Viera, Florida's Space Ghost Stadium was the 26th stop on the itinerary for the MLB Network Radio crew's 30 Teams in 30 Days Spring Training Tour. (ed. note - "Did I say, 'Space Ghost? It's Space Coast, 'coast', sorry. That gag's got whiskers on it.") It was the 11th stop for the hosts who were talking to the Nationals today, Jim Duquette and Mike Ferrin, who are touring the Grapefruit League while the Sirius/XM MLB Network Radio hosts Jim Bowden and Casey Stern travel around Arizona covering Cactus League action. As Mr.'s Duquette and Ferrin broadcasted live from this afternoon's game between the Astros and Nationals, they played a series of interviews that they'd recorded throughout the afternoon. Here are the highlights from the Nationals' players and manager Davey Johnson's interviews with links to the conversations where available, starting with the Nats' Opening Day starter, Stephen Strasburg:
• Stephen Strasburg on watching video or just pitching to his strenghts: "Video? I'll look at it a little bit, just to... sometimes you throw a pitch and you think it's down and away and they hit it out of the park, and it's like, 'How did they hit that? I thought I hit my spot?' That's when I'll look on the video and sure enough it's right over the middle of the plate. Other than that, I'm just going out there and trying to get a feel for the game in real situations."
• Stephen Strasburg on fastball control at this point: "It's gotten better once I stopped trying to mess with it. I'm a big rhythm guy out there and when I start trying to do little things to get the ball down or move it in and out, I end up leaving it up a little bit. So, for me, if I just trust it, it helps a lot."
• Stephen Strasburg on Opening Day in Chicago?: "I'm very excited. I can already kind of start to get the feeling of the start of the season, getting the adrenaline and I've just got to kind of keep that at bay right now because I've got one more start here and still got a lot of work to do, but it's going to be a fun time and I think everyone in here is looking forward to it."
• LISTEN TO Stephen Strasburg on MLB Network Radio HERE.
• Drew Storen on the plans going forward with bicep/tricep issues? "They haven't really shown me too much, just because they know how I am. I don't really care about the beginning, as much as I'm worried about the end, but [I'm] taking it a day at a time. I think what essentially, what I'm going to have to do is get as many varied outings in before I get... essentially have a mini-Spring Training before I get up there. That way when I'm back I'm fully back and not on a pitch limit or anything."
• Drew Storen on the Nats' 2012 bullpen?: "We liked our bullpen last year and we would have put our bullpen against anybody else's last year, and then you add a guy like Brad Lidge. I mean, you want to talk about the kind of experience and the type of mentor that we all could use. It's unbelievable to look at the power and the talent our whole pitching staff has, not just the bullpen."
• Drew Storen on the high expectations for the team this season and if there's any added pressure?: "We don't see it as pressure, I think it's more excitement, and I think for us it's a very welcome change. I think we are kind of the trendy pick and you can tell because there's a lot more people around this year asking more questions. So, we're excited about it and when it comes down to it, everything looks good on paper, but it's a matter of doing it once the season starts."
• Tyler Clippard [Discussing playing NHL12 w/ Drew Storen]:
Mike Ferrin: "I understand that your skills in NHL12 far exceed [Storen's]. Are you running a left-wing lock on him while he tries to play run and gun?"
Tyler Clippard: "I try to dump it in behind the net and get the offense going from there. But, we have a lot of fun with it."
• Tyler Clippard on recording close to 11 strikeouts per nine innings? (ed. note - "11.08 K/9 in 2010, 10.60 K/9 in 2011): "That's kind of the guy who I've always been my whole career. I feel like striking guys out is a part of what makes me successful. I'm not really a ground ball pitcher, so, obviously, last year my walks were down, (4.00 BB/9 career to 2.65 BB/9 in '11) which is a huge reason for my success, but yeah, the strikeouts have to be there for me to be successful and that's just kind of who I am."
• Danny Espinosa on his Spring: "Pretty good. I've had a hard time seeing the ball as far as at this stadium [Space Coast], just, I can't see the ball well here, but outside of that my swing feels good. I've shortened up my swing a lot. Body feels good. I feel like we're having a good time playing and our team's meshing really well. So everything's going great."
