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Around the NL East: Spring training update

Mar 3, 2014, 9:05 AM EST

Photo by USA Today Photo by USA Today

Miami Marlins 

It was a big week for ace Jose Fernandez who was both named the team’s Opening Day starter and received a raise from the team. The first was expected, as Fernandez is clearly their best pitcher, but the second was a bit of a surprise. The Marlins didn’t have to pay Fernandez any more than $500,000 this season, but instead chose to hand him $635,000. Fernandez, 21, is under control of the Marlins through 2018.

Henderson Alvarez, the Marlins’ expected No. 3 starter, missed Sunday’s game against the Nationals due to a nasty shin infection. The 23-year-old has been treated at a local hospital in Jupiter, Fla. and has suspended his throwing program. It doesn’t sound too serious, but it sure sounds gross.

Atlanta Braves

Already with a strong crop of catching depth, the Braves added another to the mix over the weekend by signing Cuban backstop Yenier Bello to a minor league deal. Bello will join the Braves in spring training to work out for the 2014 season, and will likely begin in the minors. The 29-year-old has an interesting backstory including a failed attempt to escape from Cuba in 2012. His capture resulted in a suspension from baseball in the country and his passport revoked.

Prospect Tommy La Stella, a second baseman who spent most of 2013 in Double-A, is an early standout for the Braves in spring training. The 25-year-old is a career .327 hitter in the minors and could earn a call-up to Atlanta this season. He may be a name to watch With Dan Uggla’s contract running out in two years.

New York Mets

It’s shaping up as a two-man race for the Mets’ fifth starter spot as Daisuke Matsuzaka and former Nat John Lannan have already separated themselves. Youngster Jenrry Mejia is the third candidate, but it’s already looking like the veterans have the advantage. Both Dice-K and Lannan have shined early in camp, Lannan debuted over the weekend with two scoreless innings and three strikeouts against the Marlins.

For Mets pitchers this spring, all eyes are on top prospect Noah Syndergaard. The former first round pick with a career 2.64 minor league ERA will make his first spring start on Monday against the Braves. He is said to touch 98 with his fastball and bring a curveball Terry Collins has dubbed the “hook from hell.”

Philadelphia Phillies

The early story in Phillies spring has been all about pitchers getting injured, specifically with shoulder problems. Though Cole Hamels is progressing and should begin throwing soon, reliever Ethan Martin has been shut down with a strained shoulder capsule. They also had an injury scare with third baseman Cody Asche on Sunday after he took a pitch off his right wrist against Pittsburgh. He should be fine, however.

There has been a mixed bag from their new starting pitching additions this spring with Miguel Gonzalez struggling early on. He was not sharp in his first bullpen session, prompting many to speculate whether he was ready to start in the majors on Day One. Then, on Saturday, Gonzalez had a rough outing in his debut with the team. A.J. Burnett, on the other hand, was solid in his first game pitching against the Pirates, his former team.

  1. David Proctor - Mar 3, 2014 at 9:10 AM

    Under 25 team rankings. We’re second to the Cardinals. The Braves are right behind us at third.

  2. Section 222 - Mar 3, 2014 at 9:42 AM

    So it’s a snow day. Are the Nats on TV? … Oh, of course they are, they’re playing the Yankees. MLB-Network at 1 pm.

    • Jb - Mar 3, 2014 at 9:50 AM

      Enjoy the Yankees feed.

      • NatsLady - Mar 3, 2014 at 10:01 AM

        No Charlie & Dave? Booooo.

      • ehay2k - Mar 3, 2014 at 10:11 AM

        I will try to listen to Charlie and Dave via At Bat (so it’s delayed) while I watch the game. I always did that for the split-squad Nats-O’s games. (Glad those are over!)

      • ehay2k - Mar 3, 2014 at 10:14 AM

        Should always refresh before I post. I second the “Boo”

      • natsfan1a - Mar 3, 2014 at 11:33 AM

        And another “boooooooo” here. (Even though my new, cheaper, cable package doesn’t have MLB Network. On the bright side, I do get Fox Sports and could watch a game on there if I get really desperate for some baseball.)

        Looks like Tuesday and Wednesday I’ll have Gameday Audio options via opposing team feeds. Eh, I’ll take it.

  3. nats128 - Mar 3, 2014 at 9:59 AM

    “Win the first inning and keep that momentum.”

    The Nats seemed to get that early lead alot last year and then would try to ride a 2-0 lead the whole game and werent adding on runs. I like how Matt is saying keep that momentum as the team needs those add-on runs. Its almost never enough.

