Looking back and looking ahead, plus Mattheus update

VIERA, Fla. - Jayson Werth is the only Nationals starting position player who won’t appear in one of the Nats’ first two spring training games, but manager Matt Williams says that’s by design.

Werth typically eases his way into spring, and the Nats had planned to give the right fielder these first two games off. Werth is perfectly healthy, Williams says, and he’ll be in the Nats lineup tomorrow when they host the Marlins.

“He’s right on schedule,” Williams said. “No variation to his schedule. He’s good.”

Reliever Ryan Mattheus, meanwhile, says that he’s feeling much better after being held out the last week and a half since feeling pain in his chest. Mattheus was diagnosed with costochondritis, which is inflammation of the cartilage that attaches the ribs to the breastbone, but said today that he feels like the inflammation is pretty much gone.

He’s been doing some light weighted-ball tosses recently as a way to keep his arm in shape, and hopes to be cleared by team doctors today and allowed to restart his throwing program.

Williams announced his starters for the next few days of spring games this morning. We knew Doug Fister will start tomorrow afternoon against the Marlins (you can catch that game live on MASN HD at 1:05 p.m.), and we now know that Ross Detwiler will start Monday in Tampa against the Yankees and that Stephen Strasburg will get the ball Tuesday in Orlando against the Braves.

One can assume that Gio Gonzalez, who is throwing a bullpen session tomorrow, will then start Wednesday here in Viera against the Mets.

Looking back to last night, infielder Zach Walters had a strong offensive showing, going 2-for-2 with two doubles. He was picked off second base after the second two-bagger, but that was the lone negative in the 24-year-old’s first game of spring.

Last spring, then-manager Davey Johnson pulled Walters aside and told him that he should try and use his power more, and Walters followed Johnson’s advice, adjusting his approach at the plate and crushing 29 homers over the course of his season at Triple-A Syracuse. He was rewarded with his first major league call-up in September.

While Walters’ power numbers last season were impressive, his batting average and on-base percentage suffered as a result of his new offensive approach. Walters hit .253 at Syracuse and posted an OBP of just .286.

So how does Williams want Walters to approach things from an offensive standpoint this year? Does he want to see him continue with a power mindset, or try and cut down on his swing a bit?

“I think his stroke is his stroke,” Williams said. “It’s very difficult to change a tiger’s stripes. He has power from both sides of the plate. I think the maturation process is such that as he goes in his career, he’ll learn that home runs come and you can’t force them. You can’t stand up there and say, ‘I’m a power guy and this is what I do,’ and get away from your game whatever it is. I would like to see him eventually become a .300 hitter with power. That’s what I’d like to see. What that means to me is that in situations where he can turn on a baseball or he’s ahead in the count or he knows what’s coming or whatever it is, he can go ahead and let her fly.

“But there’s also times when he’s going to just have to drive a run in. Where he needs to hit a single up the middle. That’ll make his average go up, actually (make) his RBIs go up, and he’ll maintain the same power. That’s a maturation process. That’s learning yourself and what you can and can’t do. So I see him a little bit of both. I think he’ll become a much better hitter if he can do both of those things, of course. But he’s got big power. Both sides. We saw it yesterday. Letting it fly. Which is good, I love that part, too.”

Danny Espinosa is another middle infielder with good power potential, but a guy who takes a lot of healthy cuts and has posted high strikeout totals over the course of his career. Williams was asked about Espinosa’s offensive approach and what he’d like to see from the 26-year-old Espinosa this spring.

“He takes healthy cuts because that’s what he does,” Williams said. “But Rick is talking to him about being able to take what they give you a little bit more. Not necessarily cutting your swing down, but taking a little bit of what they’re giving you a little more. And he’s working on that. We’re all working on that.

“Over the course of spring, we’ll be able to tell, but if they’re not going to give you something to drive, sometimes you just have to take what they’re giving you.”

Left-hander Xavier Cedeno pitched a scoreless sixth inning for the Nats yesterday, but it wasn’t as smooth as he probably would have liked. He walked Anthony Recker and then gave up a wind-blown ground-rule double to Juan Lagares, but pitched out of the jam by getting Kirk Nieuwenhuis to strike out to end the inning.

Cedeno, who has dominated left-handed hitters but struggled with righties in his career, retired both lefties he faced yesterday, but allowed two of the three righties he saw to reach base.

“He ended up getting the matchup that he wanted to get the last hitter, that we want him to get, as much as possible,” Williams said. “We pondered, depending on where they’re at in their lineup, getting him in there after the starter. But again, we said, this early in spring, it’s important that he just build his innings and hopefully we can get to those matchups later and get a view of that. Got a little bit of both yesterday.”

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