VIERA, Fla. - Baseball games are here, ladies and gentlemen.
We’ve watched bullpen sessions for more than two weeks. We’ve seen countless swings in the cages. We’ve witnessed bunt plays being run and comebackers being fielded and relays being practiced.
We’ve seen infielders practice catching popups. We’ve seen pitchers throw to hitters, but with L-screens stationed in front of them. We’ve watched the Nationals go through it all, building up from scratch and preparing themselves for the long season to come.
It’s only spring training games that are beginning today, not the real thing, of course. But we will most certainly take it.
Players are itching to get out there and compete. Fans are itching to watch something of substance (even if spring games don’t contain too much substance). Beat reporters are itching to have something interesting to discuss.
Today’s 1:10 p.m. game against the Mets in Port St. Lucie will mark Matt Williams’ first time in a dugout as Nationals manager. He’ll ride down to Tradition Field and back on the team bus instead of taking his own car for a couple of reasons, but mainly, he says, because, “I don’t know where I’m going.”
Williams said yesterday that he isn’t nervous about being at the helm for today’s spring opener. He might not have managed in the big leagues before, but he has managed in the Arizona Fall League and been a coach for a number of years. The things that concern Williams going into games are more specific to the process of spring training and making sure his players are all where they need to be.
“No, it’s fine. That part of it, I’ve done before,” Williams said of managing today. “Not at this level. The only thing I’m worried about or nervous about is trying to get everyone into the game. I want to look at everybody.
“Unfortunately, that is almost impossible sometimes. But that’s the plan. But going out there and making a change, I’m not worried about that stuff.”
The Nats will face Mets right-hander Rafael Montero this afternoon, who went 12-7 with a 2.78 ERA between Double-A and Triple-A last season.
Taylor Jordan will get the ball for the Nats, looking to make a strong impression as he competes for the fifth starter’s job in Williams’ rotation. Jordan went 1-3 with a 3.66 ERA in nine starts for the Nationals last year, his first taste of the big leagues.
Jordan is scheduled to go two innings today, but that can obviously change depending on how quickly his pitch count rises and how strenuous the innings are.
A.J. Cole, Christian Garcia, Xavier Cedeno, Manny Delcarmen, Aaron Barrett, Danny Rosenbaum and Tyler Robertson are written in behind Jordan on the list of pitchers we should see today.
Williams says he’ll try and get his starting position players a couple of at-bats before he goes to his bench to get a look at some of the other players he’s brought along on the travel roster.
Here’s today’s starting lineup again, for those who missed it:
RF Nate McLouth
2B Danny Espinosa
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam LaRoche
SS Ian Desmond
C Wilson Ramos
DH Tyler Moore
LF Scott Hairston
CF Eury Perez
RHP Taylor Jordan
Let’s get things started, folks. Baseball games have arrived.