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Nationals Notebook

'It's Good to Get Out There'

By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 18, 2005; Page D04

VIERA, Fla., Feb. 17 -- Most of them have been working out all winter. Some have even pitched in winter ball. Yet when they took to a row of mounds at the back of their spring training complex Thursday morning, something about pitching felt new to some of the Washington Nationals.

"You're never prepared for spring training," right-hander John Patterson said. "Just getting out on the field for the first official time, it can be different. But it's good to get out there. It's actually exciting."

Pitching coach Randy St. Claire talks to some of his 28 pitchers during a morning workout. "You want to get ready," says reliever Luis Ayala. "But you have to pace yourself." (Jonathan Newton -- The Washington Post)

The Nationals have 28 pitchers listed on their spring training roster, and all but two -- Livan Hernandez and Antonio Osuna, who have not yet reported -- participated in the morning session, which lasted three hours.

"You want to get ready," said reliever Luis Ayala. "But you have to pace yourself."

To that end, pitching coach Randy St. Claire set the ground rules from the get-go. As Manager Frank Robinson said, "You're not going to win the World Series on the first day." So before the group stretched and began throwing, St. Claire gathered them around and told them that there is one key during the next several weeks: Communication.

"If there's something wrong, you have to tell us," St. Claire said. "If you try to push it, and you end up missing a week, two weeks, that won't help anybody. If you got a problem, come to me, and let me know."

With that, the group began what for one day was exciting, but could soon become drudgery. They threw long toss lightly -- first from 60 feet, then from 90, then from 120. And they broke into groups to do all the fundamentals that come with the first days of spring -- fielding bunts, fielding grounders, covering first base, throwing to second, and bunting themselves. Two groups even threw off mounds, with General Manager Jim Bowden and two of his special assistants -- Bob Boone and Jose Rijo -- watching closely.

Creating a Buzz

It might be a little early for people to make the journey down to spring training from Washington en masse, for exhibition games don't start until March 2. But when the Nationals took the field, there were several dozen fans pressed up against chain link fences, peering at their new team -- including at least a few from up north.

"I was there when the Senators were there, and I'm happy a team's back," said George "Buzz" Burroughs of Damascus.

Burroughs, 66, was vacationing in Florida and decided to hit the first workout. "It's a perfect thing to do," he said.

Vargas Out

Right-hander Claudio Vargas was the only pitcher to be held out of some drills Thursday. Vargas, who developed some tendinitis in his throwing elbow pitching winter ball, threw from a short distance and briefly off a mound before getting treatment. Coincidentally, he also agreed to terms on a 2005 contract, leaving just nine players unsigned -- outfielders Endy Chavez and Terrmel Sledge, infielders Henry Mateo and Brendan Harris and pitchers Ayala, Francis Beltran, Chad Cordero, Joe Horgan and Jon Rauch.

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