VIERA, Fla. - The Nationals dropped a 7-5 ballgame to the Mets this afternoon at Space Coast Stadium, a game that was decided almost entirely by minor leaguers in the late innings.
Manager Matt Williams was pleased with what he saw from most of the guys that he'll carry north with him in a few weeks, however, especially his pitchers. Left-hander Ross Detwiler allowed a run over 3 2/3 innings, Rafael Soriano bounced back from two rough outings with a strong scoreless sixth, and Tyler Clippard impressed in a sharp seventh.
Here are some of Williams' thoughts following the game:
On Detwiler: "Good again. He got to 68 pitches. Didn't want to push him any further than that. Looked good. Threw some nice pitches in to the righty today. Worked that side of the plate. I liked it."
On whether Detwiler's cutter was working inside to righties: "Both. Cutter and the comeback fastball. It's part of what he has to do. He continued to work on his breaking ball and throwing that behind in counts, which is good. And opened up the inside part of the plate, which is good to see."
On the progression of Detwiler's off-speed stuff: "Yeah, he's continuing to work on it, so the more he throws it in game situations, the more comfortable he is going to be. He's using all of them."
On if he saw any differences in Soriano this time out: "A little better fastball. A little better arm strength, which is typical of late-inning guys. I think Clip had a better fastball today, too. That's pretty typical of those late-inning guys who are not necessarily on regular work like everybody else. I expect it to continue, too."
On whether it was nice to see Soriano deliver this type of outing, even in spring: "Yeah, for him. He feels good. His arm feels good. That's what I'm concerned about. Today, he put it where he wanted to put it with a little more oomph on it. It'll get better from there, too. I'm confident. He's confident. Today was a really good day for him. And we'll go from here."
And here are some Detwiler quotes, following his outing:
On the start: "Thought it went pretty well. Got deep in some counts. Mixed in a lot more off-speed today, even if it wasn't that good. Still mixed it in."
On what wasn't working with the off-speed stuff: "Yeah, I just wasn't throwing the curveball for strikes. Didn't really get a great feel for it. Changeup I thought was pretty good. I had a good feel for that out of the windup. Just one of those days you don't have the curveball. Especially in spring training, that's usually the last thing to come."
On the progression of his cutter: "I'm throwing a few fastballs and they're cutting. Whenever it decides to cut, it will. Sometimes it doesn't."
On if he's where he wants to be at this point in spring: "Yeah, I think so. Kind of a higher pitch count today. A lot of foul balls. There was a walk in there that was terrible. We're getting there. We're almost there. I took a long time off (last year due to injury) and I'm feeling the effects of that now. It's still, you get in some situations and it's still a little foreign. But I think, what do I have, two or three left? I think my progression's going really well."
On whether he notices the off-speed stuff affecting hitters who expect mostly fastballs from him: "I think the biggest thing is it's making the fastball better just because they can't sit there and sit on fastball the whole time. I'm seeing it more when I get in good counts, when I'm ahead in the count. Then I can do a lot more. Being behind in the count, then I'm back to square one throwing a lot of fastballs because the confidence isn't completely there in the off-speed. It's shown itself a little bit. Like I said, there's a couple more starts left, and that's one thing that I think I'm gonna come out of spring feeling a lot better about my off-speed than I have in the past."
On whether he thinks at all about the competition for the No. 5 rotation spot: "No. I think that's more the media stuff. Whatever's gonna happen is gonna happen. You guys can write whatever you want. I don't know if ... if I go out there and throw well and I feel good coming out of it, then I think I'll have a good chance at whatever I'm supposed to do. And if I don't, then I don't deserve it."