Pitchers' fielding practice. First bullpen sessions. First live batting practice sessions. First Grapefruit League games. It's a familiar progression. Washington Nationals' skipper Matt Williams is in his second Spring Training as a major league manager. The only big difference this year, he explained on Sunday, was a matter of timing things out as he prepares the Nats for the 2015 campaign. Once they get through the initial process, then they can talk about how the Nationals' starters will line up for competitive action.
"We're getting through the live BP sessions and because we only have two of them, we're going to go man-to-man to find out whether they need another bullpen before they throw in their first game," Williams explained.
"So that's a little different from last year. Last year we had two different sessions of live BP for each pitching group. This year it's only one. So we have a couple of days in-between the last live BP and the first game, so we'll make sure that they're prepared and ready to go to get in a game, and then we'll make that decision. But as of right now nothing has been decided."
"We've got one less day this year than we had last year," Williams continued. "Last year we had fourteen days before the first game. This year it's Day 13 on our schedule anyway. So it's one less day and that being said, we just want to make sure that everybody is good to go going into a game situation before we make that schedule for them."
Williams said Monday that there was one unanswered question left before he announced who would start against the New York Mets in the Grapefruit league opener on Thursday.
"We have one question with regard to Day 1, so I think we'll have it tomorrow," he said.
Stay tuned for that announcement later this afternoon, then get ready for the speculation about how that lines things up for Opening Day.
Until then, how about some links to catch you up on the last 24 hours in Nationals news...
SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT: Did you see the Harper jersey on "House of Cards"?:
• "For at least the third time, "House of Cards" has made reference to the Nationals..." - "Bryce Harper jersey makes ‘House of Cards’ cameo" - Dan Steinberg, The Washington Post
NATS BEAT: Gwynn, Jr. signs; Aaron Barrett; Live batting practice updates + more
• "Despite their use of analytics in plenty of other areas, the Nationals shifted fewer times than any other MLB club last season..." - "Why the Washington Nationals don’t use the defensive shift more" - Mark Zuckerman, Nats Insider
AARON BARRETT STORIES:
• "Out of 190 pitchers last year that threw 200 or more sliders, he had the 13th-best ratio of swing and miss with his slider." - Buster Olney on Aaron Barrett - "Nationals Pastime: Barrett looks to wipe out postseason memories" - Chris Johnson, MASNSports.com
• "Barrett was a rookie last year, and he was solid for Washington. His 2.66 ERA doesn't tell the whole story." - "Barrett makes most of each opportunity with Nats" - Bill Ladson, nationals.com
PURKE FANS UNITE:
• "'It's definitely frustrating. You don't want to go through injuries and not be able to perform,' Purke said." - "Purke hopes to move past injuries, contribute to Nats" - Bill Ladson, nationals.com
ZIMMERMANN THROWS LIVE BATTING PRACTICE:
• "Zimmermann looked sharp in his bullpen session — other than an errant fastball that plunked Clint Robinson in the right thigh." - "Doug Fister, Jordan Zimmermann throw live BP, and other notes" - James Wagner, The Washington Post
• "Next up for Zimmermann — and everyone else on the staff — will be Grapefruit League action." - "Nationals wrap up live BP with athleticsm and a plunking" - Mark Zuckerman, Nats Insider
• "Still no word from Williams on how he plans to use his pitchers as the spring training schedule gets under way against the Mets at Space Coast Stadium in three days." - "Nationals Pastime: Live BP continues for starters, while work continues at first base" - Chris Johnson, MASNSports.com
• "Nationals pitchers are only scheduled to throw one live batting practice to hitters before the first Spring Training game on Thursday..." - "Zimmermann doesn't ease up during live BP" - Jamal Collier, nationals.com
NATIONALS' OUTFIELD CHATTER:
• "Michael A. Taylor's rare combination of power and speed has led him to be considered as one of the top prospects in all of baseball." - "Nationals Pastime: Williams on Taylor's progress: 'He's really close'" - Chris Johnson, MASNSports.com
• "If everyone is healthy coming out of spring training, the Nationals probably wouldn’t have room on their Opening Day roster for Gwynn." - "Washington Nationals sign Tony Gwynn Jr. to minor-league contract" - Mark Zuckerman, Nats Insider
• "Nevertheless, the 32-year-old Gwynn Jr. provides experienced depth should Jayson Werth’s right shoulder not heal in time for opening day, or should Nate McLouth’s surgically repaired shoulder turn out to be unsteady." - "Nationals sign outfielder Tony Gwynn Jr. to minor league deal with spring training invitation" - Chelsea Janes, The Washington Post