    • natinalsgo - Mar 3, 2014 at 10:26 AM

      It’s those 2-0 and 3-0 leads that became 2-1 or 3-2 and the Nats didn’t answer back and they would eventually lose.

      Strasburg had quite a few of those on his sheet.

  4. NatsLady - Mar 3, 2014 at 11:04 AM

    Also coming from behind. Remember how we never seemed to do that last year until at least JULY or something like that.

    • David Proctor - Mar 3, 2014 at 11:09 AM

      I’m pretty sure until June, we had never come back from a 4 run deficit and we only did that like once or twice until August when we had this 6 run comeback.

      • NatsLady - Mar 3, 2014 at 11:13 AM

        Yes. It just seemed like Davey was looking at the WPA (win probablility) and giving up on games.

  5. natinalsgo - Mar 3, 2014 at 11:22 AM

    Davey played for the big innings and the frustration was scoring nothing after a leadoff double and the inning would end with the runner still stranded at 2nd.

    • David Proctor - Mar 3, 2014 at 11:30 AM

      There’s an old saying: if you play for one run, you’ll end up with one run and no more. I’m not a fan of small ball, generally speaking. But I do think it has a place. There are times when all you need is one run and I think where Davey went wrong last year was misdiagnosing when those times were.

      For instance: last year against the Phillies, we were down 1 in the bottom of the 9th. Zimmerman hits a double. Then it went: flyout, flyout, groundout. I’m okay playing for one run there, because 1. we’re at home and 2. our bullpen was way better than the Phillies. You have to worry about prolonging the game before winning it, imo. So if Werth, who was batting after Zimmerman, could have moved Zimmerman to third, Zimmerman likely would have scored on Desmond’s flyout. Then we take our chances in extras.

      Instead, we lost the game.

      • David Proctor - Mar 3, 2014 at 11:31 AM

        Of course, the other side of this is: Werth was the best hitter in baseball at that time. Why not give your best hitter a shot to win it instead of giving him up. That makes sense, too. But still, I think you worry about tying the game first.

      • natinalsgo - Mar 3, 2014 at 11:40 AM

        Perfect example of smart ball. With no outs and man on 2nd you must hit behind the runner and hope for a hit but worst case move him to 3rd. I guess late in the game if you have the right batter up you can sacrifice but I like fundamentals of hitting behind the runner and hope it finds the 3.5 hole.

        With 1 out and a man on 2nd generally only a hit will score him.

        This is where I want to see how Matty handles that exact situation. I think I had read the Nats were worst in the NL last year in that exact situation.

      • unkyd59 - Mar 3, 2014 at 1:24 PM

        I have to say I don’t care for that “saying”….. I’ll go with “more base runners=more runs”. I just don’t see how you can go wrong if everyone puts the ball in play. The big guys will still hit it hard…there’ll just be more ducks on the pond, when they do….

  6. Theophilus T.S. - Mar 3, 2014 at 11:39 AM

    “It’s those 2-0 and 3-0 leads that became 2-1 or 3-2 and the Nats didn’t answer back . . ..”

    I had the same thought yesterday. Those games where they scored three or four early and then shut down and got lapped were torture. It all boils down to not knowing (not executing would be more polite but I’m not sure it’s accurate) how to score runs. There was enuf stealing,extra-base taking, moving runs over going on yesterday to be very encouraged. Carroll’s GB to 2B to advance the runner (Skole?) to third was primo. Even if he ends up not making the OD roster the younger players won’t get away with saying they weren’t shown how it’s done.

    • natinalsgo - Mar 3, 2014 at 11:44 AM

      Great point and if we as fans felt that way you know the players feel the same. It’s demoralizing.

      Glad you mentioned Carroll yesterday as that’s exactly what I’m referring to above. Try to get through the 3.5 hole for a single but worst case it’s a productive out. Is rather do that than a straight sacrifice.

      • nats128 - Mar 3, 2014 at 12:00 PM

        The way Carroll handled the bat yesterday is why hes a valuable bench player. It shows as a 4-3 in the scorebook and a out against his BA but he did his job and moves the runner over and sadly I suspect Espinosa in the same situation would be swinging for the fences and K. Thats where Espi has to change his approach with obvious contact plays and seems to lack as a potential role player.

        This Walters kid is an interesting situation if he can continue hot. Wagner at WaPo did a good story on him and talked about his defensive shortcomings.

  7. natinalsgo - Mar 3, 2014 at 12:06 PM

    Matt Williams has watched the game film and every situation is unique to who is at-bat.

    I hate the straight sacrifice but love forcing the other teams defense to make a mistake. Striking out with a man on 2nd and no outs is about the worst outcome possible.





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