VIERA, Fla. - For a lengthy period this morning, the Nationals clubhouse here at Space Coast Stadium was nearly completely empty, with the exception of six reporters standing around waiting for something, anything, to happen.
Pitchers and catchers were out getting their physicals at an off-site location. A few coaches were on the back fields with some minor leaguers. The only team employee in sight, pretty much, was clubhouse manager Mike Wallace, who with the help of his crew was prepping lockers and getting all the players' gear sorted out.
Then, after wrapping up their physicals, players started rolling in.
New Nats right-hander Doug Fister held court with reporters for nearly 12 minutes, and revealed himself to be quite a renaissance man. (More on that later.) Stephen Strasburg came in and shook hands with Ian Desmond and Jhonatan Solano. Pitching coach Steve McCatty joked around with anyone and everyone he could find.
Ross Detwiler started to suit up for some work out on the fields, only to notice that the backside of his baseball belt had a strange warning label stamped onto it. A confused and worried look came across his face, and I asked what was going on. He showed me the label.
"WARNING: This product may contain a chemical known to the state of California to cause cancer or birth defects or other reproductive harm," it read.
Detwiler laughed about it for a couple seconds, then tried to track down Wallace.
"Hey Wally," Detwiler said. "Can I get a new belt?"
Desmond has been here for a couple of days now, but he was joined today by fellow infielders Danny Espinosa, Jamey Carroll and Zach Walters. A few other minor league position players started to arrive today, as well, including outfielders Steven Souza and Michael Taylor.
Walters will wear No. 4 this spring, Caroll will sport No. 1, and new backup catcher Jose Lobaton will wear No. 59. Minor league left-hander Felipe Rivero, who was acquired yesterday with Lobaton as part of the package for Nathan Karns, is on the 40-man roster, so he'll get a locker here and be a part of big league camp. Rivero will wear No. 73.
Lobaton has a locker in between Solano and Wilson Ramos. Apparently the Nats are cornering the market on Venezuelan catchers, with Lobaton, Ramos and Sandy Leon all in a four-locker span.
Reporters chatted with Lobaton for a few minutes today as he was getting settled. The 29-year-old seemed very pleasant and outgoing, and sounds excited to get going with a new team. He isn't familiar with many of the Nats' pitchers (he faced Fister last season, but that's about it), but says he'll lean on Ramos to help get caught up on everything.
Lobaton was asked if he knows much about Strasburg.
"I heard he's nasty," Lobaton noted, with a smile.