Garrett Mock made his final case for a spot on the Nationals' roster on Tuesday afternoon, and afterward, nobody had a particularly strong reaction to it. Mock said he was "kind of mixed up about today," and manager Jim Riggleman said flatly, "The outing speaks for itself. I can't say much about it. You saw it."
The problem with all that is the fact the Nationals open the season in six days. When they are still trying to decide between three starters for the last spot in the rotation, none of those starters is doing much to build a compelling case. J.D. Martin pitched in an intrasquad game today, and Scott Olsen will get his chance against the Red Sox on Friday, but the Nationals are currently deciding between a group of indistinguishable candidates.
"The choices are not that varied," Riggleman said. "They're all doing OK. None of them are grabbing the job."
Mock's start, at first glance, was rough: seven hits and six runs, four of them earned , in 4 2/3 innings, with five walks and a wild pitch. But he wasn't helped by a defense that made three errors for the day. The Nationals still see evidence of the repertoire that's kept them giving Mock chances; one team official said, "The stuff is fine. He just needs to learn." But Riggleman was again left wanting consistency.
"He continues to kind of throw some really top-quality pitches to get to 0-2 and get in trouble, maybe leave a ball over the zone and get hit," Riggleman said.
Mock has an 0-4 record and 5.30 ERA this spring, and has allowed 31 baserunners in 18 2/3 innings. As recently as a week ago, he appeared to be in the rotation; now, he'll have to hope the Nationals saw enough good in his spring to put him in the majors.
"I'm not going to feel comfortable with anything until I see my name on a lineup card and it says I'm pitching that day," Mock said. "It's out of my control."
Mike Morse: With a 3-for-4 day, including a double and two runs, Morse raised his spring average 38 points and showed some offensive spark for the first time since a flu virus sidelined him a couple weeks ago. He's the only right-handed bat with some pop the Nationals could put on their bench, so he probably makes the team.
Jesse English: The reliever is still making a strong case he should be on the roster; he struck out the side in the ninth inning on Tuesday, and has a 3.18 ERA this spring. "He's a guy who's taking advantage of an opportunity," Riggleman said. "He's making a nice statement for himself. We have to consider that as we put the roster together."
Tyler Clippard: Clippard pitched a perfect eighth inning, and dropped his spring ERA to 3.00.
Garrett Mock: Whatever silver linings were available in Mock's final outing of the spring, the problems he faced were the same as the ones we've seen from Mock most of his career; he got behind more hitters than he should have, and left balls up in the strike zone. Some scouts believe Mock would be better off without both of his breaking balls; they think one is good enough for him to use without getting in trouble with the other one. In any case, Mock has some work in front of him, either at Syracuse or in Washington.
Jason Bergmann: He entered the game after Mock, gave up five hits and allowed two runs, though none of them were earned. But Bergmann allowed three inherited runners to score, and has a 6.23 spring ERA. "A lot of it, again, was two strikes and not making a quality pitch," Riggleman said. "He really is looking to throw more strikes, get a sinker and put the ball in play, but the ball wasn't sinking. Pitching to contact is a beautiful thing. But you've still got to make quality pitches."
Mike MacDougal: In his first outing back with the Nationals, MacDougal showed why the Marlins let him go. He allowed a run on two hits in an inning, throwing a wild pitch on a slider that bounced well in front of the plate.
What to watch:
Mock had a chance to put himself in strong position for a rotation spot, and didn't do it. Now, the Nationals have a decision to make: Do they let Scott Olsen start on Friday, or do they release him to save $750,000? They have to make that decision by tomorrow, or he gets his full $1 million salary, rather than 45 days' worth of it. The guess here is that Olsen stays with the club and at worst gets optioned to Syracuse, since the Nationals don't have a pitcher who's thrown well enough to give them confidence to release Olsen. But Olsen hasn't excelled this spring, either. If he's on the roster through tomorrow, he's starting the year with the organization.
The Nationals probably need to get a look at Jesse English against better hitters, but the problem is that now, their starters are going into the middle innings of games, and by the time English enters, teams have pulled their starters. "The only thing we haven't seen him do is pitch against heart-of-the-lineup-type guys," Riggleman said. "We probably need to get him in the middle of a game somewhere, but you're trying to get your starters stretched out. It's a little bit hard to get him to face the Ryan Howard type guy, the (Chase) Utley type guy."
The Nationals are right back in Jupiter tomorrow, facing the Cardinals for the 673rd and final time this spring. John Lannan will be on the mound for Washington.
Live thread from today is here; audio is here. And there's still time to sign up for my fantasy baseball league, "The Goessling Game." It's free, and you can win a bunch of prizes, including lunch with Jim Riggleman. Sign up here, and once you've registered, you can search for the league alphabetically (under the letter T) and add your team.
Back tomorrow at 1:05. Talk to you then!