VIERA, Fla. — Most of the attention on Saturday was on Washington Nationals’ third baseman Ryan Zimmerman and whether or not he and the Nationals will workout a contact extension. Zimmerman extended his “by the first workout” deadline to the end of the day Saturday, with the biggest remaining issue the inclusion of a no-trade clause, so stay tuned.
As for the workout, the Nationals wrapped things up in under two hours on Saturday and the pace of the workout seemed to appeal to most of the players. Nationals manager Davey Johnson is not big on long workouts just for the sake of length and he’s also condensed things this year so that the players get their entire workout in on one field — they don’t have to move from field to field for infield, batting practice, etc. Field 1 held most of the Nationals’ 40-man position players and Field 4 held most of their non-roster invitees. The pitchers did not throw today, giving them one “dead arm” day before live batting practice starts up on Sunday.
Speaking of live batting practice, we should get a pretty good show with Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Craig Stammen, Sean Burnett and Drew Storen among those throwing. We could even potentially see the first (and much-anticipated) Strasburg-Bryce Harper match-up.
– Harper, the victim of a little clubhouse razzing earlier in the day, was pretty impressive in batting practice on Saturday, smashing a few home runs to right center — much to the delight of the fans who scurried back there for the balls.
Johnson has yet to watch Harper workout once this spring so tomorrow will be an interesting day to hear the manager’s thoughts on the 19-year-old.
– Adam LaRoche fully admits he doesn’t feel he’s back to 100 percent with his throwing after labrum surgery on his left shoulder last June. He hasn’t “cut it loose” with regard to throwing the ball as far as he can just yet — even though he’d like to — but he’s enjoying the return of a good soreness.
“So far, so good,” he said Saturday. “I stretched it out pretty good (Friday) so today it was a little sore, but it’s the kind of sore I want to feel right now. If it’s not sore at all, I’m probably not throwing enough. It was nice to push it a little bit. I’ll probably take it easy tomorrow, then get after it, just kind of back-and-forth every other day until I work through it.”
LaRoche has tested the arm “as far as turning and throwing” quickly and that is going fine, he said. The absence of pain is a great sign for him (after struggling through extreme pain for 2-3 days after making a throw last season) and he’s looking forward to being able to let things go a little more soon.
“I look forward to being able to do that again,” LaRoche said. “I love getting out, playing long toss with the guys and stretching it out. It’s something I really want to do, I just don’t think I’m ready.”
– A lot of players look forward to live batting practice, especially for the friendly rivalry it brings out between the pitchers and position players. Last spring, of course, was the now well-known battle between Drew Storen and Jayson Werth, who faced each other for the first time since Werth hit a two-run walk-off home run against him in Sept. of 2010. Storen buzzed Werth with the first pitch and Werth laughed, saying he’d probably have respected him less if he didn’t go up and in with the first one.
Some hitters actually don’t swing all that much during the sessions, just using the time to track the first live pitches they’ve seen in a while. Plenty swing away though, like LaRoche, who figured if he’d swing at it during a game he’ll swing at it during practice.
Count LaRoche, though, as one of the players who is not a fan.
“I hate live BP,” LaRoche said. “Just the cage and the screen, there’s something about it that’s just not fun. I mean, we’ve got to do it, it’s the only way to get right, get ready, but it’s not something I look forward to.”