PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. - After two long weeks of workouts on the minor league fields focusing on fundamentals and just taking batting practice, do you think Nationals players were excited to actually take part in a game and face a real opponent?
“Yes. Yes. Yes,” outfielder Nate McLouth said, smiling. “Those workout days kind of drag a little bit, but they’re necessary, obviously. It was so good to get out there and kind of get in the flow, get in our routine a little bit. ... It was fun. Beautiful day, body felt great, saw the ball good. Good to get the first couple at-bats out of the way.”
The Nats started their spring training schedule with a 5-4 comeback win over the Mets at Tradition Field this afternoon. The first 12 at-bats for Nationals hitters today all resulted in outs, six in strikeouts. But don’t read much into the early spring results one way or another.
“I could swing at the first pitch every time,” third baseman Ryan Zimmerman said. “I know I can hit a 90 mph fastball right down the middle. I like to try to take a couple and get into the rhythm and see a few sliders, even if I don’t have great at-bats. Early in spring they’re obviously trying to get ahead, and you’re going to be behind in the count a lot if you take the first pitch like I like to do early.
“First week or so, the at-bats are tough. Then you start to get more aggressive. Now you just want to see pitches and get used to seeing sliders and get comfortable hitting with two strikes.”
You hear that pitchers are ahead of hitters early in spring training. Zimmerman agrees with that.
“Yeah, they’ve been throwing for two weeks now, and we’ve been seeing them for three or four days in live pitching, which really isn’t much,” he said. “This is the first day we’re really seeing them. They’re definitely ahead now. That’s how it always is.”
Catcher Wilson Ramos had a nice day at the plate and on the basepaths, smoking an RBI double off the left field wall in the fifth and then showing some quickness in moving to third on a ball in the dirt. Ramos also got in four innings behind the plate, catching Taylor Jordan and A.J. Cole.
“Good, he throw pretty good today,” Ramos said of Jordan. “Ball’s down, pitches working good. Slider much better. A.J. Cole, too, throw the ball down pretty good. Those guys been throwing good and hopefully it stays the same for the rest of the season.”
Christian Garcia didn’t throw the ball as well as he would have liked today. The right-hander, who is competing for a spot in the Nats’ bullpen, allowed four runs on four hits in the fifth, including a two-run double served up to Cesar Puello and a two-run homer allowed to Ike Davis.
“It was my changeup,” Garcia said. “I threw the first one and the guy hit the line drive up the middle. I just wanted to keep throwing it, keep working on it. Today just wasn’t my day.
“I knew what I was making a mistake on, so I was trying to make the adjustment, and I just didn’t make it within the inning and it cost me. ... It’s the first one. Get that one out of the way. I guess it can only get better from here. It can’t get any worse, hopefully.”
Some guys come out of an outing like Garcia’s saying that the results don’t matter and they’re strictly worried about feel early in spring. Despite the fact that he admitted that he was just trying to improve the changeup over the course of his inning of work, Garcia still was left frustrated by the numbers next to his name in the box score.
“At the end of the day, I’m a competitor and I don’t want to let the team down,” Garcia said. “Today I let the team down. Thankfully the hitters came and picked me up.”