Rachel Levitin: Going through growing pains

There’s been a lot of going on at Nationals Park this week with the Los Angeles Angels in town. Fans in attendance at Tuesday night’s game witnessed history as Angels first baseman Albert Pujols slugged his 499th and 500th career home runs. The three-game series, which concludes this evening, also marked the first time young guns Mike Trout and Bryce Harper’s ballclubs have faced each other.

But all of that aside, what’s been most notable from a Nationals perspective is that this team is dealing with some growing pains.

Matt Williams: It’s Williams’ first year as a manager in the major leagues. After a successful and decorated career plus a World Series victory and three years as a coach, Williams is getting into his own rhythm and routine as a manager. He’s testing the waters to see what works and what doesn’t. The 24-hour news cycle doesn’t make it very easy for a brand-new manager starting out in that position, especially since each and every move is under extreme scrutiny.

Lineups have been tinkered with, bunts have been executed and, despite the fundamentals work at spring training, the Nats keep racking up errors. It is only April, though, so the question remains: How will Williams’ management style evolve over the course of this season and beyond?

Errors: Speaking of errors, the Nats have made a lot of them this season. As of Monday, the Nats were in sole possession of last place in the National League in fielding percentage, while also leading their league with 22 errors. If the Nats want to end up atop the NL East at the end of the season, the errors are something that needs to stop. There’s no way to keep up with the likes of the Atlanta Braves if defense remains lackadaisical.

Tyler Clippard and Jayson Werth: Stuart Wallace also raised these points in his Tuesday guest blog, but the excessive errors combined with the recent performances from relief pitcher Clippard and outfielder Werth are notable identifiers of possible concern for Washington.

Clippard has struggled to find consistency in his command, making the eighth inning of any game he’s pitching in a tough one to watch of late. There’s also been a notable uptick in misplays in right field. Werth is getting older as years on his contract with Washington go by. He’s either shedding off a few of those leftover winter cobwebs or the rest of the season will demonstrate whether or not these two are in an actual decline.

Just remember - it’s only April and growing pains are normal.

Rachel Levitin blogs about the Nationals for We Love DC, and will be sharing her observations about baseball in the nation’s capital as part of MASNsports.com’s season-long initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our little corner of cyberspace. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.

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