Monday, March 8, 2010

Nats vs. Marlins (ss) -- 3/8/10

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Willie Harris was called out on a close play at the plate in the second.
VIERA, Fla. -- On the day before the Great Stephen Strasburg Spring Training Debut (heretofore referred to as GSSSTD), there are actually several things worth watching at Space Coast Stadium.

Scott Olsen makes his first start of the spring, his first appearance of any kind in a game since undergoing surgery last summer for a torn labrum. The left-hander says he's 100 percent healthy, though he's admittedly a bit rusty and hasn't been sharp every time he's thrown in the bullpen. Now that he's facing real hitters for the first time, the pressure is ratcheted up a tad for a guy who needs not only to show club officials he's healthy but also that he can be effective.

Meanwhile, Cristian Guzman makes his first appearance at shortstop this spring following shoulder surgery in September. Manager Jim Riggleman said he believes Guzman is 100 percent healthy, but he's easing his way into things and may not uncork some throws from deep in the hole quite yet.

Finally, Josh Willingham makes his spring debut, serving as DH today. No health concerns with Willingham. He just was a late arrival to camp following the birth of his son, Ryder, who had a few complications but is doing fine now. Riggleman said Willingham will probably start in left field tomorrow.

Check back throughout for in-game updates...

Space Coast Stadium, Viera, Fla.
Gametime: 1:05 p.m.
TV/Radio: WFED-1500 AM
Weather: Mostly sunny, 70 degrees, Wind 5 mph out to CF
CF Nyjer Morgan
SS Cristian Guzman
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam Dunn
DH Josh Willingham
LF Willie Harris
C Ivan Rodriguez
RF Elijah Dukes
2B Pete Orr
(P Scott Olsen)

LF Chris Coghlan
CF Bryan Peterson
RF Mike Stanton
3B Jorge Cantu
C Ronny Paulino
1B Logan Morrison
2B Hector Luna
SS Emilio Bonifacio
P Ricky Nolasco

11:04 a.m. -- The Tigers will be sending a fairly decent roster to Viera tomorrow for GSSSTD, including five members of their projected Opening Day lineup: Miguel Cabrera, Carlos Guillen, Magglio Ordonez, Scott Sizemore and Austin Jackson. Right-hander Rick Porcello is scheduled to start.

11:45 a.m. -- Because this is a split-squad game for the Marlins, Fredi Gonzalez is back in Jupiter. So managing this game up here: Jack McKeon, still looking spry (and still smoking a cigar) at age 79.

12:07 p.m. -- If you're in town and have nothing else to do tomorrow, tickets are still available. Based on the number of media members expected to crash the party -- and the lack of overflow space in the press box -- you might just luck out and get to sit next to one of us in the stands!

12:37 p.m. -- Following Olsen's two innings today, the Nats will send the following pitchers to the mound: Collin Balester, Doug Slaten, Tyler Clippard, Eddie Guardado and Brian Bruney.

12:41 p.m. -- And looking ahead beyond tomorrow's GSSSTD ... Garrett Mock will start Wednesday against the Cardinals in Jupiter, followed by J.D. Martin. At the same time, Livan Hernandez will throw a simulated game back here in Viera. That would seem to be the final step toward working Hernandez into the actual rotation.

1:17 p.m. -- Really ragged first inning for Scott Olsen. He threw five straight strikes to get started and was victimized by a bloop single over Cristian Guzman's head and a broken-bat single off Ryan Zimmerman's glove. But then Jorge Cantu blasted an 81-mph pitch (changeup?) over the left-field wall for a three-run homer. Two more singles gave the Marlins five hits in the frame. Velocity-wise, Olsen was consistently around 86 mph, topping out at 88 mph. Total of 22 pitches, 15 strikes. Marlins jump out to a 3-0 lead, with the Nats now coming to bat.

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Josh Willingham homered in his first at-bat of the spring.
1:54 p.m. -- Olsen managed to get through the second without allowing another run, but he did give up a pair of hits and thus departed with the following unimpressive line: 2 ip, 7 h, 3 er, 0 bb, 0 k. We'll see what he has to say about it in a little while. Meanwhile, Josh Willingham isn't rusty at all. First AB of the spring: Solo homer to left field. Two defensive notes so far: Adam Dunn dropped an absolutely routine throw to first, and Elijah Dukes nearly took Pete Orr's head off on a fly ball to shallow right field.

1:59 p.m. -- For the guy who asked about Nyjer Morgan, he just roped a sharp base hit through the right side of the infield and stretched it into a double for his first hit of the spring. Slid headfirst, though, a no-no.

2:14 p.m. -- Collin Balester is getting rocked, but he escaped without suffering any major damage thanks to a nice 5-4-3 double play turned by Zimmerman, Orr and Dunn. Nats still trail 4-1 heading into the bottom of the fourth, having allowed 10 hits already.

2:35 p.m. -- Balester was allowed back out for a third inning. Bad move. He was just yanked after allowing two more runs and retiring only one of five batters faced. Jesse English now on to mop up the mess.

3:09 p.m. -- While we were all talking to Scott Olsen -- who said he felt better today than he has since the surgery -- Ryan Zimmerman apparently blasted a solo homer to left. Marlins currently lead 7-2 in the seventh. I'll have a new post up shortly on Olsen, so check the homepage for that.

