WTOP Sports Blog
Posted on: Thursday 5/9/2013 6:27am
WASHINGTON - The Kiss Cam is a staple of professional sports.
Most couples manage a quick kiss once they realize they're on the jumbo-tron. Except for Barack and Michelle Obama, few couples get a second chance to smooch for the crowd.
But one couple attending a Fresno Grizzlies baseball game May 3 got multiple chances to lock lips for the camera. The result for expectant fans? One half of the couple stormed off to be consoled by the mascot and the other ended up wet and maybe a little embarrassed.
Posted on: Wednesday 4/10/2013 12:17am
Craig Heist, wtop.com
WASHINGTON- No one can argue Adam Dunn's two year tenure with the Nationals was a productive one.
Dunn hit 38 home runs in both 2009 and 2010. He hit .267 with 105 RBI's in his first year and hit .260 while driving in 103 in his second season. Dunn also remembers the last month of the 2010 season. The talk of a contract extension was a topic of daily conversation which became increasingly harder for him to talk about every night, especially with the crowd chanting "sign Adam Dunn, sign Adam Dunn." Dunn expressed his desire to stay and was asking for a four-year contract but the Nationals were offering just a three-year deal.
At that point, the Nationals had to balance the offensive output against having a below average fielder, as Dunn committed 29 errors throughout his two years in Washington. The White Sox gave Dunn the four-year deal he was searching for, paying him $56-million dollars.
Dunn was not in the lineup on Tuesday night with left-hander Gio Gonzalez throwing for the Nationals but he did talk about his time in Washington and eventually having to test the free-agent market.
"I'll be honest with you, we had such great communication with Stan (Kasten) and Mike (Rizzo) and those guys," Dunn said.
"I knew they were going to do what was best for the team and I was fine with that. Sometimes things just don't work out and there was no other reason, other than things just didn't work out.
"You will never hear me say anything bad about anybody in this organization top to bottom. Everything they have ever done has been first class and I really enjoyed it over here."
Dunn had his new contract but his first year with the White Sox wasn't what he or his new team had envisioned.
Dunn hit .156, which would have been the lowest mark in the league except he was six at bats short of the required plate appearances. He hit just 11 home runs, snapping a string of seven straight seasons with 38-plus. He had just 41 RBI in 122 games.
Last season, he returned to the Adam Dunn we have been used to, hitting 41 homers while driving in 96. So far this year, Dunn has hit two home runs with three RBI in five games.
"I'm just glad my body feels good and I'm healthy," he said. "That's always been my thing is that if I'm healthy, I'll be fine. I'm healthy now so I'm looking forward to getting back in there and playing."
While Dunn didn't get a chance to be part of the Nats winning the NL East and getting to the playoffs two years after his departure, he is happy to see the success his former teammates are having now.
"Oh yea, absolutely, they got some of my old buddies on that team and I obviously want the best for them, not these three days, but beginning Friday," he said laughing.
"I am definitely happy to see what they have done. Everyone has done a great job and it's good to see for guys like Zim who has been here through the worst times and now he's getting rewarded for it.
I think everyone saw it coming. They probably didn't see it coming as quickly as it did but it was definitely a matter of time. They've got the right people in the right places; they've got people making good decisions and should be making the decisions. They've got a good thing going over there."
With the White Sox in town this week, they will play by National League rules without the designated hitter, and its inter-league play that always sparks the discussion as to whether or not the DH is a good thing or a bad thing for baseball.
"I have an opinion," Dunn said, not wanting to say the wrong thing. "But, I'm going to keep it to myself because I'd like to keep my job. Its tough man, I see both sides of the argument. It has been around forever but now that having interleague is a year around deal….next question."
Dunn was sitting in a chair in front of his locker getting both his first baseman's glove and outfielders gloves ready knowing he wasn't in the lineup with the left-hander going but he said he will be ready whenever manager Robin Ventura needs him.
"I'll petition to play anywhere, anywhere I can get out there. I don't know what Robin has planned but if outfield is in there, I'll be ready. If it's not, it's not."
Posted on: Friday 4/5/2013 12:09am
Craig Heist, wtop.com
WASHINGTON — After opting out of his contract nearly two weeks ago, veteran right- handed pitcher Chris Young has signed a Minor-League deal to return to the Nationals, giving them some more starting pitching depth.
