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Nationals sign all 17 pre-arbitration players — plus other workout notes


Washington Nationals manager Matt Williams (9) and pitching coach Steve McCatty (54) watch Stephen Strasburg (37) throw a bullpen session on February 18, 2014 in Viera, Fl. (Photo by Jonathan Newton / The Washington Post)

The Nationals agreed to terms with all 17 of their pre-arbitration players, those with zero-to-three service time on the 40-man roster, finalizing the contracts of all their players without any issues. Since these players are not yet eligible for arbitration, they have little say in their salaries and teams dictate the amounts. All players with between zero and three years of service make somewhere around the league minimum, which will be $500,000 in 2014.

Teams can hand out good faith raises and the Nationals did: Danny Espinosa will make $540,000 this season if he spends it in the major leagues. His big league salary last year was $526,000, according to the Cot’s Baseball Contracts database. Because Espinosa has yet to accrue enough service time to qualify for arbitration — he finished nine days short of “Super Two” status — the Nationals owed him only the league minimum salary of $500,000.

The list of the pre-arbitration players: Espinosa, Ryan Mattheus, Tyler Moore, Xavier Cedeno, Tanner Roark, Taylor Jordan, Jhonatan Solano, Erik Davis, Eury Perez, Christian Garcia, Jeff Kobernus, Sandy Leon, Zach Walters, Aaron Barrett, Sammy Solis, Steven Souza Jr. and Michael Taylor.

If players had their contracts “renewed” by a team, the player wanted a bigger raise and the team decided the salary for them.

>>> Don’t read too much into the starters of these early spring training games. There are a lot of starters in camp. And, Manager Matt Williams said that he is planning to line up the starting rotation for the regular season around the March 18 off day. But for the pitchers making their first start, Williams is expecting at least two innings from them.

Williams said he plans to have late-inning pitchers throw during their respective innings later in the spring but not yet. Closing a game this early in the spring game schedule doesn’t mean much, he said.

“When we get later in spring, we’ll try to use them in their respective roles so they get used to it again,” he said. “And they’ve all been out there. They know what they’re doing. You also get accustomed to sitting for eight innings. It’s not easy if you haven’t done it in five months. Toward the end we’ll ramp to that, too, and get them into their roles a little bit more.”

>>> Williams said he has tried spacing out the playing schedules to account for veterans, but he admitted that there is no way to avoid having veterans make road trips in Grapefruit League play. Williams wants everyone to get some action in the first few games and then will space out their schedules. Asked if Jayson Werth was among the group of veterans would have to make road trips in the Grapefruit League, Williams smiled.

“It certainly does,” he said. “It most certainly does. Yeah.”

>>> Drew Storen faced hitters for the first time on Wednesday morning in a live batting practice session and, according to Williams’s assessment, threw well. Williams was also pleased with Storen’s change-up, its movement and how it missed bats.

Stephen Strasburg threw his second live batting practice session and looked sharp. The pop of the catcher’s mitt sounded different and louder when he threw. Ryan Zimmerman, who faced Strasburg along with Adam LaRoche, Tyler Moore and Sandy Leon, even complimented Strasburg’s new slider as he walked off the field.

Ross Detwiler also received praise for his developing pitch, his cutter. After Detwiler finished warming up in the bullpen before his second live batting practice session, catcher Koyie Hill said to the left-hander: “That is a pretty cutter.”

>>> The Nationals defensive coordinator and advance coach Mark Weidemaier sticks firmly to the regimented schedule he and Williams devised for spring training. But, he is also a funny and energetic man. On his first swing of hitting grounders during infield practice on Wednesday morning, Weidemaier fell to the ground.

“It was on purpose, but it was funny,” Williams said. “He took a tumble. During infield. It was good.”

James Wagner joined the Post in August 2010, wrote about high school sports across the region for two years and has covered the Nationals since the middle of the 2012 season.
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