No panic, but some issues with start

The Nationals’ latest spring training loss, a 7-3 defeat against the St. Louis Cardinals, dropped them to 0-10 for the spring, a juncture given added significance because of its round number. But independent of that, this loss still felt a little different. Jim Riggleman, Adam Dunn and Ryan Zimmerman all said they weren’t upset about the record, but Riggleman did take some issues with the way the Nationals have played to get to this point.

He stopped short of saying he was concerned, but on Sunday, there continued to be plenty of issues worth his attention.


“I don’t know what the right word is. I know I don’t feel good about it,” Riggleman said. “I certainly would like to be 10-0. Right now, any win would be better than what we are. But I still have to keep focused on, as this is a group right now, trying to become a team, the individuals in that group, we see bright spots.”

For the most part, though, the Nationals’ pitchers haven’t been among those bright spots. Livan Hernandez gave up two runs on Sunday, but the bullpen allowed five in the seventh and eighth innings, struggling again to keep games from getting away. On some days, the responsible relievers have been players not likely to make the team. But on Sunday, it was Tyler Clippard and Ron Villone -- two of the leading candidates to be in the bullpen.

Clippard had trouble locating his fastball and walked five batters in 1 1/3 innings. Villone replaced Clippard in the eighth inning, walked in one and let two more score when he made a throwing error trying to turn a 1-2-3 double play.

“I think we walked 10 or 11 guys today. That’s just not going to work, of course. That’s an understatement,” Riggleman said. “Our guys are better than that, to walk that many, regardless of if it’s a tough day to pitch or not.”

Things have also been difficult offensively for the Nationals lately. They only had seven hits on Sunday, and have scored a modest 25 runs in their last six games. But without most of the regulars getting consistent time, Dunn and Zimmerman didn’t assign much importance to the results.

“I know it sounds bad, but who cares? I mean, really, who cares about wins and losses, other than people who open up the box score and go, ‘Oop, Nationals lost again,’” Dunn said. “If we were running out there our starting lineup every single day and losing like this, I’d be concerned. But this is the first day I’ve played with Adam (Kennedy). Pudge is not in there yet. I’m not worried yet.”

Said Zimmerman: “If we were 10-0, are you going to say we’re going to win the World Series? No. So there you go. ... Not that fans don’t understand, but it’s not like -- nothing against anybody else who’s in there, but some of these guys might not be on our team. It’s not their fault, but if this is our regular team and we start the season 0-10, then it’s not good. Things are different down here. I think the biggest thing is just, everyone stay healthy and you don’t lose anyone who’s going to be on your team. It’s never good to lose. I mean, we don’t want to lose. But I don’t think anyone here is concerned.”