base coach and new Astros skipper Bo Porter to reunite and reminisce with his old players. They did just that on Tuesday at Space Coast Stadium, both sides praising one another as details emerged, such as the book club Porter orchestrates that counts over 20 members of the Nationals squad as members.

It’s pleasant to see the mutual professional respect between the coach and his former players, one made easier to show thanks to the exhibition nature of Spring Training. It is also, in all likelihood, the only chance the two will have to see each other this season.

The Astros have reintroduced Orbit for the 2013 season.

The Astros have reintroduced Orbit for the 2013 season.

See, the Astros are moving from the National League Central to the American League West this season, giving baseball an even 15 teams per league and five per division. The teams will not square off in the regular season until next year, when the NL East will be slated to face the AL West as part of Interleague Play.

As part of the move, the Astros have changed their uniform scheme to a retro navy and orange look, and have brought back their mascot Orbit, who, according to the team website, “hitched a ride on the space shuttle Discovery to visit his home back in the Grand Slam Galaxy” following the 1999 season. That brings us to the teams’ second meeting on Thursday, for which the furry green space cadet was in attendance.

Following the bottom of the fifth of a scoreless contest on Thursday, Orbit trotted out onto the field to help the promo team toss T-shirts into the crowd, but on his way from the gate by the home dugout onto the grass around home plate, he let his weight get out in front of him and he tripped, stumbling and falling to the turf. Upon gracefully picking himself back up, he was handed the T-shirt air cannon, from which he promptly fired a rolled-up souvenir a clear 20 feet over the roof of Osceola County Stadium and into the parking lot.

It was a moment of comedy, but also a reminder, in the midst of a fairly quiet and pedestrian game, of just how trivial the results of Spring Training really are.

Yes, Gio Gonzalez got a solid three innings of work in, limited under 50 pitches (he threw 42) based on World Baseball Classic guidelines for those already committed to pitch for the team. He tossed 23 more in the bullpen to get a little more stretched out before heading to Miami next Tuesday for his WBC debut.

But the biggest takeaway thus far from Nationals camp has to be the adage that no news is good news. Aside from the training staff taking a cautious approach with Christian Garcia, whose camp has been slowed by a week or two, it has been a healthy, uneventful spring. And that means we can revel in book clubs and mascot mishaps as we wait the final 24 days for Opening Day to arrive.

Here’s a look at today’s lineup and a list of Spring Training results to date:

Nationals Lineup

1. Espinosa 2B

2. Werth RF

3. Harper CF

4. Zimmerman DH

5. LaRoche 1B

6. Desmond SS

7. Moore LF

8. Ramos C

9. Tracy 3B

P. Zimmermann

Results:

2/23 @ New York (NL) – L, 5-3

2/24 vs. Miami – T, 2-2

2/25 @ New York (NL) – W, 6-4

2/26 @ Atlanta – L, 9-5

2/27 vs. Miami – L, 5-1

2/28 vs. New York (NL) – T, 4-4

3/1 @ Atlanta – W, 6-5

3/2 @ St. Louis – W, 6-2

3/3 vs. St. Louis – W, 7-6

3/5 vs. Houston – W, 7-1

3/5 @ Philadelphia – L, 6-3

3/6 @ Houston – L, 4-2

Overall Record: 5-5-2

The Zen of Dan Haren

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One of the fun aspects of Spring Training is getting to know the new players in camp. A baseball clubhouse is a mix of all types of personalities, and meshing them together can be a delicate balance. So as the new guys settle in, certain characteristics begin to emerge, like the introspective, self-awareness of new starter Dan Haren.

Haren absolutely baffled the Astros through two innings Tuesday, before allowing a walk and a pair of singles in a longer third frame, which would yield Houston’s lone run in a 7-1 Nationals victory. When asked about whether it may actually have been good for him to struggle a bit, Haren at first conceded that might indeed be true, the situation allowing him to get work throwing out of the stretch, and pitching a longer inning.

Haren has shown a keen self-awareness this spring.

Haren has shown a keen self-awareness this spring.

Then he paused, and broke down the barrier of clichés that so often comprise an athlete’s postgame comments.

“In Spring Training, if you do (well), you feel great,” he said. “If you feel bad, you’re just working on stuff. That’s what everyone says.”

