Observations and quotes from Wednesday's victory

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. - Dusty Baker is undefeated as Nationals manager.

OK, so it was only the Grapefruit League opener. And it came in a game played almost exclusively by reserves and prospects. And it won't show up anywhere on Baker's career managerial record.

But the Nats put together a solid all-around effort in defeating the Rays 6-2 at Charlotte Sports Park, rewarding their new skipper in his return to the dugout after a two-year hiatus. So, Dusty, was it just like riding a bike?

"Aw, I mean, we didn't do much," Baker said. "We didn't have double-switches or anything like that. We pitched well. Everybody pitched well. ... We did everything well, except we struck out a little bit too much for me (eight times), but that's to be expected early. The pitchers are sharp. ... For Day One, and I had all my rookie guys out here, we did well."

Some more observations and quotes about the game ...

* Baker liked what he saw out of Tanner Roark, who tossed two scoreless innings, striking out the last three batters he faced.

"Right now, it's too early to judge, but he's pretty sharp," the manager said.

Roark and Baker had a conversation earlier in camp, during which time the right-hander expressed his desire to start full-time after shuttling back and forth between the rotation and bullpen during a frustrating 2015 season. Baker told him he couldn't make any promises, but he likes the pitcher's honesty.

"I'm not going to put a muzzle on my guys," he said. "And I told him: 'Hey, man, if that's what you want to say, then say it.' I wasn't here before, and I don't know what happened, but if I had won 15 games I would have expected to come back and try to win 20. Most guys that win 15 don't go to the bullpen.

"I don't know what the circumstances were. I don't know what happened. I don't know anything, but I told him we're going to give him a chance to start because he had earned it, plus he didn't complain, not that I saw. He said all the right things when I talked to him. He said that he just wants to win. But that was last year. This year he wants to win and start."

Roark is taking nothing for granted, not after what he experienced last season. But he's also not shying away from making his feelings known, pitching with perhaps a little more edge than he did last year.

"I feel like every year I've got to prove myself," he said. "There's guys down in the minor leagues - like me when I got a taste of big league camp - that would love to get a crack at me and my position. I don't want them to take my spot, so I think of it that way. This is my spot. My spot to earn. Every year I've got to come in like that, thinking that way. Never be complacent."

ross-pitching-red-sidebar.jpg* The Nationals pitching staff as a whole had an impressive afternoon, allowing only two runs (both unearned) and striking out 13 while walking only three. Joe Ross, possibly competing with Roark and Bronson Arroyo for the final two spots in the opening day rotation, gave up the two unearned runs during his two innings out of the bullpen. Rafael Martin, Sammy Solis and Matt Grace each put up a zero in an inning of relief. Prospect Austin Voth was given a chance to pitch both the eighth and ninth innings and impressed, though he hit his pitch count with two outs in the ninth, so Baker had to summon Erik Davis to record the 27th out and secure the victory.

"All the guys were pretty sharp for the first day," Baker said. "I think it helped that Mike Maddux had them in those (intrasquad) games. This wasn't their first time out. Those guys, they threw well. I had never really seen Davis or Voth or Grace. I heard about Solis. I heard about Martin. Boy, they were pretty electric."

* The big blow of the game at the plate came from Scott Sizemore, who launched a three-run homer off the center field batter's eye against top Rays pitching prospect Blake Snell. Sizemore is a 31-year-old journeyman infielder with 166 games of big league experience (Tigers, Athletics, Yankees), so he's not necessarily on many people's radar at this point. And given the other infielders likely ahead of him on the depth chart (Danny Espinosa, Stephen Drew, Trea Turner, Brendan Ryan) it's going to take something special this spring for him to wind up in D.C.

But Sizemore is hoping to make the most of the experience after hitting .426 in 14 games with Triple-A Syracuse late last season. And given his local connection - he grew up in Chesapeake, Va., played at VCU and still lives outside Richmond - the idea of playing in the big leagues for the Nationals is too tempting to pass up.

"I coach a bunch of kids in the fall and the winter, and they're all wishing me the best of luck," Sizemore said. "And if I do manage to get up there at some point, they all me they're going to take a bus up and come see my games. One of my buddies owns the baseball academy that I work at. He said: 'Yeah, man, we'll have a couple hundred people up there if you get up.' Hopefully I can do it and get them some tickets."

* Max Scherzer is scheduled to start Thursday's home opener in Viera against the Mets. Gio Gonzalez will start Friday against the Marlins in Jupiter.

* The Nationals' bat boy for today's game was Teddy Kremer, a longtime friend of Baker who once served as the Reds' bat boy. Kremer, 33, has Down syndrome but has always impressed Baker and others in the sport with his enthusiasm for the game. When he found out Kremer (who was once invited by President Barack Obama to the State of the Union address) was in the area, Baker invited him to come to Port Charlotte and be his bat boy for this game.

"He's as enthusiastic and positive as a person as I've ever met in my life," Baker said. "He's always happy. ... Teddy's cool. He keeps you loose and keeps you positive. And he's easy to accept. We'll see Teddy again."

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