We have game #2 today on the Grapefruit League schedule in Fort Myers, Florida between the Washington Nationals and the Minnesota Twins. Before we discuss today’s game, it is worth taking a look back at the highlights and lowlights from yesterday’s 8-6 Nats victory over the Mets.
Clearly, Bryce Harper was the biggest story in Saturday’s game. In his first at-bat, he obliterated a baseball, off of Mets starter Sean Gilmartin, for a home run that almost cleared the right-centerfield berm falling just a few feet short going over it at First Data Field (formerly Tradition Field) in Port St. Lucie where few balls have ever gone without being wind-aided. Harper was 2-for-2 on the day including a long single to the opposite field which he would have stretched into a double if this was a regular season game.
Also adding home runs in the Nats’ four homer barrage were Neftali Soto, Andrew Stevenson, and Matt Skole. Each home run was crushed, and Stevenson’s home run was in his first ever spring training at-bat.
The bullpen was good, bad, and as ugly as you will ever see in
an amateur a professional baseball game.
Let’s start off with the good. Trevor Gott, Joe Nathan, Oliver Perez, and Enny Romero were all good to decent, but only Gott had a clean inning in Saturday’s game. Romero hit 99mph on the radar gun, and righted his inning after a lead-off walk to then retire the side and record a strikeout.
It was perhaps Joe Nathan who surprised himself as the baseball was coming out of his hand free and easy as his fastball went from 90mph to an impressive 92mph. Keep in mind that Nathan on Opening Day of 2014 averaged 91.98mph on his four-seamer and never expected that he would be hitting 92mph this early in the spring. One area scout from another team who was there told us Nathan had “wicked movement”. Nathan gave up a single, but erased him on a 4-6-3 doubleplay off of his sinker.
“I’ll tell you, it felt very easy today,” Joe Nathan said. “I’m surprised that it got there. Normally for me, spring has always been velocity down, even when I was a mid-to-upper 90’s guy. I always threw low-90’s in [spring training]. So for me to go out and be 91-92 for a first outing, I felt very easy out there. I didn’t feel like I was putting too much effort into pitches. I felt very smooth, very effortless.”
Nathan only needed 8 pitches to get through the 3rd inning yesterday and 6 of those 8 pitches were strikes. Nathan has a five-pitch repertoire including his four-seamer, sinker, changeup, slider, and curveball.
“We try to prepare ourselves for this day with the stuff we do during spring early, but it’s amazing,” the 42-year-old Nathan said. “Twenty-whatever years of spring training, you still get to the first game and go, ‘Am I ready for this? Am I ready to go out and pitch in a game and all the situations that may come across and may come up?’ You just try to mentally go out and simplify things and keep things in your control. Luckily today, nothing really surprising or new came up. Good first one. I was able to mix most of my pitches in and mostly was around the zone. So I’m pleased with it.”
If the Nationals do not add a proven closer or set-up man to the bullpen, Joe Nathan and Enny Romero could be fighting for one of the open spots in the Nationals’ bullpen. It’s early for these types of decisions, but Mike Rizzo, Dusty Baker and Mike Maddux must be pleased in what they saw from Nathan and Romero, but more horrified from what they saw from Austin Adams who is on the 40-man roster and came to the Nationals in the Danny Espinosa trade. Adams walked four of the six batters he saw in his brief appearance and struck out two. Adams was not facing Jose Reyes, Curtis Granderson, Yoenis Cespedes or David Wright, rather he was facing batters hoping to secure a bench spot on the Mets team who will probably be cut and end up in someone’s Triple-A roster.
Also, Derek Eitel and Mike Broadway were nearly as disappointing as neither of them could command their pitches. Adams, Eitel, and Broadway were responsible for 5 of the 6 runs the Mets scored on the day in just two innings of combined work.
Now for today’s game, AJ Cole will get the start for the Washington Nationals. The game will not be televised, however, it can be heard on the radio on the Twins’ feed at 1:05pm.
The Nationals are taking few players who are expected to be on the Opening Day roster on today’s trip to the west coast of Florida which is a 2 1/2 hour bus ride to go the 140 mile distance.
One TalkNats writer who made the trip is our own Don H. as he will be providing commentary and photos throughout the game if the Wi-Fi is good.
Here is the line-up:
- Michael Taylor CF
- Anthony Rendon 3B
- Chris Heisey LF
- Clint Robinson 1B
- Matt Skole DH
- Stephen Drew SS
- Jose Lobaton C
- Brian Goodwin RF
- Corban Joseph 2B
AJ Cole RHP
There goes the no-hitter.
Erick Fedde strikes out Brian Dozier as part of his 1-2-3 inning.