Sunday, February 21, 2010

Day one thoughts

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VIERA, Fla. -- I'll have a longer posting on Stephen Strasburg and his spring training workout debut in a little while, but before we get to the day's biggest event, I wanted to share a few other tidbits from today's proceedings that deserve mention...

-- Even with Strasburg all but certain to open the season in the minors (manager Jim Riggleman confirmed that today) the Nationals still have a boatload of starting pitchers contending for three open spots this spring. Basically, you're looking at Scott Olsen, Miguel Batista, Craig Stammen, Garrett Mock, J.D. Martin, Matt Chico, Collin Balester, Shairon Martis and Shawn Estes all receiving some level of consideration for a roster spot come Opening Day. Obviously, there's no way to get an extended look at all nine of those guys (plus guaranteed rotation members John Lannan and Jason Marquis in only six weeks. So the Nats are going to have to get creative finding game-type situations to throw each pitcher into. Riggleman said today one likely possibility is to have Lannan and Marquis throw in several "B" games on the minor-league side, opening up slots for the other contenders against big-league competition. But at the same time, both of those pitchers need to get some work against real hitters. So, really what this means is this: All the guys contending for jobs are going to have to make their cases quickly, like by early March. "Eventually you get to a point where you just don't have enough innings left to get your guys stretched out," Riggleman said. "So you have to [start cutting guys]. You have to make some tough calls there."

-- Jesus Flores was among the catchers working in the bullpen today with each round of pitchers. But unlike Ivan Rodriguez, Wil Nieves, Jamie Burke, Derek Norris and Devin Ivany, Flores isn't cleared to throw at full capacity. So after receiving each pitch this morning, he'd hand the ball to a coach standing alongside, who when then throw it back to the pitcher. "We're just being real cautious," Riggleman said.

-- Don't hold the manager to this quite yet, but if the season began today, Matt Capps would be the closer. Riggleman didn't exactly give the former Pirates right-hander 100 percent confidence, though. "Right now, if your starter doesn't go nine ... and if we're winning the ballgame, I guess I'd give it to Capps," he said. "But I'm not really basing that on a whole lot, other than somebody's got to do it, and he has done it. ... We know he's done it. He's not going to be intimidated by the ninth inning. We know he can do it." Based on what I've seen of Riggleman and his managing technique (both last season and back when I covered him in Chicago in the late '90s) he's not necessarily the type of manager who declares one reliever as closer and then rides him through thick and thin. Riggleman manages more like it's 1990 than 2010. He likes to mix-and-match in the bullpen, playing to guys' strengths and riding the hot hand. He's also not afraid to use relievers for two or even three innings, including his closers.

-- Big crowd on hand this morning for the workout. A very rough estimate would be about 150 fans. There certainly appeared to be a good number more cars in the parking lot near the minor-league complex than I can recall seeing the past five springs. I wonder why.


Brian said...

"There certainly appeared to be a good number more cars in the parking lot near the minor-league complex than I can recall seeing the past five springs"

As it should be ;)

Anonymous said...

Mark - Was there only one bullpen session today, or where there more scheduled for later? It is good to hear that Flores was catching (if not throwing) for the initial sessions, rather than a bullpen catcher.

Mark Zuckerman said...

There were three separate bullpen sessions, each with about five or six pitchers participating today. Basically, one-half of the guys in camp threw today. The other half will throw tomorrow. And then they'll continue on an every-other-day routine from here on out.

For a complete list of everyone who threw today, check out my first post this morning.

Positively Half St. said...

Chuck James is also a starting pitcher, and his success as a starter occurred more recently than it did for Batista or Estes. Did he receive an invitation to Spring Training, or is he going to exclusively be in the minor league camp?


Mark Zuckerman said...

James is at minor-league camp. There's a chance he could be called up to join the big boys at some point. But not at the outset of camp, at least.

SpotsyNats said...

Hey Mark,

Perhaps for those of us who have not been to Viera, could you provide us with a description of the Nationals complex: number of fields, number of mounds, buildings, proximity to other key facilities, etc.? It will help us get a visual in our minds as you describe the happenings. Thanks.

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