A large group of Nationals players and coaches made their way over to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda this afternoon, giving some injured veterans a thrill and getting quite a cool experience themselves.
Eleven Nats players made the trip, a group that included Adam LaRoche, Danny Espinosa, Ian Desmond, Chad Tracy, Tyler Moore, Steve Lombardozzi, Ryan Mattheus, Tyler Clippard, Drew Storen, Craig Stammen and Zach Duke.
Bench coach Randy Knorr and bullpen coach Jim Lett also joined in on the trip.
I asked Mattheus this afternoon about the most rewarding part of the experience. The Nationals reliever told me a story about Travis Mills, a quadriplegic veteran who Mattheus met on a trip to Walter Reed last year.
At the time that Mattheus initially met Mills, he was less than a month removed from having all four of his limbs blown off in an explosion. Still, Mattheus said, Mills was upbeat as could be.
When Mattheus saw Mills today, Mills was walking around on prosthetic legs with that same old smile on his face.
“It was amazing just to hear him joke around (last year) after just getting his legs and arms blown off,” Mattheus said. “And then to see his outlook the same today is just crazy to me, you know what I mean? He could’ve absolutely thrown it in and been mad at the world, blamed everybody for everything and felt sorry for (himself). Just to see the work he’s done and how positive he is is unbelievable.
“He got up, walked out of the room when he was done talking to us, and last year, he couldn’t do anything. Couldn’t move at all. So it’s pretty amazing to see.”
Good on the Nationals for making that trip, and as Mattheus pointed out, the players and coaches probably got more out of the experience than the veterans thrilled to see some of their favorite athletes up close.
Meanwhile, Chris Young made his first start tonight for Triple-A Syracuse, and the numbers probably weren’t what he was looking for.
The veteran right-hander allowed nine hits and six runs over 4 1/3 innings. Young walked three, struck out two and gave up three home runs.
Young spent much of spring training with the Nats, but opted out of his minor league deal March 25 in search of a major league contract. He didn’t find one, however, and re-signed with the Nats on a new minor league deal. His current contract doesn’t have an opt-out clause, but general manager Mike Rizzo has said that if Young has a chance to join another big league club, the Nats would probably let him go.
This was Young’s first game action since making a March 25 Grapefruit League start with the Nationals, so the 6-foot-10 righty might have been a bit rusty. Still, this performance will probably give some fans calling for Dan Haren to be pushed out of the rotation a little pause before saying Young is ready for a big league start.
Update: Here in D.C., the Nationals trail the Cardinals 2-0 after four innings.
Ross Detwiler induced an inning-ending double play in each of the first three innings, but then gave up four straight hits to open the fourth, allowing two runs to score.
Those two runs allowed in the fourth inning tonight match the number of earned runs Detwiler had surrendered in his previous three starts combined.
The slumping Nats bats have gotten nothing going against Adam Wainwright, managing just one hit off the veteran righty through four. Wainwright has struck out four of the last five Nats he’s faced and his six Ks overall.