Feb 19, 2014, 10:05 AM EST
VIERA, Fla. — It’s a rite of spring. Pitchers fielding practice. Better known to those around every baseball camp as PFP.
There aren’t too many ways to throw new wrinkles into these drills. Cover first base on grounders to the right side. Snag comebackers, look an imaginary runner back to third base and then throw to first. Come charging in and flip underhand to the plate.
And yet Matt Williams found a way yesterday to make these mundane tasks different. And fun for his players.
During bunt-fielding drills, the Nationals had their pitchers not only station themselves on the mound but also from other positions around the infield. Yes, Stephen Strasburg played first base. Yes, Gio Gonzalez played shortstop.
“They have to understand what the rest of the infield is doing on a bunt play,” Williams explained. “So they went through two of our bunt plays in the last two days. We introduced it to them, so when we get here first day and we run through our bunt plays, they know exactly what they need to do. I want to also give them the sense of what the other guys are doing, so they can see from a different perspective, from all perspectives. How that play moves, and what the shortstop’s responsibilities are and the first baseman’s responsibilities. Besides, it’s fun for them.”
Well, more fun for some than others. Doug Fister, a good defensive player who was a first baseman in college, was thrilled to play shortstop. Jerry Blevins … not so much.
The lanky left-hander didn’t know what to do when he took his place to the left of second base. “I throw with this hand?” he asked Williams, extending his right (non-throwing) arm.
Williams’ response: “Well, you’re going to today.”
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