So, today there were a lot more fans at the FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches. That included a number of Astros fans who said that they weren’t doing that much over on the Astros side, so came over to check out the Nats side. There was a snack stand (water $4.50, but okay to bring your own). Carts were glad to take people around to the fields, back to the parking lot (shared with the Astros fans), back to the bathrooms at field 5/6, or up to the team store.
They started with some catchers’ batting practice again first thing this a.m.. Several balls got loose since the gates to the field were open: we got two, gave one to a kid.
Then Harper got a hold of one. Not that Harper—hey, I got photos of two Harpers—you wanted all three? (tease: Harper the dog). And yes, Bryce Harper checked-in at FIT TEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches, and yes, Bryan Harper pitched a bullpen session today.
Chatted with Rizzo and a number of Nats staff I know from DC. Rizzo was actually wearing a hat for a while, but it didn’t stay on for the whole morning. Several people expressed concern about him getting skin cancer (and yes, Henley has had some problems in the past, which explains the zinc coating).
The entire team then assembled for the Circle of Trust meeting. Couldn’t hear much except “Congratulations, Max!” and a fair amount of exhortation-type shouting . . . and plenty of laughter.
Murphy, in flip-flops, came out from the clubhouse to join the group. Zimmerman headed to the batting cage, but (1) waved when fan yelled WA-HOO-AH at him and (2) signed a bunch of items for fans, including my hat.
Then the pitchers did some long-toss and actual throwing on the bullpen mounds (this is why we need all those catchers: the groups are five at a time). Jackson is better at pitching (I hope) than catching—he had a number of “passed balls” when he was playing long toss with Stras. Unlike Viera, fans cannot go right up to the bullpen fence. The ratio of Nats personnel to pitchers is about 3 to 1, with media about 2 to 1. First group throwing today was Stephen Strasburg, Edwin Jackson, Smith, Cordero, Mendez. Second group was Bryan Harper, Austin Voth, Goforth, Erick Fedde, and a very furry Tanner Roark.
Our cart driver gave us a ride to the far fields where the coaches were hitting grounders for fielding practice for the early-reporting position players. Spotted Rendon: couldn’t identify others, as they’d shed their jerseys in the heat. Unlike the bullpens, fans can go right up to the fence on the back fields.
Practice was over pretty early today. My overall impression is that this camp is closer to the laid-back Dusty version—certainly no air horns for switching drills! There is rock music playing at the field where they were doing some drills, but not everywhere, at least not yet.
There was a quick media session with Dave Martinez which seemed to indicate he was not ready to hand the 5th starter spot to A.J. Cole which goes counter to what Mike Rizzo said at the Hot Stove lunch. Miguel Montero is also competing for the backup catcher’s spot, and the word is he has a good shot of beating out Pedro Severino. There could be a fight for the bullpen if A.J. Cole was the long-man so there are spots to be figured out possibly.
Mike Rizzo 11 days ago said AJ Cole is his #5 starter (video below). Davey Martinez said today it's an open competition but A.J. Cole “has the upper hand” if he pitches like he’s capable. Will that statement allow Rizzo to sign a new free agent pitcher? https://t.co/78mQnwyTuu
— TALK NATS ⚾ (@TalkNats2) February 16, 2018
PS: If you did not hear, FITTEAM energy drinks has taken the naming rights of The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches. It was a joint decision by the Houston Astros and the Washington Nationals.