Today's Top 3...What...I couldn't even watch the game!!!:
5. More Grounders, Please: If Nats' right-hander Jason Marquis can return to being the extreme ground ball pitcher he was during his pre-Nats career, as he was sold to the fans when the Nationals signed him to a two-year/$15 million dollar deal in the winter before the 2010 season, then the Nats' belief that they can improve just by having pitchers who were injured last year back at full strength, seems more believeable. Marquis, who threw four scoreless innings this afternoon in which he gave up two hits and a walk while striking out three and inducing eight groundouts from the Marlins, has now, according to MASN's Ben Goessling (@MASNBen) who's seen each one, thrown just 70 pitches in 7.0 scoreless IP over which he's allowed just three hits and one walk. Marquis started his first season with the Nats by giving up 32 hits, 10 walks and 21 ER in five starts and 20.2 IP last Spring leading to questions about his health and the eventual diagnosis of an injury to his elbow which resulted in the then-31-now-32-year-old right-hander making just 13 starts, ten of them after returning surgery in August. Before last year, Marquis hadn't made less than 28 starts or won less than eleven games in a season since 2003.
4. Hamate bone surgery? What Hamate bone surgery?: After getting hit by a pitch in his first at bat against Marlins' right-hander Javier Vazquez, Danny Espinosa hit an RBI double in the third to put Washington up 1-0. Espinosa's 5th-inning dinger off Marlins' lefty Michael Dunn put the Nationals up 3-0 over Florida and the RBI single he hit in the seventh left the Nats' 23-year-old second baseman 3 for 3 with two runs scored and 4 RBI's as the Nationals blew the game open, taking a 7-0 lead.
In 7 games, Espinosa's now 10 for 22 with two doubles, two HR's and 10 RBI's. The real test for Espinosa, however, won't be this Spring, but once he's faced the same pitching staffs a few times this season, and the league gets more of an idea of what the veteran of just 28 major league games is up to at the plate. Will Espinosa adjust? When D.C. GM Mike Rizzo was asked earlier this winter whether he was concerned about Espinosa's health after the infielder had surgery to remove the hook of the hamate bone in his right hand, the Nats' General Manager stated confidently that, "Danny will have no issue with the hamate surgery, he'll be 100% ready to go in Spring Training," while also allowing for the fact that the switch-hitting Espinosa's going to need some time to adjust at the plate at the major league level like Ian Desmond was given last season:
"We expect [Espinosa] to be our Opening Day second baseman. He's a young player, but what he gives to us defensively range-wise, energy level, and speed on the bases, we can absorb a little bit of poor rookie at bats, if you will, until he gets comfortable in the batter's box from both sides of the plate."
3. Go Harp Go!! 18-year-old 2010 no.1 overall pick Bryce Harper's first AB today came in the top of the seventh when he stepped in for Matt Stairs with the Nationals in the middle of a 4-run rally. It didn't stop with Harper, who hit the first pitch he saw from veteran reliever Brian Sanches into right field to drive 22-year-old Nats' first base prospect Chris Marrero in and give Washington an 8-0 lead over the Marlins. With the next round of cuts reportedly expected on Saturday, Harper's stay in major league camp may be over in three days. The left-handed hitting power bat's made quite the impression, continuing to hit against yet another level of opposition as he has at each stop since he left high school early in order to make himself eligible for the Draft and what he's doing right now. With today's hit, Harper's now 5 for 14 with two doubles, two runs scored and four RBI's in spot appearances over nine games.
• The Brain on Harper: One of the voices of the Washington Nationals, Dave Jageler, who, along with Charlie Slowes, has been the Nationals radio announcer for WFED and is now one of the voices you'll be hearing on 106.7 the FAN's Nats coverage, appeared on MLB Network Radio's Power Alley today with Jim Duquette and Kevin Kennedy, and offered this quick anecdote about what he's seen from Harper this Spring:
Dave Jageler: "He's played in almost every game, he's getting an at bat or two, and you can just see the bat speed. He hit a line drive against the Astros on Monday, just a vicious swing, and a line drive that was right down the line over the head of the first baseman. He hit it so hard it didn't have a chance to hook and it landed fair, went in the right field corner for a double...in fact, he batted twice in the same inning and hit two doubles. So he's performing very well, in my opinion, off the field and obviously on the field."
And according to Washington Post writer Adam Kilgore, Harper's feeling "hitterish"...
• Game Notes: Michael Morse continued to mash, doubling in his first at bat, singling in his second and walking in his third trip to the plate. Roger Bernadina was 1 for 3 with two K's, striking out in his first two at bats but then singling and scoring on Danny Espinosa's HR in the 5th. After Marquis, Todd Coffey and Craig Stammen combined for 3.0 scoreless with Coffey striking out the side in the fifth before Stammen's two frames. Doug Slaten got hammered, however, giving up a single and two HR's before retiring three straight to end the eighth inning.