PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. - The lasting effects of the Nationals' night against the New York Mets probably won't reverberate beyond this week; Ryan Zimmerman's groin injury is nothing major, and the Nationals don't believe Ivan Rodriguez's calf strain is, either. Michael Morse was scratched because his stomach reacted badly to medication he'd been given for an abscessed tooth, and after Danny Espinosa provided a scare in the seventh inning by fouling a ball off his foot, he was walking around in the clubhouse, eating a postgame meal and saying he could play tomorrow if he had to.
But in the meantime, the Nationals didn't have much fun at Digital Domain Park on Tuesday night.
"I tell you, we went from, 'Everything is great,' to all of a sudden, four little things pretty quick on us," manager Jim Riggleman said.
The Nationals won't know they're in the clear until Espinosa gets a X-ray tomorrow and Zimmerman returns to the lineup. They're probably not in any hurry to relive the events of Tuesday night though, between the injuries and an offense that did little after being depleted by them.
"I've had injuries during the season, but not where everybody's fine, and then in one day, it's (four)," Riggleman said. "But they're all relatively fine, knock on wood."
Here are tonight's awards:
Adam LaRoche: The first baseman seems to be coming around at the plate; he's now hitting .280/.360/.379 for the spring after going 1-for-1 with a pair of walks on Tuesday night. His one hit was a fly ball that kept carrying until it landed on the warning track, bouncing over the fence for a ground-rule double that eventually led to LaRoche scoring the Nationals' first run.
Tom Gorzelanny: In his second major league game of the spring, Gorzelanny showed progress over his start against the Astros last Thursday. He allowed two hits in four innings, faltering in the fourth after allowing only one ball out of the infield in the first three innings. He walked three, but struck out four batters with the help of a slider that looked sharper than what he had in his first game. The left-hander still needs to throw more strikes (he had only 36 in 65 pitches), but his stuff was sharper than we've seen it. "It's definitely the best I've felt," Gorzelanny said. "I'm pretty happy with the way everything was working. I was able to stay ahead for the most part. The last inning, I kind of got in a little tough situation, but it happens, and it's always good work to try and find your way out of it."
Craig Stammen: The right-hander's chances of making the team already seemed to be in trouble before Tuesday's game; the Nationals are going to keep a long reliever, but Gorzelanny, Ross Detwiler and Chad Gaudin have all pitched well enough that one of the losers of their fight for the last rotation spot will likely wind up in the bullpen. But he didn't do himself any favors with the three-run, four-hit-and-a-walk performance he turned in over 1 2/3 innings. Stammen had an impressive spring last year when he came into camp as a contender for a rotation spot; now that he's on the fringes of the Nationals' pitching picture, he's not doing much to change that situation.
Nationals' top of the order: Roger Bernadina and Ian Desmond have been streaky this spring, but the pair had a rought night batting first and second. They went a combined 1-for-9, each striking out once and leaving five runners on base between them. Bernadina did score a run after getting his only hit in the eighth inning.
What to watch:
The big takeaway from this game will obviously be the Nationals' health; Espinosa has a chance to be a big catalyst for their offense and a cog of their defense, and if he's hurt, it's a major blow. But he seemed confident he'll be fine.
Today was a day that could have sorted out some of the team's pitching questions, but all it seemed to do was prolong the fight for the fifth spot in the rotation. Gaudin pitched six scoreless innings in an intrasquad game this afternoon, and Gorzelanny made progress in his start. Detwiler will get a chance to match them tomorrow. "They're all throwing the ball very well," Riggleman said. "Somewhere along the line, we'll have to make a call on that, but nobody is pitching themselves off the club. They've all thrown well, and that's a good problem." Riggleman also said today that Rule 5 pick Brian Broderick, who threw a scoreless inning tonight, is still in the mix for a long reliever spot. As with most camps in baseball, the final rotation and bullpen spots will be the last things to get solved for the Nationals.
Henry Rodriguez gave up a run on two hits in his inning of work, but Riggleman said he looked much better than he did on Sunday, when he threw just eight strikes in 24 pitches. He's got time to work out his strike zone command, and there's almost no way the Nationals are going to leave him off the opening day roster, since he has a) no remaining options and b) a 100-mph fastball.
The Nationals head back to Kissimmee tomorrow for a 1:05 p.m. start with the Astros. Detwiler will be on the mound for Washington.
I'll have more on Espinosa's foot in the morning. Talk to you then.