Starters, Prospects Impress As Split-Squad Nats Split

Split-squad baseball is often used as a way to dilute a team and allow minor leaguers fighting for jobs to play alongside established big league regulars. Today, the Nats decided to use it as an opportunity to divide up the Nationals and the Syracuse Chiefs. But as luck would have it, the mainly minor league squad would defeat the Astros, 4-3, while the stars would fall 2-1 to the Tigers.

The starters for both teams were on their game today, which bodes better and better for the season as Opening Day draws nearer. The starter against the Astros was far from minor-league quality: Gio Gonzalez. He held Houston under control, allowing only one run on a walk and three hits in 4.2 innings while striking out four. He has had a good-but-not-great Spring Training, with a 3.12 ERA so far against the relatively poor competition the spring provides.

On the other hand, Jordan Zimmermann continued his strong preseason against the Tigers. He allowed his first run of the spring in the first inning, but stepped it up afterwards, finishing with an impressive line: 4 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 3 K. Yielding that first run skyrocketed his ERA, as it jumped all the way from 0.00 to 0.69. Suffice it to say, Zimmermann is ready for the regular season.

The relievers for both teams were a mixed bag. Sammy Solis was great against Detroit in his second spring showing, pitching two hitless innings, and only a ten-pitch walk kept him from being perfect on the day. Xavier Cedeno and Blake Treinen also impressed, as Cedeno gave up one hit in a scoreless inning while Treinen was perfect with a strikeout. But Rafael Soriano (gasp!) allowed a run in an inning of work, dropping his ERA to 19.64, and so did Michael Gonzalez, who has had a tough spring in pursuit of a lefty relief position.

Things were much more gruesome on the hitting side. Against the Tigers, the Nats managed just three hits, and Justin Verlander kept them hitless for the first 4.2 innings. One of those three was from Ryan Zimmerman, who made his career debut at first base. He bobbled the first grounder he faced attempting to throw out a runner heading to second, but corralled it and got the out at first.

Against Houston, it was the Steven Souza and Brian Goodwin show. Souza had himself a day, going 3-for-3 with two home runs, a triple, two runs scored, and three RBIs. His spring line is now an ungodly .355/.412/.806, for a 1.218 OPS. Goodwin was impressive in his own right, going 2-for-3 with a triple and an RBI. The two outfielders will likely be teammates at Syracuse to open the year, but if Souza keeps mashing like he has, he is likely to contribute in the bigs sometime in 2014.

A few other hitters made their mark against the Astros as well. Danny Espinosa had a hit for the second straight game, and is 6-for-21 (.286) since beginning 0-10. Brock Peterson was 2-5, and his .346/.414/.538 line will not be forgotten by the Nats. Tyler Moore is hitting .308 after going 1-for-3 today, but has yet to draw a walk and has just one extra base hit this spring.

Some thoughts:

- Ryan Zimmerman’s move to first, however brief, signals a new era for the Nats. He will certainly stay at third for years to come, but if his defensive skills falter or his shoulder problems resurface in a major way, moving him across the diamond is now a tangible option. It is no longer just an idea bandied about by bloggers, and I have no doubt the Nationals will use it if necessary.

- Zach Walters was 0-5 today, dropping to 3-for-19 (.158) since his scorching start. His story should be a cautionary one, warning of the dangers of getting too crazy about spring numbers, especially ones from just part of a season. Walters is still a valuable player, but is probably not going to have a very high average.

- For all the crap I give Rafael Soriano, I’m not really concerned with him for the upcoming season. He won’t be a worldbeater, and he’ll have his lapses, but he’ll also turn in months like last September, where he allowed six hits and no runs in ten appearances. He can be off and on, but he’s on enough for me.

About Andrew Flax

Writer for The Nats Blog