VIERA, Fla. - The Nationals’ Grapefruit League season is over. The bags in the home clubhouse at Space Coast Stadium are all packed and the players are dressed and ready for their flight up to D.C.
Thirty-three spring training games are in the books. Only tomorrow’s exhibition against the Yankees at Nats Park and two days off stand between the Nationals and the 2013 regular season.
“We’re ready to get out of here,” manager Davey Johnson said after this afternoon’s 5-1 win over the Mets. “You start seeing the real deal coming on. The warm-up’s over.”
The Nats finish their Grapefruit League slate with a 14-17-2 record. Gio Gonzalez pitched four innings of scoreless ball today, striking out seven, but according to Johnson, his left-handed starter did so while not feeling his sharpest.
“Gio pulled it together, but he didn’t feel that great,” Johnson said. “I thought he threw the ball all right. Just lethargic kind of deal. He ended up going about 60, 70 pitches. But he had a great spring.”
Rafael Soriano put the finishing touches on today’s win with a scoreless ninth inning. Soriano, who Johnson said looked “rusty” in yesterday’s outing, walked one and allowed a stolen base today, and struck out two.
Soriano only worked 6 2/3 innings in Grapefruit League games this year (he also threw an inning in a minor league game last week), but that’s the right-hander’s typical spring workload. He worked back-to-back games the last two days, something Johnson felt was important.
“It was nice to see Soriano. He looks like he’s getting closer,” Johnson said. “He knows what he needs and how he feels. Each guy’s different.”
In the top of the fifth, Chad Tracy made quite possibly the defensive play of spring for the Nats. Playing third base, Tracy dove to his right to snag a hot-shot grounder off the bat of Anthony Recker, and then from his knees, gunned Recker at first base by a full step.
Now, it’s back to D.C. Johnson said he feels the Nats accomplished all they hoped to this spring, and barring a few minor ailments here and there, they leave Viera in good shape health-wise.
“Oh man, I’m excited,” Johnson said. “It’s nice to get the Yankees at home to kind of jump-start us. It’s been a heck of a long spring. I think the guys have held up pretty well. Got to see a lot of players. Everybody got a lot of work. But it’s dog days. Everybody’s pretty much ready, and let’s start playing for real.
“We kind of put the finishing touches on (everything). I like where everybody’s at. Guys that I wanted to see relaxed this spring were (Bryce) Harper and (Danny) Espinosa. Seeing how Zim (Ryan Zimmerman) was coming along after the operation, that was really great.
“Everybody’s kind of right around where you want them at the end. That’s good.”
I’m off for the airport. See ya, Viera. Catch everyone back up in D.C.
Update: The Nationals made two cuts to get their roster down to 26, and neither was unexpected.
The Nats reassigned Micah Owings and Carlos Rivero to minor league camp. So that leaves one more cut after Friday’s exhibition.