This time his deal has no opt-out clause.
Manager Davey Johnson indicated Young would be the first person to be called upon if the Nats need an emergency starter.
"I like him," Johnson said.
"He threw the ball good this spring, pitched pretty well, competitor, real great insurance."
Young started four games for the Nationals in spring training going 1-0 with a 2.25 ERA.
He went 4-9 last season with the New York Mets with a 4.15 ERA in 20 starts. Young will report to the team's spring training sight in Viera, Fla., to get stretched out and then join Triple-A Syracuse in about 10-12 days.
Young was recovering from shoulder problems in the early part of the last year and he impressed everyone who saw him throw this spring.
"He looked a lot like Chris Young," said Nats GM Mike Rizzo. "His velocity was down just a tick, but he is not a velocity guy.
He is starting to get the touch and the feel on his fastball and starting to get that zone where he has to pitch in which is he has to pitch up in the zone but not too far up in the zone."
Young had said toward the end of the spring when he opted out that some teams had expressed an interest in his services and Johnson was surprised no one picked him up.
"He had a good spring for us. It was probably late in (spring training) and a lot of clubs were going with their young guys," Young said.
Young has said all along if it were possible to work something out, he would like to come back to the Nats, a winning club with a chance to reach the post season again.
"Winning is important and that's why this place appeals to me," Young said.
"This is a winning baseball environment. It's a bunch of winners in this clubhouse. The coaching staff, the front office, the ownership, this organization is just great and being in this environment, you get a little taste of it, you see how fun it is, and you want to be a part of it."
Posted on: Tuesday 3/26/2013 12:35pm
Craig Heist, wtop.com
VIERA, Fla. — The Nationals granted right-handed pitcher Chris Young his unconditional release Tuesday making him a free agent. The move comes a day after Young filed paperwork to opt out of him Minor League deal.
Young made his fourth start of the spring Monday night against the Astros in Kissimmee, giving up one unearned run. Young gave up a total of four runs in 16 innings this spring and said he couldn't have been treated better by the Nationals.
Other teams have shown interest, Young says. He was asked if he's going to a winning team is important to him.
"Winning is important and that's why this place appeals to me," Young said.
"This is a winning baseball environment. It's a bunch of winners in this clubhouse. The coaching staff, the front office, the ownership, this organization is just great and being in this environment, you get a little taste of it, you see how fun it is, and you want to be a part of it," he said.
Young will meet with his agent, John Fetterolf Tuesday to see what his options are and while being with the Nationals appeals to him, he has to be realistic.
"You can't have everything," Young said.
"You just have to evaluate all the circumstances and see what makes sense, what's best for my family and my career and we'll make that decision when we have all the information."
Young is free to talk with any team he wants to including the Nationals and he would not rule out a return.
"In the right circumstances, yes," he said.
With a rotation that is all set, if he were to return to the Nats, being a long man out of the bullpen could be considered, but Young said at this point, that hasn't been discussed.
"I have not considered it to this point. I don't think that's something the team has shown interest in and I don't have much experience doing it so I don't really think that's a consideration but that could change. But, as of now, I don't think that's accurate," he said.
With the move, the Nationals roster is at 30.
Posted on: Wednesday 3/13/2013 8:58pm
Craig Heist, wtop.com
VIERA. Fla. — To no one's surprise on Wednesday morning, Nationals manager Davey Johnson named right-hander Stephen Strasburg his Opening Day starter for the second consecutive season.
"He's got great stuff and is very dedicated and works very hard," Johnson said.
"That's a great honor but we have a lot of great starters in our rotation."
Strasburg went 15-6 last year with a 3.16 ERA and was shut down after pitching 159 1/3 innings and while he says getting another Opening Day start is an honor, he is also aware it's just the first one during a long season.
"Obviously, you are getting ready for Opening Day but that's the first start of many," Strasburg said.
"You have to keep focused and keep grinding and do your best to keep your team in the ballgame every time out," Strasburg said.
Strasburg started last year's opener against the Cubs at Wrigley Field, a game won by the Nats 2-1 but Strasburg got a no-decision. This year he expects the experience to be a little different.
