VIERA, Fla. - While we’ve talked a lot about how intense Matt Williams was as a player and how regimented and focused his spring training workouts will likely be, today’s workout for pitchers and catchers - Williams’ first as Nats skipper - seemed pretty laid back and quiet.
That doesn’t mean it wasn’t tightly run, however. Groups of pitchers quickly rotated through stations where they threw bullpen sessions, worked on their bunting, practiced pickoff moves and did some pitchers’ fielding practice (PFP).
The stations themselves were run at a pretty slow pace, which I guess isn’t surprising, given that the Nationals don’t want anyone pushing things too hard out of the gates and ending up battling an injury. The workout was scheduled to go until 12:45 p.m., but it ended about an hour early.
“He’s the type of guy that, he’s just about his business,” Gio Gonzalez said of Williams after the workout. “He wants to go out there and win. He’s a great manager and I think he’s gonna have his fun, he’s gonna let us enjoy our time, but at the same time, once we cross those lines, it’s gametime. So he knows what he’s doing this year, he got us in stations and I’m already lost on the first day. We’re ready to go and that’s a good sign.”
Before the workout, Williams spent some time chatting with his coaches and Livan Hernandez, who is serving as an instructor during spring training, as the players stretched and played some long toss. He then made his way over to a cluster of bullpen mounds to watch a bunch of his pitchers get in their throwing.
The first group of hurlers contained three guys with some size - Doug Fister (6-foot-8), Chris Young (6-foot-10) and Taylor Jordan (6-foot-3) - and Gonzalez, who is generously listed at an even 6 feet.
“You see that?” Gonzalez said, when I inquired about the Nats pairing him with all the tall guys today. “We were called the ‘Monstars,’ like (the movie) ‘Space Jam’. I guess I was the little red guy in the middle.”
Gonzalez bounced three straight breaking balls in front of the plate at one point during his bullpen session, causing catcher Wilson Ramos to hop up from his crouch and chest the balls down in front of him.
“Yeah, work today!” Gonzalez playfully shouted at Ramos.
The second group of hurlers to throw bullpens today was made up of Manny Delcarmen, Luis Ayala, Christian Garcia, Aaron Barrett and A.J. Cole.
Ayala has an interesting throwing motion, coming down three-quarters and seemingly short-arming the ball to the plate. It’s a different approach, which I’d imagine creates some deception.
Garcia looked good during his session, popping the fastball and showing good movement on his off-speed pitches. And most importantly, he walked off the mound healthy.
This one complete mound session already is more than Garcia threw all last spring, when he noticed some discomfort in his right forearm midway through his first bullpen and was shut down for the rest of camp.
“Surpassing myself,” Garcia told me with a smile as he walked off the mound.
Cole has a lanky frame at 6-foot-4, 180 lbs., but he’s got a smooth, quiet throwing motion and showed good movement on his slider.
The third and final throwing group today was made up of all lefites - Sammy Solis, Matt Purke, Danny Rosenbaum, Tyler Robertson and Xavier Cedeno.
At one point, in between groups of bullpen sessions, Williams walked over to another field to watch some pitchers practice their bunting. Instead of walking inside the fenced-off area, Williams opted to stand on a patch of dirt outside the fence, right next to a fan.
That fan, Gerry Gleckel, then got an experience he probably won’t forget anytime soon, getting a chance to chat with a major league manager.
“How they lookin’?” Williams asked, as he approached.
Gleckel looked over to his left to see who was talking to him.
“I know he was a coach,” Gleckel told me, a couple minutes later, “but I didn’t know it was the coach.”
Williams could only stay for a minute before he needed to head over to another station, and Gleckel said he wished Williams well as they parted ways.
“Excited to have you here,” Gleckel said, and Williams smiled.