Blevins settling in, enjoying his reps at shortstop

VIERA, Fla. - There was a new addition to the Nationals clubhouse this morning - a picture of pitching coach Steve McCatty was hanging up next to Gio Gonzalez’s locker.

In the photo, which looks like it was taken in sneak-attack fashion, McCatty is sitting at his locker in the coaches’ dressing room with a surprised/confused look on his face and a bag of ice taped to his knee.

“He’s a pretty fantastic man, isn’t he?” Gonzalez said, smiling, as he looked up at the picture with reporters nearby.

This is the second spring in a row that Gonzalez has ended up with a picture of McCatty taped to the area around his locker. McCatty cracks jokes at his pitchers’ expense, and his guys can give it right back.

Position players are set to take their physicals throughout the day today, so we might not see most of those guys until later on in the afternoon. It’ll just be pitchers and catchers working out on the back fields again today.

One of those pitchers, Jerry Blevins, is starting to feel more and more comfortable in his new surroundings by the day. The left-handed reliever, acquired this offseason in a trade with the Athletics, has gotten into the swing of things at Nats camp, and spent a few minutes this morning laughing with closer Rafael Soriano and left-hander Ross Detwiler near his locker.

“It’s been fun,” Blevins said. “The guys have been really open-armed, so it’s been nice. I know a few of the faces here, so that makes it a little easier and also, pitchers and catchers (reporting early) lets you get to know some of your own kind before everybody gets together. So it’s been fun and enjoyable.”

Along with knowing a few Nats players just from competing against them, Blevins is buddies with Craig Stammen from their college days together at the University of Dayton, and he knew Gonzalez from their time together with the Athletics.

“It helps,” Blevins said. “You have somebody who you can gravitate towards when you feel like you’re isolated. But I never got to feel that way here. Everybody’s been great, coaching staff’s been awesome. So (it’s been) easy.”

The 30-year-old Blevins has played seven years in the big leagues, but he got to experience something new the last few days, when he rotated around through the various infield positions during bunt drills. He got to field ground balls at shortstop, which he got a kick out of.

“That was pretty fun,” Blevins said. “It’s different. I’ve never been a part of a drill where, it’s almost like being a quarterback, where you have to know what each one of your positions, what they’re doing. So it helps as a pitcher to know exactly where these guys are gonna be, what they’re thinking and what they’re looking for. So it helped a lot.

“I don’t think you’re gonna see me come in for Desi (Ian Desmond) any time soon to play short, but just in case, I’ll be there.”

In my time watching Blevins throw his bullpen sessions over the last few days, seemingly everything he throws is down in the zone, around the knees or below. That’s by design, especially early on in spring, but Blevins says he’ll start to mix things up in the coming days and weeks.

“You try to minimize damage staying low in the zone, but I can work it up-and-in,” Blevins said. “I’ll climb the ladder, if necessary. I like to be able to throw it wherever I want it or wherever it’s needed, but you always want to start low. And if you miss, miss low. So that’s a good place to start. You’ll see me start working around a little bit, especially on the corners. Up-and-in to a righty, up-and-in to a lefty.”

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