Feb 23, 2014, 3:01 PM EDT
VIERA, Fla. — For three hours each morning, the five Venezuelan members of the Nationals’ roster allow their minds to be consumed only with baseball. Wilson Ramos, Jose Lobaton and Sandy Leon can focus on their catching skills and working with the club’s pitching staff. Gabriel Alfaro and Felipe Rivero can concentrate on their bullpen…
Feb 23, 2014, 10:00 AM EDT
VIERA, Fla. — Ian Desmond was among the first members of the Nationals to report for spring training earlier this month, early enough that the big-league clubhouse inside Space Coast Stadium wasn’t yet fully up and running. So on his first day in town, Desmond instead drove to the year-round, minor-league complex just down the…
Feb 22, 2014, 5:00 PM EDT
VIERA, Fla. — Expanded instant replay is coming to baseball this season, and Matt Williams has now been schooled on many more details of the new system MLB is implementing that allows managers to officially challenge blown calls on the field. Williams joined fellow managers Fredi Gonzalez, Bo Porter and Brad Ausmus in Kissimmee on…
Feb 22, 2014, 3:51 PM EDT
VIERA, Fla. — A fast-developing downpour threw a wrench into today’s workout on the fields outside Space Coast Stadium, forcing right-handers Taylor Jordan and Chris Young to abort their sessions throwing to live hitters after only a couple of minutes. But sandwiched around the 20-minute rain delay were some intriguing batter-vs.-pitcher matchups, particularly those involving…
Feb 22, 2014, 9:40 AM EDT
VIERA, Fla. — It’s a gray, muggy, lazy morning here, with the threat of rain looming at any moment. After more than a week of gorgeous weather to open camp, things have taken a turn for the worse. Assuming Mother Nature cooperates, the Nationals will be taking the practice fields outside Space Coast Stadium in…
Feb 21, 2014, 6:00 PM EDT
VIERA, Fla. — For all the discussion of Matt Williams’ lineup decisions — whether Bryce Harper hits third or fifth, whether Jayson Werth hits second or fourth, etc. — the one spot in the Nationals batting order that isn’t up for grabs might also be the spot with the most question marks. Denard Span will…
Feb 21, 2014, 4:02 PM EDT
VIERA, Fla. — Tyler Moore played first base at Mississippi State. He played first base as he ascended through the Nationals’ farm system. And then, once he arrived in the big leagues two years ago, the young slugger found himself in a most uncomfortable position: left field. With Adam LaRoche enjoying a Silver Slugger/Gold Glove…
Feb 21, 2014, 9:40 AM EDT
VIERA, Fla. — Obviously, you can tell a lot about a pitcher when you watch him throw off a bullpen mound. But you can also learn a lot about a guy when you watch how he performs far more mundane tasks in spring training, like fielding practice. Watching the entire Nationals infield together for the…
Feb 21, 2014, 6:00 AM EDT
VIERA, Fla. — Perhaps no club in the majors had loftier expectations entering 2013 than the Nationals. Certainly no club struggled with living up to those expectations like the Nats did. One year later, the expectations remain sky-high. They just hope they’re better-equipped to handle them. “I think expectations are good,” first-year manager Matt Williams…
Feb 20, 2014, 4:53 PM EDT
VIERA, Fla. — Read into it as much or as little as you like, but it didn’t go unnoticed Thursday that Danny Espinosa spent more time at shortstop than second base during the Nationals’ first full-squad workout of the spring. Matt Williams has said Espinosa is in an “open competition” with Anthony Rendon for the…
Feb 20, 2014, 3:44 PM EDT
VIERA, Fla. — Though the Nationals have no major injuries throwing a wrench into the early days of spring training, two pitchers are dealing with minor issues that have altered their workout regimens: Tyler Clippard and Ross Ohlendorf. Clippard has not fully participated in drills the last two days after tweaking his back. The reliever…
Feb 20, 2014, 9:56 AM EDT
VIERA, Fla. — Among Matt Williams’ tougher decisions this spring involves the construction of his starting lineup, and there are no shortage of options for the rookie manager to consider. The Nationals are somewhat unique in that two of their best offensive players (Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth) are versatile enough to hit anywhere from…
Feb 20, 2014, 6:00 AM EDT
