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Pitchers getting playing time at … shortstop?

Feb 19, 2014, 10:05 AM EDT

AP AP

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.”

  1. Doc - Feb 19, 2014 at 10:15 AM

    Guess that there haven’t been many LH shortstops, but how does a guy who is a lefty throw with his right???

    Williams needs to write a Nats’ manual on that one!

  2. Doc - Feb 19, 2014 at 10:17 AM

    Apart from LH shortstops, we’re going to see if any of these pitchers have some athletic game.

  3. kirbs3256 - Feb 19, 2014 at 10:31 AM

    I want video on this!!

  4. sjm308 - Feb 19, 2014 at 10:40 AM

    I love this idea! I have never heard of this being done before and it has to at least keep their interest up. As bad as Gio bunts, I hope his fielding is a little better. I know he has issues with covering first on ground balls to first but maybe this will help him figure things out just a little.

    Back to my original point. To me, one of the things I have heard about spring training is the countless reps that occur and to break things up just a little bit has to help.

    I wonder if Soriano will untuck after making a play at shortstop??

    • Section 222 - Feb 19, 2014 at 11:48 AM

      Only if it’s a save situation. :-)

  5. ArVAFan - Feb 19, 2014 at 11:16 AM

    Based on the drill I watched, Gio wasn’t bad–most of his bunts on Monday would have been okay. He just wasn’t as accurate with the bucket as Stras. Of course, that was just practice: remains to be seen if he can replicate even that during a game.

    • sjm308 - Feb 19, 2014 at 11:31 AM

      ArVA – let me join with all the others in letting you know how much I appreciate your input down in Fla. Thanks so much!!

      • Doc - Feb 19, 2014 at 11:59 AM

        Me three, ArVA!

        Thanks, you stuff helps fill in a needed gap in our fan interest!!!

    • Candide - Feb 19, 2014 at 4:06 PM

      What sjm and Doc said. Cunegonde and I are going down march 7 weekend, but next year, I want to go down BEFORE the exhibition games, to watch the workouts.

  6. Eugene in Oregon - Feb 19, 2014 at 12:04 PM

    Don’t you figure that all the RHPs have played some shortstop in their baseball lives? My experience has been that the best athlete on young teams — Little League, what we called Pony League, high school, American Legion — often ended up pitching one game then playing SS the next. Okay, maybe not the LHs, but a chunk of those guys must have been in that position before.

    • sjm308 - Feb 19, 2014 at 12:26 PM

      Mr. Oregon – I can remember helping coach my sons and our philosophy was that any kid that could actually catch a ball would play first base as the primary position and then SS. Of course every kid had to play every game so it got a little silly at times but it was still fun. When they graduated from t-ball & coach pitch and actually played the real game the best players were still at pitcher/first and short and yes, even if they were left handed.

      I am sure these guys are having some fun with this, at least I hope so.

      • Doc - Feb 19, 2014 at 12:41 PM

        sjm I want video of a LH SS going into the hole at short—LOL! We could send it to the HOF for an exhibit.

  7. David Proctor - Feb 19, 2014 at 1:28 PM

    The market is officially set for Jordan. 6 years/105 for Bailey, with a mutual option. Zimmermann will command more.

  8. sjm308 - Feb 19, 2014 at 1:28 PM

    Doc – back when my kids were young there was no such thing as video (lol) – I wonder who the last guy to play short as a lefty.

    • RPrecupjr - Feb 19, 2014 at 1:42 PM

      Ok, SJM, I Googled it for you:

      (cut and pasted from the result)

      2B – Total of 57
      Bill Greenwood (538 games), Bill McClellan (436), Tom Evers (110), Lip Pike (79), Bob Addy (79), Roger Connor (68), Sam Trott (65), George Decker (40), Al Reach (36), Hal Chaase (35), Jimmy Hallinan (25), plus 46 more. Last one was Don Mattingly during the completion of the Pine Tar game in 1983.

      SS – Total of 43
      Jimmy Macullar (325), Bill McClellan (246), Jimmy Hallinan (111), Billy Hulen (92), George Van Haltren (79), Billy Redmon (61), Jimmy Ryan (58), Jack Leary (40), Russ Hall (36), Sy Sutcliffe (31), Bill Greenwood (30), Lefty Marr (29), plus 31 others. Last one was Lou Gehrig in 1934 who actually didn’t play shortstop. He was listed at shortstop to keep his consecutive game streak alive. He batted in the top of the first, got a single and was removed for a pinch runner. Before him the last was Hal Chase in 1909.

      3B – Total of 52
      Hick Carpenter (1059), Lefty Marr (129), Roger Connor (111), Bill McClellan (58), Chris James (48), Willie Keeler (44), Spud Johnson (44), Jack Leary (37) plus 44 others. Last was Mario Valdez in 1997.

      C – Total of 29
      Jack Clements (1073), Sam Trott (272), Pop Tate (202), Sy Sutcliffe (186), Fergy Malone (178), Bill Harbidge (159), Mike Hines (99), John Humphries (75), Fred Tenney (71), Art Twineham (52), Phil Baker (50), Jiggs Donahue (45), Dave Oldfield (35), Charlie Housholder (34) plus 15 others. Last one was Benny Distefano in 1989.

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