• Danny Espinosa on eliminating the leg kick from his swing: "The leg kick, it was all brought to me when I was in the minor leagues because when I first was brought to the Nationals and I was drafted, I didn't use my lower-half to hit at all, I was purely a hands hitter. And I hit for good average in college and stuff, but just not a ton of power. And so they started using my leg kick to incorporate my legs and as I've gotten older it's something that I don't need. I've learned how to use my legs now and I don't really need [the leg kick]. So, I still have it, it's just not a high drawn-out leg kick. It's more of a modified leg kick, more of a slide, but that's still my timing, I still have to have something there for my timing. But it's been really modified just so it's small, so I'm not dropping my back side, because when you get down late on a leg kick you really drop your back side and that's what I was doing a lot last year, so now that I've modified, my swing is a lot shorter and more direct to the ball."
• Ryan Zimmerman on Jayson Werth changing the Natitude: (ed. note - "No one said 'Natitude.' That was me."): "He's been on teams that have won, obviously. He's been in Philly where they have that way, where they win, they go to the playoffs every season. It's expected. And it takes a certain kind of attitude and a certain kind of I guess, 'determination' every day when you come to the field. And whether Jayson goes 0 for 4 or 4 for 4, he's the same guy every day and he's always willing to help, and he's a fierce competitor and I think seeing what he does day-in-and-day-out has helped a lot of us kind of see what it takes to get to that next level that we want to be at."
• Davey Johnson on Chien-Ming Wang: "Chien-Ming, I'm a little worried about him. He pulled a hamstring. But he's almost 95% back to where he was with the Yankees. He's throwing the heck out of the ball. He was so sharp in the game against the Yankees, his first really start up here. And he was on a pace to just get ready for Opening Day, so he is almost 95% back right now."
• Davey Johnson on saying that Adam LaRoche and Mark DeRosa would form a "platoon" at first: "Well, part of it was to scare the heck out of Adam LaRoche. But a lot of it is, [Adam's] coming off a shoulder injury and Mark DeRosa is a guy that has had a wrist injury the last couple of years, but he's looked unbelievably good in camp. I had [DeRosa] in the World Baseball Classic, I know what kind of player he is..."
• Davey Johnson on Bryce Harper in center: "There's no question in my mind he can do it. And there's no secret I like his bat and I'd like to get more left-handed presence in the lineup."
• LISTEN TO Davey Johnson on MLB Network Radio HERE.
• Adam LaRoche on injury issues: "It's again been a little bit of a frustrating Spring. Coming back, got the shoulder right where we needed it, it was feeling really good and [then] sprained a foot. So, go figure there. Missed about the last week, I've been down in the minor league side lately, just getting a bunch of at bats, so at least I'm not losing ground there."
• Adam LaRoche on his shoulder: "The swing's there. The shoulder feels great. I'm able to get to pitches I wasn't getting to last year. Now it's getting comfortable in the box and confident."
• Gio Gonzalez on the Nats' rotation: "It's unbelievable. Starting from the top, Strasburg, [Jordan] Zimmermann and Edwin [Jackson] and even missing out on two other excellent pitchers, Chien-Ming Wang and John Lannan, these guys are unbelievable. I just feel like, what they did for me was kind of like, 'Look, we'll add you here. We're going to do you a favor, coming over here.' But realistically, the fun part is that they put me in there and it's been fun watching these guys go out there and pound the strike zone."
• LISTEN TO Gio Gonzalez On MLB Network Radio HERE.
• Jordan Zimmermann on 2012: "I felt strong at the end of last year and I feel like I can go 200+ innings this year, so I'm excited to get going with this season and see what happens."
• Jordan Zimmermann on pitching to contact: "I wasn't really trying to strike guys out last year. I was just trying to pitch to contact and get some quick outs so I could stay in the ballgame a lot longer and I kind of realized that last year. That was the first time that I'm like I just want guys to put it in play and let them get themselves out. Years before that I wanted to strike everyone out and that's why I could only make it five innings, five and a third. And last year I was able to go six, seven innings and keeping the pitch count low is a big key for me."
• Jordan Zimmermann on what he's still working on: "The only thing I've really got to fine tune is a changeup. The last couple years I've been having a hard time with that and I finally found a grip that feels comfortable to me. And I've been throwing it the last couple games here and it feels great. It's got good late movement and it's a little bit slower than the fastball so that's always good and I just have to keep working on that and fine tune it a bit."
• Funniest Line:
• Stephen Strasburg on Gio Gonzalez's grooming habits: "It almost looks like his hair doesn't grow he gets it cut so much."