"Last year was my first time going to Wrigley and pitching there and I kind of got an idea of what the atmosphere is like," Strasburg said.
"I know it's going to be a little different in our favor being at home and hopefully we get a ton of fans out there, hopefully the weather is great and it should be a good time," Strasburg said.
Strasburg will anchor a rotation that will include 21-game winner Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann, Ross Detwiler and new comer Dan Haren. For as good as the starting rotation was last year, he thinks this staff is capable of doing special things.
"It's going to be different this year because no one expected anything out of us last year," Strasburg said.
"Everyone is going to prepare a little bit more for us and we just have to pick each other up and roll with the punches and manage the high and lows. It's going to be a long year but I think if we keep playing together and show up every single day, we'll be okay," Strasburg said.
Nats sweep split squad games
Bryce Harper went 2-for-4, homered and drove in four runs while Jordan Zimmermann rebounded from a shaky outing as the Nationals beat the Mets 8-5 at Space Coast Stadium.
Harper went 2-for-4 with a homer and 4 RBI. He hit a three-run homer in the first off Mets starter Matt Harvey and later had an RBI single in a four-run Nats seventh inning and is now hitting .444 with three homers and eight RBI in the spring.
Manager Davey Johnson has batted Harper third in the lineup quite a bit this spring and that is where he is expected to be on Opening Day. Harper appears to be settling into that nicely.
"You know I like it," Harper said. "Having two guys in front of me that get on base and see a lot of pitches, they're just going to make me better. Denard (Span) is an unbelievable lead-off guy, sees a lot of pitches and Werth is the same way. It's just going to make the team better and its going to be good," Harper said.
Jordan Zimmermann allowed four hits and one unearned run over 4 2/3 innings while walking two and striking out six. He was coming off a rough outing against the Cardinals last time out allowing eight runs on nine hits in three innings.
Manager Davey Johnson said Zimmermann was a victim of dead arm but Zimmermann put that behind him in a hurry.
"The fastball was a lot better today," Zimmermann said. "I could throw it where I wanted to and I got a few guys 0-2 and tried to put guys away and not waste any pitches and they got a few hits but other than that, everything was working today," he said.
"The other time I was a little sore but today I felt really good. It felt good to stretch it out and throw 80 pitches or whatever it was, but stretch it out. I would have liked to have gotten that last hitter and a couple of close calls but I'll take 4 2/3, I guess," Zimmermann said.
Over in Kissimmee, Fla., the Nationals beat the Astros 9-7 as Anthony Rendon remained hot going 4-for-5 with a two-run homer in the eighth, his fourth of the spring. Rendon is now hitting .375.
Micah Owings played in left field and was 3-for-5 with two RBI.
Ross Ohlendorf started for the Nationals and four runs and five hits over three innings, walking three and striking out two.
Odds 'n ends
Davey Johnson said before the game the club would make a round of cuts after the game, but with the split squad coming back from Kissimmee, players still needed to be talked to so look for that first thing on Thursday.
"I want to pair it down a little bit where I can get everyone ready a week ahead of time so they are comfortable with their timing and everything and everybody feel pretty good and then back off em a little bit that last start," Johnson said.
Only one left-hander
Johnson also was asked if he was worried about not having more than one left- hander in the bullpen.
"If you look at the guys who were successful up here last year and with addition of Soriano and the loss of some other left-handers who were here last year, it kind of boils down to just one left-hander in the pen. I think that's kind of obvious and it became obvious the day we signed Soriano and I'm comfortable with the guys we have out there," Johnson said.
Astros up next
The Houston Astros will come to Space Coast Stadium on Thursday to take on the Nats at 1:05 p.m. with Chris Young scheduled to pitch for the Nationals.
Posted on: Thursday 3/7/2013 6:28pm
Craig Heist, wtop.com
KISSIMMEE, Fla.— Gio Gonzalez tuned up for the World Baseball Classic by throwing three scoreless innings, allowing three hits with one walk and three strikeouts. But it wasn't good enough to prevent the Nationals second straight loss as they fell to the Astros 4-2.
Gonzalez was limited in his pitch count because of the WBC. He threw 42 pitches on the afternoon, 27 for strikes and deemed himself ready to go and take part in the Classic for Team USA.
