Feb 28, 2014, 6:30 PM EDT
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — Spring training records mean nothing. Absolutely nothing.
Matt Williams knows this. So more than the fact his Nationals rallied late to beat the Mets, 5-4, in Friday’s Grapefruit League opener at Tradition Field, the rookie manager was excited about the way his team played.
The Nats made several nice plays in the field. They were aggressive on the bases. They executed in a couple of key spots. All points of emphasis this spring.
“It’s gratifying to put into practice what we’ve talked about,” Williams said. “[Jeff Kobernus] getting a really good read on the ball in the dirt, one. The way we wanna play the game. Ian (Desmond) stealing a base. So, that’s the kind of way we want to go about doing it. There’ll be times when the ball is flying out of the ballpark, and it’s going to be fun to just sit there and hit. But we’re gonna have to play that way, too. That’s gratifying. Regardless of win or loss, that’s the way we gotta play.”
Williams didn’t make too big a deal out of his inaugural game as a big-league manager. Beforehand, he was most concerned with where he’d stand in the dugout and whether he’d hold that position throughout or pace up and down.
The verdict? “No, wasn’t a pacer today,” he said. “I was pretty calm standing there.”
Some other observations from the game…
— Christian Garcia didn’t appear in any big-league games (regular season or spring training) last year, so the right-hander was understandably excited to take the mound for the fifth inning against the Mets. The results, though, weren’t pretty: four runs on four hits, including a two-run double by Cesar Puello and a towering home run by Ike Davis.
Both big hits came on changeups, something Garcia said he didn’t have much feel for and thus kept trying to perfect throughout the inning.
“I knew what I was making a mistake on,” he said. “So I was trying to make the adjustment, and I just didn’t make it within the inning and it cost me.”
Garcia, who dazzled in Sept. 2012, is trying to make his case for a spot in the Opening Day bullpen. This opening performance didn’t help his cause, but it’s way too early to make firm judgments.
“It’s the first one,” he said. “Get that one out of the way. I guess it can only get better from here. It can’t get any worse, hopefully.”
— Things did go very well for Manny Delcarmen, who tossed a scoreless eighth and struck out a pair of Mets. The veteran reliever was a big part of the Red Sox’s World Series-winning bullpen in 2007, and his experience could give him an upper hand if it comes down to a tough decision at the end of camp.
“He does have experience,” Williams said. “He’s been here before. So far, he’ss thrown the ball really well. I like how he looked today.”
— The Nationals rallied to win the game in the top of the ninth thanks to Michael Taylor’s RBI triple. The young center fielder has been lauded for his elite defensive skills, but he also showed he’s got some pop in his bat. The triple sailed to deep center field, allowing Taylor to show off his wheels as he legged out 270 feet with ease.
“I was really just kind of looking for a good pitch to hit, something up out over the plate,” he said. “I got ahead early and once it was 2-0, I just tried to stay with my plan, just look for something out over. I got it, and was able to get the barrel to it.”
— Jordan Zimmermann faces the Braves tomorrow in Viera. Doug Fister will start Sunday against the Marlins on Sunday. And away we go…
ON THE RADIO
As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2014 schedule (subject to change)...
MON: 12:45 p.m.
TUE: 2:30 p.m.
WED: 4:30 p.m.
THU: 2:30 p.m.
FRI: 1:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m.
SAT: 10:30 a.m.
*All times Eastern. You can also listen to the station on 94.3 FM, 92.7 FM and online at ESPN980.com. Click here for past audio clips.
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