In his article published yesterday at washingtonpost.com entitled, "For Young, Job Fight Least of His Battles", Washington Post Staff Writer Barry Svrluga quotes Washington Nationals' Manager Manny Acta, who reacts to Nick Johnson's first double of the Spring by stating:
"'That's the test for me right there,' Manager Manny Acta said. 'That's what I was waiting for.... You can't tell. I'm telling you, if you came from Russia, and you didn't know what was going on with him, you wouldn't be able to tell how he looked last year.'"
The play which Nationals' Manager Manny Acta is describing took place in the sixth inning of the Nationals' 3-2 win over the St. Louis Cardinals on Monday afternoon. I also noted the importance of the play in my post that afternoon entitled, "Washington Nationals vs St. Louis Cardinals Spring Training Game Report", writing at the time:
"A real good sign for Nationals' fans...as Nick Johnson legs out a double off Cardinals' righty Ryan Franklin and slides safely into second to lead off the bottom of the sixth. That's enough for today. Johnson's fine, but a pinch runner...replaces him at second base."
A healthy Nick Johnson is going to be very important if this year's Nationals are going to be competitive in what should be a wide-open NL East. (The Mets are already riddled with injuries and they haven't even made it through Spring Training yet. The Braves rebuilt roster is still incomplete and the age and injury history of their starting rotation has to raise eyebrows. The Phillies outfield and starting rotation remain suspect in my mind and the Marlins are once again at the beginning of a rebuilding...So why can't the Nationals compete in the NL East?)
Nick Johnson took another big step today and his continued improvement can only help the Nationals' chances. Johnson went 3 for 3 with 2 doubles and a single to raise his Spring AVG to .333, as the Nationals dropped a 3-2 decision to the Florida Marlins.
Johnson's first double came off Marlin's lefty Andrew Miller, who was acquired from Detroit in the Miguel Cabrera/Dontrelle Willis deal, and the second double of this afternoon's game came against the games' eventual winning pitcher, righty Jesus Delgado. The three hits give Johnson 5 hits in 15 at bats this Spring with 3 doubles, 1 walk and 2 K's.
As of Wednesday, according to Barry Svrluga's washingtonpost.com article, "For Young, Job Fight Least of His Battles", quoted above, Nick Johnson was, "... still unhappy with his swing."
...Maybe now he's found it.
Right-hander Adam Carr, an 18th Round Nationals' Draft pick from 2006, got a call-up to Nationals' camp earlier this week after the first cuts of the Spring, and Carr made his first appearance in today's game throwing one scoreless frame in the bottom of the eigth.
Carr, who according to MLB.com's Bill Ladson's article, "Notes: Lannan turning heads this spring", has "...impressed the Nationals by having quality bullpen sessions in recent days," was brought up to Viera because:
"The team wants Carr to start developing under pitching coach Randy St. Claire and learn how to pitch the right way.
"'It's early enough in camp,' (Nationals' GM Jim) Bowden said. 'We want to take a look at Carr. He throws 98 mph. He has a big arm. I like the way Randy St. Claire handles young pitchers.'"
In two seasons in the Nationals' system following his selection out of Oklahoma State, Carr, according to thebaseballcube.com has posted a (5-1) record and 2.07 ERA in 64 games and 87.0 innings, over which he's saved 13 games, and allowed 58 hits, 20 ER, and 60 walks while striking out 105 batters. Keep an eye out for Mr. Carr...especially if he picks up a bat...
Cristian Guzman was 0 for 4 today, but the projected starting shortstop put up his first two RBI's of the Spring and is now batting .381 with 1 double, 8 hits and now 2 RBI's in 21 at bats.
Garrett Mock lasted 3.0 IP, giving up 2 hits, 2 ER and a walk while striking out 2. That gives Mock a 4.05 ERA in 2 starts and 6.2 IP this Spring, with 7 hits against, 3 ER and 3 walks with 4 K's, as he battles for a spot in the starting rotation, one of several which may be open with today's announcement...
...In MLB.com's Bill Ladson's article, "Notes: Nationals shut down ailing Hill", which reports that Shawn Hill once again experienced pain in his troublesome tight right (pitching) forearm and this time while just playing catch. Not good...
One final quote from the same Bill Ladson article, "Notes: Nationals shut down ailing Hill", in which Manny Acta reacts to Nick Johnson's 3 for 3 showing today, which included a play at home plate, stating:
"'That was nice to see, because Nick has no fear. He showed that already...It was not only his sliding; he was sliding under the catcher.'"
Welcome back, Mr. Johnson.