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Ready for games to begin

Feb 28, 2014, 6:00 AM EDT

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VIERA, Fla. — It’s not uncommon for big-league managers to drive themselves to road games in the Grapefruit League, and certainly previous managers of the Nationals traveled on their own.

Matt Williams, though, made it clear yesterday he’ll be joining his players for the hour-plus ride this morning from Viera to Port St. Lucie for the Nationals’ exhibition opener against the Mets.

“Oh, I’m on the bus,” the rookie manager said. “Yeah, I mean, that’s part of my job. I’ve got to get on the bus.”

Told that his predecessors usually drove their own cars, Williams replied: “I don’t think that I have authority to do that right now. (Plus), I don’t know where I’m going.”

Thus will begin a new era of Nationals baseball, with Williams and Co. debuting this afternoon at Tradition Field against the division rival Mets. It’s the first of 31 exhibition games they’ll play before meeting New York once again on Opening Day at Citi Field, and we should learn plenty about the Nats and their new skipper during that span.

For one thing, Williams appears more inclined to send prominent veteran players on spring training road trips, something Davey Johnson and others before him preferred not to do. The Nationals’ lineup today will include the likes of Ryan Zimmerman, Adam LaRoche, Ian Desmond and Wilson Ramos, a strong showing for Feb. 28 in Port St. Lucie.

And this will be a regular occurrence over the next month.

“I mean, there’s no getting around it,” Williams said. “With the frequency in which we want them to play, you have to. There’s a stretch in the middle of spring when we have a bunch of home games in a row, but other than that, we’re on the road a lot. So we’ve got to get ‘em out there and get ‘em going. So it’s gonna happen.”

Does that philosophy apply to Jayson Werth as well?

“It certainly does,” Williams said. “It most certainly does.”

There may be plenty of big names on the field today, but don’t expect to see a whole lot of them. Williams plans to sit his lineup regulars after two at-bats. And starting pitcher Taylor Jordan, making his first case for the open No. 5 slot in the rotation, likely will be limited to two innings.

But there will be baseball played this afternoon. And for the Nationals’ 48-year-old rookie manager, the significance is clear.

“I’ve done it before,” William said. “(But) not at this level. The only thing I’m worried about or nervous about is trying to get everyone into the game. I want to look at everybody. Unfortunately, that is almost impossible sometimes. But that’s the plan.”

  1. natsjackinfl - Feb 28, 2014 at 6:11 AM

    Picking up Gator John at 9:30 and headed to Port St, Lucie. LET THE GAMES BEGIN!

    • ArVAFan - Feb 28, 2014 at 6:30 AM

      I’ll drink to that. But not before work: I’m not trying to accelerate my retirement!

      Seriously, NatsJack, let us know how the guys look. Sorry I’m not still down there (both because, well, baseball is a lot more fun than work, and because I suspect it’s more than 9 degrees there). But we’re planning a longer trip next year overlapping the end of the workouts (I’d love to see the pitchers’ games if they do that again) and the beginning of the scheduled games. But for this year, we’re counting on you, and of course our generous host, to keep us informed until the Best 25 go North.

    • adcwonk - Feb 28, 2014 at 8:49 AM

      NatsJack — if all goes to plan, I”ll be retired in 2-1/2 years. Which means that maybe I can go to my first Spring Training, ever, in Spring of 2017.

      I hope you’ll be going there then, and you can show me the ropes!

      • wearenationals - Feb 28, 2014 at 9:03 AM

        Packing my bags now and heading down for this weekend’s games! First time ST visitor… I can not wait to get out of the cold and soak in some sun and baseball.

  2. Joe Seamhead - Feb 28, 2014 at 6:20 AM

    Gee, Jack, rub it in. Thanks! Wish that I was there to buy you guys a round.

  3. originalnatsfan - Feb 28, 2014 at 7:09 AM

    MLB network is broadcasting the game at 9 tonight

    • natsfan1a - Feb 28, 2014 at 10:08 AM

      Also on the radio this afternoon: WJFK 1580 AM, WFED 1500 AM, or Gameday audio for those who partake.

      We downsized our cable package for cost reasons and MLB Network is not in the new package. Dang, I loved that channel. (Hangs head and observes a moment of silence.)

  4. alexva6 - Feb 28, 2014 at 7:33 AM

    “Does that philosophy apply to Jayson Werth as well?”

    I must have missed why this question was asked. any help?

    • sjm308 - Feb 28, 2014 at 7:39 AM

      Good point Alexva. Where have we read that Werth balked at making trips or being a team player. Only thing I can think of is that he is our highest paid guy but I have never heard him complain about this. As a matter of fact, once Mr. Morgan and Mr. Riggleman left, I think Jason really didn’t complain about much.

  5. sjm308 - Feb 28, 2014 at 7:36 AM

    Jack – have fun!!

    Did I read somewhere that some of the veterans who are not scheduled to play might take the bus? If so, I think that speaks highly of what Williams has done in a short period of time. If not, nevermind.

    Speaking of bus trips, I kinda laugh about how people make that a big deal. I realize how wealthy a lot of these young men are and I also realize they are a professional team, but I was thrilled when I moved from a Division II school (where we drove 9 passenger vans ) to the U. of MD where every road trip was by bus. I just felt it was such a luxury and we thought nothing of a 5 hour trip to Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill. Again, different sport, different mind set.