VIERA, Fla. — Pitchers have thrown off the bullpen mounds, learned how to field comebackers and properly bunt. Catchers have taken batting practice, perfected the art of snagging pop-ups and run through countless conditioning drills. Today, though, the real spring training begins. Nationals position players will take the field alongside the pitchers and catchers who…
Feb 19, 2014, 5:58 PM EDT
VIERA, Fla. — Though final details have yet to be revealed by Major League Baseball, Matt Williams is curious to see how the sport’s new replay system will be utilized, with the Nationals manager expecting to be able to consult via phone with another team employee who will watch games on television and help decide…
Feb 19, 2014, 4:50 PM EDT
VIERA, Fla. — Having participated in a full workout, taken a full round of batting practice and undergone the club’s annual physical, Bryce Harper is convinced his surgically repaired knee has completely healed and won’t present any further issue as he prepares for the the start of the season. “There’s nothing wrong with it,” he…
Feb 19, 2014, 10:05 AM EDT
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…
Feb 19, 2014, 6:00 AM EDT
VIERA, Fla. — Plenty of ballplayers have questioned whether six full weeks of spring training really are necessary, saying they don’t need that much time to get ready for the regular season. Rafael Soriano takes that philosophy to new extremes. Soriano prefers to pitch as little as possible in spring training, believing he needs only…
Feb 18, 2014, 6:27 PM EDT
VIERA, Fla. — Though he acquired a first baseman’s mitt over the winter and is ready to take some reps on the other side of the diamond this spring, Ryan Zimmerman is confident he can become an elite defensive third baseman again this season after a strong conclusion to 2013. “I think with the way…
Feb 18, 2014, 3:56 PM EDT
VIERA, Fla. — Bryce Harper reported to Nationals camp Tuesday along with the club’s other position players, then quickly diffused much of any concern that lingered about the state of his surgically repaired left knee. Harper participated fully during the optional afternoon workout inside Space Coast Stadium, taking a full round of batting practice and…
Feb 18, 2014, 9:58 AM EDT
VIERA, Fla. — Much as he’d like to keep his mind off it, Jordan Zimmermann couldn’t help but notice the dollar figures being thrown around to fellow pitchers this winter. Adam Wainwright: $97.5 million. Homer Bailey: $100 million. Masahiro Tanaka: $155 million. And the mother of all mega-extensions for a big-league pitcher: $215 million to…
Feb 18, 2014, 6:00 AM EDT
VIERA, Fla. — Even as a first-time manager, Matt Williams could have asked for an overhaul of the Nationals’ coaching staff. Williams, though, wanted to keep as much institutional knowledge as possible alongside in his first year as a big-league skipper, so most of Davey Johnson’s season-ended staff remains intact. That includes bench coach Randy…
Feb 17, 2014, 6:59 PM EDT
VIERA, Fla. — This morning’s session on the practice fields outside Space Coast Stadium saw a bevy of pitchers throw off the bullpen mounds for the second time in camp. Among the participants was Doug Fister, who already is showing the Nationals exactly what made him so attractive in this winter’s trade: His ability to…
Feb 17, 2014, 3:41 PM EDT
VIERA, Fla. — On the heels of a hugely disappointing season, Adam LaRoche has plenty of reason to approach the upcoming year as a fresh start. In his case, that apparently also includes a thick, lustrous beard that might make his pals from Duck Dynasty jealous. “I just didn’t shave it for a while,” LaRoche…
Feb 17, 2014, 9:56 AM EDT
VIERA, Fla. — Matt Skole doesn’t figure into the Nationals’ immediate plans, and his stint in big-league camp this spring likely won’t last long. Many in the organization, though, see big things from the young slugger down the road, perhaps as soon as later this summer. Skole, the Nationals’ minor league player of the year…
Feb 17, 2014, 6:00 AM EDT
VIERA, Fla. — Though there always are outside factors that affect the decision come the final week of spring training, Matt Williams does know at the outset what his ideal bullpen configuration would look like. The Nationals’ new manager said Sunday he’d prefer to carry two left-handers in his pen, but only one long reliever.…
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