Former D.C. GM Jim Bowden and co-host Casey Stern visited the Washington Nationals on Friday for MLB Network Radio's 30 Teams in 30 Days Spring Training Tour stop in Viera, Florida's Space Coast Stadium.
Throughout the day, various Nats visited with the duo, with Nats' Skipper Jim Riggleman, current GM Mike Rizzo, the Face of the Franchise Ryan Zimmerman, the future of the franchise Bryce Harper, Michael Morse, Jordan Zimmermann and others stopping by to share their thoughts on what the team has accomplished this Spring and what they expect will happen this season. What follows is a selection of some of the more interesting quotes from the interviews that aired over the four hours that MLB Network radio was broadcasting live from the Nats' Spring home:
• Bryce Harper on what he saw at the plate this Spring: "I think I saw pretty much the same same sequences, same pitches. I think that in the big leagues they double up a lot. They're doubling up, tripling up, you know, they're going to throw a backdoor slider four times in a row, five times in a row, if they make you look stupid once, they're going to throw it again. So I learned that I need to lay off that and just spit on the pitches that I didn't need to swing at and see something up, drive it the other way. Once I got comfortable after my first couple of at bats, I felt really good and felt really strong up there..."
• Jordan Zimmermann on his strong start last time out: "....it was the best control I had of my fastball. I felt like I could put it wherever I wanted to the whole night and the breaking stuff was pretty good so, overall last night was probably the best I felt in a long time, so I'm pretty much right where I need to be."
"It started off I was a little hit and miss with the fastball early, the first couple games, and the last couple it's been a lot better and the control is pretty much pinpoint right now."
• DC GM Mike Rizzo on Jordan Zimmermann's start: "The arm strength was there. The secondary stuff was there, but more importantly...[after] Tommy John the last thing that usually comes is the touch, feel and command, and we saw a hint that that's going to be a plus for him and I think that's kinda the last piece of his rehab puzzle that we were looking for..."
• DC GM Mike Rizzo on Bryce Harper's future: "Like any gifted young player, we're going to allow him to develop at his own pace, we're not going to retard his progress, but we're certainly not going to accelerate it past where we think he belongs. You know, he's a fast-track, 18-year-old player, I really can't be any more specific than that. Justin Upton was a guy that I had personal experience with in how he developed, and 'gun to my head' if you ask me where [Harper] would be, I think he would be on that course to be, you know, maybe a 19-or-20-year-old big leaguer and maybe a 20-year-old All-Star like Upton was."
• Jayson Werth on batting second: "I think it just plays into my game a little bit up towards the front of the order more. My strengths are seeing pitches and working pitchers, and I think that I'll be able to do that up there in the two-spot, but most importantly I think hitting in front of [Ryan] Zimmerman and with my on base percentage, I'm on base a lot, so it will give him a chance to drive in some runs, and I look forward to scoring from first on doubles and scoring from second on singles and things like that."
• Ian Desmond on Bryce Harper: "The biggest thing I saw from him was the 'want' to be in the big leagues. I think, coming up in the minor leagues, and something that I've learned spending so much time in the minor leagues, is that you see guys that get comfortable being down there. You know, they think, 'Oh, I hit .300 in the minor leagues, I made it.' I don't think [Harper] is ever going to feel like that until he gets here. He always has something to prove.
"I remember one specific day when there was a guy in the stands who was yelling at him 'You're overrated!' or something like that and then he happened to get up there and drive a double, one of the hardest balls I saw him hit of Spring Training. He's not comfortable yet, he wants to be in the big leagues and I think that as long as he keeps that goal in mind he'll be able to make it and he's going to be great."
• Jim Bowden And Drew Storen on his fastball: Jim Bowden: "Another Stanford graduate, Bob Boone, who works in the front office [in Washington], I remember him seeing you for the first time at Stanford and he came back and said, 'This is the guy. I gotta have this guy,' because of your not only phenomenal make-up but he always talked about your fastball command even in college. How important a part of that is your success?" Drew Storen: "Especially now, that's one thing I've been working on all Spring. The big thing for me, I've been a slider-happy guy last year because I was trying to miss bats, and realizing this Spring that I could get guys out with my fastball is something that has been part of that process, and it's got me hit a little bit, but that's the way you're going to learn, and if you're going to do it, better to do it now than a week from now."
• Ryan Zimmerman on the growth of the Nats: "The plan that they've kind of put in motion here, in the first couple years, everyone was saying, 'Oh they're not going to spend any money,' and like you said [to Bowden], they're just kind of waiting for the right time to do it. And there's no reason to go out two years ago and spend, get two guys that are going to make $20M dollars a year when you have guys that aren't ready to win. So, they did a great job of being patient, and that's hard to do in a city like D.C., I think like you said, once we start winning it's going to be a great city and they certainly have the money to do it, so we're going to get ready to have some fun in the next couple of years with the Lerners, and they've been great. They're a great family and they love baseball and they want nothing more than a winning team in D.C."
• Collin Balester on working out the pen: "My fastball I've been using pretty much my four-seam this year. Just been able to kind of locate it a little better this year, been able to throw strikes, and I kind of figured out that the more strikes you throw, it's a little easier to get guys out and kind of set guys up. And my curve ball is a 12-6, actually more of a slurve, a little harder slurve, and I've been able to get ahead with my fastball and put them away with my curve ball and I've been able to have some success with those two pitches."
• Michael Morse on recent success: "The biggest thing was, I was just hoping for an opportunity, and you know, I got a little playing time last year, and I started playing at the end a lot and I did pretty well, I had success, so I figured, if I have some success, why can't I play every day? And I feel like I can hit big league pitching, I feel like I can do well at this level. So, I just want to play every day. That's pretty much everybody's goal."