Thursday, February 17, 2011

First observations

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Stephen Strasburg pauses during his throwing session to talk to Jim Riggleman.
VIERA, Fla. -- The first official workout of spring training is wrapping up as we speak. Nothing dramatic to report, though I suppose the sight of Stephen Strasburg throwing a baseball qualifies for drama around here.

Strasburg played catch with head trainer Lee Kuntz, using a full throwing motion but nowhere close to full velocity. They stood about 45 feet apart and split the session in two, totaling about 15 minutes. This is just the first of a whole lot of steps for Strasburg to take before he stands on the mound at Nationals Park again.

Strasburg did participate with everyone else in the fundamental drills. He fielded comebackers (not throwing the ball after catching it, of course) and took bunting practice. Basically, he's just like every other pitcher in camp, except he's restricted to throwing only during that 15-minute session.

As for the guys who did throw off bullpen mounds, I was most interested in seeing Chien-Ming Wang. Now, I'm by no means a pitching expert, and my eye for these things isn't anywhere in the same area code as Steve McCatty and the rest of the coaching staff. But Wang sure wasn't throwing the ball with much oomph. He's got a very slow, deliberate motion, so that can make things look a little deceptive. But the ball wasn't coming out of his hand with nearly as much velocity as the other guys pitching alongside him.

Other guys looked fine to me. Livan Hernandez, Jordan Zimmermann, Jason Marquis and Ross Detwiler all threw in the first group along with Wang and Garrett Mock.

From the catching side of things, it was really nice to see Jesus Flores squatting behind the plate, receiving pitches and throwing back to his batterymate with no hesitation. I chatted with Flores a bit this morning, and you can just tell how relieved he is to be healthy once again. Whether he's big-league ready, we'll have to see. But after two injury-plagued seasons, it's just nice to see him in uniform and participating in full.

More to come this afternoon, including thoughts from Stephen Strasburg and Jim Riggleman...

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Chien-Ming Wang throws off a bullpen mound.

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Todd Coffey works on bunting under the watchful eye of Rick Eckstein.


Anonymous said...

Eckstein: Todd, go up there an show the kids exactly how NOT to bunt.

Coffey: Done.

Anonymous said...

lol @ anon..

so very true, I can only imagine what is going through Eckstein's head at the same time this photo was taken.

Doc said...

It's good to know that we can attribute some blame to Eckstein when the pitchers don't put solid effort into executing a bunt--which seems to be a regualar occurrence in a Nats' game.

Mr. NATural said...

Instructions for Coffey:

1. Stick your butt out as far as you can
2. Bend over at the waist as far as you can
3. Try and get 100 percent of your weight on your front foot
4. Straighten your left arm and lock your left elbow
5. Get your hands as close together as you can.

I'm looking for many successful sacrifice bunts from Todd Coffey this year.

Steve M. said...

Love the photos and the new BPs look....colorful. Now I need to buy one and wonder who will spend $100 to customize a Nats BP with the #5 Pujols.

Thanks for providing photos!!!!!

Anonymous said...

When will Coffey as a setup man, situational guy or closer EVER bunt!? Or is riggleman just not going to use any pinch hitters this year!?

Slidell said...

Thanks Mark for the photos and insight.
My first impressions--- not too optimistic on either Wang in general, or on Coffey's bunting skills. But, it's early.

K.D. said...

Thanks for the photos and the updates Mark. And for not rubbing in the weather forecast.

LoveDaNats said...

Wish I was there. *sigh*

JamesFan said...

The Nat pitchers last year could not bunt, and it hurt the team over and over again. It is unprofessional of a pitcher not to know how to bunt. Lunging at the ball like Coffey is something every little league coach teaches players not to do. They need to get tough with these guys on fundamentals.

Anonymous said...

LoveDaNats said...
"Wish I was there. *sigh*"

Go outside.
Sit down.
Close your eyes.
You're there.

David said...

Check this out, guys.

Doc said...

@ Mr. NATural: Great outline of setting to bunt.

The difference between an effective bunt, and an ineffective bunt, should be the pitcher's pitch, not poor batting confirmation as demonstrated by Coffey. Most pitchers look arthritic, not athletic, when they are bunting.

Great photo MarkMeister!

Gnashnail said...

Eckstein: Todd, go up there an show the kids exactly how NOT to bunt.

Riggleman: Eck, watch out! You're too close.

Eckstein: Don't worry, he'll miss the pitch by at least 6 inches. We're working on his bunt stride.

Riggleman: I forgot. Just don't stand in foul territory if you guys practice 2-strike bunts.

Theophilus said...

Mr. Nat --

You forgot an additional element of bunting technique -- get the thumb and fingers of your pitching hand around the front of the bat so they can get smashed by the pitch.

Scooter said...

Y'all are in fine form today. I guess Poster Flippancy Practice went well.

I have nothing of my own to add. Just ... thanks, fellas.

Anonymous said...

In bunting, all that matters is that the bat is still so the ball will hit it, rather than moving the bat to meet the ball. What happens to get to that point, be it graceful or not, really does not matter.

Private Joker said...

I hope the guys do their laps, jumping jacks, wind sprints, shuttle runs, leg lifts, push ups, trunk twisters, Oklahoma drill and bull-in-the-ring Gotta get in shape.

David said...

Anonymous... technique does matter when it comes to bunting. As for Coffey's bunting stance, I was taught not to do that in Little League.

Anonymous said...

If the "Nationals Arms Race" is on the right side ... might be nicer to have Byron Kerr's MASN blog. He seems to be far more insightful about Nationals Prospects?

Another_Sam said...

SS was among the most wretched bunters on the club. IIRC.

Calle Real N20 said...

Mark. Thanks for the pictures! Everyone's been writing but finally, something to see.

A DC Wonk said...

Theophilus wrote: "You forgot an additional element of bunting technique -- get the thumb and fingers of your pitching hand around the front of the bat so they can get smashed by the pitch."

I have to say -- that one made me chuckle out loud. Nice one!

It's amazing, the first things I learned about bunting -- I think I was 10 years old!! -- were:

1. Keep hands apart
2. Keep thumb and fingers behind the bat
3. Keep the barrel slightly up, never down

And this pic violates all three!

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