Several pitchers did very well at instructional league, including a couple of right-handed relievers who were noticed by Single-A Potomac pitching coach Chris Michalak over the last few weeks of fall camp in Viera, Fla.
Right-handers Robert Benincasa and Derek Self, who spent the summer at short-season Single-A Auburn after their selections by the Nationals in the 2012 draft, made good progress.
"Benincasa threw the ball well for us in Florida," Michalak said. "He was an aggressive reliever. And Derek Self from Louisville was a really athletic-type guy, his ball really came out well, hitting 94 to 95 mph."
The 6-foot-2, 180-lb., 22-year-old Benincasa pitched in 16 games for Auburn, going 2-0 with a 3.09 ERA and three saves. In 23 1/3 innings, the right-hander struck out 32 and walked only three. The Florida State product had the "best arm" on the Seminoles staff, and was a seventh round 2012 selection for the Nationals.
The 22-year old Self was a ninth-round selection. He stands 6-foot-3, 205 lbs., and went 1-3 with a 3.27 ERA for Auburn in 26 games over 33 innings, striking out 25 and walking eight.
Michalak also had good updates on a couple of catchers.
Justin Miller, normally an infielder, did a nice job picking up the catching position at instructional league.
"Yes, he did. You better believe he did OK back there adjusting to that (position)," Michalak confirmed.
There has been no confirmation if Miller's transition to catcher is permanent, but it certainly is a good thing for the Nats to have options at the spot.
Former Clemson backstop and fifth-round selection Spencer Kieboom also got a positive review.
"He had a couple of games where he caught for me. I had good conversations with him. He was good behind the plate, handling the running game. Very good and was a great kid to work with, too."
Kieboom hit .258 in 41 games, with six doubles and 20 RBIs for Auburn this past summer. He finished with 10 hits in his last five games, batting .405 from Aug. 18-Sept. 4.
Michalak said all of the catchers are being taught how the Nationals want to defend the position and the organizational philosophies, especially when it deals with how to handle the pitchers.
"They are learning the game, learning what we want our pitchers to do," Michalak said. "We are getting them to understand situations and reading some things on hitters."