Monday, February 22, 2010
The early spring routine
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VIERA, Fla. -- I've gotten a few questions from fans who are curious how the typical day goes for the Nationals, especially early in spring training before the games start. So as players begin making their way out to the practice fields for day two of this spring, I figured I'd give a quick primer...
Though all the players in big-league camp use the clubhouse inside Space Coast Stadium, the February workouts all take place at the club's minor-league complex, about one-quarter of a mile down the road. Every morning, most players grab their equipment bag and make the short hike down Stadium Parkway -- it can be funny to watch drivers whiz by and rubberneck when they see guys like Pudge Rodriguez and Stephen Strasburg walking along the street in full uniform. A few guys actually get in their cars and drive.
The minor-league complex includes four full-size fields, arranged in cloverleaf fashion, a half-field used for infield and baserunning drills and the big bullpen area that has 10 mounds side-by-side.
At the beginning of the workout, all players stretch and warm up together on one field, then split up into pre-assigned groups. Each group starts at a different station, either on one of the fields or in the bullpen and then spends about 10 minutes working on a particular drill: covering first base, pickoff moves, bunting, fielding slow rollers, etc.
Every pitcher also throws a bullpen session once every other day, usually about five or six at a time. After about a week or so, once all the position players have reported and taken their physicals, those bullpen sessions morph into "live BP," in which each pitcher spends about 10 minutes throwing to actual hitters, though in a controlled environment (they pitch behind a screen, they declare what pitch they're throwing before letting it go).
After about two hours or so, things begin to wind down for the pitchers, who do some running and conditioning drills and then head back to Space Coast Stadium. Meanwhile, the position players who have arrived early converge on one field and take BP, with a coach serving up the pitches.
Once all the players are in camp later this week, there will also be some team-wide fundamentals drills, where the coaching stuff runs through various scenarios (rundowns, shallow fly balls, wild pitches, pickoffs) and has everyone work together on them at once.
When March rolls around and the Grapefruit League commences, things change a bit. The workouts take place inside Space Coast Stadium (or in another team's park if the Nats are on the road) and bear more resemblance to the pregame routine you'd find during the regular season. They are expanded, however, and usually include some kind of defensive/fundamental drills before standard BP is held.
So there you have it, a quick primer on life in Viera. I should also point out for anyone who is planning to make the trek down here that most morning workouts at the minor-league complex begin around 9:30 a.m. They are incredibly open and free to fans, who can basically wander anywhere they want as long as they're not on the fields. There's plenty of opportunity to get up close to guys, mingle with players as they walk in and out and get autographs. It's one of the best camps in the majors as far as giving fans up-close access to the players.
For those interested, here's a satellite view of the entire area. You can zoom in and see the stadium toward the bottom of the map and the four practice fields at the top...
View Larger Map
And with that, it's time to make the walk down there myself and take in this morning's proceedings. The guys throwing in the bullpen today are: John Lannan, Shairon Martis, Matt Capps, Atahualpa Severino, Eddie Guardado, Juan Jaime, Scott Olsen, Garrett Mock, Jason Bergmann, Ron Villone, Logan Kensing, J.D. Martin, Collin Balester, Brian Bruney, Luis Atilano and Drew Storen.
I'll be back later on with some observations and quotes from the workout.
Posted by Mark Zuckerman at 9:08 AM