After a couple of weeks of drills, simulations, and conditioning, It’s finally time to play some ball. In the Grapefruit League, the Washington Nationals are 0-1-1, having lost their first game to the New York Mets last Saturday and tieing 2-2 in 10 innings with the Marlins on Sunday. Despite the not-so-impressive record (and the fact that Stephen Strasburg allowed a two-run homer in the first inning of Saturday’s game), the Nationals are looking pretty good this early on. Veterans like Jayson Werth and Adam LaRoche haven’t played yet, but 2012 Rookie of the Year, Bryce Harper, has gone 3 for 5 so far; 2011 first-round draft pick, Anthony Rendón, hit a two-run blast in Sunday’s game; and Jordan Zimmermann (the most underrated and least talked-about pitcher in the Nationals’ starting rotation) had a solid three innings in Sunday’s game, allowing two hits and one earned run.
So what are the key points for the Nationals in Spring Training this year?
- Ryan Zimmerman needs to improve his throwing comfort and accuracy after having had shoulder surgery last fall. Zim says he can bat just fine, but still has to improve his range of motion when throwing, especially across his body.
- Drew Storen needs to slowly ease into pitching, unlike last year when he overdid it and ended up with bone chips in his elbow requiring surgery. If anyone is going to be viewed under a microscope this season, it’s going to be Storen.
- Bryce Harper needs to get used to playing in left field. That should not be a problem – that kid can pretty much do anything.
- People need to realize that Stephen Strasburg is a normal human being. He’s not bionic (like Mariano Rivera), he’s not always going to win, and due to the nature of his fastball, he WILL allow home runs. That’s life – just ask Nolan Ryan.
- Danny Espinosa needs to be careful with that shoulder of his, which has a rotator cuff that’s about 75% torn. The Nationals cannot afford to lose Espy’s defensive prowess, though Steve Lombardozzi could fill in nicely if needed.
As you can see, there’s plenty going on in Viera, Florida this month, and plenty to look forward to. And keep an eye out for the World Baseball Classic, which begins on Saturday. The Nationals’ Roger Bernadina has already left Spring Training to join Team Netherlands, and Nats’ pitchers Gio Gonzalez and Ross Dettwiler will join Team USA if the team makes it to the second round. And if you’re not a “Nationals Insider,” regular-season single-game tickets go on sale this Thursday. So stay tuned – opening day will be here before you know it!
About the Author
Written by Marien Hornyak
I was born and raised in Puerto Rico but have lived in the continental US for 22 years. I have a BS in Athletic Training and a MEd in Sport Management, where I did my thesis on "The History of Baseball Litigation." I am a wife, mother of 2, and self-proclaimed "Baseball Nerd." My favorite baseball players include Roberto Clemente, Kirby Puckett, and Iván Rodriguez.