The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly: Washington Nationals Spring Training Game 1

Oh hey look, it’s baseball:

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For fans who have spent the last three months in a world devoid of baseball, the first game of Spring Training is a welcome sight, though soon, meaningless March games will not be enough to satisfy the thirst for baseball.  More importantly, the start of Spring Training means that, however cold it might be outside (here in Boston, it’s a balmy 26 degrees, with a low of 5 tonight), spring (and of course, Opening Day) is just around the corner.  In their Grapefruit League opener, the Nationals took on the New York Mets, a team they will get to know quite well in the next couple of months (the two teams meet five more times in Spring Training, as well as for the first series of the regular season).  After falling behind 4-1 in the fifth, the Nationals managed to rally in the later innings, pulling off a 5-4 victory.  While Spring Training records are ultimately meaningless, a meaningless win is still better than a meaningless loss.  We now present a new segment we will be running throughout Spring Training; here is the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly from Game 1.


Zach Walters didn’t start this game; he came off the bench in the 5th, spelling Ian Desmond at shortstop.  But Walters got two at-bats in the game, and made the most of them.  Leading off the seventh inning, Walters, batting from the right side against Mets’ southpaw Adam Kolarek, doubled to left field, missing a home run by a matter of feet.  Then, in the eight inning, Walters turned around to bat from the left side with Matt Skole on second and Gonzalez Germen on the mound.  Walters promptly ripped another double over the head of Matt Den Dekker in center, scoring Skole and tying the game.

Zach Walters double

Taylor Jordan, in a dogfight for the Nationals’ fifth starter job, looked very strong in his two innings of work.  He struck out two batters, one in each of his two frames, and gave up only a leadoff single to Chris Young.  His fastball sat around 90 MPH according to the stadium gun (in season, it will sit in the mid-90s, but it’s the first start of Spring Training), and he showed no ill-effects from his offseason ankle injury.  Plus, his biggest weapon, his straight change, was filthy:

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A.J. Cole, the second-best prospect in the Nationals’ system (behind only Lucas Giolito, who doesn’t figure to see time in big-league Spring Training) made his spring debut today, and looked sharp in two innings.  Facing off against primarily the Mets’ regulars, Cole was hit somewhat hard (giving up doubles in his first and second innings of work), but managed to work his way out of jams, stranding a total of three runners in scoring position.  He showed confidence in his off-speed pitches, especially in his changeup, which he seemed willing to throw even to right-handed batters.

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— There were eight Nationals in the starting lineup today who have a realistic shot at the Opening Day roster; Nate McLouth, Danny Espinosa, Ryan Zimmerman, Adam LaRoche, Ian Desmond, Wilson Ramos, Tyler Moore, and Scott Hairston.  Those eight players went a combined 2 for 16 today, and struck out seven times.  This is very likely completely meaningless; pitchers are ahead of batters at this point in Spring Training, and the veterans were likely taking pitches for the purpose of seeing as many pitches as possible rather than trying to hit the ball as hard as they could.  Still, it wasn’t very fun to watch.


— After injuring his forearm last year early in Spring Training and missing much of the season, Christian Garcia managed to stay healthy over the offseason, and finally got his shot to pitch in a Spring Training game.  It did not go well.  In an inning of work, Garcia gave up four hits and four runs, including a long home run to Ike Davis.  Garcia is fighting for one of the last spots in a very crowded bullpen, and needs to prove that he can be both healthy and consistently effective.  Still, it’s just one game, and Garcia will likely get many more chances to prove he belongs in the big leagues.


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