The Nationals notched their second tie of the spring tonight – “Awful,” Manager Davey Johnson said, grinning – and Ryan Mattheus closed out the 4-4 decision against the Mets two scoreless, blink-and-you-missed-it innings. He recorded his first save earlier this week. So what does he get for finishing off a tie?
“I don’t know,” he said. “Can I take these to arbitration?”
Mattheus was surprised to throw two innings so early in spring. Last season, he threw more than one inning in an appearance 15 times and two complete innings only twice. “But the pitch count was down, so it made sense,” Mattheus said. “It wasn’t a very high-stress inning, so I wanted go back out. I was hoping I could have gone another one.”
Mattheus made mincement of a cluster of Mets minor leaguers. He retired all six batters he faced and struck out three while using only 15 pitches.
“You get a few of those during the season where everything clicks,” Mattheus said. “I hit every spot. I even threw a good slider tonight. It was one of those rare outings that you don’t get very much.”
Coming off last season, when he pitched a career-high 66 games, Mattheus backed off his typical offseason throwing program. He felt more soreness early in spring than usual, but it has since worn off.
Johnson didn’t plan for Mattheus to throw two innings. But after he used only seven pitches in the ninth inning, Johnson didn’t hesitate to send him back out for the 10th.
“The up-and-down is something I’m not used to,” Mattheus said. “To get that in early in camp is good, almost just for peace of mind. I know I can do it. If it happens in April and I hadn’t done it in camp, it’d be like, ‘Oh, I don’t know what to expect.’ It was good. I don’t really want to make a habit of it, though.”
>>> Ryan Zimmerman will make his spring debut Sunday, serving as the designated hitter when the Nationals host the Cardinals at Space Coast Stadium, Johnson said. Zimmerman said earlier today he plans on taking the field about a week later. Wilson Ramos could be cleared to DH soon, too. Nationals medical director Wiemi Douoguih will run tests on Ramos’s surgically repaired right knee Saturday, hoping to clear him to slide and get into games.
>>> Henry Rodriguez ended up not throwing live batting practice today. The Nationals plan for Rodriguez instead to throw a bullpen session tomorrow, live batting practice two days later and then get him into a game.
>>> When he arrived at Nationals spring training, Denard Span declared stealing more bases as his main goal for the season. After he walked in his second plate appearance, Span swiped both second and third base. Span also doubled to lead off the game. “I like where he’s at,” Johnson said.
>>> Danny Espinosa knocked his first extra-base hit of the spring, a double into the right field corner hitting left-handed against Rafael Montero, a top Mets prospect. “I liked what I saw from Espi,” Johnson said. “He was swinging the bat better from the left side, which is good. He’s in a good frame of mind.”