The biggest tease in all of sports is here. Spring Training is underway as pitchers and catchers slowly pour in to Space Coast stadium in Viera. This is a team who when healthy, potentially holds the best bullpen in baseball. This is also the team that only two seasons ago had the best record in the big show. Were it not for a tumultuous season plagued by injury, who knows what last year could have been like.
But the past is the past, players recover and grow, and someone else is calling the shots. Matt Williams is the new man in charge, and he will certainly have tough decisions to make. Plugging the last remaining holes in the bullpen will not be an easy choice. Taylor Jordan, Tanner Roark, and Ross Ohlendorf will all be going after Ross Detwiler’s assumed seat at the fifth spot in the rotation. Stephen Strasburg will be their ace of course, followed by Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann and the newly acquired Doug Fister. That fifth spot however, is still very much up for grabs.
There are questions in the infield as well. It has been said that Zimmerman will take reps at first base this offseason, in preparation for the possibility that Adam LaRoche does not bounce back from what was arguably his worst season as a professional ball player. The 34-year old’s contract is only guaranteed through 2014, with a mutual option for 2015, meaning LaRoche is not the long term solution and perhaps not even the short term option for when the Nats face left handed pitchers. Moreover, Danny Espinosa showed flashes of greatness in the infield last year. He has some serious fielding chops, but he couldn’t even play with a tennis racket the way he was hitting. Espinosa is the clear cut, back up infielder, but with some improvement at the plate he could pick up ground on Anthony Rendon at second.
It’s a great feeling. The idea of warm weather and baseball is starting to make grinding out the rest of this work week a lot less stressful. I can already smell the cracker jacks, I can taste the frozen lemonade, and I’ve got visions of presidents with big heads running around the Anacostia diamond rolling like a highlight reel in my mind. Whether or not it’s still America’s Pastime remains to be seen, but there’s not a better place to be on a summer day and I couldn’t be more excited for this team and its potential.