VIERA, Fla. - If you're the type who looks for signs of progress in the midst of spring training results, then the Nationals' 5-0 loss to the Braves on Sunday could have delivered something for you, in the person of Ross Detwiler. The left-hander was impressive again, striking out five batters - including four in a row - in three innings. We've got plenty more on Detwiler here.
As for the rest of the game, well ... it's only spring training.
Sunday's effort was one of the Nationals' worst of the spring - they had as many hits (two) as errors, and only added one walk to their offensive output. The Nationals were stymied first by Tommy Hanson and then by Cristhian Martinez, who took advantage of umpire Hunter Wendelstedt's enormous strike zone. Their defense committed two errors and two of their pitchers returning from injury - J.D. Martin and Luis Atilano - were hit around.
Here's the wrapup from today's game, beginning with the awards:
Ross Detwiler: There isn't much else to say about the left-hander's day that hasn't been covered elsewhere on this blog, but when you pitch like Detwiler did today, you deserve a Golden Goose. The left-hander, who turned 25 today, struck out five batters in three innings, including the last three he faced. He benefited at times from Wendelstedt's strike zone, but he was sharp for the third time this spring. "He's certainly going to make it a tough decision for us," manager Jim Riggleman said.
Laynce Nix: The left fielder will get an extended look this week - the Nationals were surprised they were able to sign him this winter, and want to see if he can wedge his way onto the team. He went 1-for-2 on Sunday, raising his spring average to .600. Nix committed an error in the field, but if he makes the team, it'd be primarily for his bat.
Luis Atilano: In his first game back from elbow surgery, Atilano looked rusty on the mound. He gave up three runs in the eighth inning, though only two of them were earned, and allowed three hits while walking a batter. He'll probably be in the Triple-A Syracuse rotation, but more and more, he looks to be in a class of Nationals pitchers (with Martin, Garrett Mock, Matt Chico and the like) that's being replaced with younger prospects.
Ian Desmond: The shortstop went 0-for-3, striking out twice, and he committed a throwing error on a routine grounder in the second inning. Desmond stayed back on a ground ball, rather than charging it, and made a low throw to first base that got away from Michael Aubrey. It was an easy enough play that it shouldn't have been an issue, but it prolonged the second inning and set up the only (unearned) run against Detwiler.
What to watch:
As bad as the Nationals played in this game, it actually produced a handful of compelling storylines. The most obvious of those is Detwiler, who's put himself right in the middle of a fight for the fifth spot in the rotation with Tom Gorzelanny, Yunesky Maya and Chad Gaudin. The thinking here is that the Nationals have put too much into Gorzelanny not to have him in their rotation if he's healthy. But Detwiler is out of options, and a left-hander touching 93 mph with a good curveball is going to be hard to keep out of the rotation. "Really, every starter has thrown good," Riggleman said. "He's right there at the top of the list, but nobody's pitched themselves out of a slot there yet."
And then there's Nyjer Morgan, in whom Riggleman expressed measured confidence this morning. He had an outfield assist, though Danny Espinosa's throw home was the more impressive of the two on that second-inning play. But he went 0-for-3 without a bunt, and is now 1-for-16 this spring. He's got a couple weeks to turn it around.
Finally, a note on Livan Hernandez: He faced the minimum in four innings of an intrasquad game today, allowing a hit and getting a double play to finish the fourth inning. "Livo was outstanding," said Riggleman, who watched the first three innings of the game. "He was really good today."
The Nationals are at home for a 1:05 p.m. contest against the Astros. Maya will be on the mound for Washington against J.A. Happ.
Time to pack up for the day. I think I might try to see a movie tonight - anybody have any good recommendations? I haven't seen "The King's Speech" yet - is it worth all the hype? I wouldn't mind seeing "The Fighter" again, either. But I'm up for other ideas, so I appeal to you, cultured Nationals public.
If you've got any baseball topics, leave them in the comments section of this (or any) blog post. Talk to you later.