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Posted at 07:30 AM ET, 03/26/2012

The Nationals enter the stretch run of spring training


The first moving truck is already packed outside Space Coast Stadium. It leaves Viera today, bound for Washington, for the season. The Nationals, ensconced in what their manager calls “the dog days” of spring training, are ready – beyond ready – to head north.

First, though, there is more work to be done, and days like Sunday helps it go by faster. “It made it easier around here,” Manager Davey Johnson said. The Nationals took apart the Mets, using a lineup filled with minor leaguers and a pitching prospect, Matt Harvey, likely destined for Class AA.

They won 12-0, lashed 17 hits and snapped their 0-10-1 streak. They did not so much savor the result. “The way we look at it is, it’s better to win meaningless games than lose meaningless games,” Ryan Zimmerman said. “We don’t care.” But they did care how they did it.

This week, Johnson will play his regulars nine innings, ramping them up for the season, before giving them a break early next week in the days leading up to the season. The Nationals did not quite have their full lineup, with Michael Morse and Adam LaRoche resting injuries, but they had something like it.

“For all of us to be out there at the same time,” Ian Desmond said, “we needed that a little bit.”

During the month in Viera, the Nationals have learned they like their team. In the dugout yesterday, Johnson noticed his players cracking jokes with one another. During the mornings, players sit in a circle on their stools, usually led by Mark DeRosa, talking hitting and laughing.

“We have a good time playing with each other,” Jayson Werth said. “Good chemistry. We had a little extra confidence.”

The Nationals are a happy group for a team that has gone 6-13-3, even in spring training, even if Johnson has gotten the brunt of playing time from players competing for his bench. Unlike years past, they have enough experienced players to understand the results don’t matter, not until they make that trip north they’ve been waiting for.

“The biggest difference to me this [spring] is, there’s not a huge emphasis on winning,” Desmond said. “We don’t have that panic like we’ve got to show people what we can do in spring training. We’re ready for April and we want to see what we can do when they start counting.”

FROM THE POST

Boz details the Nationals’ sudden turnaround yesterday. It’s worth clicking for the lead alone.

The Orioles have little more than memories to celebrate, Sheinin writes.

FROM YESTERDAY’S JOURNAL

Strasburg is ready

Werth excelling this spring

Nats-Mets play-by-play

Davey looking at all options

Full lineup on hold

By  |  07:30 AM ET, 03/26/2012

 
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