VIERA, Fla. — The Nationals’ held their first workout for pitchers and catchers on Thursday, a session that was cut a bit short by rain but not short enough to derail any of the basic plans. All of the pitchers scheduled to throw got their bullpen sessions in but the catchers had to do their hitting in the cages instead of out on the minor league fields.
Here are a few of manager Davey Johnson’s initial observations from the workout:
On how everyone looked on the first day: “I tell you, I was excited. Gio (Gonzalez) was way ahead of where I thought he’d be. He doesn’t do a lot of throwing in the offseason, and I actually had to sit on him. He was firing the heck out of the ball. Great breaking ball.
“All the guys threw the ball good. I was focusing a lot on some of the new guys. But very impressive arms, great work habits, and they’re a lot farther along than I thought theyd be.”
On left-hander Bill Bray, one of the non-roster invitees with a chance to make the bullpen: “He’s coming back off a severe groin injury and talking to (pitching coach Steve McCatty) it looks like his delivery is a little bit changed. He’s made adjustments in his delivery to overcome the groin. I think it’s gonna be a little bit slower process for him in the spring to get back to where he’s comfortable with his extension and release points.
“But I thought he had pretty good arm strength today and it’s very early. All those things are going to shake themselves out in the spring. Obviously I like using several left-handers out of the pen. But my right-handers have been verity efficient against getting left-handers out too. Every one of them has been pretty good out there.”
On Christian Garcia as a starter or a reliever: “For me, he has three quality pitches. He has starter stuff. And that’s where we have a little shortfall. I talked to him and said ‘I know you can pitch out of the ‘pen, but you have such a great upside. With your stuff I would stretch you out to at least 3-4 innings, even if you went back in the ‘pen. But I want you to go nice and easy. I don’t want you to try to do anything special. You can think of yourself however you want. But if you could get comfortable starting that would be great.’
“He’s got great stuff and I’d like to see more of him rather than just one inning. But on his side, just going out there and throwing one inning got him to the big leagues. So I understand where he comes from, too.”
On whether Garcia’s stuff could be comparable to that of Stephen Strasburg’s: “His curveball is great. If I was to grade his stuff, I’d have to have him real close stuff-wise. Fastball, great movement, mid-90s. He threw some 97-mph sinkers last year that were unhittable. Threw some off the best changeups. As good as Stras’. Stras’ is harder. When he keeps it down, it’s unhittable. His curveball might even be better than Stras’. It’s a knuckle curve.
“Starters go to the ‘pen, it’s usually not the other way around. But he’s just got a great arm… A lot of the Tommy John surgeries have been successful and he proved that his was successful with the work he did last year. His delivery is so solid. This will be an important spring to see which was he’s gonna go. I’ve got an open mind. I’m not locked in on him. Because he’d be invaluable either way.”