On Cedeno and his work against righties this spring

VIERA, Fla. - Last night was an exciting one for me, and it had nothing to do with the Nationals.

As a University of Delaware alum, I’m thrilled that my school will be making an appearance in the NCAA tournament for the first time in 15 years. My Fightin’ Blue Hens (yes, that’s our mascot) won their conference tournament last night, and so my favorite sporting event of the year will feature my favorite school.

I know none of you care. Just let me have my moment.

The Yankees make the trip across Florida this morning for a 1:05 p.m. game against the Nats, a game that will have a pretty strong starting pitching matchup.

It’ll be Jordan Zimmermann vs. CC Sabathia at Space Coast Stadium today. Don’t expect to see many other familiar faces in the Yankees lineup, however, as they likely won’t be sending many veterans on the 2 1/2-hour bus ride to and from Viera.

Today’s game will air live on MASN HD and will be rebroadcast at 7 p.m. for those who want to catch it later on tonight.

Last night, Xavier Cedeno quietly worked a 1-2-3 ninth inning in the Nats’ 7-4 loss to the Astros. It marked the fifth appearance of spring training for the left-handed reliever, and all five have been scoreless outings.

Cedeno has allowed two hits and two walks over his five spring frames, striking out three. He’s held left-handed hitters to a .167 batting average, which is not really anything new for a guy who dominated lefties last year when up with the Nationals.

What is new is that Cedeno has also been strong against right-handed hitters this spring, holding them to an .083 average. For a guy who has allowed righties to hit .356/.427/.552 off him in his career, this is a big step in the right direction, even if you can only pull so much from spring training numbers.

“It’s been good,” Cedeno said prior to yesterday’s outing. “I’ve been pounding the right-handed hitters in and they don’t expect that from a reliever. Working on that. And it’s been working so far this spring for me. But still got to work on some things. ...

“My arm feels good. Everything feels great. But I’ve been around the zone a little bit instead of attacking the hitters the way I want to. But we’ll get there eventually. It’s early in spring and I’m still working on stuff. We’ll get there.”

Manager Matt Williams has been impressed with Cedeno to this point. Two outings ago, Williams saw the southpaw strike out a right-handed hitter by throwing back-to-back changeups, the ball darting down and away from the hitter both times.

“I like what I’ve seen so far,” Williams said. “We’ll get him more opportunities, too.”

The Nats made a lengthy list of talented relievers in camp even longer last week when they signed veteran left-hander Michael Gonzalez to a minor league deal. Cedeno knew he had a lot of competition for a spot in the Nats bullpen, and now he’ll compete against another lefty, one who has been with the organization in the past and had success with the Nats in 2012.

Cedeno says he isn’t focusing on all that. He isn’t worried about coaches evaluating him or who he’s competing against. He’s just thinking about getting his work in and showcasing himself as best he can, regardless of whether or not there are other talented lefties in camp.

“Still need to go out there and compete,” Cedeno said. “That’s what we do. You can’t just be looking around and see you’ve got another guy here. That’s not you. Just take care of what you can.”

Today’s quote of the day, written atop the morning schedule sheet: “Humana Haaaaa!”

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