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Observations from Monday’s workout

Feb 17, 2014, 6:59 PM EDT

AP AP

VIERA, Fla. — This morning’s session on the practice fields outside Space Coast Stadium saw a bevy of pitchers throw off the bullpen mounds for the second time in camp. Among the participants was Doug Fister, who already is showing the Nationals exactly what made him so attractive in this winter’s trade: His ability to keep the ball down in the zone.

Through two bullpen sessions totaling 20 minutes and perhaps 75 or so pitches, Fister has yet to miss up in the zone with a fastball, as far as anyone can tell. Everything he flings up there appears to be at knee level. The few mistakes he’s made have all been low.

That made for one of the more-entertaining moments of the day. Every pitcher is asked to throw one high fastball and then two pitch-outs near the end of his session. Fister managed to get one up to shoulder height, prompting some friendly ribbing from observers.

“Did that hurt, Doug?” assistant GM Bob Boone asked the right-hander. “That’s like telling me not to slice a ball off the tee!” …

The group that followed Fister in the bullpen included A.J. Cole, one of the pitchers that is particularly intriguing to club officials (and media members) who haven’t seen the right-hander throw very much before. Cole, 22, is in his first big-league camp after going 10-5 with a 3.60 ERA last year between Class A Potomac and Class AA Harrisburg (where he posted a 2.18 ERA in seven starts).

Though manager Matt Williams tiptoed around the notion that Cole could be competing for a spot on the Opening Day roster, let’s be honest: He’s not. Cole almost certainly will begin the year back at Harrisburg.

Regardless, what Williams has seen so far from the lanky, 6-foot-4 hurler has been impressive.

“The ball just comes out of his hand really well,” the manager said. “It just does. He’s a little crossfire [throwing across the body], which is good. For me, he’s got the ultimate pitcher’s body. It’s long and he gets out front and the ball explodes out of his hand. I like it.”

Cole has endured through an interesting minor-league career. Drafted by the Nationals in 2010, he was dealt to the Athletics the following year as a major piece of the Gio Gonzalez trade. Then one year later, the Nats re-acquired him in the three-team deal that sent Michael Morse to the Mariners.

How did Cole handle all that uncertainty?

“It was a big thing for me at the time,” he said. “‘Cause I got drafted and then almost right away, I get traded. It’s like, ‘Uh, what’s going on?’ Everything goes through your head.  And then they brought me back and it was like, ‘Oh, I guess they did like me after all.’”

For now, Cole isn’t trying to think about reaching the majors this season. He has come to realize those things are out of his control.

“I’ve always done very well on the mental part of the game,” he said. “I take pride in that. I’ve learned the game pretty quick and don’t let the mental stuff get to me as much. I feel like if I can stay that way, I’ll succeed and hopefully progress a little quicker.”

  1. sunshinebobby - Feb 17, 2014 at 7:12 PM

    Mark sez, “Through two bullpen sessions totaling 20 minutes and perhaps 75 or so pitches, Fister has yet to miss up in the zone with a fastball.”

    Oh, I’m going to love this guy.

  2. Doc - Feb 17, 2014 at 7:44 PM

    If A.J. Cole has a grip on the mental part of the game, he’s ahead of a lot of other MLB prospects.

  3. Eugene in Oregon - Feb 17, 2014 at 7:49 PM

    A bit off-topic, but…

    The news that the O’s are about to sign (pending a physical) Ubaldo Jimenez reminded me of a post I made earlier in the offseason looking at how AL-heavy the free agent signings were at that point. I’ve updated it, so here’s where things stand among MLBTR’s list of the Top 20 free agents:

    American League:
    ————————
    Cano (+)
    Ellsbury (+)
    Choo (+)
    McCann (+)
    Tanaka (+)
    Kuroda (+)
    Napoli (+)
    Jimenez
    Beltran
    Kazmir
    Infante
    Nathan
    Nolasco

    National League:
    ———————-
    Garza (+)
    Burnett (+)
    Granderson
    Saltalamacchia

    Unsigned:
    ————-
    Santana (+)
    Drew
    Cruz

    (+) = MLBTR Top Ten

    If you’re keeping score, 13 of 20 have signed with an AL team, four of 20 have signed with an NL team, and three remain unsigned. Within the top 10 free agents, it’s seven of 10 to the AL, two of 10 to the NL, and one unsigned. For what it’s worth, three of the four NL signings have been by NL East clubs. And four of the ‘top ten’ free agents have signed with the Yankees (but they also lost the number one player on the list),

    • Doc - Feb 17, 2014 at 7:56 PM

      Eugene, you really did your homework on that one!!

      Good stuff!

      Pitchers would seem to normally want to sign in the NL; hitters in the AL. Not sure if that’s the way has worked with these guys. Although, correct me if I’m wrong but most of the Ps seem to have signed with the AL.

      • therealjohnc - Feb 17, 2014 at 10:33 PM

        Best thing about the O’s signing Jimenez (assuming he passes the physical, of course):

        The Nats’ draft pick moves up one slot, from #19 to #18.

  4. Doc - Feb 17, 2014 at 7:50 PM

    Hmmm, Strasburg,, Zimmerman, Gio, A.J. Cole, & Giolito.

    Sounds like a pretty good starting roatation!!!!

    • nats128 - Feb 17, 2014 at 8:07 PM

      Dont forget Fister for next year also!

      • David Proctor - Feb 17, 2014 at 8:19 PM

        Giolito won’t be in the rotation with JZimm or Cole unless JZimm is resigned. AJ Cole has a shot next year

    • kirbs3256 - Feb 18, 2014 at 12:40 PM

      I fell that it will be Stras, Gio, Fister, Cole & Giolito….I don’t see us giving JZimm 120 mil or so when we have to give Stras, Harper and Dezi money. I can see Fister signing for much cheaper.

      On the other hand, by the time Harper get’s big time money, Werth’s money will be just about off the books.

  5. sjm308 - Feb 17, 2014 at 11:22 PM

    I don’t have the answer to this but are we one of the taller teams in the league as far as our pitching is concerned?

    I see these great pictures of 6’10″ Chris Young & 6’8″ Fister,. Blevins is 6’6″, Det, Cole & Solis are 6’5″, & I think both Stras & Zimmnn are over 6’3″. I am pretty sure we don’t have anyone on the 40 man who is under 6 feet.

    Is that the norm now days?

    Go Nats!!

    • TimDz - Feb 18, 2014 at 1:09 AM

      Gio may be listed at 6’0″ but I don’t think he’s that tall….maybe 5’10″ or so….

    • senators5 - Feb 18, 2014 at 2:18 PM

      Absolutely! Our local high school team in Montgomery County has three pitchers, one 6’3″, the other two 6’2″ and to make matters even more interesting, our rival school has a lefty 6’5″

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