Notes on replay and Clippard's spring workload (plus photo gallery)

VIERA, Fla. - Manager Matt Williams made the drive to Kissimmee a bit ago for a meeting with Major League Baseball officials regarding the new replay rules that will be instituted this season.

MLB asked Williams to drive in so that the new rules could be explained in detail, giving the teams complete knowledge of what will be allowed and when.

I'll be interested to hear tomorrow what exactly Williams learned at the meeting and how the Nationals plan to try and use these new rules to their advantage. Replay will be allowed during some spring training games, so we'll get a little sample of it before the regular season begins.

Williams spent some time watching his position players go through defensive drills and take batting practice today, and also spent some time watching the pitchers throw bullpen sessions. It's tough to learn much from these sessions given that there are no hitters in the batter's box, but Williams does have specific things that he's looking for when watching his pitchers put in their work.

"I want to get to see what they throw and how their ball moves, what their keys would be," Williams said. "As an example, Doug Fister. We know what his key is. So he's over there working on sinking the ball low in the zone, using his other pitches for strikes, those type of things. We can't truly evaluate until we get into game situations and we see how the other hitters react to it. And even then, it's difficult in spring training. Because you may have a starter go out there for two innings. You don't see how he reacts the second time through the order. Those type of things, you don't get a chance to do early.

"So I rely on Randy (Knorr) and (pitching coach Steve McCatty) and talk to them constantly over there about these guys and what they see. They give me an indication of what they've seen in the past and if there's any change or if it's better than what they've seen."

I mentioned earlier that Tyler Clippard didn't throw a bullpen session today because of discomfort in his back, but that the issue doesn't appear to be anything serious. Clippard will be set back a little bit in terms of building up the duration of his bullpen sessions, but he should be good to take the mound again on Sunday.

This minor setback wouldn't be a big deal for any pitcher this early in spring, but even less so for Clippard, who has eased into spring training each of the last few years.

"I like to take it easy," said Clippard, who threw just 10 innings in spring games last year. "I know the last four years I've had a lot of big workloads and stuff, so I know that that's probably going to continue. I don't want to throw 16 innings in spring training for no reason. It's more or less one of those things where I know I'm going to be used a lot in the season, so I really want to take it easy in spring and be ready for opening day and what that's gonna entail."

Former manager Davey Johnson and McCatty were cool with Clippard getting less work in spring than most relievers, and apparently Williams and McCatty are good with that this spring, as well.

"It's a huge luxury for me, especially at this point in my career," Clippard said. "I just turned 29, getting older and I have a lot of innings in my arm. Just to have that luxury of saying, 'Hey guys, can you work with me a little bit on this? Maybe take it easy on me early in spring?' It definitely is nice to be able to do that."

Here's your photo gallery from Day 7 of workouts:

They're selling cars in the lot next to the Nats' minor league complex. This is what I look like shirtless, by the way.
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Drew Storen and Josh Roenicke go over pitch grips. Happens more than you might imagine at the big league level.
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Ryan Zimmerman giving the defensive signs to pitchers during bunt drills. Doesn't always come from the catcher.
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If you've never seen a team take infield before, three coaches hit balls to different players in succession. Fun to watch.
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Not surprisingly, the Werth/Zimmerman/LaRoche BP group drew the biggest crowd of onlookers today.
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Bryce Harper and Denard Span wait to take their cuts while Nate McLouth is in the cage. Be patient, fellas!
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Here's some video of Harper's BP session today.

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