So happy and grateful for the opportunity to continue to play the game I love! #Nationals— Tony Gwynn Jr. (@tonygwynnjr) March 3, 2015
• "Gwynn signed a minor league deal with Philadelphia before last season and was invited to spring training, where he surprisingly made the opening day roster." - "Nationals Pastime: Tony Gwynn Jr. signs minor league deal with invite to spring training" - Chris Johnson, MASNSports.com
• "As a pinch-hitter, Gwynn has a .261 career batting average with 14 RBIs." - "Gwynn joins Nationals' outfield competition" - Bill Ladson, nationals.com
RANDOM NATS STORIES:
• "On Monday, Zimmerman showed flashes of why the Nationals believe he will make the transition smoothly." - "Zimmerman puts in extra work at first base" - Jamal Collier, nationals.com
• "Butler sits in front of that locker most mornings before workouts, chatting with his fellow catchers, showing no boisterous demeanor or overt quirks." - "Butler’s long-shot battle to make the Nationals’ roster" - Chelsea Janes, The Washington Post
• "Strasburg reflects on his career so far, now that he’s entering his sixth MLB season." - "Strasburg on Scherzer, rise of Nationals over the years" - Chase Hughes, Nats Insider
• "The Nationals have bid adieu to former closer Rafael Soriano, All-Star setup man Tyler Clippard and hard-throwing lefty Ross Detwiler, a former No. 1 draft pick." - "Stating The Obvious: Starting Pitchers Are Nationals' Strengths" - David Driver, Pressbox DC
• "Prior to the final live batting practice session of Spring Training, infielders and outfielders worked on a crucial part of the game: fundamentals." - "Daily Wrap: Live BP wraps up, fundamentals get attention, & more" - Kyle Brostowitz, Curly W Live
NATIONAL(S) BEAT: Opening Day opposition; #Lernerbucks; Taylor Jordan
• "Who will start Opening Day for the Mets? No one is sure yet. There are multiple contenders. As in everybody but Matt Harvey." - "What goes into Mets' decision to pick Opening Day starter vs. Washington Nationals" - Mike Vorkunov, NJ.com
• "Washington Nationals owner and real estate tycoon Ted Lerner is next-highest ranked locally, tying Sir Richard Branson and seven others at No. 330, with an estimated net worth of $4.8 billion." - "What Washington names are on the 2015 Forbes Billionaires list?" - Jeff Clabaugh, Washington Business Journal
What Washington names are on the 2015 Forbes Billionaires list? http://t.co/BOOyke2gXt— WashingtonBizJournal (@WBJonline) March 3, 2015
• "Max Scherzer and Jon Lester might as well have neon-green dollar signs stamped all over their uniforms and caps when Major League Baseball spring training opens next week." - "Baseball's US$100 million pitchers with golden arms under heavy pressure to deliver quickly" - AP/The National
• "Taylor Jordan estimates he was about 8 when he started visiting Space Coast Stadium." - "Jones: Local prospect Jordan still trying to land job with Nationals" - David Jones, Florida Today
• "Taylor Hill: Despite a superb season at Triple-A Syracuse in 2014 (11-7 record, 2.81 ERA), the right-handed pitcher will have a difficult time making the Nationals’ starting rotation. The problem?" - "5 with Middle Tennessee ties battle for Major League jobs" - David Ammenheuser, The Tennessean
• "1. Washington Nationals. (PECOTA Projection: 92) Here's your winner. The Nationals are as primed to win 100 games this season as any team in the last half-decade." - "Which will be the next MLB team to win (or lose) 100?" - Will Leitch, SportsonEarth.com
He Is back, I haven't name it! What do you think can be a good name for him? Can be in Spanish or English. pic.twitter.com/TinaYGgxuU— Jose Lobaton (@JLobaton21) March 2, 2015
NL EAST UPDATES: Matt Harvey's coming!! Hamels rumors; Andrelton's oblique; Fish Stripes
• Marlins: "Two years ago, the Miami Marlins lost 100 games. Now, without a hint of exaggeration, they can be projected as a postseason team." - "Marlins' formula makes quick turnaround feasible" - Mike Bauman, marlins.com
• Phillies: "The sight of Charlie Kerfeld, special assistant to Phillies GM Ruben Amaro, at the Red Sox' spring-training facility began spawning those Cole Hamels trade rumors anew." - "Sight of Phillies' exec at Red Sox camp spurs Hamels rumors" - Comcast SportsNet - CSNNE.com
• Mets: "The Matt Harvey Plan is in place. If all goes well the rest of spring training, the Mets want the Comeback Kid to pitch in Washington against the Nationals — but not the season opener." - "Mets plan to calm Harvey’s nerves — and squeeze extra profits" - Kevin Kernan, New York Post
• Braves: "The Atlanta Braves continue to play it safe with shortstop Andrelton Simmons who is recovering from a strained oblique." - "Andrelton Simmons injury: Braves playing it safe with shortstop" - Kris Willis, Talking Chop