WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - Position players are required to report to Nationals camp at The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches today, and a few newcomers have been trickling into the clubhouse this morning. The room became a beehive of activity, with players searching out and moving into their locker stalls, shaking hands and hugging teammates.
Ryan Zimmerman, fresh off a family trip to Disney World, arrived today and spent the better part of an hour unpacking boxes and chatting with reporters. A little before 8 a.m., a bespectacled Bryce Harper arrived, again sporting the backwards-turned Dallas Cowboys cap from his appearance at WWE “Monday Night Raw” in Las Vegas that caused so much consternation among D.C. sports fans. A few minutes later, Harper lugged a few boxes full of Under Armour gear through the clubhouse to his corner residence.
It bears repeating that, like the day pitchers and catchers were required to report, position players don’t physically have to be at the spring training complex today. They are merely required to let team officials know they are in town, and can do so via phone, email or text. An in-person notification is not mandatory.
Of the veterans, only outfielder Jayson Werth hasn’t yet made an appearance in the clubhouse. Other players who have not yet been seen (but who may have checked in) include outfielder Rafael Bautista, first baseman Jose Marmolejos and infielder Matt Skole.
* Last spring, catcher Spencer Kieboom and right-hander Lucas Giolito became social media sensations with their tastily chronicled baking exploits. But the trade that sent Giolito to the White Sox as part of a package that yielded center fielder Adam Eaton won’t stop the culinary displays on Instagram and Twitter.
Kieboom said this morning that he’s still cooking up a storm and expects his younger brother Carter - a shortstop taken by the Nats with the 28th overall pick in June’s First-Year Player Draft - to succeed Giolito as his kitchen companion this spring. Carter Kieboom is in the Nats’ minor league camp.
“It’s going to happen,” Spencer Kieboom said, adding that he was a little surprised that the baking activity became such a hit with fans and followers.
“It was fun, though. I’ll probably do it a couple of times this year. I’ve got Carter, my brother, so I’ve got a good fill-in, for sure.”
There’s even a chance of some long-distance kitchen competitions, pitting the Kiebooms against Giolito, who will train with the White Sox at Camelback Ranch in Glendale, Ariz.
“We’ll have to do a competition based strictly off presentation,” Spencer Kieboom said. “We all know mine’s going to taste better.”
Fans loved checking their feeds to see what Giolito and Kieboom had baked last spring, and Kieboom said the activity was born out of his preference to prepare his own meals.
“I like to cook. It’s fun,” Kieboom said. “I cook every morning and night. I’d rather eat in than eat out and would rather buy my own stuff. I try to eat as much as I can at home. I just kind of picked up stuff along the way. It’s amazing how good YouTube tutorials are, too.”
Keep an eye out for something coming out of Kieboom’s kitchen involving red velvet cake, though he says he will solicit fan suggestions.
“I’m really partial to cream cheese frosting,” Kieboom said.
* The Nationals may want to add another left-hander to their southpaw bullpen tandem of Sammy Solis and Oliver Perez, and 10-year veteran Neal Cotts is in camp hoping to force his way into the conversation.
“It’s a good team and a good organization,” said Cotts. “History with (pitching coach) Mike (Maddux) is always a positive, since I’ve been down in Texas with him.”
A lot of players insist they don’t pay attention to teams’ offseason machinations, but for a veteran without a job, knowing which team has a need can go a long way toward making a decision that could yield positive benefits.
“But things happen even once spring starts - there can be movement that way,” said Cotts, 36, who spent last season pitching for the Triple-A affiliates of the Yankees and Rangers, posting a 3.29 ERA in 14 games. “You can’t really predict it, but you can try to put yourself in the best situation possible.”
Cotts last appeared in the majors in 2015 with the Brewers and Twins, going 1-0 with a 3.41 ERA in 68 appearances. He’s also pitched for the White Sox, Cubs and Rangers during his career, and gone 21-24 with a 3.96 ERA and four saves in 483 major league games.