Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
John Lannan was sharp for two innings before struggling in the third.
Too soon to start printing up "2011 Grapefruit League champions" T-shirts?
Plenty of individual performances to run through from this latest victory, so let's get right to it…
-- John Lannan got off to a fantastic start, cruising through his first two innings without allowing a Florida batter to reach base. He even struck out Hanley Ramirez on a high-and-tight fastball, not exactly the kind of pitch the left-hander is known for. Lannan said he wasn't necessarily trying to strike Ramirez out there; he was simply trying to bust him in high-and-tight after throwing his previous pitch low-and-away. "I was just trying to get him to swing and maybe get a jam shot," he said. "But he swung through it. I'll take it." Things weren't as smooth in the third inning, when Lannan plunked a batter and never fully recovered. Two runs wound up scoring in the inning. Lannan didn't want to use the strong crosswind that was blowing through the stadium as an excuse, but it did appear to affect his command. For a guy who relies on pinpoint accuracy (especially on his sinker), a right-to-left wind like that can really cause problems.
-- Like his pitching teammate, Yunesky Maya was really sharp for two innings. The Cuban right-hander retired six of eight batters, struck out three and started a nifty 1-6-3 double play. Though his fastball was clocked between 87-90 mph by scouts seated behind the plate, Maya appeared to be throwing harder than that. Perhaps that's because his curveball was considerably slower (and quite effective) and served as a perfect counterpart to the fastball. "When your breaking ball is that good on a particular day, the rotation on it was so good, I think after you throw a couple, you've got people aware of it and it speeds up that fastball," manager Jim Riggleman said. Maya has really turned some heads since the end of last season, both in the Dominican winter league and here at spring training. Whether he's able to wrest away a rotation spot from someone else remains to be seen. At the very least, he's positioning himself well to earn a call-up early in the season.
-- Roger Bernadina flashed both his power and his speed in a span of two early at-bats. Bernadina belted a change-up from Marlins ace Josh Johnson well over the right-field fence in the bottom of the second for a three-run homer. Yes, the wind helped push it, but Bernadina crushed the ball and probably would have hit it out even without the breeze. Just as impressive, he came to the plate two innings later against a left-hander and dropped a perfect drag bunt. That's the kind of thing the Nationals are hoping to see Bernadina do more. "There's a lot of hits right there through that little gap right there when a left-hander comes off the mound that way," Riggleman said. "And with his speed, it's impossible for the first baseman or second baseman to do much with it. It's something he's worked on, and hopefully he'll use that." If Bernadina can consistently hit both for power while also executing fundamentally at the plate, it's going to be hard for the club not to find him a regular spot in the lineup.
-- For the third straight day, Bryce Harper came off the bench and appeared in the game. Harper got two plate appearances today, drawing his first walk of the spring and then belting a drive to deep left-center. The ball was caught just short of the fence, but once again Harper displayed his tremendous power to the opposite field. "I'll tell you, that's the second ball that he's hit very well that was a high fastball," Riggleman said. "Like I said the other day ... it's hard to get on top of a high fastball like that. That was impressive. And I promise you, he didn't get that ball as good as he can get it. Not by any means."
-- This is going to be my last report from Florida for a little while. Per CSNwashington.com's coverage plan, I'm heading back to D.C. for a couple of weeks. I'll return to Viera on March 21 and be with the Nats through the remainder of camp. But don't worry; the blog isn't going to go completely dark until then. I've got a bunch of interviews from the last two weeks stored away and I'll publish those stories while I'm away. I'll also post the usual game threads each day so everyone can continue the discussion. And if there are any significant developments from camp, I'll be sure to pass those along here and provide my usual analysis.
Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Alex Cora turns a double play in the third inning.