Before they each hit two HR's apiece off Mike Pelfrey in the Nationals' 7-5 win over Pelfrey's New York Mets, and before the return of Craig Stammen and Jason Marquis' first "successful" start of the Spring became the story, Josh Willingham and Ryan Zimmerman spoke to Sirius/XM MLB Home Plate host and former Mets' general manager Jim Duquette, co-host with Seth Everett, of Sirius/XM's "Power Alley", which was broadcasting live from Viera, Florida's Space Coast Stadium all morning...
Jim Duquette: "I know you guys got off to a slow start here, but now you got a couple of W's under your belt, things seem a little looser around here?"
Ryan Zimmerman: "Yeah, it didn't mess with us at all at the beginning anyway, I mean nothing really down here matters except staying healthy and getting ready to play and we think that's where we're at now.
Jim Duquette: "I had a chance to talk to Mike Rizzo about you and your impact on this club, and he said even when he got here you were the leader in this clubhouse, now several years out does that ever get old that you're the guy most guys look to?"
Ryan Zimmerman: "I don't think people that are looked upon that way think about it that way, I think you just go about your business, and I just play baseball the way I've always been taught to play, and I respect the game, I love to play the game and if that's what people want to look up to then that's fine. But I don't think anyone who's, I guess, given that leadership role thinks of themselves as a leader, they just go about their business and that role kind of follows them."
Jim Duquette: "Now, Mike [Rizzo] also said he sees you improving on a daily basis, when you self-evalutate, where in your game do you feel like you're improving, let's say, compared from last Spring Training until now?
Ryan Zimmerman: "Well, I mean baseball's a game where whether you're the best or the worst player last year you have something to improve on, and that's the great thing about the game. I had one of my better years last year, but there's a ton of stuff that I can work on, defensively, offensively, everything, so, I try to come to Spring every year and address my weaknesses and get better at them, and I feel like I've done that this Spring and can hopefully duplicate what I did last year."
Jim Duquette: 'Shortstop, young kid, Ian Desmond gets a lot of rave reviews, obviously [Cristian] Guzman's had the position, he's battling the shoulder, but what have you seen out of Desmond so far?"
Ryan Zimmerman: "Well he's a tremendous athlete, he's got all the tools, he knows the game and he's fun to play with, I think he's exciting, he loves to play the game, he comes here ready to play everyday and, it'll be interesting, like you said, Guzzie's been a great player for us for a few years, and uh, it's his position, and we'll see what happens, it's an interesting race, but either way we'll be good."
Jim Duquette: "You've been here now for a couple years, you've seen struggles, but compare this club, is this one of the best clubs that you've been a part of in a Nationals uniform?"
Ryan Zimmerman: "Yeah, I think it definitely is. Not only are we more talented, but we have some guys that have been around the game a long time, and any time you get veteran guys and, you know, we actually know what our team is going north already. In the last few years, there's been competitions for five, six even seven spots, and you know, to know who you're going to be playing with, to have that kind of relationship with these guys for the whole Spring Training, I think, kind of helps us build and get ready for the season, and it's just a more professional feel. It's a good thing for us and we're gonna build on it, and we forgot about last year already, so this year can't come quick enough."
• Josh Willingham:
Jim Duquette: From an at bat standpoint, some guys like to see a lot of pitches, some guys are up there hacking, you know it's a feel thing for them, which one are you or are you a hybrid of the two?
Josh Wilingham: "I've tried both ways, I've tried to go up and see a lot of pitches early, and I've tried to go up and be aggressive and I really thing the only way you're going to get rhythm is to take it like a regular season at bat and if you get a pitch to hit early go ahead and take a hack at it, so that's kinda what I've done this year, but like I said, I've tried both methods."
Jim Duquette: "As we get closer to the start of the season, where are you timing-wise? Do you want a couple of more games and glad that it's still Spring, or are you ready to start now?"
Josh Willingham: "I think everybody's kinda ready to start, but it's one of those things, where Spring is what it is, you know, it's here for you to get work in and for you to prepare yourself to play a long season, so I think that's what it's all about, but I hope it gets here sooner or later, we'll play these games and get our work in and hopefully kinda springboard ourselves into the season."
Jim Duquette: "You had a tremendous season last year and I think most anyone who watches you play knows there's more in there, I mean you could be 30/90, 30/100, what do you need to do when you look at last year to this year, what do you need to do, is it more of the same stuff you're doing, or how do you improve off of last year?"
Josh Willingham: "Well I think just consistency. Last year I probably had the best two-month-stretch of my career, June and July and it was...you know, I didn't play a lot the first of the year, and that was frustrating, so once I got at bats and got comfortable then I was able to produce, so, you know again, I think it's all about staying healthy and it's about getting your at bats and playing in your games and traditionally I've proven that when I've been able to do that I've been able to put up some decent numbers."
Jim Duquette: "When we look at that middle of your lineup, and obviously the top of the lineup you have guys that can get on base, you got Nyjer [Morgan] that can steal some bases, but the 3-4-5, Zimmerman, Dunn and yourself, that's pretty darn good, when you compare that to other National League clubs, how nice is that to be hitting in that lineup?"
Josh Willingham: "I think when you look at those three hitters, they, and especially Adam and Zim, are definitely guys that are probably going to hit you 35+ and drive you in a hundred every year, and Adam's definitely been one to prove to do that on a year-in and year-out basis, and I just want to do my part offensively and help the team win. I'm not trying to go out there and hit 50 homers and drive in 120 runs, you know, I'm probably not capable of that, so I'm just going to go out and do what I can, but our 3-4 and 5, we're going to have to all three produce this year for us to be successful."
Jim Duquette: "For you guys to improve off of last year, and obviously it's a hundred losses the last two years, and most people who look at you guys definitely see the improvement, you're going to have to get good pitching, it's nice to have a guy like Jason Marquis join your club, with all of the youth at least you have some stability with that veteran starter?"
Josh Willingham: "Right and Jason's been around and he's been around a lot of great pitchers, you know when he was with the Braves and all the clubs that he's been with and, you know, experience you can't really, you know that doesn't...you can't pay for experience, and it's one of those that he definitely has and he's gonna be a big help to our pitching staff this year, and you know what you're going to get from Jason, you know, he's a guy that pitches a lot of innings, and goes every fifth day and takes the ball and gives you a chance to win."