Hearing from Harper, Strasburg and Span after Nats’ 7-3 win

VIERA, Fla. - You have all the information on the Nationals’ five cuts, Aaron Barrett making the opening day bullpen and where this all leaves the competition for the final couple roster spots.

There might be some more news to come on that front, especially if the Nats end up bringing in someone from outside the organization to fill the final bench job. An experienced corner infielder seems to make sense, but we shall see how it plays out.

Now, some quick notes and quotes from today’s game - a 7-3 Nats win over the Mets.

The Nationals countered the Mets’ three-run third inning with a five-run frame of their own in the bottom-half, and they rode that and Stephen Strasburg’s 5 2/3 innings of work to a win in their 2014 Space Coast Stadium finale.

Bryce Harper’s three-run homer off a flag pole in left-center highlighted the five-run third, and it came just a batter after Ryan Zimmerman drove in two with a single to left.

“Our lineup’s great,” Harper said. “One through nine, we’ve got a lot of guys who can hit in that 3-4 hole. We’ve got a great lineup. Even Stras got a base knock there. It’s good to see us getting rolling and feeling good about it.”

Harper’s spring average sits at .225 after today’s performance, which included his second Grapefruit League homer.

“My knee feels great,” Harper said, when asked about his spring as a whole. “That’s what I kept saying: That’s all I cared about. My swing’s going to be there, I know that. My offense stuff is going to be there. My arm’s going to be there. I’m just excited that I have no pain. That’s the biggest thing that I tried to get over this spring. I’m excited to go into the season.”

Strasburg put the finishing touches on his spring by allowing three runs on five hits over 5 2/3 innings, with two walks and seven strikeouts. He was facing the same team he’ll see six days from now on opening day, which isn’t ideal for a starting pitcher given that he doesn’t want to tip his hand on how he’ll go after hitters.

“I think it affected the way I attacked them, but you get out there in the heat of the moment and you definitely want to go out there and compete,” Strasburg said. “So I wasn’t just giving in to anybody. ... I want to go out there and challenge them every time and I’m sure their approach is going to be a little bit different, too, but you can’t really worry about that. Just go out there and execute your pitches to the best of your abilities and take what happens.”

Strasburg finishes his spring with a 1.83 ERA over 19 2/3 innings, with 17 strikeouts and six walks.

“Got some good work in,” he said. “Wanted to come into spring and work on another pitch and working on my timing out of the stretch and controlling the run game. I felt like I got a lot more comfortable with that as the spring went on.”

The new pitch that Strasburg referenced is a slider, and he seems pleased with how it came along this spring.

“I think it was a natural pitch that I think could really help my game,” Strasburg said. “Just based on what guys were doing off me in years past, it’s kind of an equalizer. They can’t really sell out on a single pitch anymore.

“I’m going to throw it (in the regular season). Why not? But at the same time, I feel like I’ve got some pitches that I’ve had success with for a few years now and I had those pitches, those were the ones that got me to the big leagues, so I’m not going to dump any other one. It’s just another pitch they’re going to have to get ready for.”

Denard Span made a nice diving catch for the third out of the eighth inning, one that initially wasn’t actually ruled a catch. Manager Matt Williams had to come out to challenge the call, and after the replay showed that Span indeed make the grab, the ruling on the field was reversed.

Span and his teammates were so confident that the call would be reversed that many of them ran off the field and into the Nats dugout. Jayson Werth even grabbed his helmet and went into the on-deck circle to prepare for his at-bat in the bottom half of the inning.

“I knew I caught it,” Span said. “I got it, and I saw it was (Ian Desmond) and (Anthony) Rendon screaming for me to throw the ball just in case they didn’t call it a catch. You got to keep playing, because the runner was still going. But, yeah, I knew I had caught the ball. J-Dub knew I caught the ball. He was already in the on-deck circle. That was pretty much it.

“It felt a little bit like NFL Sunday, I’m going to be honest with you. You’re kind of waiting for the ruling on the field. Everybody is standing around. Once he said it was a catch, I don’t know. Just watching football, it felt similar to that. I knew I caught it.”

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