He paused for the laughter of the reporter pool, before deadpanning his final thought.

“So yeah, I was just working on stuff in the third inning.”

That refreshing honesty, as well as a spot-on analysis of the way that athletes can sometimes revert to platitudes gives Nationals fans an early look at what to expect from the cerebral Haren this season.

Throwing only a single curveball and “two or three” split-fingered pitches, Haren has nonetheless dominated so far this spring, even while really only touching 60 percent of his repertoire. That’s good news for the 32-year-old, who says he feels completely healthy.

The Nationals also got three strong innings from Zach Duke on Tuesday, who allowed a single hit while holding the Astros scoreless to earn the victory. Rafael Soriano, Tyler Clippard and Jeremy Accardo – three of the four Nats in camp with a 30-save MLB season to their name (along with Drew Storen) – each pitched a scoreless inning of relief.

It’s off to Clearwater Wednesday for a marquee pitching showdown, featuring Stephen Strasburg against Roy Halladay and the Phillies. Check out the lineup, plus a complete list of Spring Training results to date.

Nationals Lineup:

1. Span CF

2. Lombardozzi 2B

3. Rendon SS

4. Moore DH

5. Brown RF

6. Marrero 1B

7. Rivero LF

8. Skole 3B

9. Solano C

P. Strasburg

Results:

2/23 @ New York (NL) – L, 5-3

2/24 vs. Miami – T, 2-2

2/25 @ New York (NL) – W, 6-4

2/26 @ Atlanta – L, 9-5

2/27 vs. Miami – L, 5-1

2/28 vs. New York (NL) – T, 4-4

3/1 @ Atlanta – W, 6-5

3/2 @ St. Louis – W, 6-2

3/3 vs. St. Louis – W, 7-6

3/5 vs. Houston – W, 7-1

Overall Record: 5-3-2

Welcome Back, Wilson

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Most Spring Training camps are full of stories of roster battles, of a number of players competing for a lone spot among the 25 that will begin Opening Day in the big league uniform. The Nationals have been one of those clubs in the past, but sit in Viera this year with all but one or two of those roster spots decided. As such, the most compelling stories are those of the comeback variety, those like the story of Wilson Ramos, which, after a couple years of setbacks, had a positive chapter written over the weekend.

After enduring a terrifying ordeal in the offseason prior to 2012, Ramos was excited to move on with a breakout performance on the field last year. That hope was dashed when retrieving a ball behind the plate early last May, as his foot snagged in the wet Cincinnati grass but his knee followed his body’s momentum, tearing ligaments and ending his season. On Sunday, after months of rehab, of grinding, hard work, he finally stepped into a batter’s box in a game for the first time.

“I was a little bit nervous,” Ramos admitted. “It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a pitch from the mound.

Wilson Ramos is back behind the plate in game action for the first time Tuesday.

Wilson Ramos is back behind the plate in game action for the first time Tuesday.

One could forgive Ramos for being a little over-anxious in his first at-bat, entering as the DH in the seventh inning. He rolled a ball over to third base, testing his knee in action for the first time as he ran to first base. That seemed like it might be his only chance of the afternoon, but as the score leveled at 6-6, the Nationals batted again in the bottom of the ninth, with Ramos leading off. He battled through a tough at-bat, fighting out of an early hole and fouling off pitches, eventually forcing a full count. Then he blasted a high fastball to the right-center field gap, deep into the wind and almost gone to one of the deepest parts of Space Coast Stadium. He pulled in at second base with a double and a rousing round of applause from the home crowd.

Pulled for pinch-runner Sandy Leon, Ramos’ contribution would lead to the victory, as the Nationals would walk off with a 7-6 victory two batters later on Zach Walters’ RBI-single through the drawn-in infield. For Ramos, it was the first step back to doing what he loves.

“That’s a big step for me today,” he said. “Now I’m very excited and I want to be behind the plate.”

He got that chance Tuesday against the Astros, where he caught the first three innings of game action for the first time since last season.

Here’s a complete list of the Nationals Spring Training results to date.

