Seeing as there are no real stakes and the games are essentially meaningless, spring-training contests are generally pretty uneventful. Most veteran players go about their business, doing so without the passion that comes when the games that matter begin. But in today’s Spring Training game between the Nationals and Cardinals, the second-to-last on the Grapefruit League docket for the Nats, we got a little action, courtesy of the always passionate Bryce Harper. Here now is the good, the bad, and the ugly from the Nationals’ 3-2 loss.
— Gio Gonzalez’s final spring outing of 2014 was solid if unspectacular; he struck out four in five innings of work, allowing seven hits and three runs (just one of them earned). Gonzalez was victimized by some poor defense behind him, including a passed ball and a botched double play, but also struggled to put innings away, allowing two two-out RBI singles to Yadier Molina. Gonzalez finishes with a 2.94 ERA in 18.1 spring innings; he made 81 pitches in today’s game, setting himself up nicely for his first start of the regular season.
— Ross Detwiler threw a 1-2-3 sixth inning, throwing 12 pitches and striking out the left-handed hitting John Jay on a good curveball. In four relief innings this spring, Detwiler allowed three runs (all in one outing) on three hits, walking three and striking out two.
— A day after finding out he had made the Opening Day roster, Aaron Barrett demonstrated exactly why the Nationals had so much faith in him. The 26 year old righty put together another 1-2-3 frame, inducing two groundouts and a strikeout, while showcasing the slider considered to be the best in the organization by Baseball America:
— The Nationals’ offense once again seemed unable to figure out Cardinals’ ace Adam Wainwright. Wainwright went five innings today, allowing just one hit (a third inning single by Anthony Rendon), walking none, and striking out six. Wainwright has now thrown 14 scoreless innings against the Nats this spring, and went 2-0 with a 1.76 ERA in 15.1 innings against the team last year.
— Leading off the top of the fourth inning, Bryce Harper hit a slow roller past Wainwright and towards the right side of the infield. In one motion, second baseman Mark Ellis barehanded the ball, and flipped it to first, just in time to get Harper in the estimation of first base umpire Jeff Gosney.
We won’t be sure exactly what Harper said until he tells us, but whatever it was, it caused Gosney to toss Harper from the game. Because the games are meaningless, Spring Training ejections are fairly rare; I can only find only one other example of a player being ejected this spring. At any rate, Harper not only had to leave the game, he had to leave the stadium as well:
Throughout his career, Harper has been given far less leeway to make mistakes than the average player due to the hype and reputation surrounding him — this ejection seems like another example of that fact.
The Nationals have just one more game in Florida; tomorrow, they head to Port St. Lucie to face the New York Mets. Jordan Zimmermann will get the start for the Nats in the 12:10 contest, which will be televised on ESPN and MLB.tv.