• Today's Top 5:
5. Harper's Hit: Bryce Harper struck out in two at bats against the Mets Monday in his first Major League Spring Training game, went home, studied film with his father, identified the problem, and returned today a calmer batter, entering the game in the fifth inning, replacing the Nats' right fielder Jayson Werth, who'd gone 0 for 1 with a walk and a K in two AB's, and lining to left off for an oppposite field single off 24-year-old New York right-hander Pedro Beato, a Rule 5 pick from the Orioles' system whose fastball reportedly tops out at around 97 mph...
The hit was the first of 2010 no.1 overall pick's pro career, unless we count Florida Instructional League (or "Instructs" as the kids call it) or the hits Harper had in the Arizona Fall League. Harper was doubled up but reportedly went in hard at second on a DP grounder by the Face of the Franchise Ryan Zimmerman in the next at bat, at which point Harper entered the game as a fielder for the first time, playing right and later making a throw home on a close play at the plate which showed off the arm that once allowed him to throw runners out from his knees from behind the plate or throw 96 from the mound depending upon which origin-story anecdote you choose to use here.
Harper's second AB came in the seventh with runners on first and third following back-to-back singles by outfielders Corey Brown and Laynce Nix and a wild pitch by another hard-throwing Mets' right-hander, Bobby Parnell. Harper hit a grounder to first and reached on a fielder's choice when the Mets' first baseman threw home in time to get Corey Brown, who suffered a sprained ankle on the play. (ed. note - "See, not being over-dramatic holding breath yesterday on Wilson Ramos' play at the plate.")
4. MOAR MORSE!!: Think Michael Morse senses a big opportunity here? Morse and Roger Bernadina came to camp ITBSOTLs, ready to compete for time in a sort-of-crowded outfield in which both are expected to play roles if they can win the spots. After hitting two HR's yesterday, Morse toned it down today with a more pedestrian display of his bat skills, going 2 for 2 with a run scored though he was thrown out at second after reaching on a single in his first AB. A Ryan Zimmerman walk, after Jayson Werth had K'd looking, and Morse's one-out single in his second at bat, set Adam LaRoche up with runners on first and third, and led to the first of four runs the Nationals would score in the fourth. LaRoche's groundout brought Zimmerman in from third to tie the game at 1-1, Pudge Rodriguez doubled Morse in and Danny Espinosa brought the veteran catcher around with a two-run blast to right off Mets' righty Manuel Alvarez that made it 4-1 Nats after four innings of play.
• Michael Morse: 2 G, 5 for 7, 3 R, 2 HR's, 4 RBI's.
3. Catcher Battle: Future Hall of Fame catcher Pudge Rodriguez got the start today, and the veteran backstop was behind the plate when Mr. National Himself Livan Hernandez took the mound in the Nats' Spring home Opener in Space Coast Stadium. Pudge helped the second pitcher of the night Ross Detwiler out of a jam when he nailed Mets' outfielder Fernando Martinez at second on a stolen base attempt in the fifth after Det let F-Mart on with a leadoff single in what ended up being the Nats' left-hander's second scoreless inning of work at least in part thanks to Pudge. No sign of Wilson Ramos or Jesus Flores today, but the fourth catcher in line on the Nats' organizational depth chart, Derek Norris got some work. After popping out in his first AB, Norris hit a two-out single off Bobby Parnell in the eight for his own first hit of the Spring, but the catcher was stranded after Jerry Hairston lined to right to end the inning. Updated score: Wilson Ramos 1, Jesus Flores 0.
2. Corey Brown's Ankle: So here's what happened, as mentioned briefly before. Nats' outfielder Corey Brown singled with one out in the second, took third on an Alex Cora single and then tried to score when Bryce Harper hit a grounder to first, but Mets' first baseman Zach Lutz threw home, catcher Raul Chavez made the catch and tag and Brown, everyone quickly realized, injured his ankle:
• CSN Washington/Nats Insider.com's Mark Zuckerman (@MarkZuckerman): "And Corey Brown, who was thrown out at the plate, is hurt. Appears to be L ankle."
• Washington Post writer Adam Kilgore (AdamKilgoreWP): "Bryce Harper grounded to first. Corey Brown, who was on 3rd, thrown out at the dish. Looks like Brown got hurt. Left ankle getting checked."
MASNSports.com's Ben Goessling (@MASNBen) reported that he ran into D.C. GM Mike Rizzo after the game and was told (as he Tweeted), "Just saw Mike Rizzo in the elevator. He said Corey Brown has a sprained ankle and is day-to-day."
1. Bullpen Strength: Livan Hernandez threw three innings in his Spring debut in which the 36-year-old soft-tossing right-hander allowed three hits and one earned run while recording two K's. 24-year-old lefty Ross Detwiler followed with 2.0 scoreless in which he struck out three. 25-year-old, hard-throwing right-hander Cole Kimball came next. 1.0 IP, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 K. 24-year-old Collin Balester, 1.0 IP, O ER, 1 H. 26-year-old reliever Tyler Clippard? 1.0 IP, 0 ER, 1 H, 2 K's. 23-year-old Nats' closer Drew Storen was next, and he struggled some, allowing three hits and 2 ER before retiring the Mets in the ninth, but he held onto the lead in his first outing of the Spring.
Yesterday it was Doug Slaten, Todd Coffey and Adam Carr after starter Chad Gaudin, reliever/starter Craig Stammen and Rule 5 pick Brian Broderick. The Nats' Rule 5 pick Elvin Ramirez arrived in camp late and has yet to appear in a game. Right-hander Henry Rodriguez is reportedly arriving in Viera, Florida tonight after finally resolving visa issues and leaving Venezuela for Space Coast Stadium. Sure half of them come with the "if they can throw strikes" caveat, but what the Nats thought was a strength appears to be one even if it is just two games into Spring Training.
• Miss The Game? The DC Faithful were following the box score...