Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Lannan, Maya and Bernadina

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
John Lannan was sharp for two innings before struggling in the third.
VIERA, Fla. -- Well, three games into the exhibition season, the Nationals are undefeated. They disposed of the Mets twice and today toppled the Marlins, 8-4, at Space Coast Stadium.

Too soon to start printing up "2011 Grapefruit League champions" T-shirts?

Plenty of individual performances to run through from this latest victory, so let's get right to it…

-- John Lannan got off to a fantastic start, cruising through his first two innings without allowing a Florida batter to reach base. He even struck out Hanley Ramirez on a high-and-tight fastball, not exactly the kind of pitch the left-hander is known for. Lannan said he wasn't necessarily trying to strike Ramirez out there; he was simply trying to bust him in high-and-tight after throwing his previous pitch low-and-away. "I was just trying to get him to swing and maybe get a jam shot," he said. "But he swung through it. I'll take it." Things weren't as smooth in the third inning, when Lannan plunked a batter and never fully recovered. Two runs wound up scoring in the inning. Lannan didn't want to use the strong crosswind that was blowing through the stadium as an excuse, but it did appear to affect his command. For a guy who relies on pinpoint accuracy (especially on his sinker), a right-to-left wind like that can really cause problems.

-- Like his pitching teammate, Yunesky Maya was really sharp for two innings. The Cuban right-hander retired six of eight batters, struck out three and started a nifty 1-6-3 double play. Though his fastball was clocked between 87-90 mph by scouts seated behind the plate, Maya appeared to be throwing harder than that. Perhaps that's because his curveball was considerably slower (and quite effective) and served as a perfect counterpart to the fastball. "When your breaking ball is that good on a particular day, the rotation on it was so good, I think after you throw a couple, you've got people aware of it and it speeds up that fastball," manager Jim Riggleman said. Maya has really turned some heads since the end of last season, both in the Dominican winter league and here at spring training. Whether he's able to wrest away a rotation spot from someone else remains to be seen. At the very least, he's positioning himself well to earn a call-up early in the season.

-- Roger Bernadina flashed both his power and his speed in a span of two early at-bats. Bernadina belted a change-up from Marlins ace Josh Johnson well over the right-field fence in the bottom of the second for a three-run homer. Yes, the wind helped push it, but Bernadina crushed the ball and probably would have hit it out even without the breeze. Just as impressive, he came to the plate two innings later against a left-hander and dropped a perfect drag bunt. That's the kind of thing the Nationals are hoping to see Bernadina do more. "There's a lot of hits right there through that little gap right there when a left-hander comes off the mound that way," Riggleman said. "And with his speed, it's impossible for the first baseman or second baseman to do much with it. It's something he's worked on, and hopefully he'll use that." If Bernadina can consistently hit both for power while also executing fundamentally at the plate, it's going to be hard for the club not to find him a regular spot in the lineup.

-- For the third straight day, Bryce Harper came off the bench and appeared in the game. Harper got two plate appearances today, drawing his first walk of the spring and then belting a drive to deep left-center. The ball was caught just short of the fence, but once again Harper displayed his tremendous power to the opposite field. "I'll tell you, that's the second ball that he's hit very well that was a high fastball," Riggleman said. "Like I said the other day ... it's hard to get on top of a high fastball like that. That was impressive. And I promise you, he didn't get that ball as good as he can get it. Not by any means."

-- This is going to be my last report from Florida for a little while. Per's coverage plan, I'm heading back to D.C. for a couple of weeks. I'll return to Viera on March 21 and be with the Nats through the remainder of camp. But don't worry; the blog isn't going to go completely dark until then. I've got a bunch of interviews from the last two weeks stored away and I'll publish those stories while I'm away. I'll also post the usual game threads each day so everyone can continue the discussion. And if there are any significant developments from camp, I'll be sure to pass those along here and provide my usual analysis.

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Alex Cora turns a double play in the third inning.


A DC Wonk said...

Lannan busted him in high and tight?!?

Finally. I repeatedly complained last year, over and over again (you can look it up in the comments!) that the Nats pitchers almost never did that -- which seemed really stupid to me.

Maybe somebody finally figured that out?

(oh, and this site looks better every day! I like the pale blue color in the middle)

Anonymous said...


I missed when we could just pay you to stay down there. To the WaPo I go.

Another_Sam said...

Must be spring: Flyballs to the fence [outs] are an omen of good things to come. LOL. I hope so. I've not seen these guys yet, but I'm eager. Until then, grant me a bit of skepticism. Just kidding.

Big Cat said...

I think Lannan was one of our only pitchers to pitch inside. Remember his first big league start when he drilled the Phillies Utley and then plunked Ryan Howard and was ejected. As a matter of fact, I think he broke Utley's wrist. Phillie fans were squealing like the pigs they are

CapPeterson said...

Great to hear that Bernie is learning how to drag bunts to the right side. Nyjer, OTOH, continues (with very rare exceptions) to try to push them down the 3B line. This strategy could of course also work if Nyjer could occasionally smash a liner down the line to keep the 3rd baseman honest, but how often did he do that last year--once or twice?

sjm 308 said...

Thanks Mark (as always),

Will miss you being there but I am hoping you will keep the other Nat's Blogs on the left current as well. It's nice to have one place to check on everything.

Can you or one of our gang help me with the time for Nat's Fest? I am one of the lucky ones who can actually go to both that and opening day but I have not found much information on it yet.

I think that Maya could be a huge plus for us. Still amazed he came last year and left his family in Cuba. I am guessing they are still there and that has to be tough. If he is sent to the minors to start the season that will also be difficult since I am guessing he hangs with Livan most of the time.

Go Nats!

Anonymous8 said...

CapPeterson, bunting for a hit is the element of surprise. Bernadina hits a HR so nobody really expected him to play small ball hence the element of surprise.

On the other hand, Nyjer Morgan isn't fooling anyone. He has zero power and needs to work on a slug bunt to place over the 3rd baseman's head for a double in order to get his 3rd base bunt to work.

Anonymous said...

Mark, is there any chance Morse could win left and Bernadina could win center if they continue to have a solid spring while Morgan doesn't. I haven't heard any talk of that possibility. Thanks

natscan reduxit said...

... thanx for all you've done in FLA. so far, Mark, and for what you've yet to do. One question (which might have been answered previously): does having a regular gig now with CSN mean you'll be travelling with the team throughout the whole season?

Go Nats!!

Doc said...

Just really great coverage Mark, since you arrived in Florida.

Too bad that you have to head back. Your player contact will be missing, but I'm sure the Blog will continue to be the exceptional piece of sports reporting that it is.

NatsJack in Florida said...

There is no doubt our best lineup would have Morse in left, Bernadina in center and Werth in right. Bernie can lead off and provide power plus speed. He is developing plate discipline through his efforts with Rick Eckstein.

And a bench that includes Ankiel and Nix sure sounds strong as well.

Mark Zuckerman said...

sjm 308 said...
Can you or one of our gang help me with the time for Nat's Fest? I am one of the lucky ones who can actually go to both that and opening day but I have not found much information on it yet.

NatsFest is scheduled to run from 4-7 p.m. on Wednesday, March 30. The players have a pre-Opening Day workout at some point during that time, which will be open to fans attending.

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