February 23, 2012; Melbourne, FL, USA; Washington Nationals catcher Jhonatan Solano (23) works out along with the other catchers during camp at Space Coast Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Barr-USA TODAY Sports
It’s been 138 days since we last saw the Washington Nationals play baseball.
Baseball offseasons are always excruciatingly long for those who love the game, but for some reason, this offseason has felt even longer than usual. Perhaps it’s because of the great offseason moves and high expectations. Perhaps it’s because last season was such a disappointment. Perhaps it’s because of the brutal winter that we’ve all endured for the last three months. Maybe it’s a combination of everything, but either way, it’s been long.
While the winter is still in full swing (feel free to look out your window), the wait for Nationals baseball is finally over, as pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report to Viera, Florida for spring training sometime today.
It may not seem all that important that pitchers and catchers are starting spring training, but it is. While the regular season is still well over a month away, pitchers and catchers report day officially ushers in the 2014 season for the Washington Nationals, a season full of promise and endless possibilities.
Within the next few hours, bullpen sessions and infield drills will be the norm at the team’s complex in Viera. Big name offseason acquisitions Doug Fister and Jerry Blevins will finally meet everyone else on the pitching staff and work with the catchers that will be guiding them through their first season in a new uniform, and in a new league. Veteran pitchers on minor league deals with invitations to spring training will soon be working hard to prove that they are still capable of producing at the big league level. Prospects will get their first taste of big league ball as they will have the opportunity to meet and learn from some of the best pitchers in the game. A handful of pitchers will begin their quest for the fifth spot in one of the best rotations in baseball. At least three catchers will finally get the chance to battle it out for the backup catcher’s job.
These are all things that we have been talking about for the last five months, and they all begin today.
The first team workout will be this Saturday, with the remaining position players scheduled to report on the 18th. While today is the official report day for pitchers and catchers, several players have already set up camp in Viera. Shortstop Ian Desmond along with pitchers Jordan Zimmermann, Taylor Jordan, Ross Detwiler, Tanner Roark, Craig Stammen, Drew Storen, Gio Gonzalez, Ryan Mattheus and catchers Chris Snyder and Jhonatan Solano were all in Viera before report date, with some of them arriving as early as Tuesday.
"“Some of them have thrown multiple bullpens already. They are going to be ready for the opening day of camp,” manager Matt Williams told MLB.com’s Bill Ladson. “Everybody is eager to get here and get started. Anybody that has been on the East Coast has certainly experienced a terrible winter. That’s part of it. You want to get out of that weather right now, but most of all, they are eager to get to camp.”"
Over the next few weeks we will get answers to all of the questions that we have been asking for the last several months. Who will be the fifth starter? Will the Nationals trade for a backup catcher? Is Danny Espinosa going to be a National on Opening Day? Is Bryce Harper‘s knee healthy? These are just some of the many questions that will be answered over the next six weeks, and obviously there will be many more to come over the next seven months of baseball.
The offseason is long, but fortunately for us, the baseball season is even longer. 2014 is expected to be an exciting year for the Nationals, their fans and their city. Whether or not they will live up to those lofty expectations remains to be seen, but either way it should be a long and exciting journey for a team that is hungry for redemption. A journey that will hopefully last deep into the month of October. No matter what the future holds for the Nationals, baseball is officially back.
So even though you might be digging your way out of almost a foot of snow, know that somewhere Stephen Strasburg will be holding a baseball in his right hand. Ian Desmond will be fielding ground balls. Wilson Ramos will be making throws to second. It might not be opening day, but it’s baseball. And after a long offseason, that’s all we can ask for.