VIERA - It's a fairly sparse crowd here for the Nats and Marlins, but the lack of ambient crowd noise is making for an interesting day.
You can hear home plate umpire Hunter Wendelstedt clearly on ball/strike calls, and on a checked swing, you hear him clearly yell "Did he go?" at the first base ump. Craig Stammen is really popping Wil Nieves' glove, and through two, no Marlin batter has hit the ball hard.
Stammen is one of a handful of contenders for a slot on the staff. The rotation is still a work in progress, and Stammen's specific role is yet to be defined. He's been a starter for most of his professional career, but on a staff like the Nationals, versatility may be a real plus.
Stammen just got through three shutout innings, allowing a hit, a walk, and striking out four.
Went to a nearby Wal-Mart this morning, and despite this being the Nationals' sixth season here in Viera, it's safe to say that the locals have yet to embrace this team. There was a rack of caps in the men's department that featured lids for the Yankees, Rays, Cardinals, Red Sox and Marlins - but nary a curly W. You'd think they'd have a few just to balance it out - 3 AL and 3 NL.
Chatted briefly with Ryan Zimmerman before the game. He showed me the new glove with the gold patch on it, emblematic of winning the NL Gold Glove at third base last year. He also inquired on the health of Brooks Robinson, who underwent some big-time surgery this winter. He described meeting Brooks a few years back as "awesome" and I assured him that #5 was almost too good to be true as a human being.
Stammen came out for a 4th inning. He sawed off Logan Morrison's bat in his hands, and just missed getting hit by a chunk of it. Pete Orr couldn't make the play and Morrison had a cheap infield hit He went to third on a double down the line and scored on a sac fly.
I'll get back to you after the game.