The Washington Nationals are only two days into workouts in preparation for the 2015 campaign, but Matt Williams has already been asked and has talked about players who have managed to make an impression.
On the first official day of workouts on Saturday, 30-year-old right-hander Max Scherzer, who signed a 7-year/$210M deal this winter, threw his first bullpen session under the watchful eye of his manager and the Nationals' coaches.
"He looked good," Williams said. "You know, it's the first bullpen, it's eight minutes and it's not all that taxing for him, but he was able to throw all his pitches, worked with Wilson [Ramos], which is important. So that was good. And he looked great and said he felt fine after, so we'll go again in a couple of days."
Ramos was impressed with what he saw from the Nats' newest starter:
Ramos after catching Scherzer for 1st time: "Everything’s moving. That’s impressive. Pitchers like him, not too many in this game." #Nats— Chris Johnson (@masnCJ) February 21, 2015
Another pitcher who got Williams' attention? The second-year skipper was asked if anyone stood out?
Williams talked about 26-year-old left-hander Matt Grace, the Nationals' 2010 8th Round pick, who put up a 1.02 ERA, a 2.56 FIP, 12 walks (3.06 BB/9) and 32 Ks (8.15 K/9) in 35 ⅓ innings pitched at Double-A Harrisburg last season and a 1.30 ERA, a 3.31 FIP, 13 walks (2.81 BB/9) and 30 Ks (6.48 K/9) in 41 ⅔ IP for the Nationals' Triple-A Syracuse affiliate.
"I was interested to see Matt Grace," he said. "The reports on him are his ball moves a lot, good sinker, down in the zone, controls the zone.
"Again, it's only the first time out, but I got a chance to see him. Of course, all of the guys throw the ball extremely well, so it's good to get out there and get them going. They're excited to get going and start the process, so everybody is good, I think everybody threw the ball really well."
Williams talked at length on Saturday about the Nationals' plans for Tanner Roark, who might end up in the bullpen after Scherzer joined the rotation.
On Sunday, the 2014 NL East Manager of the Year discussed the plan for Blake Treinen, the 26-year-old righty who pitched out of the bullpen and as a starter in the majors last year while starting in the minors.
Treinen, like Roark, will start this Spring, but he too could end up in the bullpen at some point.
"As we get through Spring," Williams explained, "[Treinen has] trained all offseason as a starter, he's put himself in that position to go, certainly, multiple innings. Even our starters only go a couple innings at first. So, we'll see how it all pans out over the course of Spring, but he has experience coming in for an inning. He's got experience going multiple innings, and starting. So, you don't prepare any differently, necessarily, because he may be asked to do multiple things. So the best case scenario for him is to train as a starter."
Also in camp and back throwing after surgery to remove bone chips from his elbow this past season, is 26-year-old right-hander Taylor Jordan, who started the 2014 campaign in the rotation but struggled with his velocity and command before he was optioned to Triple-A and had his season end early after experiencing issues with his right elbow.
"Today was day one for him," Williams said this afternoon, "so I thought he threw the ball extremely well. He's been down here for some time and working and throwing bullpens, and he's completely prepared. So, if we asked him to go out and throw two or three innings tomorrow, or the next day, he probably could. So that's a good thing.
"That being said, we have to be mindful of his health and how he's feeling going through this, but he looked great today, ball was really coming out of his hand well."
With a starting rotation expected to feature the likes of Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, Doug Fister and Gio Gonzalez, options like Roark, Treinen, Jordan all healthy and others like A.J. Cole, Taylor Hill, Felipe Rivero and Sammy Solis in camp and waiting in the wings should they be needed this season, the Nationals have an impressive collection of arms in Viera, Florida.
"It's good," Williams said. "We have multiple guys that have big-league experience, that have had success at that level and start. So if somebody has a hiccup, then we have somebody who is ready, willing and able, and that has proven that they can compete at the big league level and have success. So all of those things are good things. Unfortunately there [are] only five spots. But everybody is training with that in mind, that at any given time I may be asked to go out there and start a game and compete for five, six, seven innings, so they're preparing for that."