VIERA, Fla. — Manager Davey Johnson watched his team go through it’s final full-squad workout before they’ll play games virtually everyday for the next seven or eight months and he came away with a smile, as usual.
“I’m ready to play games, and I think they are, too,” Johnson said Friday afternoon after watching his team run cut-off drills, take batting practice and go through some “snappy” infield practice.
There was plenty to watch on Friday as the team worked out inside Space Coast Stadium for the first time all spring and prepared for their Grapefruit League opener on Saturday.
– Ryan Zimmerman took batting practice on the field for the first time since October surgery on his shoulder and came through it fine. Zimmerman, who had hit in the batting cage the previous two days, said his hitting is coming along well as he continues to gain strength in his throwing shoulder.
“No surprises,” Zimmerman said. “Just got to continue getting the throwing going and, as soon as that’s ready, the hitting will be ready before that.”
Zimmerman threw at 90 feet on Thursday and on Saturday he will do two sets of throwing work at 90 feet. It’s a slow process, “a painfully slow progression,” as Zimmerman put it, but there have been a handful of bad days mixed in with the many good ones the third baseman has had, so he understands why they are going as slow with him as they are.
“You don’t want to have to do this stuff, you want to be out there with your teammates,” Zimmerman said. “But that’s what we need to do. We have plenty of time to let it progress. I’ll just kind of work my way into it, but everything’s felt great.”
Zimmerman likely won’t get into a spring training game, and even then probably only as a designated hitter to start, perhaps until March as he continues his rehab and progress.
– The Nationals spent a good deal of time on Friday working on cut-offs and relays as their returning players — Bryce Harper, Ian Desmond, Jayson Werth and Danny Espinosa — continue to get acclimated with new center fielder Denard Span.
Johnson was pleased with the way the drills went, quipping “Harp hit the cutoff man, so I was happy,” and with what he saw out of Span. Desmond was equally encouraged.
“He’s got more of an arm than I thought,” Desmond said. “He’s got a little more carry on the ball than it seems like. He’s got a good arm. We were talking about it — me, Jayson, Bryce, Denard — with the infield we have, with Espi and I, two good hard throws is better than one long, air-it-out-throw.”
Desmond, Span and Harper are all on the travel roster for Saturday’s game in Port St. Lucie and Johnson will likely try to get Span time with Harper and Werth, in particular, early on in the spring so they can get used to playing the outfield together.
But the time spent on the drill was good for everyone, Desmond said, and he expects they’ll get more and more comfortable together as the spring goes on.
“Hopefully,” Desmond said, “we don’t [give up] too many balls into the outfield.”
– Johnson had said previously that Wilson Ramos would serve as the team’s designated hitter in the home opener on Sunday but, on the advice of the team’s doctors, that has been pushed back a bit. Johnson said the doctors don’t want Ramos playing in games until he’s cleared to slide, and he has yet to be cleared to slide.
The doctors would also like to measure Ramos’ knee, to get an idea of how much muscle he’s been able to build back after his right leg atrophied with no activity for such a prolonged period.
“He’s been doing everything that all of (the catchers) are doing and from my mind’s eye, he needs to get the at-bats, missing half a season and no winter ball,” Johnson said. “I want to get that out of the way as early as possible. That may take a week or 10 days or whatever for him.
“But (the measurement) is from afar. If a guy is running good, squatting good, and doing all those things from a baseball standpoint, that’s what I grade on, and I’m the most critical because I never want to run a guy out there who I think is an injury risk. And Wily’s been doing all the things because he doesn’t want to be on a different schedule. He wants to be right with all the guys. I think it’s fine being conservative. We’ve got plenty of catching and if I have to accelerate and have him catch more of the ballgame when he is given the green light, then I can do that too.”
Johnson added that Jayson Werth and Adam LaRoche may not get into a spring game until the team has played the first few.