    Very excited about this first game!!

    Go Nats!!

  6. Hiram Hover - Feb 28, 2014 at 8:22 AM

    Off topic – in news of former Nats:

    Fangraphs has up their evaluation of Oakland prospects. They rank Billy Burns, sent to the As in the Blevins deal, as Oakland’s # 9 prospect and have this to say:

    The Career Outlook: Burns is in the right organization to be appreciated for his on-base abilities. He may not have a future as a regular (the jury is still out) but he could be an impact player from the bench or as a member of a platoon.

    • Hiram Hover - Feb 28, 2014 at 8:23 AM

      PS – I too am jealous of how NatsJack’s Friday. Also, of his weather.

    • natinalsgo - Feb 28, 2014 at 10:07 AM

      There’s always that possibility that a change in scenery will enhance a player’s chance of success.

      I see Burns in that Bernadina potential and while like these fast toolsy guys, Rizzo is a mixed bag of signals when it cones to players like that. I wanted Bonifacio back as a bench player. You can’t teach speed and I love a guy who can score from 1st on a double.

      By the way, Blake Treinen who the Nats got from the A’s in the Morse deal is showing progress.

      We can judge these trades into the future just like the Fister deal. Ian Krol got the win yesterday but if Fister wins 18 games this year then Jackpot!

      • Hiram Hover - Feb 28, 2014 at 10:56 AM

        Of course, we’ll only know later how things actually turn out, but knowing what we knew at the time (and Rizzo surely knew more), I was and am certainly ok giving up Burns for Blevins.

        I don’t think anyone else has rated Burns so highly among As prospects, and they don’t have that strong a farm system at this point (Keith Law ranked the As 22 of 30, and Nats at 18),

  7. Sec3MySofa - Feb 28, 2014 at 9:00 AM

    Well, it says here it’s 55, but it feels warmer in the sun. In downtown Melbourne, but on business, so I might or might not get some Nats-related recreation in, but it beats 19 and snowing. Hey Jack (or anyone): are they still doing workouts for the minor league guys in the AM that I might get a look at, or is it all games now?

    • natinalsgo - Feb 28, 2014 at 10:32 AM

      Welcome back Sofa! Haven’t seen you or Mick in a while!

      • Chas - Feb 28, 2014 at 11:06 AM

        thx n-go.
        can’t speak for mick, but I’ve been busy and read-only lately.

  8. micksback1 - Feb 28, 2014 at 9:24 AM

    wish I was there! still may be able to get down there. Jr Feinstein’s new book sounds great “When nobody knows your name” heard him on the junkies talk about it, he mentions mcLouth as a player all minor league players are inspired by.

  9. micksback1 - Feb 28, 2014 at 9:27 AM

    not that I need an excuse to down a few brews, but i may have to down a corona or 2 for the occassion

  10. Chas - Feb 28, 2014 at 9:46 AM

    hey where’d my post go?

    • Chas - Feb 28, 2014 at 11:03 AM

      oh.
      nevermind.

    • David Proctor - Feb 28, 2014 at 10:03 AM

      4.1 BB/9 scares me, but I’d take a flyer.

      • Faraz Shaikh - Feb 28, 2014 at 10:26 AM

        yeah, but look at that line against lefties. I recommend a minor league deal.

      • jd - Feb 28, 2014 at 10:32 AM

        Sorry,

        The last thing I want from a reliever is to in and start walking people.

      • David Proctor - Feb 28, 2014 at 10:47 AM

        It’d be a minor league deal. What’s the harm?

  11. NatsLady - Feb 28, 2014 at 10:05 AM

    I wonder how the players feel about having the boss on the bus with them. ;)

    • jd - Feb 28, 2014 at 10:35 AM

      You know all this stuff about veterans traveling on the bus including the manager is nice in spring training when everything is positive and optimistic. At the end of the day it’s still about in game decisions and execution and as far as that goes the jury is still out. There is no reason to judge Matt Williams negatively at this time but the opposite is also true. Let’s wait and see.

      • NatsLady - Feb 28, 2014 at 10:57 AM

        Exactly. It’s amazing (intended) how in spring training almost every team is going to win 90 games, and they’re having fun/working hard/bonding as a family/ / / / / / / / /

      • Hiram Hover - Feb 28, 2014 at 11:01 AM

        Don’t forget – best shape of their lives!

      • Section 222 - Feb 28, 2014 at 12:53 PM

        +1 jd. Wiliiams worship can wait until we start winning some actual regular season baseball games.

  12. jd - Feb 28, 2014 at 10:20 AM

    NatsJack,

    Your post brings back memories from last year’s ST. The games are pretty boring but somehow nothing beats being in Florida this time of year. It does give you a feeling that spring is right around the corner.

    Have fun and send a full scouting report.

  13. Faraz Shaikh - Feb 28, 2014 at 10:26 AM

    finally a gameday thread.

  14. David Proctor - Feb 28, 2014 at 10:50 AM

    James Wagner
    ‏@JamesWagnerWP
    David Wright to Ryan Zimmerman: “What are you doing here? Welcome to Port St. Lucie!”

    That’s pretty funny.

  15. David Proctor - Feb 28, 2014 at 10:50 AM

    New thread.

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