Ward may have to alter delivery, Brzykcy has forearm strain


WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – Thaddeus Ward will remember his Nationals spring training debut for the scoreless inning he posted, for the changeup he misfired to the backstop and for the news he got afterward: He might need to change his delivery, because his current one might qualify as a balk.

Ward, the top pick in December’s Rule 5 draft, pitched a scoreless bottom of the fifth against the Cardinals, though it included a walk and a wild pitch that came nowhere close to the plate. But the most notable development of his appearance might have been the news he got after he returned to the dugout about his delivery.

When pitching from the stretch, Ward brings his hands together at the waist for a split-second, then does it again before coming to a complete stop. It was no problem for him last year in the minor leagues with the Red Sox, but Major League Baseball is cracking down on those kinds of moves this year.

“They came up to me after the inning ended and told me about it, that the umpires were discussing it,” the right-hander said.

Ward said he began incorporating that double move when he was recovering from Tommy John surgery. It helped remind him to use his legs more, pushing off the rubber. It’s become a subconscious part of his mechanics.

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Competition for bullpen, bench jobs begins

Mason Thompson throwing gray

JUPITER, Fla. – The handful of competitions in Nationals camp this spring involve the bullpen and bench. General manager Mike Rizzo and manager Davey Martinez have a multitude of ways they could go about deciding who makes the Opening Day roster and who doesn’t, and today they’ll get their first look at several of the competitors.

The Nats bullpen can probably be divided into two categories: Late-inning specialists and multi-inning arms. The former group is mostly set, with Kyle Finnegan, Carl Edwards Jr., Hunter Harvey and Sean Doolittle (if healthy) all but assured of making the club. The latter group is more wide-open.

Only Erasmo Ramirez has a guaranteed contract. Paolo Espino, Cory Abbott, Mason Thompson, Jordan Weems and Victor Arano all have minor league options. Thaddeus Ward, a Rule 5 draftee, must remain on the big league roster or be offered back to the Red Sox. Alex Colomé and Andres Machado are trying to make the team off minor league deals.

The big question, ultimately, may be this: How many multi-inning relievers do the Nationals want to keep?

“It’s going to be a competition, because we have so many of those guys,” Martinez said. “But I like them all.”

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On live BP, the closer's role and Ward's preferred name

Patrick Corbin throw white wide

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – The first live batting practice session of the spring is always going to favor pitchers over hitters. Pitchers have been building up to this for a while. Position players, on the other hand, haven’t even officially reported to camp yet.

So most eyes this morning at Nationals camp were focused on the likes of Patrick Corbin, MacKenzie Gore and others who faced hitters free to swing away if they liked. Corbin went up against projected regulars Joey Meneses, Luis García and Dominic Smith. On an adjacent field, Gore faced Stone Garrett, Michael Chavis and Derek Hill, all trying to crack the Opening Day roster as bench players.

All told, 11 pitchers took the mound for about 10-15 minutes a piece: Corbin, Gore, Trevor Williams, Jose Ferrer, Hunter Harvey, Kyle Finnegan, Wily Peralta, Paolo Espino, Erasmo Ramirez, Alex Colome and Thaddeus Ward.

“My focus was really on watching pitchers, their mechanics and where they’re at,” said manager Davey Martinez, who bounced from field to field, trying to get a glimpse of as many guys as he could. “For today, basically I was trying to get everybody to throw the ball over the white of the plate. Just hit the white and focus on hitting strikes.”

Which isn’t to say there wasn’t some reason to notice what some hitters were doing. Chief among them was García, who after facing Corbin in the first round of live BP had to go up against the hard-throwing Harvey in the next round.

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