Adam Eaton tried to get a bunt down on the first pitch he saw from Stephen Strasburg in a sim game in the nation’s capital this morning, in what he said was definitely a competitive at bat against Washington’s 2019 World Series MVP.
“Seeing Strasburg today was on a different level,” Eaton said after the game was over, when he spoke with reporters on a Zoom call from Nationals Park.
“He seems like he is in July form and a lot of us hitters are still in the early stages, so it was a good test for everybody today, and I think those tests — we need more of those, so I’m excited for the days to come.”
Eaton ended up lining out to center in that at bat, but Nats’ skipper Davey Martinez said he liked what he saw from the veteran outfielder overall in the game.
“That was kind of funny,” Martinez said of the initial bunt attempt. “I don’t think Stras found it very funny. But I kid you not, I think Adam Eaton has a secret facility somewhere in his house, in the basement or something because he comes — every time I see him he comes and swings the bat really well.
“He lined out today. The other day he hit a couple line drives, but he looks really good, he looks fit, looks ready to go.
“He’s one of those guys, with him and Trea [Turner] at the top of the order, they make things happen, so he looks great though, I mean, he really does.”
And Strasburg’s outing?
“I think Stras looked really good. He threw 52 pitches. The biggest thing is that he felt good. He came out of that feeling really good,” Martinez said.
“I always say that it’s the next day when you want to sit down and ask him how he’s feeling and get that turnaround.
“He looked good. Like I said before, these guys have really followed what we asked them to do for the past few months. They came ready to play and we’ve got the keep building them up and keep them going.
“Fifty-two pitches right now is right on target. His next outing we’ll try to get him up to about 60-65.”
Eaton was asked if while playing sim games like the Nationals did today, there were any sort of tricks they used to convince themselves they’re in a more serious competition?
“I was definitely in a serious confrontation with Strasburg,” Eaton said with a laugh.
“If you don’t take that at bat seriously, you’ll look dumber than you already are. He’s impressive.
“Athletes, I feel like, we always try to trick our minds, we always try to put ourselves in scenarios. I feel like everyone is, not taking a fun-loving approach to it, but I feel like if we take it more serious than what it is, it’s only going to hinder us. If we take it for what it’s worth, and again, realizing that everybody else is in this boat, then that fun, loose mentality, I think everybody will be better off, so I think if anything just try to make light of things.”
Erick Fedde pitched as well. He’s battling for the fifth spot in the rotation, along with Austin Voth, and in spite of a recent eye issue, he looked sharp.
“Fedde threw the ball really well too,” Martinez said. “Fedde had a little bit of pink eye a couple days ago. He came out today, his eye was a little messed up, but he came out and dealt with it and threw the ball really well too. So, you know, we’ve got to continue to build these guys up and get them ready.
“We’ve got to continue to build these guys up and get them ready. The 23rd is going to come quick, so we want to make sure these guys are built up and ready to go.”
In spite of the fact that the Nationals’ hitters are behind the pitchers to some degree in Martinez’s (and Eaton’s) estimation, he said he’s seen some really good at bats early in Spring Training 2.0.
Kurt Suzuki hit a home run off Strasburg, and Jake Noll took Fedde deep in today’s game.
“These guys are swinging the bat well. These guys are all going out there, we’re making sure they’re getting a lot of swings,” Martinez explained.
“We’re doing a lot of stuff in the cage. I talked to you guys about the velo machine. We’re seeing a lot of breaking balls in the cage. So they’re getting a lot of swings in. And then obviously we’re playing games, they’re seeing a lot of live pitching. We had some live BP yesterday for the boys. So, every day we’re going to try to see some live something, whether it’s live BP or play a game and get these guys ready, but I thought they swung the bat well.
“I actually think Suzuki knew a little something about Stephen, but Noll hit a changeup, and I thought it was a pretty good changeup, he hit it a long way, so that’s encouraging.”
“We’re doing a lot of velo work in the cage,” Eaton said in discussing how he and the rest of the Nationals’ hitters are working to get sharp, “so basically off a machine or overhand flips really close. Basically anything to kind of make us panic. It’s easy to hit flips, it’s easy to hit off a tee, but then you add some velocity and some variable, like I said, you get that panic, that in-game panic, where you’re rushing to get to things. I think they’re throwing anything down there at us that can kind of instill that in us, and then so when we do see Stephen Strasburg, or one of the guys that is throwing upper 90s it’s not as foreign to us. We do that in Spring Training, but it’s definitely on a smaller scale. And not mandatory by any stretch.
“We’re like, ‘Hey, we’re going to work on velo today. Everybody, let’s do this.’
“It’s been productive so far. I think guys have actually had pretty competitive at bats out there, so it’s been working.”