While the bitter winter in Washington, DC simply will not end, the sun was shining in Port St. Lucie as the Nationals got their 2014 Grapefruit League schedule underway against the New York Mets on Friday. Meanwhile, Matt Williams settled into his first season as an MLB manager by debating where to stand in the dugout before the game.
Taylor Jordan, the Nats starter for their first spring training game, made quick work of his two innings against the top of the Mets lineup. It was a strong showing for the young righty who is trying to squeeze his way into the starting rotation ahead of Ross Detwiler. Jordan got a little help in the second inning with the first "wow" play of the spring from Eury Perez in center field. He traveled a long way to make a diving grab that robbed an extra base hit form Lucas Duda, who can really smash the baseball for the Mets.
The Nats number two prospect, A.J. Cole, came in to spell Jordan in the third inning. He immediately gave up a slow hit to Travis d'Arnaud, but Ryan Zimmerman got him out of the inning without a run scoring by making a nice grab on a line drive. Despite a few hard hits, Cole made it through two innings of scoreless baseball.
The first run (that doesn't actually count for anything) of 2014 for the Nats came off the bat of Wilson Ramos in the form of a double to the gap in left center field. Ian Desmond scored the run after grounding into a fielder's choice and stealing second base. After two at-bats, most Nats starters were pulled to give them a rest and get other guys into the game.
Christian Garcia entered the game to pitch in the bottom of the fifth inning. While he missed most of 2013 with injuries to the forearm and hamstring, Garcia has significant potential as a late-inning reliever if he can stay healthy. His fastball/changeup combination is electric, and he misses a lot of bats. In his first appearance of the spring, though, he struggled to control his pitches. He gave up two runs in the fifth on a Juan Lagares double, and then Ike Davis destroyed a two-run home run over the right field wall.
The Nats started chipping away at the Mets 4-1 lead in the later innings and Zach Walters tied the game on an RBI double, driving in Matt Skole, who doubled in the previous at bat. And in the ninth inning, Jeff Kobernus singled up the middle and got to second on a wild pitch. Then, Michael Taylor crushed a ball to the center field wall for an RBI triple that gave the Nats a 5-4 lead that they wouldn't relinqish.
- It's game one of spring training. The results of these games don't matter at all. It's the individual performances that we're looking for.
- Zach Walters had a two-hit day with a lot of pop, which is good new for the Nats in terms of bench depth for 2014, if he can keep it up.
- Michael Taylor, the number four prospect in the organization according to Baseball Prospectus, crushed a triple to the wall that scored a go-ahead run. He has great power potential and speed, so that's something to watch in the coming weeks during the spring.
- It's really, really good to have baseball back.