On a day when most of their fan base was buried in six to eight inches of snow and huddled beneath blankets, the Washington Nationals went to work against the New York Mets in sunny Florida.
Baseball is back everyone, and with it all the joys and heartbreaks we’ve become so accustomed to. But this is Spring Training baseball, and to me, the unpredictability, experimentation and above all overreaction that comes along with it is almost better than the regular season.
So while you turn the heat up a few more degrees, take some time to digest my thoughts on the first action of the 2015 season. And try not to push the panic button.
1. Scherzer’s Outing
Max Scherzer’s first game as a National was the most highly anticipated event of Spring Training by far for Nats fans. His first pitch was a screaming strike, and he went 1-2-3 in his first inning. It was sublime. He seemed to be showing he was worth every penny of the contract he signed, and visions of World Series rings danced in our heads.
It all fell to pieces in a disastrous second inning when the highly touted ace gave up a homerun over the left-field fence to John Mayberry Jr. As the ball traveled out of play, it took all the hope and joy that had ignited in our hearts just an inning earlier. Scherzer’s final line for the day was two innings pitched, two hits, one run. Thankfully Roark took the heat off his new teammate, who came out of the game in the fourth with an ERA of 27.00.
In reality Scherzer’s first outing with the Nats did not tell us anything (good or bad) we didn’t already know about the newest member of the rotation. He gave up an unlucky homerun in his first inning of baseball since the fall, it happens. He also threw some spectacular strikes and showed just a glimmer of his capability in a limited 29 pitches. Stay tuned ladies and gentleman, you’ll be seeing a lot of awesome from Max this year.
2. Zim At First
Call Abbott and Costello and tell them to wonder no more, we have our man at first base. Ryan Zimmerman moved around a lot last season and couldn’t seem to find a permanent home after struggling with shoulder injuries. Anthony Rendon played very well at third in his absence and Adam LaRoche was clearly ensconced at first. Having Zim’s bat in the lineup was essential for the Nats, so Matt Williams found himself in a situation where his starting lineup was on a carousel, which caused a decent amount of drama in the dressing room.
However, LaRoche moved on to the White Sox in the offseason (best of luck there Adam!) which paved the way for Zim to make his move to first base. Now it’s time for me to practice what I preach and not overreact after one Spring Training game, but in my estimation Zim at first was the right move. Not only did he make a few striking plays in the four innings he played, but Rendon continued to look very comfortable at third as well.
3. New Kids on the Block
In the fifth inning Williams took a page out of the Capitals’ book and subbed the whole lineup. While most were serviceable if unspectacular in their debut for the squad, two in particular stood out to me.
Relief pitcher Heath Bell faced five batters, none of whom put the ball in play. He struck out three and walked two. The three time all-star signed a minor league deal with the Nats in December and if he keeps playing the way he did today, he might play his way into the bullpen.
As a journalist you always hope guys like Kila Ka’Aihue won’t stand out because, well, his name is hard to spell. But Ka’Aihue made sure I would be typing his name tonight when he sent a two-run bomb out of the park in the fifth inning to give the Nats a 5-4 lead and score what would eventually be the game-winning run. While one homerun does not a star make, he’s a guy we might see more of coming up from the minors this season.