VIERA, Fla., Feb. 24 -- The Washington Nationals' pitchers and catchers have been at spring training for nearly two weeks, and as they head into the final five days before the Grapefruit League exhibition season begins, they have one thing in common: good health.
The club arrived here concerned about the progress of some pitchers coming back from injuries, namely reliever Luis Ayala and starter John Patterson. But with four spots in the rotation there for the taking, Manager Manny Acta said the mere nature of the situation could make for healthy players.
"When it comes down to competition when the games start, if you're not out there -- with the amount of pitchers that we have -- somebody else is going to throw those innings," Acta said. "I would hate that somebody would hide an injury and make it worse down the line just to compete for the spots. But right now, knock on wood, it's been pretty good."
Right-hander Jesus Colome is the only pitcher to miss a workout so far. He returned Saturday after sitting out two days with an abscess on his right buttock. Patterson and Ayala continue to feel good in their sessions.
"I'm really pleased with where everybody is," pitching coach Randy St. Claire said. "Usually, by this point, you have someone with some sort of nagging thing they're trying to get over. Hopefully it stays this way."
Keeping Tabs on the KidsActa and St. Claire have been making almost daily trips to the club's "accelerated" minor league program in hopes of evaluating a slew of young pitchers who are there before the rest of the minor leaguers arrive. Acta said he's especially interested in right-handers Collin Balester, a 20-year-old who is ranked by Baseball America as the Nationals' top prospect, and Zech Zinicola, a sixth-round pick from last year's draft who quickly shot up through the club's system.
Acta, St. Claire, General Manager Jim Bowden and director of player development Bob Boone all will spend significant time watching the prospects even as major league camp continues. "I've got to put some faces with the names," St. Claire said.
Acta also said that Clint Everts, a right-hander whom the club took with the fifth overall pick in the 2002 draft, appears to be over the elbow surgery that he had following the 2004 season. . . .
Shortstop Cristian Guzman made throws in the infield for the second straight day, showing more zip than he did Friday. He had been unable to throw for three days after undergoing an MRI exam to examine his surgically repaired right shoulder.
Felipe Lopez, making the transition from shortstop to second base, was on the field nearly an hour before he was required to be Saturday, working with instructor Barry Larkin around the bag at second.