The evaluation process has already begun

VIERA, Fla. - The first day of workouts is in the books. Matt Williams was probably able to sleep a little bit better last night now that things are under way and the first workout jitters are behind him.

As of right now, the Nationals have a whopping 63 players set to eventually report to camp. That total includes right-hander Erik Davis, who is here but not working out for the next few weeks after being put on the 60-day disabled list Thursday with a right elbow strain.

Unless I’m missing something, that leaves the Nats with only one open locker in the entire clubhouse. They’re pretty much packed to the gills.

The lack of empty lockers was especially evident yesterday when reliever Josh Roenicke was assigned a space right in the middle of four guys ticketed for the Nationals’ rotation.

There was Roenicke unpacking his things with Jordan Zimmermann, Doug Fister, Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez milling all around him. No offense to Roenicke, but given that he had just signed a minor league deal with the Nats, seeing him right there among the team’s top starting pitchers was a bit odd.

Williams has a lot of bodies in camp for a reason: As the new manager, coming from outside the organization, he wants to see as many guys with his own two eyes as he can.

“I think that I have to understand them first,” Williams said yesterday, following the first workout for pitchers and catchers. “Every pitcher’s different, everybody has different stuff and all that. It’s a question of me getting to know them and understand what they can and can’t do and what they do best and all that.”

That doesn’t mean that Williams isn’t also doing some evaluating in the early going, even as he tries to get to know his players on the most basic of levels. While he might be still trying to get names down and get a feel for what every player brings to the table, he’s also starting to make some mental notes on where different guys could be slotted.

The evaluation process has begun, even though we’re just one workout in.

“It’s hard not to start it, because I’ve never seen them,” Williams said. “A lot of guys I’ve never seen. Certainly, from that perspective. That’s natural, I think, for me to start thinking about that. It’s completely different when they get into a game. A hitter gets in there and there’s fans in the stands. That’s when the true evaluation comes. But I think it’s natural for me to go there. The rest of the staff may have to rein me in a little bit, but it’s good. I enjoyed it.”

After the workout for pitchers and catchers was over yesterday, Williams made his way out to the main field inside Space Coast Stadium and watched the position players who have reported early to camp take some batting practice.

Ian Desmond was there, wearing old-school stirrups and getting in some swings. Jamey Carroll and Danny Espinosa were around. Nate McLouth arrived and took some hacks. A decent number of position players were a part of things, even though they weren’t required to report until this upcoming Tuesday.

“It tells me they take pride in their performance and they take pride in their team,” Williams said. “So that’s a good thing. The fact they’re here is fantastic, because it shows me they’re here and they’re ready to go.”

One side note, since we’re talking position players: Williams said that infielder Zach Walters has a bit of a tight back and was held out of workouts yesterday. The Nats will evaluate him this morning before determining whether he can participate today or whether he needs another day of rest.

Also, one reader asked the other day whether there was any update on whether Davey Johnson will be making an appearance at Nats camp this spring. I asked Williams that yesterday, and he said he still hasn’t heard one way or the other.

“But if he does (show up), we’re going to do something a little special for him when he gets here,” Williams said.

Here’s today’s quote of the day, written atop the morning schedule sheet: “Every pitch we make is with conviction.”

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