VIERA, Fla. - After facing left-handers Sammy Solis and Matt Purke in live batting practice today, and before he was set to step in against right-hander A.J. Cole, I asked shortstop Zach Walters what he thought of the young, talented hurlers the Nationals were rolling out to the mound on Field 2 today.
"Is it like a requirement now that every guy we have is (6-foot-6) and can locate seven pitches?" Walters deadpanned.
Sure seems that way.
Walters was able to barrel up a ball off Purke, sending it to the gap in right-center, so at least he had that going for him. But the young arms the Nats have in camp continue to make the talent-evaluators in the organization smile.
"Those guys are electric, man," manager Matt Williams said. "The ball comes out of their hand really nice. You look at them as opposed to Doug (Fister), Doug's got command of the strike zone. Those guys are working on that command. But it's electric, they threw really good."
"(We've got) lots of potential big league arms. Great problem to have, I guess, when you have that many. But it's a credit to scouting, drafting and development. There's a lot guys who are on the verge of being ready, which is good."
Williams strolled around today, taking in what he could from the live BP sessions on three different fields. What stood out to him?
"Just pitchers are way ahead of hitters," Williams said. "To be expected. But at least we got it in. With the weather today, it was touch and go for a little while whether we were gonna get everybody through their live sessions. So we had to adjust from two fields to three fields, but we got it done. Shut down the defense today. Gonna get heavy defense tomorrow, cutoffs and relays. So we shut that down and made sure we got everybody through. It was a good day."
The only guys really affected by the rain today were Taylor Jordan and Chris Young, who had both just started their live BP sessions when the rain came. Instead of trying to get those guys loose again and have them continue their sessions, the Nats just shut them down and will adjust their throwing schedules accordingly over the next couple of days.
Veteran reliever Luis Ayala faced a group of hitters including Bryce Harper, Denard Span, Jayson Werth, Nate McLouth, Wilson Ramos and Scott Hairston. Harper smoked one ball the other way off of Ayala, sending a liner over shortstop.
Ayala impressed both Ramos and Williams during his session, and Ramos noted that everything that Ayala threw had sink on it due to the right-hander's three-quarters throwing delivery.
"Those guys, when they throw three-quarters, it's natural," Ramos said. "It sinks naturally. He throws a sinker more than over the top. Ayala is throwing good. He's got experience. He's got pretty good command of his pitches. It's good. It's good what we got here.
"He knows himself," Williams said of Ayala. "You get around the league enough, you spend enough time in the big leagues, you get to know yourself. He knows what he can and can't do. He's able to change speeds well within the strike zone. Good fielder, good athlete. For me, he's a shortstop in a pitcher's body, so he moves well. All those things contribute. He's one of those guys who has the ability to throw it for a strike when he wants to and a ball when he wants to. And that can be effective. Doesn't light up the radar gun. But that's OK. Changes speeds, ball moves, changeup, slider, all of them for a strike."
After facing Ayala, Harper then got to take some swings against lefty Xavier Cedeno, giving him a look against a southpaw.
Here's today's photo gallery, which is shorter than normal due to the rain which was making it tough for me to take notes and snap pictures at the same time:
Wilson Ramos' dog showed up at today's workout ... wearing Wilson Ramos' jersey. Pretty adorable.
I've told you they work on everything here at camp. Here are outfielders practicing fielding a ball off the fence.
Anthony Rendon and Ian Desmond prepare to face Fister. Hitting coach Rick Schu, well, I don't know what he's doing.
Livan Hernandez coaches up Matt Purke. I overheard Livo telling Purke, "Don't get lazy" at one point during his mound work.
Might be tough to see what's what here, but this is Luis Ayala facing Bryce Harper. Enjoy.
If you woke up this morning wanting to see a picture of A.J. Cole throwing behind an L-screen, this is your lucky day.