Feb 24, 2014; Viera, FL, USA; Washington Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo watches the spring training action at space Coast Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Barr-USA TODAY Sports

District Daily: 2/25


Checkout some great reads from our fellow Washington Nationals writers:

The Nationals’ pitchers had a hitting contest

(Adam Kilgore, Washington Post)

Eleven days have passed since pitchers officially reported to spring training. The first Grapefruit League game will not happen until Friday. Tedium and malaise at this point of the spring are tougher opponents than the Cardinals and Braves.

In order to break the monotony, Nationals pitchers spent the second half of practice today nowhere near a mound. They participated in a hitting competition with convoluted rules, buckets playing the role of fielders and trash talk. The game, a creation from the mind of rehab coordinator Mark Grater, was a way for pitchers to practice bunting and hitting behind runners without them even realizing it.

Nationals coaches chose four captains – Doug Fister, Chris Young, Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann. They picked teams. Fister’s team played Young’s team at Space Coast Stadium, and Strasburg’s team played Zimmermann’s team on a neighboring backfield.

“There are things that we have focus on every day that are very important,” Fister said. “Hitting and bunting and moving runners is one of them. For Matt [Williams] to schedule things like that, we’re able to have fun with it, it’s going to stick in our brain a little bit.” Read full article here.

A Position-by-Position Breakdown of the Washington Nationals at Spring Training

(Will Grooms, Bleacher Report)

As the arrival of the 2014 MLB season approaches, expectations couldn’t be any higher for the Washington Nationals. Combining for 184 wins over the past two seasons, the 2012 National League East champions have made minor moves to shore up weak spots in both their pitching rotation and batting lineup.

With a week and change of spring training in the books, the Nats have gotten a good look at many of their newly acquired players, such as Doug Fister and Nate McLouth.

Washington has also been delighted with what it’s seen from young prospects like Matt Skole.

With just a week separating Washington from the Atlanta Braves, its first spring training opponent, here’s a breakdown of what can be expected from each position going forward based on last season’s performance, moving on from injuries or any other early spring training developments. Read full article here

Tanner Roark’s long road to big leagues leads to a spot on Washington Nationals roster

(Adam Kilgore, Washington Post)

VIERA, Fla. — Tanner Roark was tired of it all: The unlucky hops driving up his ERA, the scouting reports that complicated the game, the pitchers passing by him while he stayed at Class AAA. It all collected in his mind and bogged him down, until he could not hold it in anymore.

As the all-star break neared in 2012, Roark made another start in Syracuse. He had been in the Washington Nationals’ organization for three years, a right-handed pitcher acquired in an easily forgotten trade. He felt like he was just drifting. The first pitch of the game resulted in a bloop double over the drawn-in third baseman’s head. He knew he would lose again. Even when he did everything right, something went wrong.

“I got in my own head,” Roark said. “After that, it went downhill.”

Roark’s lowest moments in professional baseball cut a path to where he is now, at the start of a promising major league career. Thousands of players cycle through the minors, succumb to baseball’s subtle challenges and wash out before they see the majors, before they ever find out if they are good enough. The Nationals did not give up on Roark, and they refused to let Roark give up on himself. He changed his mental outlook. He kept going. Read full article here.

Ramos, Snyder support new collision rule

(Bill Ladson, MLB.com)

According to catcher Chris Snyder, “If you get a good throw and you have time, it’s completely up to the catcher what he wants to do — if he wants to stay safe, stay in fair territory. If you want contact and block the plate, you get over there and block the plate. But out of everything they could have done with the rule, on paper, this is probably the best-case scenario, I think.”

Catcher Wilson Ramos agrees with the new rule. He pointed out that if it was in place in 2012, teammate Sandy Leon may not have been sidelined by injury. Leon, making his Major League debut on May 14 of that year, had to leave the game against the Padres in the fourth inning with a high right ankle sprain.

The Nationals had a 4-1 lead when the injury occurred. The Padres had runners on second and third with one out, when Orlando Hudson singled to center field. Yonder Alonso scored easily, but Chase Headley barreled into Leon to score the Padres’ third run.

Leon was clearly in pain and had to be helped off the field by then-assistant athletic trainer Mike McGowan and bench coach Randy Knorr.

Clubs will be required to train their runners to slide and their catchers to provide the runner with a pathway to reach the plate if they aren’t in possession of the ball.

“The rule is good [for catchers], because no one wants to get hurt,” Ramos said. “It’s pretty exciting. We just need to play smart. If we are on the line, we are supposed to get hit. We need to be smart in that situation. … There are times to move out. It has happened, and we have to understand that. It’s a good idea to put in that rule.” Read full article here.

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