Nationals catcher Kurt Suzuki started his Sunday morning with a stroll through the clubhouse. Wearing a Nationals workout shirt and athletic long shorts with two white batting gloves, he was ready for work. Suzuki headed to the indoor batting cage for a session with Nationals hitting coach Rick Eckstein.
Although Suzuki admitted he is not quite where he wants to be at the plate (.215), he believes he is making progress.
"I feel good," Suzuki told me on 106.7 The Fan's "Nats Insider". "I think it is only going to get better."
Suzuki hurt his hand early on in the season, but did not go on the disabled list. Mid-Atlantic Sports Report's Mel Antonen said that Athletics radio and television analyst Ray Fosse believed Suzuki was critical to Oakland's early season success because he handled its young pitching staff so well.
Antonen said because Suzuki didn't go on the disabled list, the Athletics' pitching staff flourished. You can look at former Nationals left-hander Tommy Milone's season as the No. 1 example: 9-7 with a 3.51 ERA.
Suzuki said his hand injury slowed him a bit, but he won't concede it was the only reason he struggled at the plate to start the season.
"Second month of the season I get hit in the hand and it led to it kind of lingering," Suzuki said. "I am not making excuses. I am not where I want to be. I have been working really hard in the batting cage doing drills. Today, I just got done working with (hitting coach Rick) Eckstein in the cage doing some stuff and working on some things."
And when you get traded and have to get from the west coast to the east coast quickly, Suzuki admitted he is still getting acclimated to his new surroundings, but says the Nationals have been more than welcoming.
"It is crazy. It is still kind of a blur for me," he said. "I think with a couple of days and get back into a routine, I will get know people a little more everything will come a lot easier."
He said having former teammate Gio Gonzalez helps a great deal because he already knows him from their days together in Oakland. But the Nationals have a good reputation around the league, as well (sorry, Joe Maddon).
"I have played with guys who played with the Nationals, Jonny Gomes, Josh Willingham and Adam Kennedy," Suzuki said. "They had nothing but nice things to say about the group of guys here, the place, the fans. They loved it here. It made things a lot easier for me."
Suzuki said it will also take some time to get up to speed with this new pitching staff.
"It is definitely a work in progress," Suzuki said. "Last night was a bonus because I actually catch four (five) guys, so that was nice. Days I don't play I will see if I can catch a bullpen. During the game I will probably go down to the pen and maybe catch some guys that have to warm up. I definitely want to catch as many times as I can to get to know these guys. Just hang out down there in the bullpen and learn the pitchers."
Now, it will be exciting to see Suzuki in action calling games and going after would-be base stealers in Houston.
"This is a great group of guys," Suzuki said. "You got the younger guys like Bryce Harper, Stephen Strasburg, Danny Espinosa and Steve Lombardozzi and then you got guys like Michael Morse, Jayson Werth, Adam LaRoche and Mark DeRosa, so it is a good mix. These guys have been awesome welcoming me in and making me feel like one of the guys."
Here is the interview with Suzuki: