WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - With such a short timeframe between reporting day and the open of Grapefruit League play, the Nationals are trying to squeeze a lot into only a few full-squad workouts. Position players have only officially been in camp for two days but already they’ve done the kind of baserunning drills typically reserved for later in spring and held two days’ worth of live batting practice sessions.
Whether these guys will be ready for real game action in less than 48 hours - they face the Astros at 1 p.m. Friday - manager Davey Martinez appreciates how many of his players arrived here already in advanced shape.
“We sent them all emails before spring started letting them know games are on the 23rd, so be prepared to do things a little quicker than normal,” Martinez said. “For instance, today we ran the bases. Usually we don’t run the bases until three or four days (into camp). But just watching them run the bases, and the effort they gave, was unbelievable. They’re full of energy, and they were actually getting after it a little bit. So I was actually proud and impressed.”
As is usually the case, the live BP sessions were the highlight of today’s workout. A good-sized crowd gathered around Field 3 outside FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches to watch the proceedings and was given a nice little treat: Head-to-head matchups between two of the best pitchers in baseball and one of the best hitters in the game.
The pitchers, as you’d expect, won the battle. There were only a few balls put into play by the trio of outfielders against either right-hander, the best probably Harper’s line drive to short. Swings and misses and foul balls into the cage were more prevalent, though nobody in uniform paid much attention to the results.
“We were working on throwing strike one,” Martinez said when asked what specifically was being looked for in these sessions. “The pitchers were constantly on 0-0 counts and just throwing strike one and working on their secondary pitches a little bit, if they feel up to it. As far as the hitters, getting their timing against live pitching. A lot of times they’re just taking just to work on their timing.”
Perhaps the more interesting scene came after Scherzer was done throwing his round of live BP. The three-time Cy Young Award winner went over to talk to all three hitters and get their instant feedback on his stuff.
Scherzer said he loves to face hitters of that caliber in live BP because it’s the only time he ever really gets that kind of immediate feedback from a qualified batter who just faced him. As the right-hander pointed out, he can’t go ask Freddie Freeman how his changeup looked after throwing it to him in a regular season game at SunTrust Park.
So Scherzer spent several minutes chatting with Harper, Taylor and Eaton on the field, seeking their input. And what was his biggest takeaway from it all? “I’ve got work to do.”