PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — The Washington Nationals may have gotten their first taste of summer on Saturday afternoon, falling to the New York Mets, 3-1, on an 89-degree day at Tradition Field.
“It was a warm day,” said left-hander Gio Gonzalez, who went six innings in his penultimate start of the spring. “Eight-nine out there? You’re going to work today.”
“From February to July in the matter of a day,” said Drew Storen.
Gonzalez threw six innings, getting his pitch count up to 85 and working through the steamy day to tick off another spring training start. He allowed one earned run on four hits and a walk with three strikeouts. Of his 85 pitches, 51 of them were strikes.
Gonzalez did allow that he didn’t feel as great as he’d like on Saturday. His arm felt a little bit tired, he said, and he focused on making the necessary adjustments. He fell behind five of the first six batters he faced, his fastball command a work-in-progress, but seemed to get sharper as the game went on.
“I felt like I was trying to make the adjustment every inning,” Gonzalez said, asked about his fastball command specifically. “These guys were swinging hard and I was lucky enough to miss some of the bats, and when they made contact, it was at some of the players. Other than that, it’s one of those warm days, you want to get in and out and get the guys off the field.”
Gonzalez admitted, like many of his teammates, he is beginning to see the light at the end of a long spring training tunnel. He will pitch once more, in the Nationals’ final exhibition game in Florida on Thursday in Viera. After that, his next start will come against the Miami Marlins in D.C. in the second game of the season.
– Nationals closer Rafael Soriano was scheduled to make the trip to Port St. Lucie after a Thursday root canal kept him out of his appearance on Friday, but the right-hander chose to stay back and pitch in a minor league game instead because he still wasn’t feeling 100 percent from his oral surgery.
Pitching coach Steve McCatty said Soriano threw well in the morning game, allowing no hits and walking one.
The plan is for Soriano to pitch in back-to-back games on March 27 and 28.
– Drew Storen allowed a run on a hit and a walk on Saturday, striking out two with offspeed stuff. Storen has been working this spring to focus on simply progressing toward the season and Saturday’s outing seemed no different. He struggled with his fastball command some, leaving the ball up, but his slider and his changeup looked tremendous.
“(His changeup) is better than last year,” said catcher Wilson Ramos. “He’s got more confidence in that pitch. It’s a perfect pitch for him. He’s still pitching good, throwing hard, good slider, now he’s got a really, really good changeup, he’s got better stuff for this year.”
According to the scoreboard at Tradition Field, Storen’s fastball hovered between 90 and 92 mph. At his best, Storen throws more in the mid-90s, but neither he nor manager Davey Johnson were concerned in the least about that.
“Not at all,” Johnson said. “Might worry him, but it doesn’t worry me.”
“The extra gear is going to come with the adrenaline in a big game,” Storen said. “But it’s a matter of when you’re throwing hard, having stable mechanics… Velocity’s not going to be there until the season there. I’ve shown some good numbers here and there but it’s going to be a little bit more of a rollercoaster this time around.”
– Ramos was scheduled to catch all nine innings of Saturday’s game, but Johnson pulled the catcher after seven frames because it was a long, hot day. Ramos said he felt great, as he has all spring, and is looking forward to catching more.
– Ross Detwiler pitched in a minor league game on Friday afternoon. He went six innings, allowed just one run (which was unearned) on two hits and two walks. He struck out five. He threw 76 pitches (50 strikes).
Detwiler is now lined up to pitch again on Wednesday, when the Nationals have a split-squad and Stephen Strasburg is scheduled to pitch in a minor league game.
Detwiler’s first start of the season likely won’t come until April 6.