VIERA, Fla. - There's only so much you can take out of bullpen sessions early in spring.
There's no one standing in the batter's box. There's no umpire. There are only a couple dozen people watching on instead of 30,000. And, well, pitchers are throwing in a bullpen that has nine other mounds, and typically four other pitchers getting in their own work.
That said, you can't help but try and pull something substantive from these sessions, as hard as that can be sometimes. That's what we do.
A couple pitchers stood out to me today: new Nationals right-hander Doug Fister and left-hander Sammy Solis.
Fister stands very tall on the mound, and his tall is taller than most people's tall. The 6-foot-8 righty definitely uses his height to his advantage, firing the ball on a downhill plane and attacking the lower portion of the strike zone.
Everything was down in the zone from Fister today. The 30-year-old wore out the knee-high area for hitters, to the point that his control became a joke among Nats coaches and front office personnel.
At the end of every bullpen session, pitchers are told to fire one high fastball and then pitch-outs to either side of the plate, replicating what it would be like if a right-handed hitter was in the box, and then a left-handed hitter.
When Fister threw his high fastball - which was more a high strike than a fastball above the zone - vice president of player personnel Bob Boone chuckled.
"Did that hurt, Doug?" Boone chided, before turning to one of the coaches nearby and cracking a joke about Fister being told to throw a high fastball.
"That's like telling me not to slice the ball off the tee," Boone said.
Solis also looked good in his mound session, the tall left-hander pounding the zone with fastballs on the black and mixing in sharp-moving breaking pitches.
A solid crowd of coaches hovered around Solis for a few minutes, watching his delivery. Solis is a big guy at 6-foot-5, 230 lbs., but his throwing motion is pretty smooth and without a lot of moving parts.
Meanwhile, minor league catcher Brian Jeroloman, who ended up in the hospital last year after being on the receiving end of a home plate collision in the Eastern League playoffs, has passed his concussion tests and will begin working out with the big league club in the near future.
Jeroloman was run into by Erie second baseman Brandon Douglas during a postseason game last fall, and the vicious collision (which you can see here) knocked Jeroloman out for the remainder of the playoffs.
He re-signed with the Nats this offseason and got an invitation to big league spring training this year after splitting last year between Double-A and Triple-A, but hasn't been assigned a locker or been able to participate in on-field workouts yet. Jeroloman will take a little more time to get in playing shape, so to speak, before getting on the field, but I'm told he's getting close.