"I felt good," Gonzalez said.
"I felt like three innings and I was still working on stuff and it felt like I was building more strength as the game went along. I was finally picking up my target but I finished up in the bullpen still trying to get that groove again but other than that, I felt good," he said.
After he was finished with his stint, Gonzalez threw an extra 23 pitches in the bullpen bringing his total to 65 for the day, unofficially. He threw more off-speed pitches this time out with a heavy emphasis on his curve ball.
"This time I was throwing the curve ball and the change-up and throwing them for strikes, which was what I wanted," Gonzalez said.
"I was trying to get all three pitches in effect especially coming up for the Classic," he said.
Gonzalez will leave Sunday and join Team USA in Miami before he is scheduled to pitch on March 12 and the honor of participating in his hometown is special to him.
"I'm excited and I can't wait to meet up with the team in Miami and just have some fun. Hopefully, I can bring something to the table where I can keep everyone nice and loose over there," he said.
The game was scoreless until the sixth inning when the Astros scored a pair off Ross Ohlendorf. Carlos Pena led off the inning with a walk and was doubled to third by Fernando Martinez. Rick Ankiel (remember him?) had an RBI ground out scoring Carlos Pena. Mark Krauss then hit a sacrifice fly plating Martinez.
The Nationals tied the game in the top of the eighth. With the bases loaded and no one out, Michael Taylor singled to left scoring both Matt Skole and Sandy Leon. Ryan Mattheus entered the game in the bottom of the eighth for the Nationals. He had made three appearances, pitching four inning of scoreless ball while allowing just one hit and striking out seven.
Today was not his day
Mattheus gave up two runs on three hits over his one inning of work and it was a Jason Castro two-run single that did him in.
"The thing today was I just didn't have my split-fingered fastball," Mattheus said.
"When I got ahead hitters today I tried to use the split-fingered on lefties so, I threw a couple of balls with those, got back even in counts and then came back with fastballs and they were all over them. That's going to happen but all in all, it wasn't as bad of an outing as it looked like," he said.
Mattheus has been so good in the early part of spring that it was unusual to see him have a hiccup but he knows the split-fingered pitch is the last thing to come around at this time of the year.
"We focus so much early in throwing sessions on fastball command; you're really not spinning the ball until you get into a game so, that's what I'm working on right now. The fastball command is there," Mattheus said.
Besides Ross Ohlendorf giving up two runs and three hits in three innings of work, sandwiched between he and Mattheus was Drew Storen who gave up two hits but also fanned two while facing a total of five hitters.
The Nats are back at Space Coast Stadium on Friday to take on the St. Louis Cardinals at 1:05 p.m. Jordan Zimmermann will face Shelby Miller.
Posted on: Wednesday 3/6/2013 9:34pm
Craig Heist, wtop.com
CLEARWATER, Fla. - Roy Halladay out-pitched Stephen Strasburg throwing four scoreless innings as the Phillies beat the Nationals 6-3 at Bright House Field Wednesday.
If these two aces were to face each other during the regular season, it would be called a marquee matchup and while it was just an exhibition game, it wasn't without controversy.
Strasburg lasted 3 2/3 giving up 2 runs on five hits, walking one while striking out six. He threw 67 pitches, 40 for strikes. Meanwhile, Halladay threw four scoreless innings, walking one while fanning two.
In the third inning following a slow chopping ground ball to third by Michael Young which scored Tommy Joseph, Strasburg hit the next batter, Chase Utley down around the foot.
In the top of the fourth inning, Halladay then threw behind the back of Nationals DH Tyler Moore. Moore eventually doubled down the left field line.
These two teams have a history dating back to last year when the Phillies Cole Hamels drilled Bryce Harper in the back with a 93 mph fastball in a Sunday night, nationally televised game. Harper eventually stole home on Hamels in that inning as the left-hander was making a throw to first base to check the runner.
Later, Hamels admitted to hitting Harper on purpose, kind of a "welcome to the big leagues, kid," gesture.
While this was not anywhere near that kind of emotion, Nats manager Davey Johnson didn't think there was much behind any of what had happened.
