Observations and quotes from Monday at Nats camp

VIERA, Fla - Some more observations and quotes from today's second (and final) intrasquad game ...

* Stephen Strasburg cruised through his first game-like appearance of the spring, retiring the side in the first inning on 16 pitches. He induced a pair of ground balls to the right side of the infield and then struck out Tyler Moore on a curveball.

Strasburg's goal in this very preliminary outing was simple.

"At this point, just go out there and try to command the fastball, mix in some off-speed, get the bunt play right," he said. "My arm feels good. Everything feels strong. I'm just going to keep plugging away, not trying too much."

I asked Strasburg about the importance of pacing over the course of a long spring, with six Grapefruit League starts still to go before he takes the mound in the regular season. His answer, I thought, was interesting.

Stephen Strasburg gray sunset.jpg"The goal is to be pitching in October, too," he said. "If you look at it that way, you've got a lot more than six starts. The finish line isn't opening day. It's all about: Build and build and be ready to go deep into a game to start, but peak at the right time as well."

This guy really sounds determined to put together a consistently strong season, all the way through the finish line, whenever that is.

* The only pitchers who gave up runs today were Trevor Gott and A.J. Cole. Cole served up a pair of solo homers to Jose Lobaton and minor league Rule 5 pick Zack Cox in the eighth; Gott gave up one unearned run in the sixth, though he did give up a couple of hits to minor leaguers who were used as backups in this game.

Dusty Baker made a point to talk to Gott and boost the young reliever's spirits, just in case he was concerned about the results. The manager's message: He doesn't view at-bats against young minor leaguers the same way he does others because of their overaggressive approach at the plate.

"I was telling Gott: Don't feel so bad because it's hard to set up kids," Baker said. "Everybody knows they're set up in the ballpark, except them."

Baker spoke highly of Gott, the diminutive right-hander acquired from the Angels in the Yunel Escobar trade who possesses a surprisingly live arm.

"I heard about him," the manager said. "He has a quick arm. He's the opposite of Giolito. He's short in stature. Giolito's tall. But they both throw extremely hard."

* Speaking of Lucas Giolito ... the top prospect impressed during a 1-2-3 inning of relief, especially the curveball he threw to Brendan Ryan that completely froze the veteran infielder.

"That was some nasty stuff he was throwing up there," Baker said. "Our future and their future looks very bright, some of the arms we have here."

* With the two intrasquad games done, the Nationals now will head back to the practice fields Tuesday for one final workout before their Grapefruit League opener Wednesday against the Rays. One point of emphasis in this final practice: sliding technique. Davey Lopes will be in his element once again.

They'll announce the travel roster tomorrow morning for the game in Port Charlotte on Wednesday. Tanner Roark is the expecting starting pitcher, but don't count on many (if any) big names to make the three-hour drive across the state for this one.

For now, Baker is glad to have seen his guys in a game setting the last two days, an important first step in his evaluation process.

"I think the guys are going to feel more comfortable going into the Grapefruit League because they've had a couple, or at least one, outing before," he said. "It's tough pitching against your own team. At least they got their feet wet. We came out healthy, which is the No. 1 thing that I wanted."

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