VIERA, Fla. - Spring training means different things to different people.
After today's 6-5 Nationals win over the Mets in a split-squad game, New York third baseman David Wright is batting .067. Anybody out there think for a second he won't be the opening day third baseman for the Metropolitans? Of course he will, barring injury, even if he goes hitless over the next three weeks.
Nats starter Chad Gaudin pitched five solid shutout innings, striking out six and walking one, allowing four hits. Is he guaranteed a spot in the rotation, or even on the roster? No. How about Brian Bixler, batting a sizzling .538. Think he'll be in Nats Park on March 31? He's opened some eyes, but I wouldn't bet the house on it.
Players - young veterans, in particular - with track records can pretty much relax in March. I'm not saying they're giving less than 100 percent, but the stress factor is greatly diminished. They know they'll be on the big league club, and they don't lose any sleep over an 0-for-4 in an exhibition game.
Gaudin would love that fifth starter's role, but Tom Gorzelanny - who had a reasonably good year with the Cubs last year in that role - has a major league contract worth $2.1 million this year. That's a significant factor, as is Gaudin's experience in long relief. Gorzelanny's start against the Astros tonight paled in comparison to Gaudin's effort, but there's likely room for both.
It's easy to get jazzed up over the spring performances of some prospect or some veteran minor leaguer, and there are many success stories in both categories. But make no mistake about it: Most clubs - even second division clubs - have a pretty good idea on day one of spring training what the opening day roster will look like. Youngsters with minor league options remaining, even after spectacular springs, frequently find themselves on the receiving end of the managerial dialogue No. 86: "Son, this is one of the hardest things I've ever had to do ..."
On another note, the Nationals have re-signed lefty reliever Ron Villone to a minor league contract. Villone last pitched in the big leagues with the 2009 Nationals, and spent four months at Syracuse last year. At 41 he's still younger than Matt Stairs, and the Nats aren't exactly loaded with lefties in the bullpen, beyond Sean Burnett and Doug Staten - unless Gorzelanny ends up there. It's my guess that he'll head back to Syracuse and mentor some of the younger relievers, and hope he's get another shot at the majors himself.