"Nothing. I ask Moore because I didn't think anything, and I knew Strasburg didn't hit nobody on purpose. I ask Moore, is there a history there? He said, ‘there is now.'" Johnson said laughing.
Later Johnson quipped, "Maybe Hamels is coaching him. What the heck." "I don't know why they'd think I was throwing at him," Strasburg said.
"Obviously, you can tell the conditions weren't great and I yanked it in there and, it's spring Training so, if you're going to throw at someone and send a message in Spring Training, go ahead."
Halladay has certainly been known for pin point control throughout his career and Moore appeared perplexed that the pitch was three feet behind him.
"I don't know," Moore said. "Maybe it slipped out of his hand. I don't know what was going on. I mean, it's Spring Training so I wouldn't think we would be throwing at me but it is what it is.
"I don't know if he was protecting his team or what but I know that he knows its Spring Training. He's a professional and he's done this for a long time and maybe it just slipped out of his hand."
The rivalry is alive and well
Last season the Nationals won more games than anyone in baseball and won the National League East with a record of 98-64.
The Phillies on the other hand, finished in 3rd place after going 81-81 in a season that saw them riddled with injuries - not only to the pitching staff but to several key players including Ryan Howard.
Jimmy Rollins had said after the end of last season, the Nats would have finished second if the Phillies had been healthy all season and Davey Johnson was ask if the Phillies have the Nationals on their minds.
"I don't know and it doesn't bother me at all," Johnson said. "There should be some focus on us, we on the pennant last year. Why not? We had our problems and they had their problems but we finished on top. But this is a whole new year and last year is history."
Rendon stays hot
Anthony Rendon started the day at shortstop for the Nats and hit his third home run of the spring in the sixth inning. Rendon is opening eyes with his .400 average.
"I'm just trying to go out here and have fun," Rendon said.
"I'm not looking at my numbers or anything like that. I'm just trying to go up there and put a good swing on the ball very chance I get."
Grab a Stros'
The Astros that is, in Kissimmee on Thursday. Gio Gonzalez will pitch his last game before joining Team USA at the World Baseball Classic. Gonzalez will be opposed by Phillip Humber at 1:05.
Posted on: Tuesday 3/5/2013 6:00pm
Craig Heist, wtop.com
VIERA, Fla. — Dan Haren gave up one run on two hits and struck out two over three innings. Danny Espinosa and Chad Tracy each drove in two runs as the Nationals beat the Astros 7-1 to improve to 5-3-2 in the Grapefruit League.
Haren set down the first six hitters he faced and then ran into trouble in the third inning. With runners at first and second, Jose Altuve singled to left to drive in the Astros lone run of the game.
The right-hander threw 50 pitches over his three innings, 34 for strikes and for a guy returning from back issues, getting out of the start healthy in each of his two starts so far is very important as he prepares for the season.
"I just want to go out there and feel good for 30, whatever times and help the team," Haren said.
"I want to be out there regardless of how I feel. Am I going to feel great, am I going to feel good, not good? I'll be out there today," Haren said.
So far after two starts the results have been what he wants.
"The big thing is how I bounce back," he said.
"Not necessarily how I feel out there but the next day, and last time I felt really good the next day. I have been putting in a lot more work with trainers and stuff. When I was young, I didn't even go in the trainer's room but now I am in there twice a day," Haren said.
Bats come to life
The Nats put the game away with a five run sixth inning. Danny Espinosa and Chad Tracy had two RBIs on the day while Jayson Werth and Corey Brown had RBI singles.
Espinosa is hitting .365 this spring and he has made a concerted effort to try and cut down on his swing this year and not be so long. So far, the results appear to be indicating he is having success.
"I've been working on it to try and keep it short," Espinosa said.
"I want to get a good bat path down to the ball and cutting that upper-cut swing out that I would fall in to. I'm just trying to focus on not getting beat and getting the ball too deep and not rushing," he said.
Soriano's first appearance
Nats closer Rafael Soriano made his first appearance of the spring. It was the first of what skipper Davey Johnson will be about eight total. Soriano went an inning, allowing one hit while striking out one.
Welcome back Bo
When Bo Porter left the Nationals to take the managerial job with the Houston Astros, he knew what he would be up against. The team was coming off a 107 loss season and they were moving to the American League West, a division that includes the Rangers, Mariners, Athletics and Angels.
