The Nationals are just past the halfway point of their 34-spring game schedule. This year, because of the World Baseball Classic, spring training started earlier than normal and, as a result, lasts longer. The Nationals have three — three! — off days this spring. The unusual spring schedule, however, is toughest for pitchers. It’s careful balance between needing the innings to build arm strength and throwing too much because of the number of games.
That’s why Tyler Clippard, who has logged more innings than any reliever in baseball the past three seasons, asked to be held out of games until recently. Rafael Soriano, a veteran reliever, also asked for a abbreviated schedule, knowing that he only needs seven or eight outings to get ready for the long season.
“Right now is a good pace for me. I’m not throwing back-to-back days,” said Clippard, who fired his fifth scoreless appearance in Thursday’s 6-3 win over the Houston Astros. “I’m taking two days in between outings. The outings haven’t been that strenuous and that’s good, I’m trying to keep the pitches down and I feel good.”
Because of the long spring, Johnson is keeping some minor leaguers in camp — Chris Marrero, Corey Brown, Zach Walters. They continue gaining experience, but he can lean on them during road games and as late-game substitutions for the regulars.
During this recent stretch of home games, Johnson has been leaning on regulars to play longer. And by next week, he will use them for nine innings. Jayson Werth is still building strength in his left wrist. He and Adam LaRoche — as well as the catchers — are yet to play a complete game.
Ryan Zimmerman reached the four-at-bat plateau in a game as a DH on Wednesday and is planning on playing third base for the first time since surgery next week, maybe as soon as Monday. And after the starters get a normal workload next week, Johnson will ease off them the final week, giving them a brief reprieve before the long regular season begins.
FROM THE POST
FROM YESTERDAY’S JOURNAL
The Nationals travel to Jupiter to to face the Cardinals. Dan Haren is on the mound. The pitching schedule after him: Yunesky Maya, Ryan Mattheus, Erik Davis, Jeremy Accardo. The lineup features only a few major leaguers.
1. Steve Lombardozzi, 2B
2. Kurt Suzuki, C
3. Tyler Moore, RF
4. Chad Tracy, DH
5. Chris Marrero, 1B
6. Carlos Rivero, 3B
7. Corey Brown, CF
8. Micah Owings, LF
9. Zach Walters, SS
DAYS UNTIL OPENING DAY