Overall Record: 4-3-2

Results:

2/23 @ New York (NL) – L, 5-3

2/24 vs. Miami – T, 2-2

2/25 @ New York (NL) – W, 6-4

2/26 @ Atlanta – L, 9-5

2/27 vs. Miami – L, 5-1

2/28 vs. New York (NL) – T, 4-4

3/1 @ Atlanta – W, 6-5

3/2 @ St. Louis – W, 6-2

3/3 vs. St. Louis – W, 7-6

Nats vs. Mets Spring Training Live Chat

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The Nationals take on the Mets at 6:05 p.m. Thursday night at Space Coast Stadium in Viera. It is the first Spring Training game televised on MASN this year, and will also be carried live on WJFK radio (the game is also available outside the Nationals market on MLB Network and MLB.tv). So whether you’re watching Bob and F.P. or listening to Charlie and Dave, leave your questions below and we’ll do our best to answer them as the game goes along. Here’s tonight’s Nats lineup:

1. Span CF

2. Suzuki C

3. Werth RF

4. LaRoche 1B

5. Desmond SS

6. Espinosa 2B

7. Moore LF

8. Rendon 3B

9. Tracy DH

P. Strasburg

First Taste of Atlanta

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The Nationals traveled to Lake Buena Vista Tuesday afternoon, where they were greeted with their second rain delay in the opening four days of the Spring Training slate, and their first look at what largely resembled a real Opening Day lineup.

The host Braves started five or six regulars (depending on your analysis of their third base situation), including both Upton brothers, Freddie Freeman, Jayson Heyward and Dan Uggla against Washington starter Ross Detwiler. The even-keeled lefty took the challenge in stride in what was also his first outing in the Grapefruit League this year.

Ross Detwiler showed an impressive breaking ball in his first spring start.

Ross Detwiler showed an impressive breaking ball in his first spring start.

“You saw the lineup they put out there today,” he said, referencing Atlanta’s projected regulars, most middle-of-the-order types. “I could have gotten embarrassed pretty easily.”

Detwiler more than held his own however, looking very sharp through two frames before allowing a single run in the third. He didn’t allow a single extra-base hit, but perhaps the most impressive part of his outing was his breaking ball, which he located for strikes with great movement.

“It’s coming along a little bit,” he said, modestly, of his hook.

That’s an understatement, considering how much Detwiler relied on his two fastballs last year. He used three effective breaking balls to neutralize one of the National League’s better left-handed hitters in Heyward over a pair of at-bats on Tuesday, striking him out looking on a front door bender in the first inning.

“He’s got a lot of weapons,” said manager Davey Johnson of his developing southpaw’s expanding repertoire. “[That] makes the fastball that much better.”

When asked if the outing would help prepare him for the competitive outing Detwiler is slated to encounter in the World Baseball Classic, the 26-year-old’s response served to foreshadow the type of intensity the Washington-Atlanta rivalry may well have this year.

“I just played a competitive game,” he deadpanned.

Jayson Werth, Adam LaRoche and newcomer Dan Haren get their first starts of the spring Wednesday.

Jayson Werth, Adam LaRoche and newcomer Dan Haren get their first starts of the spring Wednesday.

Never one to ease into things, Detwiler’s most supportive teammate in the lineup was Bryce Harper, who continued his hot start to the spring. The young slugger legged out a chopper over Freeman at first for a double, swatted a Mike Minor offering to the opposite field gap for another two-bagger, and finished his afternoon with a rocket off Freeman’s mitt for a single. His 3-for-3 afternoon left him hitting (small sample size alert) .750 for the spring. Harper kept the gaudy numbers in their proper perspective, though.

“Facing Minor during the season and facing him right now is a little different,” he said of the Braves starter, who was also throwing in live action for the first time. “I don’t want to say I’m relaxed or comfortable, because I never want to be that way.”

Just because others are easing into the first days of the schedule doesn’t mean Harper is. He already lobbied his way into the lineup Wednesday afternoon, which will be his first chance to play with both Jayson Werth and Adam LaRoche this year.
“I’d like to get in that lineup every day, pretty much,” he said, and Johnson was persuaded to agree.

The Nationals take on Miami in Viera at 1:05 p.m. Wednesday afternoon as Dan Haren makes his first start in a Washington uniform. See below for today’s lineup, along with spring results to date.

