VIERA, Fla. - Some odds and ends to wrap up the work week at Nationals spring training ...
* We had a rare, star-studded matchup in live batting practice this morning, with Max Scherzer on the mound to face a group of hitters that included Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman. That sort of thing doesn't happen very often. (I recall a last-minute session last spring that pitted Harper against Stephen Strasburg, but that's about the only other showdown of this caliber I can remember taking place over the years here).
Plenty of folks gathered around Field 3 to watch this session up close. If you were expecting fireworks, though, you might have left disappointed. Harper took just one swing against Scherzer, and though he made contact and sent a soft liner toward second base, it wasn't the kind of contact that was going to turn a lot of heads.
Oh, well. It still managed to break up the monotony of early spring workouts for a couple of minutes.
* Dusty Baker is starting to get to know some of his players better. He's been making a point to spend some one-on-one time with various guys, not only in his office but on the field, as well, and Michael Taylor found himself getting a personalized coaching session this morning before taking BP.
Baker was impressed watching Taylor from afar last season. And he's been impressed in his initial viewings of the young outfielder so far this spring, calling him a "tremendous talent" who is receptive to instruction.
"He's a very intelligent young man," Baker said. "You can tell that he listens and then tries to apply what you tell him. His ceiling is very, very, very high. I don't think he's even scratched the surface on the ability that he has. I'm just trying to help put him on an advanced learning curve. I mean, he's going to get it. It's just that our job as coaches is to try to help them get it a little sooner."
I asked Baker what challenges Taylor faces this season, now that his rookie year is in the books and opposing teams start to put together a book on him. Dusty's response was classic.
"Well, right now it's not like Bryce's book," he said. "I mean, Bryce's book is a hardcover. And (Taylor's) is a little paperback right now. Not everybody's seen him."
* We're inching closer to exhibition play. The Nationals are scheduled to hold intrasquad games Sunday and Monday before opening Grapefruit League play Wednesday against the Rays in Port Charlotte. They haven't announced their pitching plans yet, but we did find out today one familiar face who will be coming back to Viera to face his old team.
The Tigers announced that Jordan Zimmermann is scheduled to start Saturday, March 5 against the Nationals at Space Coast Stadium. That will be Zimmermann's first game appearance since signing a five-year, $110 million contract with Detroit. I would expect the home crowd in Viera to give the right-hander a warm welcome back.
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