3:38 p.m. -- Another double-digit performance from the Nats' pitching staff. With four runs (and counting) in the eighth against Eddie Guardado, the Marlins now lead 11-2. That's now five of six Grapefruit League games in which the opposition has scored at least 10 runs. On the bright side, Ian Desmond (playing center field) made a nice catch on a flyball that required him to turn around and race back and to his left.

3:59 p.m. -- As we head to the bottom of the ninth -- still 11-2 Marlins -- I've got a full analysis of Scott Olsen's start (including quotes from the lefty) up in a new post. Check it out.


JayB said...

Love that the Marlins have there pitchers hit another reason they overachieve...they get is not just spring training to is learned to win under the conditions of real games. Wish we did that.

markfd said...

With the exception of Pete Orr it looks like the Nats are puting out there best lineup of the Spring today.

Glad to see the Tigers are sending some of their top guys tomorrow to face SS, I am sure they might get as many questions as SS does after the game.

natsfan1a said...

Speaking of hitting by Marlins pitchers, I thought this Onion item was funny:

Seriously, though, it's always good to have a pitcher who can lay down a bunt.

LoveDaNats said...

I feel like this game today should be a turning point. If the Nats can't beat a split squad with all these good starters, then need to tell me something good because I'm starting to get that discouraged feeling again.

Nervous Nats Fan said...

Out of curiosity, who gets priority in the press box? Is it the beat writers who are there everyday or the big shots who just come in to write one article on Strasburg/Wang?

Princess Jazzy said...

JayB, the Nats have been using a DH to get some AB's for players they don't want starting in the field just yet.

Also, IMHO, their pitchers need to concentrate on pitching right now... LOL

Unknown said...

Olsen's velocity is about the same it was last year during his ineffective starts- 86-88 MPH. If this is him being 100% healthy, that's a problem. He needs more differential between his FB and Changeup to be effective, and needs to get his FB back into the 90-92 MPH range. That's where it was when he was effective for the Marlins and the couple really good starts he made for us last summer before the injury. If he can't get it back up by the end of March, the Nats may want to cut him loose or start him on the DL to get his velocity up.

Mark Zuckerman said...

Nervous Nats Fan: Us regulars on the Nats beat have assigned seats in the press box, and I believe they're setting aside seats for the Detroit writers. Everyone else will be first-come, first-serve.

Anonymous said...

Mark, Amidst all the concern about the poor start the pitching has gotten off to, I'm curious about Nyjer Morgan's performance. He is still hitless in four games. How has his approach to his AB's been so far? Has he been hitting the ball on the ground and trying to beat out infield hits or has he been hitting fly balls? The former would give me hope that he has just been unlucky thus far....

Chuckles said...

Will there politicians and executives on hand for GSSSTD -- the Lerners, Mayor Fenty, Obama, Selig, Koufax, Feller, etc?

Mark Zuckerman said...

Chuckles: Mark Lerner, yes. Not sure about any other dignitaries. But seeing how close we are to Cape Canaveral, perhaps Buzz Aldrin will stop by. Or George "The Animal" Steele. He lives nearby and has attended a game before.

Spike94wl said...

And on the 7th game of Spring Training, God didth bring us Stephen Strasburg.

TBC said...

Willingham picking right up where he left off last year. Solo homer.

Anonymous said...

Do you think Ballystar will shave the mustache now? all of his problems are above the neck if you catch my drift!

greg said...

TBC beat me to that punch line.

sasskuash, i don't think you'll find very many pitchers in spring training up to full, regular season velocity in their first appearance. it takes time, and even moreso when you're coming back from injury and layoff.

Andrew said...

Some signs of life with the bats at least.

Chimpanzee Rage said...

Hey Mark, can you get a picture of the peanuts and beer guy for us radio listeners? I just have to see what this guy is about. To me, most interesting storyline of the game right there.

Mark Zuckerman said...

Chimp: Sorry, looks like the guy's left the building. Beer sales stopped in the seventh. I'll look for him tomorrow or later this week and see if I can snap a photo. But he's not nearly as interesting to look at as he is to listen to.

JayB said...


I asked about Alberto G a day or two back....I will ask again...What do the see in him...His head is never in the game. He makes far to many errors given that is his only reason for being on the team right? We has seen him for going on 3 years now...what is left to learn about him?

Mark Zuckerman said...

They're not seeing much in Gonzalez at the moment. Hasn't looked good this spring at all. Gotta wonder if Bruntlett will beat him out for the backup IF spot.

JayB said...


MLB box has Eddie G pitching not Victor G.....not that it matters they both need to be cut soon.

Wally said...


I do not believe that ST results mean anything significant beyond assessing injury recovery and general skill development, BUT .... with two straight 100 loss seasons, and the stigma attached, it may mean something psychologically to the Nats.

Are you sensing tightness or anything else regarding this poor start to ST by the team or FO? Like 'here we go again'?

Anonymous said...

Ive been to every game. They're playing like they don't care. And I don't want to hear that it's only ST, check the scores, nobody else is losing by scores like this. There are mental errors all over the place, terrible fundamentals, and Dunn makes playing 1st look harder than splitting the atom.

Mark, can you ask Ballester what his deal is from the stretch? It's clear he cannot throw a breaking ball unless he is in the wind up. The Marlins knew fastballs were coming and he got smoked.

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