Saturday, February 27, 2010
Getting The Bunt Down--Day Two Full Squad Workouts
"Nyjer!! I need you to get the bunt down all the time, not half the time!!" shouted Minor League Instructor Tim Foli. "You need to place every single bunt right on the dime, no margin for error!! You understand?"
"Yes sir," replied Our Number 1. (yeah, yes sir--how about that?)
During the field rotations of drills during Day Two of The Full Squad Training Camp for Our Washington Nationals, one of the most interesting sights was Tim Foli giving bunting lessons to Morgan, Justin Maxwell, Adam Kennedy and Mike Morse.
"Guys," continued Foli, "when the sacrifice is up, you have got to be perfect. Everybody knows in the ballpark what's coming next. Two fielders are charging in from the corners. The pitcher is coming right in from the mound. It is your responsibility to make this play happen."
Over the next 10 minutes or so, Foli got right in there with Morgan, Maxwell, Kennedy & Morse. He displayed the necessary technique to deaden the ball while directing the bunt to the desired location. "Drop both your knees down when you square away. Let that baseball be caught by your bat," continued Foli. Then later: "And if we are bunting for a base hit, you need to walk into the pitch, especially you Nyjer. Your speed enhances every chance to be successful. If you can consistently bunt for a base hit, that puts you on base and that puts us in scoring position every single time."
Like a Field General Tim Foli was putting players for Our Washington Nationals right into game situations this morning that might arise at any time. He clearly had the respect of those in his sessions. And although Tim would listen to whatever someone had to say on any bunting matter--it was Foli's final words that ruled the day.
He had everyone's attention that came onto Field Number 4 on Saturday. Really nice to see.
Day Two of Full Squad Spring Training was cold, chilly and wet. It rained off and on for the first 90 minutes when all pitchers were in attendance doing their drills. But once they all left the premises, batting practice with a batting practice pitcher was conducted under a constant wetness. As practice ended around 12 Noon, the rain truly began to fall and everyone left the practice fields for warmer and dryer comfort.
The African Queen and I did have the opportunity to witness Stephen Strasburg throw for the very first time today. He was warming up in a side-session when we first arrived at the Space Coast Stadium Practice Fields. Then, The Pied Piper of Our Washington Nationals was sent out to the mound on Field Number 1 to throw to Derek Norris, Willy Taveras, Eric Bruntlett and Roger Bernandina. Everybody came to watch--including those four players. Not willing to be jammed on a near 100-MPH heater from Strasburg and feel the sting of the cold bat--Norris, Taveras, Bruntlett and Bernadina watched the action themselves--standing in the batters box--not one single swing among them.
Whether the players were holding back by design or not, we have no idea. But it sure was funny watching four players step to the plate and not a single person swing his bat. When Stephen Strasburg left the mound, his pitching effort over, practice returned to normal and the crack of the bat on Field Number 1 returned.
Sohna and I also watched Craig Stammen, Jason Marquis and Matt Chico throw live BP. Chico telling us after practice during an extended conversation posting up later that: "I feel 150% better than at any time since I was injured two years ago. Truly the difference between night and day." And Matt Chico was happy too. You could see it in the animated expression carried on his face.
Other notes from Day Two Of Full Squad Spring Training:
Nyjer Morgan was being followed around camp today for a special to air on MLB Network. He was wired for sound. He continually kept telling the camera crew--"You've got to check out The African Queen!! She's right over there." Whereupon, when Nyjer came jogging over to his next workout session--grabbed Sohna and stated before the camera--"This is The African Goddess. She is one of our biggest boosters--comes to every home game. Yeah Baby!! How about that!!" Then continued his jog over to the next field.
In baseball, especially spring training, there can be a lot of down time between training sessions. When Adam Dunn, Ryan Zimmerman, and Chris Duncan finished baserunning drills with Spring Instructor Devon White and 3rd Base Coach Pat Listach on the Half-Field in the back of the training complex--all of them got started imitating other player's home run swings and trots in a very animated style. Dunn and Listach especially going all out for style points. Funny stuff. Really funny stuff.
Infielders and catchers worked rundown defensive drills around the bases. And Adam Dunn absolutely hammered a batting practice fastball that rocketed well over the fence and into the high grasses beyond Field Number 1. There were the usual "ooh's" and "aww's" on that blast.
Stephen Strasburg signed autographs again for everyone desiring his signature after practice. So did Ryan Zimmerman and Adam Dunn.
Special Assistant To The General Manager, Davey Johnson, was on hand with Our GM Mike Rizzo. It was funny how when Johnson and Rizzo were driving away after practice in their golf cart--everybody wanted Johnson's signature while Rizzo mostly sat their watching. "No love, huh Mike?" I asked. Rizzo: "That's OK, I like it this way just fine." Of course, Mr. Rizzo was so bundled up he was hardly recognizable by the casual observer.
Earlier Johnson and Assistant GM and VP Of Player Development--Bob Boone--were into an animated conversation about the proper technique for any catcher to get himself ready to throw out a stealing runner. This give and take must have gone on for a good 15 minutes--with Boone squatting down, getting himself in throwing position. And Johnson listening intently and following up with his own comments.
Finally--The Quote Of The Day
During defensive rundown drills, Elijah Dukes was a participating runner.
Some other player yells out: "Elijah you need this instruction more than anyone. How many times did you get thrown out on the bases last year?
Dukes: "Dawg, if you don't get thrown out, you are not trying hard enough." (Laughter all around)
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