The Nationals’ first two full-squad workouts have both checked in at less than two hours, typical of Manager Davey Johnson’s style. He wants players to get their work efficiently, then get off the field. He sees no reason to wear them down more than a month before opening day.
Still, the practices have been enough to make an impression on General Manager Mike Rizzo. His biggest takeaway from the first two days of full-squad workouts did not center on any one player, but rather on the overall fitness of major league camp.
“I’m pleased with the physical condition everyone showed up in,” Rizzo said. “Guys are in shape. They’re getting their cardio in. They’re getting their work in. [The weight room] is jam-packed. Guys are willing to go in there, they want to go in there. I think it shows on the field, where guys can get their throwing in and their running. There are very few guys who are curtailed in what they can do. I think that helps the preparation.”
>>> Chris Marrero continues to surprise the Nationals with his power. After he crushed several batting practices pitches over the left field fence today, one Nationals evaluator watching off to the side said, “That’s the farthest I’ve ever seen him hit a ball.” Marrero has endured a broken leg in 2008 and a torn hamstring the winter before last season. He finally feels healthy, and it shows.
“It’s hard to hit without your lower body,” Rizzo said. “I think he was trying to hit without his lower body the past couple of seasons. He came to spring training in terrific physical condition. He’s a guy who has shown us he can hit. He has good discipline. He was a guy who was drafted because of his power, so I think it’s important that he regained his stroke.”
>>> The other young hitter gaining notice is infield prospect Matt Skole. The reigning Nats minor league player of the year has obliterated batting practice fastballs since he showed up. He has some serious leverage in his swing, and he has the body of a big leaguer. “He’s a big, strong kid,” Rizzo said. “He can hit them as far as anybody.”
Talent evaluators who watch Skole are roundly convinced his bat will play at the big league level. At what position is murkier. One major league scout who closely follows the Nationals said this winter he believed Skole will eventually have to move across the diamond to first base. The Nationals, though, believe Skole has improved his quickness and footwork enough since he left Georgia Tech to stick at third.
“I think he can,” Rizzo said. “He made great progress, footwork-wise. Rather than big range, he’s got good quickness. He’s a short-burst guy. We feel he could handle the physical rigors of third base.”
>>> Henry Rodriguez, in the final stages of his recovery from surgery to remove a bone chip from his right elbow, is “very close” to throwing off a mound, Rizzo said. He played long toss today, and has lately been zipping the ball in warm-ups. “He’s walking around with a smile on his face, so that tells me he’s feeling good,” Rizzo said.
Ryan Mattheus threw a bullpen session early this morning and was excused from the rest of the Nationals’ workout with flu-like symptoms, Johnson said.