Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Ryan Mattheus was one of a handful of Nats throwing in the bullpen today.
Tomorrow figures to be a light day as well, with all pitchers and catchers required to take (and pass) physicals. Things finally kick into high gear on Thursday, when pitchers and catchers participate in their first official workout.
Jim Riggleman did meet with media members for the first of what will probably be about 400 of these sessions by season's end. The veteran manager touched on a variety of topics, with a few highlights along the way...
-- Livan Hernandez is all but a lock to start on Opening Day. "Unless something unforeseen happens, Livan has earned it," Riggleman said. "Not only has he had a good year [in 2010], but he's also a composed, veteran guy. The whole atmosphere of Opening Day, all the excitement and that, I think he's able to slow the game down and pitch in an Opening Day situation and not be overwhelmed by it." The rest of the rotation behind Livo is yet-to-be-determined, with the staff factoring in early season matchups while trying to break up left-handers. But Riggleman suggested the club is pretty much set with Jordan Zimmerman, John Lannan, Jason Marquis and Tom Gorzelanny joining Hernandez as the starting five. Yunesky Maya, Ross Detwiler and perhaps Chad Gaudin will compete this spring, but they're going to have to overtake one of those five guys ahead of them on the depth chart.
-- Riggleman understands the importance of having a strong top of the lineup, setting the table for Ryan Zimmerman, Jayson Werth and Adam LaRoche. He's tinkered with some different lineup combinations, but if the season began today he'd go with Nyjer Morgan leading off and Ian Desmond hitting second. "I could make a case for Desmond hitting a little lower, in the 6-spot," Riggleman said. "I know that he's been successful hitting second, but it's a fairly small sample. Spring training will help us determine that."
-- There's no real alternative in the leadoff spot if Morgan struggles. "I really don't want to think about that," Riggleman said. "The thing about Nyjer is, Nyjer is like a .290 career hitter. That's pretty good baseball. He did not have a year in '10 to his standards, but I think he's going to do fine." Riggleman said he expects Morgan's numbers to fall somewhere between his standout 2009 totals (.351 average, .391 OBP with the Nationals) and his sub-par 2010 totals (.253 average, .319 OBP).
-- Riggleman probably won't designate a closer by Opening Day. He does believe Drew Storen will ascend to that role at some point, but he's comfortable waiting for the 23-year-old to develop and using a mix-and-match approach until then. "As I sit here right now, I really don't have a situation where I'm saying, 'This has to be our closer,'" the manager said. "We want to win the game, and if I feel this is the best way for us to win the game, that there's a particular group of hitters coming up in the ninth inning that somebody like [Tyler] Clippard or [Sean] Burnett have had a lot of success against, that may be the way we've got to set it up. Eventually, Storen would be the guy we want to do that. If that happens by March 31, we'll certainly welcome that. But we're not going to force that to happen. If he's pitching in the eighth, or if he gets an out in the seventh and then pitches the eighth, and the way it breaks is we need Burnett or Clippard to pitch the ninth, that's fine. Winning the game is a heck of a lot more important than who gets the save."
Plenty more to come this afternoon, including a full article on the state of the Nationals' rotation and Ryan Zimmerman's thoughts on a number of subjects, including Adam Dunn, Jayson Werth and Bryce Harper.