VIERA, Fla. - Today’s workout was briefly interrupted by a heavy rainstorm that lasted about 15 minutes or so, but the Nationals still were able to take part in their first live batting practice sessions of spring, with a couple taking place before the rain came and the rest after the showers had passed through.
Doug Fister and Gio Gonzalez were the first to throw today on Fields 2 and 3. Luis Ayala, Xavier Cedeno and a host of others went after the rain came down, including a trio of young, promising hurlers went in succession on Field 2.
Sammy Solis, Matt Purke and A.J. Cole all threw over on that field, and while all three looked good today, Solis left a number of hitters - both veteran Nats and minor leaguers - walking away very impressed with what they saw.
Corner infielder Matt Skole faced Solis, Purke, Cole and Danny Rosenbaum, and asked who stood out, he singled out Solis, the Nationals’ second-round pick in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft.
“Definitely Sammy, for sure,” Skole said. “Ball was just jumping out of his hand. I played with him in Arizona last year (in the Arizona Fall League), and I could tell right away he’s going to be something special. He’s got a good arm, big league arm. And it was live today.”
Solis, a 6-foot-5 lefty who underwent Tommy John surgery in 2012 and is in big league camp for the first time, showed off his fastball, changeup and two different curveballs today. Add Ryan Zimmerman to the list of hitters who took notice of Solis’ mound presence and repertoire.
“Good, really good,” Zimmerman said. “Obviously, I keep up with the guys we have in the minor leagues and I’d heard about him quite a bit. I didn’t know he’s as big and physical as he was. He’s a big kid. I guess he’s been a starter in the past, but kind of like the Cardinals and those teams do, I can see him, I mean, I saw five pitches from him today, but with the stuff that you see there, you can envision him coming in and maybe pitching an inning or something out of the bullpen to start and then working his way into being a starter.
“He threw me three really good pitches, and when you have that kind of talent and that kind of stuff, you’re going to get a shot at some point.”
Zimmerman said that Solis threw him fastballs that had good run away from right-handed hitters, as well as some heaters that came in, kind of crossfire from the southpaw. And while Solis might not throw upper 90s, Zimmerman said it was tough to get solid contact on 25-year-old’s fastball.
“Everyone talks about a heavy ball. It just makes it harder to square up,” Zimmerman said. “Some guys throw 95, 96, but it’s a lighter 95, 96. His - whatever he throws, you can tell it’s going to be a heavy one and it’s going to hard to make good contact.”
Given that he’s worked all the way back since Tommy John surgery, Solis would have likely been thrilled with his first live BP session in big league camp regardless of who the hitters were in the batter’s box. But Solis said that facing Zimmerman and Adam LaRoche, along with a handful of other hitters, made the experience even more exciting.
He was happy with how the session went overall, saying his arm felt strong and that he was pleased with his fastball command. And he was also able to continue working on his secondary pitches, which have come along nicely in recent years.
“I think in the past (my better secondary pitch has) been the changeup, but it’s starting to come around to where I can use both, changeup and curveball, in any count,” Solis said. “And that was my big problem I think before I got hurt was I didn’t have any location whatsoever with the breaking pitch. Now I do. So I think it’s just another weapon I can use.
“Honestly, I think it’s a lot of time out here (helped with that, during the Tommy John rehab). A lot of time getting off the mound and playing catch and taking things slow. I never really took the time before, I guess, to develop my pitches. And getting hurt kind of slowed things down for me and gave me a lot more time to work on that stuff.”
Solis grew up throwing a knuckle-curve, similar to the one former Orioles and Yankees starter Mike Mussina used to throw. Solis actually throws that offspeed pitch similar to his fastball, releasing it straight ahead, but pushing off with his fingertips, giving the ball a slider-like spin. But recently, he’s adopted more of a standard curve, as well.
He showed it all off today, and the way that Solis’ secondary pitches have come along combined with the way he commands his heavy fastball, plenty of people in Nats camp are taking notice of the promising left-hander.