Porter, who spent the last two seasons as the Nats third base coach, was back at Space Coast Stadium with his young Astros, a team which is rebuilding. But that word might as well be a "four letter" word to Porter.
"What was that word you just mentioned," Porter asked a reporter. "I didn't even know that word was in the dictionary. I haven't used that word, not one time since September 27th last year and I'm not planning on using it."
Porter prepared himself in hopes of getting his first major league managerial job and he has it in his home state of Texas. Porter has lived in Houston and once played for the Rangers. In spring training, he has his Astros at 5-5 in the Grapefruit League after today's loss.
"It's been great, the energy has been great, the attention to detail has been great," he said.
"We've played some hard fought ballgames, we've fallen behind, and we've come back and battled and battled so you see the intensity and you see the attention to detail and it's good to see from the staff's standpoint," Porter said.
Porter still keeps in touch with many of the Nationals players through a book club, a club that started with about 20 people and now has almost 700 involved.
"Quite a few of those guys are on the book club email and we actually communicate every morning via the book club. It's a long list. From Harper to Desmond, Tyler Moore, Lombardozzi, Clippard, Storen and LaRoche. It's about 23 guys," Porter says.
The club reads and discusses spiritual literature like the book they read last year, "Uncommon" by former Colts head coach Tony Dungy.
Porter's former boss, Davey Johnson says Porter is the right man for the Astros job as they trying to mold a young team into a winner.
"I know it was a big loss here," Johnson said of losing Porter off his staff.
"But I think he is fully prepared to be an outstanding manager in the major leagues. They are in a rebuilding mode obviously and he is very fundamentally sound in all aspects of the game and he's a great judge of talent. I look for him to be there a long time and I told him, you are going to be in your home town. It doesn't get any better than that," Johnson said.
Purke sent down
The Nationals sent LHP Matt Purke to Single-A Hagerstown after the game.
Skipper Davey Johnson is happy with his recovery, but said he had no work for him in big league camp.
Purke has been throwing bullpens but at about 50 percent and Johnson estimates Purke could be on the mound in a game by early May.
The Nationals head across the state to Clearwater, Fla., to take on the Phillies on Wednesday afternoon. Stephen Strasburg will make his third start of the spring and he will go up against Roy Halladay.
Posted on: Friday 2/22/2013 6:11pm
VIERA, Fla. - Right-handed pitcher Chris Young showed up to Nationals camp today after agreeing to a Minor League contract on Thursday afternoon with the intent of adding more pitching depth to the club.
Young pitched for the Mets last season and went 4-9 in 20 games with an ERA of 4.15. In the previous two seasons, Young was limited to just eight games because of shoulder problems which required surgery.
"He's a veteran Major League starting pitcher," said Nationals General Manager Mike Rizzo.
"He's had success not only in this league, but in our division, specifically. He gives us depth that we were looking for coming into spring training. It's part of our plan to be as deep as we can," Rizzo said.
With a rotation of Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann, Ross Detwiler and Dan Haren, Rizzo knows you can never have enough depth, especially in the pitching department.
"It's hard to count on five starters throughout the whole season," he said.
"We're taking precautions. If something were to happen that we have a legitimate, quality, Major League pitcher in the fold."
Young decided to sign with the Nationals after watching them from the other side of the field, impressed with what he saw.
"It's an opportunity to be part of a winning organization, at this point a model organization," Young said.
"I've played against these guys for a while and they are extremely talented and certainly, that factored into the decision greatly," Young said.
In nine big league seasons, Young is 53-43 with a lifetime ERA of 3.79. He was part of the Expos organization and he has had also had stints with the Rangers and Padres.
Nats third baseman Ryan Zimmerman continues his recovery from off-season shoulder surgery.
Zimmerman has been hitting in the cages in recent days, but today he let it loose in live BP at Space Coast Stadium during the Nats full workout. Zimmerman was throwing at about 90-feet, but hasn't yet thrown across the diamond yet as the club wasn't able to take it slow with his throwing plan. He did smoke some line drives into the outfield during his BP session.
