Taylor homers, Espinosa hits and bullpen dominates

VIERA, Fla. - Bronson Arroyo's potentially career-ending shoulder injury, Blake Treinen's strong performance in place of Arroyo and Ryan Zimmerman's spring debut at first base all drew the most attention yesterday at Nationals camp, but there were some other developments worth mentioning before we move on to today's game against the Braves and an official announcement of Arroyo's status ...

* Michael A. Taylor delivered the biggest hit in the Nats' 4-2 victory over the Marlins: a three-run homer off Wei-Yin Chen in the top of the third. Most impressive about Taylor's blast? It cleared the wall in right field.

That's two opposite-field, three-run homers now for Taylor this spring, a fact not lost on manager Dusty Baker.

"That's his stroke," Baker said. "We've just got to teach him to lay off the high fastballs. He's learning. He's learning a lot."

taylor-blue-swing-walk-off-sidebar.jpgWhile Taylor has shown some propensity to drive the ball the other way, that's not exactly his norm. Of his 14 home runs last season, 10 were pulled to left field. If the young outfielder can continue this recent trend and display more opposite-field power, he might really develop into something for the Nationals.

And for those worried Taylor is going to waste away on the bench this season, Baker insists that won't be the case. The veteran manager made it clear yesterday he wants Taylor to be the best "sixth man" in baseball, his version of James Harden. (When it was pointed out that the NBA's Harden isn't exactly known for strong defensive play, Baker quickly took back the comparison with a laugh and then substituted the Clippers' Jamal Crawford instead.)

* Danny Espinosa's long national nightmare is over. The slumping shortstop finally recorded his first hit of the spring, with a fourth-inning single through the left side of the infield. That hit came right-handed against the left-handed Chen, but Espinosa added another single later from the left side of the plate, leaving him 2-for-3 on the day and 2-for-20 on the spring.

Baker was mostly pleased with the situation in which Espinosa notched one of the hits.

"He got a two-strike hit," the manager said. "You put the ball in play and anything can happen. Big for him and his confidence."

* Baker, pitching coach Mike Maddux and general manager Mike Rizzo are going to have some awfully tough decisions to make at the end of the month when trying to pare down their long list of bullpen candidates to the seven-man unit that will open the season in Washington.

Veteran Matt Belisle made his case yesterday, retiring all five batters he faced in relief of Treinen. Belisle, who previously pitched for Baker in Cincinnati, missed some time with a minor calf strain but has been effective when in games. He has yet to let an opposing batter reach base in 2 2/3 innings this spring.

Belisle is hardly alone in that description, though. The right-handed is joined by Michael Brady (3 1/3 innings), Sean Burnett (four innings), Abel De Los Santos (two innings), Matt Grace (two innings), Nick Lee (four innings), Rafael Martin (six innings), Oliver Perez (two innings) and Wander Suero (two innings) among Nationals relievers who have not surrendered a run yet in Grapefruit League play.

For what it's worth, I asked Baker yesterday morning if he'd consider carrying three lefties in his bullpen, with perhaps Burnett joining Perez and Felipe Rivero. Dusty's response: "That's something I've always wanted to do."

He might just get the opportunity in a couple of weeks.

Starting lineups: Nats vs. Braves (ss) in Viera
Arroyo's career could be finished due to reported ...

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