- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 28, 2008

JUPITER, Fla. — There was nothing statistically wrong with Matt Chico last night. The Washington Nationals left-hander tossed two scoreless innings in his spring training opener against the Florida Marlins.

But Chico knows the Nationals coaching staff watching from the dugout and front office officials watching from the stands are looking at more than results. They want to see how a pitcher looks and how he handles certain situations.

In that regard, Chico struggled at times. Only 16 of his 32 pitches were strikes, and he issued a two-out walk to Jai Miller in the second inning.

“I think it was just a little too much adrenaline going,” Chico said. “Just being the first [game] and wanting to do too much.”

Chico’s high pitch count and penchant for falling behind hitters plagued him as a rookie, and he has talked this spring of improving in that area.

He won’t have a full month to work out those issues, though, because he’s one of several starters battling for a spot in Washington’s Opening Day rotation.

“All he needs to do is show a little bit more consistency, show he can pick up where he left off at the end of the season,” manager Manny Acta said.

Chico will take what he learned from last night’s outing and try to apply it to his next start.

“Now I know what I need to work on,” he said.

Facing the Hoyas

When Jason Bergmann faces Georgetown today in an exhibition game at Space Coast Stadium, it will be a homecoming of sorts.

Bergmann pitched three seasons for Rutgers and was a member of the Scarlet Knights’ Big East championship team in 2001. Rutgers faced Georgetown in conference play, but Bergmann never did.

Bergmann wasn’t the ace of that pitching staff, deferring instead to Bobby Brownlie (who’s in Nationals camp this spring as a nonroster invitee). Brownlie got the top weekend assignments against Big East opponents; Bergmann was left to face non-Division I schools on weekdays.

“I think I warmed up once against Georgetown in the pen a little bit,” he said. “I wasn’t the best pitcher in college, with aluminum bats and stuff like that.”

Bergmann finally gets his chance today for face the Hoyas.

“They got a lot to play for, playing a major league team,” he said. “I know when I was in college how cool it would have been to beat a major league team, so I am sure they are going to have a lot of fire.”

Escobar gets chance

A forgotten man in the Nationals’ system after three straight years of injuries, Alex Escobar got his latest chance to make an impression when he served as Washington’s designated hitter.

Escobar has played just 33 big league games since the Nationals obtained him before the 2005 season because of an assortment of injuries. He suffered a strained ankle tendon that required surgery last September, but Escobar said he’s now 100 percent again.

When was the last time he felt like this?

Said Escobar: “I forget, let’s put it that way.”

Team officials have been impressed with him so far this spring and say he could make things interesting before the club breaks camp.

“The only [thing] I have to prove is that I can stay on the field on a daily basis,” Escobar said. “I’ve been through every single challenge: in the minors in the majors, before surgery, after surgery. You name it, I’ve been through it.”

The Nationals have received permission to use the DH through March 15 in an attempt to get more position players at-bats.

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