VIERA, Fla. - As I start to get moving this morning on my first full day in Florida, I’d just like to wish everyone well back up north as you deal with this massive snowstorm that’s coming through the mid-Atlantic region.
Stay safe, everyone.
Hopefully everyone’s power remains on throughout the day, and I hope to have plenty of notes and updates from down here to keep you satiated on the baseball front.
Today is the report date for all Nationals pitchers and catchers, but that doesn’t mean that we’ll get our first full workout today. In fact, that first workout won’t come until Saturday, as these next two days are mostly used for the players to go through their physicals, vision tests and individual photo shoots, among other items. Many pitchers will get in a bullpen session today, however, and I’ll be out by the back fields to watch everyone take the hill.
The schedules for the first two workouts for pitchers and catchers have already been posted on a corkboard in the Nats clubhouse, and as expected, new manager Matt Williams has mapped it out down seemingly to the finest detail, with specific plans for every 15-minute window during the session. Each workout is scheduled to go until 12:45 p.m. for pitchers and catchers (with work for the reporting position players then to follow), far later than a typical first-week workout would last under previous Nats skipper Davey Johnson.
We’ll see whether that’s more of an early spring thing, or whether Williams intends to push his players a bit harder than they’ve been pushed in the past throughout the duration of spring training.
There’s an inspirational message of sorts at the top of the schedule for each day’s workout, which appears to be a Williams special touch on spring training. The one for Saturday’s workout reads, “He who holds the ball controls the game.”
Just a friendly reminder to all the hurlers on the team.
I found it a bit interesting to see yesterday that Danny Espinosa has been given one of the big, double-sized lockers in the clubhouse, in the same section with the veteran position players. I was wondering whether Anthony Rendon might end up snagging one of the few large lockers reserved for established position players, given that he played most of 2013 as the starting second baseman and that the Nats have stated that he’s the front runner to win that job again.
Espinosa, who has significantly more major league service time, will keep the larger locker space, however, while Rendon’s smaller locker is in a cluster with Tyler Moore, Scott Hairston and others.
Not a major news story by any means, just something I found interesting.
New Nats starter Doug Fister will have his locker right next to Stephen Strasburg, and on the other side of Strasburg is his good buddy Gio Gonzalez.
I wrote yesterday about veteran reliever Luis Ayala’s excitement at being back with the Nationals and his hopes for the 2014 season, but wanted to pass along one extra quote from my interview with the 36-year-old.
Ayala started off his major league career with the Expos organization, and posted an ERA under 3.20 in his first four big league seasons. Things went downhill the next two years, however, as Ayala struggled early in 2008, leading to the Nats trading him away. The righty then struggled through short stints with the Mets, Twins and Marlins and spent the entire 2010 season in the minors.
He’s been able to get his career back on track in recent seasons, however, putting up an ERA under 3.30 in three straight years, including dominant seasons in 2011 and 2012 with the Yankees and Orioles, respectively. What accounted for the turnaround, in Ayala’s mind?
“I think most importantly I was healthy 100 percent,” he said. “I had a couple rough years when I was not healthy and 100 percent and I got a lot of things on my mind. The last three years, I was more so healthy, and I was trying to make my teams. So I not be in a real comfort. I was more, “Where’s my spot? Where’s my pitches? What’s my game?” So I wasn’t focusing. And the reality is I needed to get some outs for survival at this level.”