"Everything went good," Zimmerman said. "I've been hitting in the cages so it wasn't like today was the first day. Hitting is great. Hitting is farther along than throwing which is expected. Throwing, we are just going to take our time and go from there," Zimmerman said.
The plan is to have Zimmerman go through a couple of throwing session on Saturday, again from 90-feet. It's a slow progression but Zimmerman feels is the right course of action to take since there is still a long way to go in spring training.
"Everything has felt fine hitting and we have no set back either way," Zimmerman said.
"Throwing, we've had one or two bad days and that's about it. You work and get a little bit more confident each time you throw and get a little less hesitant each time out and that's kind of the process and why we're taking it so slow. You are basically teaching yourself how to throw again, which is good," he said.
Good news for Gio
Nationals left-hander Gio Gonzalez received some welcome news from the Major League Baseball Players Association that he has tested negative for performance enhancing drugs.
The 21-game winner from last year spoke to reporters in the dugout at Space Coast Stadium.
"Like I said before, I have never taken performance enhancing drugs and never will," Gonzalez said.
"Two days after the story broke, I was tested for blood and urine and both came out negative like I expected. Throughout my entire career, it's been like that. I look forward to handling this with MLB and putting this behind me and looking forward to the season," he said.
Gonzalez did not take questions from the media because of the on-going investigation by Major League Baseball.
Meet the Mets
The Nationals start the Grapefruit League season on Saturday with a 12:10 p.m. start time against the Mets in Port St. Lucie. Stephen Strasburg will pitch for the Nationals.
(Copyright 2013 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)
Posted on: Monday 2/18/2013 5:40pm
Craig Heist, wtop.com
Viera, Fla. - As Nationals manager Davey Johnson continued to watch the progression of his pitching staff during the early part of spring training; he has been impressed overall by what he has seen.
Johnson even laid out his plans for who will start the first three games of the Grapefruit League season which begins Saturday in Port St. Lucie against the New York Mets.
"There is no bullpen tomorrow (Tuesday)," Johnson said.
"Then they are throwing to the hitters with batting practice and if everyone comes through that alright, I've got Stras (Stephen Strasburg) pitching the first game on the road and then Jordan Zimmermann pitching the first home game here and then Gio (Gonzalez)."
Gonzalez is scheduled to pitch in the World Baseball Classic for Team USA and he will get three games in before heading to Miami to join the team.
"Gio is set to pitch on the 25th," Johnson said.
"He will then pitch on the second and then the seventh before heading to Miami and he'll pitch on the 12th," he said.
As to who will fill in for Gonzalez while he is pitching in the classic, Johnson was non-committal.
"There are several candidates. I'd like to have the luxury of having about a couple two or three outings by people before I start slotting someone in to take that game," he said.
Soriano throws for first time after being delayed getting into camp
Nationals closer Rafael Soriano threw his first bullpen session of the spring and it didn't seem as though the missed time hurt him.
"I thought Soriano looked good," said skipper Davey Johnson.
"I thought he threw the ball good. He was doing a lot of long-tossing and we were having conversations about what he likes to do during the spring but I liked the way he was throwing," he said.
Johnson said he would like Soriano not to try and do too much too soon.
"He knows what he needs to do and he probably won't work the first week, he'll take it easy. In talking to him, he doesn't need but a certain number of innings; I mean no more than 8-10."
Catcher Kurt Suzuki was behind the plate for Soriano's bullpen and was impressed with what he saw and how smooth Soriano looked for not getting into camp until Saturday.
"He was great and he was just working on stuff, nothing special," Suzuki said.
"He was just getting himself ready, throwing some sliders, throwing the ball where he wanted to. That's the thing, I really didn't have to move my glove much and that's when you really know a guy has been doing it for a long time when he come and in his first bullpen, fire away and hit every spot," Suzuki said.
Suzuki was obtained in a trade with the Oakland Athletics on August 3 last season and he spent the last two months of the season trying to learn the Nats' pitching staff, something that is still a work in progress.
"It's always a progression," he said.
"I feel like I have a lot more to go. It's the fun part because you build that relationship and that's the fun part. You learn a lot more and you get more comfortable as you go. Once you get to that point, everything that kind of flows and you get that rhythm and everything is great."
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