• Today's Top 5:
5. Sunday Baseball: The Nats and Braves were the MLB Network national game this afternoon, no doubt due in some small part to the presence of 18-year-old future Nationals' outfielder Bryce Harper on Washington's Spring Training roster, but with Atlanta right fielder Jason Heyward in the lineup, and Ross Detwiler and Tommy Hanson on the mound, there was more than one reason to watch the game being played in Viera, Florida today.
Detwiler, who's competing for a rotation spot, but was ticketed by many for Triple-A when Spring Training began, has a new streamlined delivery that's caught eveyone's attention this Spring and it looked good in the first as he retired Martin Prado, Jordan Schafer and Chipper Jones in order. Hanson got Nyjer Morgan, Ian Desmond and Jayson Werth to start the broadcast off with a quick, clean first.
4. Practice? Infield practice? We're talking about practice?: As a postscript to Keith Olbermann's article yesterday about future Nats' outfielder Bryce Harper entitled, "Bryce Harper: "I Want To Kick The Crap Out Of You", the former ESPN and MSNBC announcer included a few photographs from around George M. Steinbrenner Field including one of Nats' coaches Jim Lett and John McLaren leading the Nationals through infield practice, an "almost-forgotten pre-game ritual," as Mr. Olbermann wrote, "...which may have gone out with Earl Weaver."
Nats' Skipper Jim Riggleman told Mr. Olbermann that there's, "nothing better for a team before a game." D.C. GM Mike Rizzo's team built on pitching, defense, speed and athleticism was on display in the second. Ross Detwiler issued a one-out walk to Jason Heyward, and it almost cost him a run when Braves' shortstop Alex Gonzalez split the right-center gap with a line drive that reached the track. Nyjer Morgan was on it, however, and though he bounced the throw in it was strong enough that Danny Espinosa's relay from the grass behind second home to Wilson Ramos arrived in time to nail Heyward by two steps for a well-executed 8-4-2 putout. But then Ian Desmond waited on a high hopper from Freddie Freeman and pulled NRI first baseman Michael Aubrey off the bag with a wide throw which allowed Gonzalez to score from second for a 1-0 Braves' lead.
D.C. GM Mike Rizzo on MASN on Detwiler's mechanics: "He's done a great job. Last year he worked on the extreme first base side of the rubber. That was an adjustment we made at the end of last year to take it into the winter to bring here in Spring Training. You can see he's the extreme third base side to get an angle on some right-handed hitters. He's worked hard, he's much more linear. We always preach to him, 'on line.' Last year we measured he was fourteen to sixteen inches cross-firing and now he's somewhere around two or three inches.
"What we found that cross-firing didn't allow Ross to do was get his fastball to the glove side of the plate and that was a little bit of the reason we changed sides of the rubber for him, and when he's on-line he has a much greater opportunity to go to both sides of the plate rather than just arm-side."
3. Stare at it, Prado: Ross Detwiler struck out the side in the third. Hanson (who was hitting for some reason while the Nats had a DH) went chasing, Prado went down looking (for the second time today) and Jordan Schafer went down swinging to end Det's outing. Detwiler had 5 K's in 3.0 innings in which he threw 48 pitches, 26 for strikes and gave up one hit, one walk and one unearned run. J.D. Martin took over on the hill in the fourth and got hit hard by the middle of the Braves' order with Chipper Jones doubling in front of Dan Uggla, whose single put runners on first and third with no outs. Martin hit Jayson Heyward to load the bases, got a DP grounder that let in a run, and then got out of the inning with minimal damage considering how the frame began. After Martin it was Todd Coffey and Doug Slaten with two scoreless before Luis Atilano got knocked around in the eighth, giving up three runs on three-straight singles that made it 5-0 Braves with all the scoring coming after a two-out walk to Jordan Schafer.
Tommy Hanson held the Nats' hitless, allowing one walk in 3.0 scoreless, then right-hander Christhian Martinez, lefty Jonny Venters, and righties Jairo Asencio and Arodys Vizcaino held the Nats off the board in what ends up a 5-0 Braves' shutout win.
2. Bryce Harper's Day: Bryce Harper entered the game in the bottom of the seventh as a pinch hitter for Wilson Ramos against 26-year-old right-hander Jairo Asencio, who'd gotten a weak grounder from Jayson Werth before getting Rick Ankiel swinging. Harper got hold of a 2-2 fastball upstairs and pushed it to left, but a diving play by Martin Prado robbed the Nats' 2010 no.1 overall pick of a hit.
1. More Rizzo Quotes from MASN:
D.C. GM Mike Rizzo on Detwiler on MASN: "[Detwiler has] much better velocity already through the early camp from last year. Last year he was pitching with that revamped hip of his. He couldn't get the extension or the pushoff, this year his first outing he was up to 93 mph and he's got a firm fastball tonight too."
D.C. GM Mike Rizzo on having no.1 pick pan out?: "Sure, No.1. 10th Rounders, we don't care where they come from as long as they can get somebody out on the mound, that's what we're looking for."
D.C. GM Mike Rizzo on the team's pitching philosophy: "We had our initial meeting, and I kind of did it in reverse. I said the best way to go to minor league camp is to nibble, walk guys and not be aggressive in the strike zone. They've taken it to heart and for the most part, the pitchers that have come in have pounded the strike zone. They've gotten ahead early in the count and competition breeds that and I think that's one of the positive signs that we have in camp here this year."
D.C. GM Mike Rizzo on MASN on rotation battles: "We've got guys fighting for spots, so nobody is working on their craft here, they're trying to get guys out and prepare themselves for the season."