Nationals 2/27 Lineup:

1. Span CF

2. Harper LF

3. Werth RF

4. LaRoche 1B

5. Tracy 3B

6. Espinosa DH

7. Suzuki C

8. Lombo 2B

9. Walters SS

P. Haren

Record: 1-2-1

Results:

2/23 @ New York (NL) – L, 5-3

2/24 vs. Miami – T, 2-2

2/25 @ New York (NL) – W, 6-4

2/26 @ Atlanta – L, 9-5

From the Desk of Mark Lerner: Seventh Heaven

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Well, I am on the ground for my seventh spring in Viera, where last week’s cold snap is now a distant memory and sunny and 70+ is the norm. Welcome to Spring Training 2013!

This is the place to be if you are a Nationals fan. I hope that over the next few weeks, I can share some of the sights, sounds and vibe from our camp. If I had to sum up Camp Davey 2013, it would be “professional, but very comfortable.”

And this is the place to be if you are a member of the baseball media. In speaking to our Media Relations folks, they assure me that this team is now officially on the radar. There is not a national baseball writer worth his salt that won’t find our club at some point this spring. MLB Network, ESPN, Sports Illustrated, CBS Sports and Fox are all writing about us, not to mention the increased coverage from nationals.com, the Washington Post and The Washington Times. They’ll all find their way to Space Coast Stadium, perhaps even for multiple visits. This has never been the case, even with gradually rising expectations entering last season.

Both media coverage and attendance are up at Spring Training this year.

Both media coverage and attendance are up at Spring Training this year.

By the way…how about Bryce Harper’s Sports Illustrated cover story last week!?

So, enjoy the extra coverage. Hopefully it helps all of our fans up north escape the cold winter mentally, even if only for a few minutes every day. Thankfully, the exhibition game against the Yankees on Friday, March 29 at Nationals Park and Opening Day on April 1 are just around the corner.

As everyone knows, this is Davey Johnson’s final camp at the helm. He set quite a tone this offseason with his declaration of “World Series or bust.” Has anyone ever carried such overt confidence with the ease that Davey does? That is Davey in a nutshell: he’s unique. How about last year? Remember when he said (paraphrasing) “they should fire me if we don’t make the playoffs?” He and Mike Rizzo obviously knew something about that club earlier than everyone else. It was quite a season.

– Congratulations to Ross Detwiler and Gio Gonzalez, who will represent us on Team USA, and Roger Bernadina who will represent the Netherlands in next month’s World Baseball Classic. What a fantastic honor for them and for our ballclub. Team USA’s pitching staff will feature two of our finest. I suppose this is when nationalism meets NATITUDE?

– Best of luck to our friend Joe Torre, who will manage Team USA in the WBC. From my seat, the WBC gets bigger and better every go around.

Wilson Ramos is healthy and back in camp this spring.

Wilson Ramos is healthy and back in camp this spring.

– My favorite sight of the young spring was Wilson Ramos in a crouch, catching multiple bullpens. Wilson’s spirits are so much higher right now than they were last summer. And for good reason. He is currently in a good place both mentally and physically.

– Speaking of catchers, I was talking to seven-time Gold Glover Bob Boone and he swears that he has never seen a catching corps with as much depth as ours this spring. Our fourth and fifth catchers will be better than some club’s backup catchers when Opening Day hits. Perhaps even a few front-line backstops. And consider, we have traded away a pair of highly thought of catchers in the last 15 months or so in Derek Norris and David Freitas.

– We are still waiting for his Grapefruit League debut, but Dan Haren has lived up to his billing so far. Davey told me that Dan’s initial bullpens were something to behold. He was painting the corners. It will be a shock if he walks more than two batters in any game.

– Lots of media talk about how 23 of the 25 spots on the Opening Day roster are accounted for. I am not sure this is the case, but let’s not forget that injuries hit and hinder baseball more than any other sport. I just looked this up, but last year’s NL East champs used 43 players. We won the division by 4.0 games (over the Braves) and claimed the best record in baseball by 1.0 game (over the Reds). Think we win the NL East without the contributions of Bryce Harper, Tyler Moore, Sandy Leon, Jhonatan Solano or Christian Garcia? It would have been extremely difficult, considering none of the aforementioned players were on the Opening Day roster.

– Who is going to make lasting first impressions this year? Anthony Rendon sure is off to a hot start. Matt Skole, Nathan Karns and Eury Perez look great also. It is early, but we have a lot of great young talent around here.

Until we blog again…

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