B. Boone Steps Back Up To the Plate

The Washington Nationals make their spring training debut in a 4-1 loss to the Florida Marlins in Viera, Fla.
By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, March 1, 2008

VIERA, Fla., Feb. 29 -- Bret Boone's last at-bat in the major leagues was so long ago -- July 30, 2005 -- that he couldn't remember the pitcher. "Schilling," he said, speaking of Boston right-hander Curt.

Indeed, Boone's last at-bat came against the Red Sox, but it was a line out against lefty David Wells. The next day, the Minnesota Twins released the veteran second baseman. Until Friday, he hadn't again stepped into the box in a major league game.

"I had so much anxiety going up there," Boone said of his first at-bat for the Washington Nationals in Friday's 4-1 Grapefruit League loss to the Florida Marlins. "It's been so long. I've trained and hit in batting practice, but that's nothing. You can't replace a game-type atmosphere."

In the sixth inning of an otherwise meaningless game, Boone came to the plate as a pinch hitter and grounded out. But in the eighth, he led off with a double to center.

"It felt great," Boone said.

Boone's attempt at a comeback at 38, following retirement, is still a long shot. But he considered Friday a step.

"I can't complain," he said. "I saw some pitches in a competitive atmosphere and squared a couple balls up. For the first day, I can't expect any better."

On the Air

The Mid-Atlantic Sports Network released its broadcast schedule for the season, with 96 Nationals game broadcast on MASN and 65 on sister station MASN2, the same split as for the Baltimore Orioles. The network will carry only two Nationals spring training games from Florida -- Tuesday against the Los Angeles Dodgers and March 16 against the Orioles. It will also carry the March 29 exhibition against the Orioles at Nationals Park, the first time Washington will play at its new facility. . . .

Right-hander Tyler Clippard, acquired in an offseason trade, made his Washington debut, allowing a wind-aided homer to Marlins leadoff man Alejandro De Aza and a double to catcher Matt Treanor in his two innings of work. "My command's not where I need it to be," he said. . . . First baseman Nick Johnson, coming back from a broken right leg, got his first hit of the spring, a ground ball single up the middle in the first. . . .

Third baseman Ryan Zimmerman had two singles in his two at-bats, making him 3 for 3 on the spring. "He looks ready," Manager Manny Acta said. . . . Outfielder Rob Mackowiak felt some weakness in his right side as he rounded first base while reaching on an error in the sixth inning Friday. He is listed as day-to-day.

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