Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Looking Back Over The First Three Weeks Of Spring Training 2011

Looking back over the first three weeks of Spring Training 2011 for Our Washington Nationals, here are a few random thoughts with just over three weeks to go before Opening Day at Nationals Park scheduled for March 30th against The Atlanta Braves.

In no particular order:

Bryce Harper has swagger. There's a confidence to everything he states publicly and how the Number 1 Overall Pick in the 2010 draft handles himself on the field.  It's not arrogance, but a true inner belief in how the 18-year old should carry himself and how he should be perceived. You got to love that especially since Harper also comes across as being a keen student of the game and baseball history. That being said, Bryce still needs more experience in the minors before making his first Big League roster.

In loving way, Livan Hernandez can be Our Washington Nationals Class Clown, but he's also a very classy act. As much outward fun Ole Number 61 displays in practice and in games, The Big Cuban also understands his role on this team as leader and mentor.  Perfect example, during spring training, Livo has taken fellow Cuban Yunesky Maya under his wings, worked out with Maya in the team's Space Coast Stadium fitness center before practice and been a solidifying force in Yunesky's continued comfort and acclimation to The United States of America.

Sometimes the lightbulb just comes on. Sometimes all the past injuries and transgressions simply go away. More experienced, mature, over his hip injury, no longer throwing across his body, instead with a more up & down motion--Ross Detwiler has found increased speed on his fastball. And a belief this lefty can again throw baseballs past good hitters. For the first time since being picked by Washington as the Number 1 Pick in the 2007 draft--Detwiler looks more like the real deal.

A man of few words, Jordan Zimmermann just goes about his business. If he wasn't so talented, many would probably not take notice of this unassuming young man. When J-Z steps on the field to compete, he unleashes a completely different competitive animal. The exact traits you want to see in a top of the line starter. Playing baseball for an occupation sure is fun, but it's also a crafty business that Jordan Zimmermann understands fully needs to be mastered for continued success.

Nary a word being spoken about Jason Marquis this spring, probably press Washington's 2010 big free agent signing is content with not hearing. Injured most all of last season,  Jason never became the marquee name Nats Fans hoped when brought on board by Mike Rizzo. But you can expect Our GM is fully expecting a turnaround from this veteran starter in 2011.

Cole Kimball throws heat. He's also a completely different pitcher than seen at Vermont, Hagerstown and Potomac from 2006 through 2009.  His walks and hits allowed are down, the strikeouts up. Cole Kimball, a late bloomer, also finally figuring it out.

Can Matt Stairs find a role that consists of being more than just the left-handed pinch hitter off the bench? Stairs might be able to jump out of bed in the dead of winter and sock the first pitch he's sees out of the park. But is that enough for Jim Riggleman to put him on the 25-man Opening Day Roster?

When someone believes they've never been given a real opportunity to prove themselves in another system, gets traded and then opens baseball operation eye's as to their real capabilities in the new organization--you have feel happy for that guy. Michael Morse is the perfect example.  Lost in Seattle,  "Mikey Mo" has found a comfortable setting in the Nation's Capital.  With Josh Willingham traded and the left field starting role open--Morse could be capable of a breakout year.  There's no question he can hit. What everybody wants to know is whether Michael can do it, consistently, on a daily basis?

The seriousness in Nyjer Morgan this spring is very noticeable. Looking to turnaround his career after a disappointing and erratic 2010 season, "Tony Plush" has gone by the wayside. He's far more humble and businesslike in 2011. Nyjer Morgan out to prove last season was a fluke.

Roger Bernadina also pushing to become an everyday player in 2011. In shape, bulked up and speedy as ever--the Netherland Antillies Native may be the best all-around outfielder, defensively, on this roster.  Bernadina plays an excellent left field. In center, Roger might be capable of being a gold glover.

Jerry Hairston, Jr. is a professional player. He carries himself well and will be a big influence in Washington's clubhouse in this season. Classy.

And finally, how different would 2011 Spring Training for Our Washington Nationals be if Stephen Strasburg was fully healthy?  Would the prognosticators and pundits be taking this team more seriously as a potential contender?

Just a few random thoughts, looking back over the first three weeks of spring training 2011.

Photo Credit--Nats320--All Rights Reserved


josh f said...

I'm a Nats fan going to his first spring training game in a few weeks! Any tips on best ways to meet players and get autographs at Space Coast Stadium?

Screech's Best Friend said...

Josh F: On game days at Space Coast Stadium it's always good to show up a few hours early as many players are practicing on the field adjacent to the ballpark. Many are on that field by 9AM because all are not scheduled to play in that day's game and need to workout.

The minor league training complex a little farther north is always filled with the minor league players. And on those fields many Major League players--especially pitchers--get in extra work playing intersquad games against the minor leaguers. 9AM to 9:30AM is always a good time to show up.

Hope that helps.