VIERA, Fla. - It felt like Florida weather this morning for the first time in a few days, as the sun came out and the temperatures rose into the 70s while the Nationals got their second workout of spring into gear.
That allowed Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, Ross Detwiler and a host of others to throw their first bullpen sessions of spring in solid conditions. Those three were joined by Tanner Roark in the first group to throw ‘pens today.
I tried to take a few minutes watching each Nats starter during their mound work, and all four looked good. (Take that for what it’s worth this early in spring training.) Detwiler’s two-seam fastball was moving nicely today, and he drew an, “Oooh!” from one of the coaches at one point after he pinpointed a sinker down in the zone, right on the black.
Craig Stammen joined a host of non-roster invitees - Gabriel Alfaro, Blake Treinen, Daniel Stange and Clay Hensley - in the second group.
Treinen, who was acquired along with A.J. Cole and Ian Krol in the Michael Morse trade last winter, looked especially good. The 25-year-old was popping the mitt with his fastball, and showed good movement on his off-speed stuff.
The third group featured a host of bullpen veterans - Tyler Clippard, Jerry Blevins, Drew Storen and Ryan Mattheus - as well as left-hander Felipe Rivero, the 22-year-old minor leaguer acquired from the Rays the other day in the deal that brought the Nats catcher Jose Lobaton.
I wanted to spend a good bit of time watching Blevins and Rivero, since they’re the newcomers and I’d never seen them throw before. Blevins kept everything, and I mean everything, down in the zone. I didn’t see a single pitch even in the upper half of the strike zone in my time watching him work. It looks like the veteran lefty often has the ball dart in on the hands of left-handed hitters, as well.
Rivero, who drew rave reviews from general manager Mike Rizzo after the trade was announced, drew a bit of a crowd, both coaches and reporters. The lanky lefty had good movement today, even on his fastball. Not many pitches that came out of his hand were straight. The youngster seems to have a live arm, and he impressed Livan Hernandez, who was standing just a few feet from Rivero as the Venezuelan worked. Hernandez told me afterward that he liked what he saw from Rivero.
After throwing their bullpens, Detilwer, Zimmermann and Roark headed over to a half-field for some bunting drills under the watchful eye of first base coach Tony Tarasco.
The three pitchers made a game out of the drill, trying to bunt as many balls as they could into a bag that was placed maybe 15 feet in front of them and maybe eight feet to the right, the exact area that you want to have a sacrifice bunt end up.
Detwiler got four in a row into the bag at one point, and I’m pretty sure he came out of the drill the winner. Big day for Ross.
Finally, the Nationals had a strange visitor at today’s workout - a drone that hovered above their drills with a GoPro camera attached to it.
The camera, manned by members of the Nationals production team, was lifted up into the air to capture footage from a much, much different perspective than we’re used to seeing. A number of the players noticed the drone, which makes a buzzing noise not unlike a group of bees, and went over to the photographer and crew members who were in charge of the thing.
“Technology’s crazy,” Strasburg said with a smile, when asked about the drone. “I guess it’s pretty easy. I guess you can go down to the hobby store and get one yourself.”
Will Strasburg be doing so?
“Nah,” he said. “I’d lose it in a tree.”