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VIERA, Fla. -- The clubhouse was abuzz this morning, all pitchers and catchers present and accounted for, a large media contingent (including several national writers and broadcasters) joining the group. Technically speaking, Friday was the open of camp. But practically speaking, spring training begins today.
As I type this, Jim Riggleman is holding his first-day-of-camp team meeting. Presumably, he'll do this again, with a slight twist, later in the week once all the position players have arrived. At 9:45 a.m., everyone will head down the street to the minor-league complex to stretch and begin the time-honored tradition of fundamental drills. Cover first base. Field bunts. Throw in the bullpen.
The pitchers are split into six groups. Three will throw bullpen sessions today. The other three will throw tomorrow. Today's throwers are: Jason Marquis, Shawn Estes, Tyler Clippard, Doug Slaten, Jesse English, Ryan Mattheus, Stephen Strasburg, Tyler Walker, Matt Chico, Aaron Thompson, Joel Peralta, Craig Stammen, Miguel Batista, Sean Burnett, Ryan Speier and Victor Garate.
Any name in particular stand out to you from that group? I don't think ESPN, the New York Times and the Philadelphia Inquirer are here today to watch Joel Peralta's bullpen session.
Yes, all eyes will be on the almighty Strasburg, who for all we know could be throwing fastballs engulfed in flames this morning in his first formal bullpen session. Just so you know, kid, everyone in attendance is going to be watching you. No pressure.
Strasburg will be speaking with us after the workout, as will Riggleman. So there will be plenty of material to share later today. In the meantime, two items I wanted to share before heading out to the practice fields myself...
-- I know many of you will find this interesting. Yesterday morning, Riggleman was joined on the infield at Space Coast Stadium by Tim Foli, John McLaren, Bob Boone, and minor-league coaches Bobby Henley and Jeff Garber. Together, they ran through just about every conceivable infield defense situation you could possibly imagine taking place during a ballgame, and how they would coach their players to handle such situations. They were out there for more than two hours doing this. Now, I can't say with 100 percent certainty that this sort of thing didn't take place under previous administrations. It's quite possible it did. But this was the first time I'd ever seen anything like it with my own eyes. You want an emphasis on fundamentals? There's your emphasis on fundamentals.
-- The guy drawing the most attention in the Nats' clubhouse this morning was, of all people, Tyler Clippard. Not for anything he did on a baseball field. But for what he did on a golf course yesterday. Playing alongside John Lannan and two other friends, Clippard stood at the tee of the par-3, 149-yard, fourth hole at nearby Duran Golf Club. He pulled out a pitching wedge. He dropped his shot about five feet behind the hole, then watched the ball check up and roll straight back ... and fall into the cup. Yes, a hole-in-one. First of Clippard's life. "I've been playing golf for 15 years, and I haven't gotten one. I was pretty pumped up about it. I was running down the fairway. We saw the whole thing. That was the coolest thing about it." And there's visual proof of the feat. Lannan showed me a photo on his phone of Clippard pulling the ball out of the hole, the massive divot clearly visible a few feet away. The other unusual part of the story? Just prior to his incredible shot. Clippard bought two hot dogs from a concessions cart. He ate one of them right before making his hole-in-one. Two holes later, he ate the second one and then proceeded to hole out from a plugged lie in a green-side bunker. Didn't eat any more hot dogs the rest of the round, probably a smart move. Wound up shooting 79.