clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

MLB Opening Day 2016: Washington Nationals wrap up Grapefruit League action, move on to real games Monday...

New, 23 comments

Spring Training stats don't matter. Staying healthy does. Washington Nationals' skipper Dusty Baker told reporters this week that he just hopes the success the Nats enjoyed this Spring carries over into the regular season.

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Washington's Nationals finished the Grapefruit League schedule with an 18-4 record. Washington Post writer James Wagner noted on Twitter today that they finished the Spring with a +81 run differential as well.

Michael A. Taylor absolutely crushed it this Spring. Stephen Strasburg was dominant at times. Trea Turner impressed before he was optioned to Triple-A.

Dusty Baker's (and Davey Lopes') Nationals also ran a lot more than we're used to and avoided kicking the ball around a whole lot.

"The won/loss record, the batting averages, the statistics, they mean much less to me than the performance..." -Mike Rizzo on the Nationals' results in Spring Training

All of which means very little, of course.

Monday is when things start up for real, but that doesn't mean the work the Nationals have done over the last month-plus is unimportant.

There was a goal in mind and it was being ready for Opening Day, Game 1 of 162 and the 161 games that follow.

"You hope it carries over," Baker told reporters after the Grapefruit League finale, as quoted by the WaPost's Wagner:

"You really don’t know. But hey, man, confidence is an amazing thing, especially confidence as a unit."

Nationals' GM Mike Rizzo was asked for his thoughts on the Nats' Spring when he talked to 106.7 the FAN in D.C.'s The Sports Junkies on Wednesday.

"The won/loss record, the batting averages, the statistics, they mean much less to me than the performance and the players that we see that are getting prepared for Opening Day... the build-up towards Opening Day.

"Get guys ready, get guys peaking and playing well towards the end when the bell rings and starting Monday everyone is 0-0 and you've got .000 as a batting average, so we start all over again. I always hated to waste hits, home runs and that type of thing in Spring Training, but there's always two ways to look at it: We like the way we're playing.

"We like the club that we put together, I think that's the reason the record is what it is and the guys are ready to play..." -Mike Rizzo on the Nationals' success in Grapefruit League action

"We like the club that we put together, I think that's the reason the record is what it is and the guys are ready to play, they came to Spring Training in good shape and they performed well."

Rizzo was also asked what was different this Spring with Baker running things after two seasons under Matt Williams.

"I think the biggest difference in this Spring Training than last Spring Training specifically is we've got all our players here," he said, predictably avoiding saying anything negative about the Nats' former manager.

"They started healthy, we've gone through the process healthy. Don't forget, at this time [last year] we had three or four of our key players that weren't playing right now. They were on the disabled list and we opened the season without two or three of our starters.

"If you can remember we played a lot of our season early on without our 1, 2, 4 and 5 hitters with [Ryan Zimmerman], [Jayson] Werth, [Anthony] Rendon and [Denard] Span all nicked up with injuries, so we opened the season without Doug Fister in the rotation and two relievers. So the big difference is that our disabled list is much smaller this year.

"Our key guys came into the winter where they could prepare for Spring Training and not in rehab mode, they were in preparation mode, which always helps and we've gone through camp so far relatively smoothly as far as injuries go and guys getting their work in, getting their at bats, performing well and really getting ready to take off at the right time on Opening Day."

Rather than talk about the differences between the old and new skipper, Rizzo talked about what it's like with Baker in charge.

"Dusty brings a looseness," he said, "an energy and an exuberance to the clubhouse and to the field. He's a cool dude and the players seem to gravitate towards him. Not only the veteran players that have been around a long time but the young kids. He loves young players. He loves guys that get after it. He's definitely a player's manager, but we've seen down here -- and I've seen in the past, and I've know him for a long time -- that he's not afraid to take a guy in his office and tell him the way the world is and if they're not doing things the way he wants them to do it, he'll let them know."