Saturday, February 23, 2013

First step in a long season

Associated Press
Bryce Harper drilled a single to right field in his first at-bat of the spring.
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Since his players reported to camp nearly two weeks ago, Davey Johnson has preached the idea of taking things slowly and not trying to do too much early during what will be an extended spring training for the Nationals. And before his players took the field this afternoon for their Grapefruit League opener against the Mets, the 70-year-old skipper reminded everyone of that motto.

Some appeared to get the memo during a 5-3 loss at Tradition Field. For some others ... well, that's just not in their DNA.

"I need help with that a little bit," Bryce Harper said. "I understand we have 35 games this spring. But when I do play, I'm gonna play hard and try to be ready. I don't have a low button or a middle button. It's always: Go, go, go when I'm out on the field. So I'm gonna play like that, same as last year."

Harper certainly didn't ease off the gas pedal during his 4 1/2 innings of play. He stepped to the plate in the top of the first inning and took a mighty whack at Shaun Marcum's first fastball, roping a foul ball into the right-field corner that nearly took out the entire Nationals bullpen. He tagged another Marcum pitch into fair territory shortly thereafter, notching his first base hit of the spring, then later crushed a hard grounder to short off flame-throwing prospect Zack Wheeler.

Oh, and of course there was Harper's circus catch on a third-inning line drive by Kirk Nieuwenhuis, in which the ball struck his glove, then his right arm before landing back in his glove again.

All in a day's work for the 20-year-old, reigning NL Rookie of the Year, spring training or not.

"That's how I am," Harper said. "I think once you get on that field and you're playing, of course you want to be able to ease into things and whatnot. But I swing so much during the offseason that I try to be ready for spring training."

Johnson doesn't have to worry about his young phenom wearing himself out before Opening Day, but he does want his veterans to pace themselves for the five-week marathon that began today, the longest spring training on record.

Most of the skipper's players seem to get the idea.

"We've definitely got a long way to go," said new center fielder Denard Span, who went 0-for-2 in his Nationals debut. "You definitely have to pace yourself. You've got to be smart. I don't want to go out there and get too crazy and wear yourself out or get hurt."

Span was one of only three regulars in the starting lineup, joined by Harper and shortstop Ian Desmond. Johnson won't even use veterans Ryan Zimmerman, Jayson Werth and Adam LaRoche until late next week, recognizing none of them needs five weeks to get into regular-season form.

Those who did make the trip down I-95 today for the Grapefruit League opener put forth a solid effort, with a couple of notable highlights along the way...

-- Catcher Chris Snyder, in camp as a non-roster invitee, made the most of his opportunity to start behind the plate. The veteran -- known more for his defensive skills than offensive prowess -- clubbed a two-run homer in the top of the second, then singled in the top of the fourth.

"Good catch, no hit," Johnson said of Snyder's reputation. "I was glad to see him smoke the ball those couple times."

-- Desmond, picking up right where he left off last season, swung at the very first pitch he saw and lined a single to left.

-- Micah Owings, the former pitcher trying to resurrect his career as a position player, drove a ball to the warning track early and then singled later in the game.

-- Cole Kimball, making his first big-league appearance since tearing his rotator cuff in 2011, tossed a scoreless inning of relief.

All of this came in a losing effort, not that anyone inside the clubhouse cared about that afterward. There were no overturned postgame spreads, no pep-rally speeches from the manager, only the recognition that a team with serious World Series aspirations took the first of many steps in that direction on a late-February day in Florida.

"I was out there right before the game, I think my hand was kind of shaking a little bit," Desmond said. "That's just the way baseball is. We all love it so much, I think to get to this level you have to love it that much. ...

"We're all ready. I don't think there's anyone on this team that came to spring training to get in shape. We all got in shape in the offseason, and now it's just about staying healthy, not doing anything crazy. ... There's a lot of time left. Let's just break our bodies in nice and slow and just be ready for April."


SonnyG10 said...

A good start to the season today.

Doc said...

Cohen, Darling, and Hernandez gave our team a good review, in the middle of pumping up their own team.

It was also good hearing Ojeda commenting on their pitchers' status from the peanut gallery. Sorta unique having a broadcast team made up of former Mets' teamates

Tcostant said...

Highlight of the game for me was Keith Hernandez's gold glove story. It was great to see some baseball!

NatsLady said...

When did Davey overturn a table loaded with food? I missed that.

Positively Half St. said...

It'll be even better today, listening to a game called by Charlie and Dave.


JayB said...

On Game 5....can we just forget it please....

Right, this is nothing....What does it matter that Nats missed a golden opportunity as baseballs best team to move out of the first round of the playoffs. What does it matter that that the facts keep pointing to the following problems in that series.

Drew Storen was over used by Davey for not go reason.

Drew Storen was selfish and should not have been on the mound.

Davey was pig headed and refused to react to the obvious that after what 25 pitches by Drew and Nats still had the lead a change needed to be made.

Davey and Rizzo were both were over confident and acting like this year did not matter. It was all house money and they were not going to manage the game or the roster to win in 2012.

Yea....what problems could that solid winning approach lead to and why should we even think about it after we spend all winter shouting down a few useless trolls who raised these red flags.

If we say it never happened and we refuse to talk about it then it never happened right?

2013 is here and history never repeats itself especially if you close your eyes and shout it never even happened anyway!

Rabbit34 said...

Guess what!! Lombo,Span, Harper, Desmond.....NO STRIKEOUTS!!! FANtastic!

sjm308 said...

Actually just as excited to have baseball back on the radio as I was yesterday. It was fun to see Bryce & SS and the others. Actually enjoyed watching the later innings to see some of the guys I had read about. I liked the one pick from Walters at shortstop. Have to admit that I spent more time on the Terp game in live action but thankfully my tv has dvr so I could go back and forth.

Looks like someone took Eeyore's home of twigs and moved it again so he is out in the snow, cranky and mad again. Maybe pooh and piglet can make him a new one but he will still be gloomy. Can you imagine sitting next to him this year at Nats Park and having to hear the same complaints over and over? Oh, wait, we get that here, nevermind.

NatsJim said...

JayB, if you want to continue torturing yourself over game 5 nobody can stop you, but repeatedly posting the same thing all season isn't going to change what happened and isn't going to stop it from happening again if that's what Davey chooses to do.

Me, I'm just gonna enjoy the games...

sjm308 said...

Rabbit: when we can say that with Danny in the lineup then it will be even better. Did you laugh when Ian swung at the very first pitch of his first spring training at bat? So typical of Desmond but he is our Desmond.

Did anyone else here think that maybe because it was the first game of the season we were not hustling down the first baseline as fast as we will later in the year? I thought that very first chopper by Span was going to wind up a basehit but it wasn't even close. I guess I either thought he had more speed or he was just not willing to risk a pull this early in the year.

sjm308 said...

NatsJim - eeyore can't help himself...I guarantee you it makes him feel better

original Nats Fan said...

Davey told them to take it easy

JayB said...

yea other than Harper the rest of the team was moving at 75% speed which is just fine by mean. In about a 3 weeks they need to make sure top gear is ready...not in Feb

JayB said...

Between the two choices of facing facts and reflecting on what when wrong OR pretending nothing could have been done and that is just baseball....I choose to face the facts and plan for a different outcome.

Rizzo is smart, he operates the same way I do...that is why Drew is not the closer anymore....a move I called for the next day. Davey is stubborn and would rather be loyal to his guys and lose....that may not comeback again this year to cost us in the Playoffs...but he is not going to change a thing. If he did it it was right.

Steve Hayes said...

Great how Bryce got off to a good start!

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