Monday, February 22, 2010

The early spring routine

Click here to support this site

VIERA, Fla. -- I've gotten a few questions from fans who are curious how the typical day goes for the Nationals, especially early in spring training before the games start. So as players begin making their way out to the practice fields for day two of this spring, I figured I'd give a quick primer...

Though all the players in big-league camp use the clubhouse inside Space Coast Stadium, the February workouts all take place at the club's minor-league complex, about one-quarter of a mile down the road. Every morning, most players grab their equipment bag and make the short hike down Stadium Parkway -- it can be funny to watch drivers whiz by and rubberneck when they see guys like Pudge Rodriguez and Stephen Strasburg walking along the street in full uniform. A few guys actually get in their cars and drive.

The minor-league complex includes four full-size fields, arranged in cloverleaf fashion, a half-field used for infield and baserunning drills and the big bullpen area that has 10 mounds side-by-side.

At the beginning of the workout, all players stretch and warm up together on one field, then split up into pre-assigned groups. Each group starts at a different station, either on one of the fields or in the bullpen and then spends about 10 minutes working on a particular drill: covering first base, pickoff moves, bunting, fielding slow rollers, etc.

Every pitcher also throws a bullpen session once every other day, usually about five or six at a time. After about a week or so, once all the position players have reported and taken their physicals, those bullpen sessions morph into "live BP," in which each pitcher spends about 10 minutes throwing to actual hitters, though in a controlled environment (they pitch behind a screen, they declare what pitch they're throwing before letting it go).

After about two hours or so, things begin to wind down for the pitchers, who do some running and conditioning drills and then head back to Space Coast Stadium. Meanwhile, the position players who have arrived early converge on one field and take BP, with a coach serving up the pitches.

Once all the players are in camp later this week, there will also be some team-wide fundamentals drills, where the coaching stuff runs through various scenarios (rundowns, shallow fly balls, wild pitches, pickoffs) and has everyone work together on them at once.

When March rolls around and the Grapefruit League commences, things change a bit. The workouts take place inside Space Coast Stadium (or in another team's park if the Nats are on the road) and bear more resemblance to the pregame routine you'd find during the regular season. They are expanded, however, and usually include some kind of defensive/fundamental drills before standard BP is held.

So there you have it, a quick primer on life in Viera. I should also point out for anyone who is planning to make the trek down here that most morning workouts at the minor-league complex begin around 9:30 a.m. They are incredibly open and free to fans, who can basically wander anywhere they want as long as they're not on the fields. There's plenty of opportunity to get up close to guys, mingle with players as they walk in and out and get autographs. It's one of the best camps in the majors as far as giving fans up-close access to the players.

For those interested, here's a satellite view of the entire area. You can zoom in and see the stadium toward the bottom of the map and the four practice fields at the top...

View Larger Map

And with that, it's time to make the walk down there myself and take in this morning's proceedings. The guys throwing in the bullpen today are: John Lannan, Shairon Martis, Matt Capps, Atahualpa Severino, Eddie Guardado, Juan Jaime, Scott Olsen, Garrett Mock, Jason Bergmann, Ron Villone, Logan Kensing, J.D. Martin, Collin Balester, Brian Bruney, Luis Atilano and Drew Storen.

I'll be back later on with some observations and quotes from the workout.


Anonymous said...

Great Mark,

Especially interested in how comfortable Olsen looks throwing from the mound (IMO more important for April May than any other pitcher).

greg said...

Couple of interesting links to share today.

Via Neyer at ESPN:

Percentage of payroll lost to the DL. as far as % go, from 2002-2009, the Nats rank *2nd*. Painful.

A positive view of the future in DC. nice to actually see someone have something nice to say--from someone who isn't a homer, at least--for a change. (and a nice little nod to mark's blog and viera trip in there, too.)

SpotsyNats said...

Excellent overview. I appreciate it. Its been a while for me to see a Spring Training game. (Last was circa 1982 and saw Dale Murphy and the Braves take on the O's in Miami Marlins Stadium.)

Anonymous said...

Please note that players can and will NOT sign autographs once the morning workout has started. Most will be more than receptive to providing autographs and posing for photos before and after the workout

An Briosca Mor said...

Baseball during the regular season is primarily a nocturnal activity, forcing players to become night owls if they aren't already. Why then is spring training such a daytime, early morning kind of thing? Wouldn't it make sense to get the players' body rhythms into the regular season mode from the start, instead of making a jarring shift when they move from playing exhibition games into games that count?

Positively Half St. said...


Perhaps because even Florida is too cool in the evenings in February. In any case, isn't it nice to just have one throwback to the old days?

Thank you, Mark, for answering my question on Chuck James. I had set him up as the pitching darkhorse I would root for, but the horse is a little darker than I thought if he is in the minor-league camp.

Positively Half St. said...


Thanks for the links. The second one was a breath of fresh air.

natsfan1a said...

Speaking of links, and fwiw, there are some pics of Space Coast Stadium on the Brevard County Manatees site (Fear the Sea Cow!?):

Post a Comment