VIERA, Fla. - All 62 players on the Nationals’ spring roster have reported to camp, according to manager Matt Williams. Reporters haven’t seen Jayson Werth to this point, but that means nothing. Werth has apparently reported to people who actually matter, unlike myself, and he’ll take part in player physicals tomorrow.
Bryce Harper will meet with reporters tomorrow after he takes his physical. Today, Harper tossed on his Nationals red and blue pullover, laced up his cleats, shagged some flies and took part in his first batting practice session of spring training.
It didn’t take long for Harper to get in the groove. In his first round of BP - which consists of six swings - Harper laced line drives all over the field, mostly to the opposite-field side. That included a rocket of a home run out over the left-center field wall.
Harper might have had surgery on his left knee in October, and he might have been unsure whether he’d be 100 percent when camp began, but he sure didn’t look like a guy that was holding anything back in his first day back on the field at Space Coast Stadium.
“He looks good,” Williams said. “He participated with everything today. We’ll monitor him, of course, like we talked about. See how he is tomorrow. He looks good. He’s ready to go.
“He’s talked a lot about how he loses weight during the course of the season. He wants to come in the spring and make sure he can carry that as long as he can. I think he looks good. We’ll never, ever be worried about Bryce being in shape. That’s for sure.”
Rafael Soriano always moves at his own pace, but especially so during spring training. He eases into throwing sessions, both in terms of time and intensity, and that’s been the case early this spring. Soriano didn’t throw his first bullpen session until today, and even that session looked like it was maybe at two-thirds force.
That’s just how Soriano goes about preparing himself, and as he enters his 12th major league season, the 34-year-old has figured out a system that works for him. Former Nats manager Davey Johnson was good with Soriano’s spring throwing program, and Williams apparently is, too.
“Sori has been great,” Williams said. “He’s participated in everything we’ve participated in. He had three straight days of comebackers and PFPs (pitchers’ fielding practice). He’s excited about that. We talked to him about his plan for spring training, and today was his first bullpen. So we told him, ‘Today, you can (throw for) eight minutes if you want to.’ He went the full 10. Which is a very good sign. He felt good. The last three or four pitches, he let it go a little bit. So he’s right on track.”
While many relievers get upwards of 12 or 13 appearances in spring training games, Soriano made just seven last year before declaring himself ready to go for the regular season. He also tried to work out a throwing program with pitching coach Steve McCatty and Johnson that allowed him to avoid facing division opponents as often as possible in spring training games, but hasn’t made a similar request this year, Williams said.
“We talked about his commitment level and making sure he’s prepared for opening day if we need him,” Williams said. “So if it falls on a day where it could be divisional, then it falls on that day. All the things in spring training, we want to make sure he gets in games, and then we have a back-to-back situation, all of that stuff you need to do with your back-of-the-bullpen guys. His objective in spring is to make sure he’s ready opening day.