Nationals’ pitching camp demonstrating “championship atmosphere”

The names of the Nationals front-line pitchers in 2012 spring training certainly grab your attention: guys like Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, Gio Gonzalez, Edwin Jackson, Chien Ming-Wang, John Lannan, Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen.

Then there are what I like to call the glue guys. The pitchers that may not get the big headlines, but will be crucial to the overall success of this staff and key to the pennant run the Nationals hope to realize this season: guys like Ross Detwiler, Sean Burnett, Chad Durbin, Ryan Perry, Brad Lidge, Waldis Joaquin and others.

Any one or two of the hurlers from this list could be that critical difference maker the Nats will need down the stretch to make that one pitch or notch that last important out.

But one thing all of the pitchers on the Nationals’ spring training roster have in common is they came to Viera, Fla., ready to go.

Double-A Harrisburg Senators pitching coach Paul Menhart has been doing this for quite some time. The former major league pitcher, who has seen it all in the Nats system, dating back to when he was the pitching coach for Savannah in 2006, and has noticed something different about this crop of hurlers this season.

“These guys have been great,” Menhart said. “It is the most energetic big league camp and effort that I have ever been a part of. Now the games have started and nothing has changed.”

This is not a trend that is exclusive to the Nationals, of course, but it is indicative that the focus in this spring training is unmatched.

“I think back in the past, spring training was a time to go ahead and get in shape,” Menhart said. “Times have changed. I have seen that trend. It started at the tail end of my career where guys were starting to come into camp ready. The only thing left to do is to get the rhythm and timing down for the speed of the game. When it comes to the shape that everybody is in, it is quite amazing.”

As for the pitchers in the Nationals camp this March, Menhart says members of this crop, from Matt Purke to Gonzalez to Strasburg, all have shown up in shape and aren’t wasting time catching up.

“I have been very pleased with the effort,” Menhart said. “It doesn’t seem like your prototypical big league camp where guys just go through the motions. These guys are getting after it. There is a championship atmosphere going on around here and these guys all want to be a part of it. Nobody, and I mean, nobody is just going through the motions.”

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