Bullpen sessions. Batting practice. Live bullpens. Drills. Over the next few weeks in sunny Viera, Florida's Space Coast Stadium there will be a lot of pitches thrown, a lot of grounders fielded, a lot of fly balls shagged and a lot of swings taken, giving Washington Nationals' manager Matt Williams and his coaches plenty of time to see how everyone looks as they prepare for the 2015 season..
As Williams explained after Nats' pitchers and catchers' second workout of the year on Sunday, however, the real evaluation doesn't take place until you start playing games against other teams.
"It can't happen until you start playing games," Williams said when asked about evaluating hitters, in particular.
"There are practice players and game players. But ultimately, you don't get a whole lot of adrenaline pumping until there is a team with another jersey on. And once that happens then the bat speed ticks up, the bounce in the step comes a little bit better, and that's why we have so many days between the time they show and the first game. Because they have to get through all of that and get ready to go ahead and compete, so that competition doesn't happen until you start playing games."
The Nationals' first Grapefruit League game is scheduled for Thursday, March 5th, when they take on their NL East rivals, the New York Mets.
At that point, the baseball world will also get their first look at the impressive collection of arms the Nats have assembled for the defense of their second NL East title in the last three years.
In spite of all that's been written about the Nationals' pitching staff since they bolstered the already-strong rotation with the addition of Max Scherzer, Williams wasn't willing to bite on the idea that his starters have the potential to be historically good.
"There is expectation all over the place and that's a good thing," the second-year manager said.
"So once we understand that and accept that, we look at it as a positive. The word 'historic', I don't think we can put that in our vocabulary at this point, because we haven't gotten there yet. This is Spring Training. All we have to do is look to last year to understand that we don't know what can happen. At the end of the day, they're all really good workers. They are all very prideful. They are all going out there with the ability to compete on an everyday basis and they love that. So that's all I look for and I think that's all their teammates expect. That they will be prepared. That they will take the mound and they will give us a chance on that given day to win."
But still, Stephen Strasburg, Scherzer, Jordan Zimmermann, Doug Fister and Gio Gonzalez? It is a rotation with the potential be something special, if not "historic."
"It makes for good copy," Williams admitted. "It makes for good conversation, but at this point we're about the process of getting through Spring Training and making sure everybody is ready to go."