VIERA, Fla. - Notes from Nationals camp and other teams that train in Florida:
* Nats outfielder Denard Span said that part of the reason he hit well in the final weeks of last season was because he stopped taking on-field batting practice before games, focusing on hitting from the tee and in the cage. “When I was on the field, my swing got long,” Span said. This spring, he’ll return to BP on the field and then adjust as needed.
* The Tigers put out a release saying that Max Scherzer, the 2013 AL Cy Young Award winner, turned down a long-term contract that would put him among the highest-paid pitchers in baseball, something teams don’t generally do. Why did they do that? Because the team wanted Detroit fans to know they are doing their part to keep a strong rotation. The Tigers traded Prince Fielder with the idea that they would keep Scherzer. Now, Scherzer is on the spot. How he reacts and how his relationship unfolds with the team is an ongoing story.
* Former Orioles pitcher Scott Feldman will be the Astros’ opening day pitcher and another former Oriole, LJ Hoes, will play right field. Hoes, however, is only holding the position until power-hitting prospect George Springer will be ready as the season progresses, likely by late June. Former Nats coach Bo Porter, now the Astros manager, is going to need patience again this season because the best-case scenario for his team is 65 wins.
* The Nats’ Bryce Harper can steal bases and hit home runs, so which part of the batting order does he prefer? “I’m caught in the middle, but I’d be happy with a 20-20 season,” he said.
* The Cardinals’ Pete Kozma, a light-hitting shortstop who always hits well against the Nats, will start the season at Triple-A because of the signing of Jhonny Peralta. The Cardinals would like to trade Kozma, but they also appreciate the infield depth that Kozma gives them. ... Also, pitcher Michael Wacha, a postseason hero last season, has walked one batter in his last two spring starts. He says his changeup is better and he’s confident that his command will be improved this season.
* It will be interesting to see what reliever Blake Treinen contributes to the Nationals bullpen, whether he makes the team or not out of camp. “He throws an easy 97 with good sink and that’s difficult to do,” says Nationals manager Matt Williams. “His breaking ball and changeup are improving. He’s a large man and a menacing presence on the the mound.”
* Williams says he’s not sure about whether Danny Espinosa or Anthony Rendon will play second base. It would seem Espinosa winning the job would be the best scenario. Espinosa’s defense is too good to give up on and his redefined swing might pay dividends. If Espinosa played second every day, that would give Rendon more time to polish his swing in the minors, something the Nationals think he needs.
* Nats outfielder Jayson Werth likes the aggressive base-running style of Matt Williams. Werth lobbied former managers Jim Riggleman and Davey Johnson for the team to be more aggressive running. “I like what I see with Matt Williams,” Werth says. “It’s one style versus another, one man’s theories against another man’s theories. Who is right? I am sure there are teams that have won both ways.”
* The Mets would like to use rangy Juan Lagares in center field, but he can’t hit, and the Mets have holes in their lineup. So chances are good that their outfield will have Curtis Granderson as well as Eric Young and Chris Young. ... The Mets rotation will be led by Dillon Gee with Zack Wheeler and Jon Niese, but the big questions will be Daisuke Matsuzaka and Bartolo Colon. The Mets are waiting for prospect Noah Snydergaard to be up midseason and for Matt Harvey’s surgically repaired elbow to be ready. Harvey could be back in the majors in September.