Sunday, February 20, 2011

Talking Points

"This will be the best camp we've ever held."

"Mike Rizzo's stamp is on this team."

"Speed and athleticism."

"Power Arms."

"We have a bunch of professionals in camp. Guys that want to work and not look at their watches waiting for practice to end."

No matter which Front Office staffer Nats320 talked with today at the Practice Fields of Space Coast Stadium (and we talked to four of them), Our Washington Nationals "Talking Points" were heard loud and clear.

"There is a new attitude."

"We now have a solid group of ballplayers that understand the game and what to do to prepare."

"Look at the amount of everyday players that are already in camp before today's February 20th reporting deadline ready to work."  (Just about everyone that doesn't have a visa issue--Matt Stairs was seen on the fields today, Alex Cora was not).

"Easily, the most talented group we've ever started the season with."

As the first full day of camp approaches on Tuesday, February 22nd, Our Washington Nationals seem to have direction while solidifiying the majority of their lineup for 2011. There might not be any real stories coming out of Spring Training--except for whatever Bryce Harper accomplishes during his first Big League Camp.  Like none of the previous six seasons since baseball returned to The Nation's Capital, there's little drama on or off the field expected in 2011.

For a franchise that's only reached the .500 mark one time during its short existence (the inaugural season of 2005), there is surprisingly little to settle, rosterwise, over the next six weeks before the home opener against The Atlanta Braves.  Chien-Ming Wang will not start the season in the Big Leagues, neither will Harper or even Corey Brown (too many players in front of him). This really has everything to do with Mike Rizzo's approach to team building. D.C.'s Team might not be ready to compete for a title just yet, but while the pieces to the puzzle are still being put together, the team put out on the field this season WILL BE competitive.

There is no turning back now.

Just look at the probable 2011 Roster:

Barring injury or trade, Jim Riggleman starts the new schedule on March 30th with the following players to write down on his lineup card:

Catcher: Pudge Rodriguez and either Wilson Ramos or Jesus Flores (remember both Ramos and Flores have options)

1st Base:  Adam LaRoche

2nd Base: Danny Espinosa

Shortstop: Ian Desmond

3rd Base: Ryan Zimmerman

Rightfield: Jayson Werth

Centerfield: Nyjer Morgan

Leftfield: Michael Morse and Roger Bernadina

Utility Players: Jerry Hairston, Jr. and either Alberto Gonzalez or Alex Cora

4th or 5th Outfielder: Rick Ankiel

Starting Rotation: Livan Hernandez, John Lannan, Jordan Zimmermann, Jason Marquis & either Ross Detwiler, Yunesky Maya, Tom Gorzelanny or Chad Gaudin

Bullpen: Drew Storen, Sean Burnett, Tyler Clippard, Henry Rodriguez, Todd Coffey or Doug Slaten, Craig Stammen, Gorzelanny or Gaudin.

Longer Shots: Matt Stairs off the bench (he can only pinch hit), Collin Balester (promising late last year) and Elvin Ramirez (Rule 5 Pick) in the pen.

With Stephen Strasburg expected to return 100% by the beginning of 2012 and Bryce Harper possibly joining him then as well --there is actual hope that Our Washington Nationals have finally turned the corner--becoming the franchise many envisioned, and wished for, these past seven years.

As amazing as it seems, the "Talking Points" were the stories today because the roster, really, seems pretty much set.

Other Highlights From Today's Session:

Pitchers Todd Coffey and Cole Kimball ARE HUGE!! Coffey puts Tyler Walker (last season's Gigantor) to shame. As for Kimball, he's all muscle. That guy has stature.

Loved seeing Adam LaRoche shadowed by his son wherever he worked out this morning. With personal trainers, in the outfield shagging flies, taking throws at 1st base, Young LaRoche was living the dream--practicing on the Big League Field with his Father.

Of course Livan Hernandez got off his usual humor when Adam's son attempted to hold his body straight while sprawled across two balancing half domes, Ole Number 61 shouted out: "You hold that form for a good 40 minutes, just like Livo, and you'll be ready for the big time!!" Everybody busting out laughing.

Of course, a few minutes later, Jerry Hairston, Jr got even with The Big Cuban.  After Livan ran the first of a series of foul pole to foul pole sprints across the outfield, Hairston yells over: "Hey, those over 30 get a 10 minute break between reps!!"  Livo responds with a big laugh while smiling--then continues on with his workout while yelling at another group of pitchers running his way: "Come on guys!! You need to work out harder--be like Livo!!"

We love that guy!!

One of the most consistent comments early in camp:

Have you seen John Lannan?

Has he been lifting weights? Has he matured and grown into his body frame? Is it the long hair? Or the Red Jersey? Whatever the actual reason, John Lannan looks taller, bigger and almost stocky. As Sr. Director Of Media Relations John Dever said to Sohna and I today upon hearing that question: "You are not the only ones pondering that. It's on everyone's minds."

As for John?

Nats320: Have you been lifting weights this off-season?

John Lannan: (Chuckling) "Yeah, just a little bit." (while modeling the new found frame proudly).

Rizzo mentioned to us yesterday that despite his setback from surgery, Stephen Strasburg is in top form--physically. He led the pack during all his wind sprints.

And finally, if you are an autograph hound, today was your day. Not only did Strasburg sign for everyone, but so did Pudge Rodriguez. As for Adam LaRoche--he signs for everybody too--so does Jerry Hairston, Jr. Only about 50 fans were in attendance, which goes to show you, for access--there is nothing like the early days of spring training.

All Photos Copyrighted--Nats320--All Rights Reserved


Mr. NATural said...

I know that spring training is a time for high hopes, but I cannot help but feel a surge of optimism about this team.

We all can remember looking up at the lineups on the scoreboard at Nats Park and just feeling like, We Are Doomed Tonight. For the entire 2008 and 2009 seasons, I remember matching up the Nats against the visitors, and routinely concluding that the visiting team's player was stronger than his Nationals counterpart at 8 positions in the batting order. When Zimm was out with an injury, we would usually be weaker at ALL 9 POSITIONS!

I shutter when I think about trotting LaCroix, Bard, Daniel Cabrera, and Fick out there. The utter lack of defensive range with Guzman and Belliard up the middle. Needing a pinch-hit and seeing Alex Cintron walk up there in a Nats uniform.

My friends, those days are OVER! This is a far, far better baseball team, and I can't wait for the season to start.

WA2CHI said...

Love your reports. Nobody has better pictures and quotes to make the Nats seem like human beings rather than overpaid athletes!