October 2, 2012; Washington, D.C., USA; Washington Nationals pitcher Ryan Mattheus (52) pitches in the seventh inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Nationals Park. The Nationals defeated the Phillies 4 - 2. Mandatory Credit: Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

District Daily: 2/24

The Nationals have had a very busy spring training so far, filled with drills and exercises planned out to the minute by new manager Matt Williams. Sunday was no exception, as the team had yet another day of live batting practice and spent hours working on defensive drills. (Checkout some videos from yesterday’s live batting practice here.)

Sunday also brought us some news on the injury front, as we found out that bullpen-hopeful Ryan Mattheus has been shut down since Tuesday after feeling discomfort in his chest following a bullpen session. As of Sunday night, the Nationals are still awaiting the results from an MRI which should reveal what is causing the issue for the 30-year-old reliever.

Stay tuned to District on Deck as we continue to cover Mattheus’ injury and everything else that comes out of the Nationals’ camp in Viera. The first exhibition game is scheduled for this Friday against the Mets in Port St. Lucie and we should be finding out very soon who will take the mound for the Nationals on that day. Until then, checkout some great articles by our fellow Washington Nationals writers:

Venezuelan Nationals players ask for peace amid rallies, violence

(Adam Kilgore, Washington Post)

Jose Lobaton did not intend to make a political statement this morning when he pulled on a tri-color hat in the red, yellow and blue of the Venezuelan flag. He only wanted to make his support known. He wants the violence in the native country he shares with fellow Nationals Wilson Ramos, Sandy Leon, Gabe Alfaro and Felipe Rivero to end. He wants his family and friends to be safe. He wants, for once, good news from his home.

Waves of rallies, by both supporters and protesters of President Nicholas Maduro’s government, have caused widespread violence across Venezuela. At least 10 have died in clashes, according to reports. For Venezuelan players with the Nationals and across the league, the strife feels both helplessly far away painfully close. “My mind is in Venezuela,” Ramos said. The Nationals players call home every day and urge their families to stay inside. As chaos engulfs major cities in their country, they are trying to focus on baseball at spring training.

“It’s in our mind,” Lobatons said. “We have five guys here from Venezuela. We’ve got that in mind all the time. But we’ve got to separate from baseball. This is our job. Every day, we are just waiting for good news, that everything is over. I don’t really like to talk about politics. I just want for Venezuela – everything is so dangerous, we just want something good, every day. It’s hard to say a lot of things about the government now, all this stuff, I don’t really like to talk about it. We’re just praying for Venezuela.” Read full article here.

 

Washington Nationals prospect Aaron Barrett overcomes ‘yips’ to regain control of career

(Adam Kilgore, Washington Post)

VIERA, Fla. — Aaron Barrett laughed as he started to answer the question, an innocuous query for anyone with his job title: Why did he convert from starter to reliever? “Funny story, actually,” Barrett said.

The Washington Nationals selected Barrett in the ninth round of the 2010 draft and shipped him to their rookie class affiliate in Vermont to be a starter. In his first days as a professional, the fundamental skill that defined his job, the act he had done without thought since grade school, abandoned him: He couldn’t throw a baseball from pitching rubber to catcher.

“I kind of lost it, to be honest with you,” Barrett said. “I guess some people call it the yips. Seriously, I literally lost it.”

This winter, almost four years later, Barrett earned a spot on the Nationals’ 40-man roster. He entered his first major league spring training as a long shot at best to crack the opening day roster. But his wicked slider and competitive disposition have made the Nationals believe he could be a midsummer bullpen reinforcement this year and, in the future, a candidate to become their closer. Read full article here.

 

Span finds his comfort zone in Washington

(Bill Ladson, MLB.com)

VIERA, Fla. — Recently, Nationals outfielder Denard Span called the 2014 season the most important of his career. He wants to show the Nationals that he can be consistent at the plate for an entire season.

During the first half of last season, Span was scuffling at the plate, hitting .263 with no home runs and a .320 on-base percentage. After spending five years with the Twins, Span was simply trying to get used to his new team and new league. He was also trying to live up to the high expectations. He was supposed to be the first true leadoff hitter in Nationals history. But Span couldn’t get anything going for a long period of time.

Teammate Jayson Werth knows what it’s like to join a new team. He, too, had problems his first year with the Nationals.

“It takes a while to get acclimated, settle in and be yourself,” Werth said. “During the second half of the season, he finally got comfortable and he took off. You saw the type of player he was.”

Span was one of the best players on the Nationals during the second half, hitting .302. The post All-Star break performance eased his mind, but don’t think he was satisfied with what he accomplished. He simply wants to be the best at everything he does this year. Read full article here.

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