Mar 12, 2014, 6:00 AM EDT
The Nationals have another round of split-squad games this afternoon, after which they will have completed exactly one-half of the Grapefruit League schedule (15 games down, 15 to go).
With that in mind, this seems like as good a time as any to highlight the best, the worst and the unsightliest performances of the spring to date…
THE GOOD: Jordan Zimmermann
The right-hander simply couldn’t have mapped out his spring any better than this. He has made three starts. He has added one inning each time he’s taken the mound (from 2 to 3 to 4). He has yet to give up a run and in nine total innings has put only four batters on base (three hits and a walk) while striking out nine. Yes, Zimmermann has pitched the equivalent of a 3-hit shutout so far this spring. Only one other pitcher in a big-league camp has tossed nine scoreless innings to date: Padres right-hander Andrew Cashner (who has surrendered eight hits to Zimmerman’s three).
THE BAD: Rafael Soriano
Two appearances. Seven runs allowed. Eight hits surrendered. Opposing batters are 8-for-13 against him this spring. Not exactly what you’re looking for out of the highest-paid reliever in the sport. Soriano insists there’s no reason to be concerned, and he does have a history of terrible spring performances preceding quality seasons. Still, there is nothing positive that can be drawn from a 37.80 ERA, no matter the date on the calendar.
THE UGLY: Nate McLouth and Scott Hairston
Mike Rizzo made a major point of improving his bench over the last eight months, trading for Hairston, signing McLouth and taking on $15.75 million over two seasons in the process. So, how have the two veterans performed to date? They’re hitting a combined .114 (4-for-35) with three walks and 15 strikeouts. Again, the numbers don’t count in March, but the Nationals want to exude enough confidence in their fourth and fifth outfielders to give each regular playing time and let Bryce Harper, Denard Span and Jayson Werth take days off. Tough to exude a whole lotta confidence with those numbers.
THE GOOD: The running game
Matt Williams wants the Nationals to be aggressive-but-smart on the basepaths, and they have been to date. They’ve successfully stolen 10 bases while getting caught only three times. They’ve also been effective taking extra bases on hits and forcing the issue. All the while, they’ve shown improvement in preventing the opposition from taking extra bases against them. Opponents have swiped only six bases against the Nationals. Only the Cubs, Marlins and Cardinals have surrendered fewer among NL clubs.
THE BAD: Errors
Though they’ve made plenty of nice plays in the field and overall appear improved from a defensive standpoint, the Nationals have still been charged with 18 errors in 13 spring training games. Only the Braves (19) have been charged with more among NL teams.
THE UGLY: Mike Fontenot
Not to pick on one guy who faced long odds to make the club even with a strong spring, but it’s impossible to ignore the fact Fontenot has been charged with a staggering five errors in only 36 2/3 innings in the field. The veteran infielder hasn’t exactly helped his already-slim chances.
THE GOOD: Ryan Zimmerman
Zero errors in 25 innings at third base so far. He’s not completely out of the woods yet, but he’s on the right track.
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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