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36 Days -- and Counting!

I've been out of the loop, so you probably have this information by now, but just in case:

The Nationals finally announced their spring training dates - when workouts are, when games begin, etc. There are 15 home games at historic Space Coast Stadium (HSCS) in Viera, Fla. (Say it loud, say it proud: "Grapefruit League baseball is good. In Viera, even better.") If we're lucky, they've wedged in a Macaroni Grill and a Johnny Rockets in between the Chili's and the Lone Star Steakhouse.

The key dates: Pitchers and catchers report Feb. 15. First workout is Feb. 17. Position players report Feb. 20, and the first full-squad workout is Feb. 22.

A full Nationals spring training schedule is available here. First Grapefruit League game is Feb. 27 against Florida in (or is it "on"?) Jupiter. First game at HSCS is Feb. 29, also against the Marlins.

More numbers: Right now, there are 72 players slated to show up to camp. All but one - prospect Collin Balester, a right-hander - is contractually obligated to be invited to major league camp. Balester may seem like he has been on the Nationals' prospect list for a while, but he's still only 21.

Also: For those of you who listen to WTOP (and even those who don't), you may have noticed the reporting of Craig Heist, who is likely the hardest-working man in D.C. sports media, attending some sort of game basically seven days a week year-round. Craig went down with some sort of seizure at the Wizards game Tuesday night, and has been in the hospital. There's a lot of people thinking of him right now, and hoping his signature countdown in the pressbox before he starts his recording - "3-2-1!" - amounts to the countdown until he gets out of the hospital.

By Barry Svrluga  |  January 10, 2008; 12:01 AM ET
 
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Comments

i will be at the game the 29th and 1st. it will be my first spring training and i am so excited. also i will see my girlfriend in jacksonville. but that doesnt really matter too much

Posted by: love | January 10, 2008 1:24 AM | Report abuse

So, what do we make of Balester's invite, then, since it's the only "voluntary" invitation - a. legit chance to make the big club? b. chance to get an up-close look and some hands-on time with Saint Randy before sending him back down to mind the farm? c. last chance up-close make-or-break look before packaging him in with somebody else as part of a deal?

Though some folks seem to think Battlestar's light has dimmed (so to speak), I think that's more a sign of the overall health of the system than him personally. In a dark room, a 40w bulb seems pretty bright. Turn on the other, brighter lights (Detwiler, Smoker, Burgess, Marrero, etc) and it seems dimmer, even though it's the same 40w bulb it was. Here's hoping he surprises with a "can't send me back to Columbus" performance.

Posted by: Prospector | January 10, 2008 5:04 AM | Report abuse

"I've been out of the loop"

Posted by: WPost Montra | January 10, 2008 5:59 AM | Report abuse

Oh no! So sorry to hear about Craig Heist! Hope he recovers quickly and fully!

Posted by: misschatter | January 10, 2008 7:14 AM | Report abuse

Prospector, I have to believe (a) and (b) are more likely than (c). Balester's K/BB ratio and 4-ish ERA aren't assets to be dealt away lightly, although anything's possible ("you can name the price if I can name the terms"). It doesn't take much to envision Balester getting some MLB starts this season should injury strike a member of the Opening Day rotation.

Slighly more likely than Balester being dealt, I think, would be Clint Everts continuing to be reinvented and then packaged as a closer to a team that needs one.

Posted by: Hendo | January 10, 2008 7:55 AM | Report abuse

And here's wishing the best to Craig Heist. I don't listen much to WTOP although I do visit their web site, which oddly hasn't reported on his absence as far as I can see.

Posted by: Hendo | January 10, 2008 7:57 AM | Report abuse

Clint Everts has fallen off the face of the earth, really. I think he was trying to rehab with yoga last spring, and it really didn't help much.
http://baseballchurch.blogspot.com/2007/02/can-yoga-save-nationals.html

Going 4 - 10 at Potomac doesn't do much for a guy's trade value, or value to the Nats, what with those Lake Monsters ready for advancement.

Posted by: Five more weeks | January 10, 2008 8:23 AM | Report abuse

i fully believe detwiler and balester get a pot of coffee this year and are both up for good to start 2009. balester is only 21 and holding his own in AAA. every prospect can't be a stud. i'd say there's only about 9 or 10 true ace starters any given year. i'm not against good trades but he's one of the few home growns on the doorstep and he could be longterm in the Nats rotation. i'd be surprised if they moved him.

sure seems like the Nats love 6'5" pitching prospects. i think i do too. guys like this are the reason we don't need Livo eating 190 innings anymore. we need someone to carry water while these prospects prove healthy and effective.

Posted by: longterm | January 10, 2008 8:35 AM | Report abuse

I'm including my well wishes with the others for Craig Heist. I do listen to WTOP and I think that I also remember him doing the occasional Nats post-game broadcast?

Posted by: natsfan1a | January 10, 2008 8:54 AM | Report abuse

uh, love, we may need to have a discussion about your priorities... :-)

---

also i will see my girlfriend in jacksonville. but that doesnt really matter too much

Posted by: natsfan1a | January 10, 2008 8:55 AM | Report abuse

as in "I forgot my..."

---

Montra

Posted by: Mantra | January 10, 2008 8:56 AM | Report abuse

Whether or not yoga helped Everts much, moving to the bullpen may have saved his career. As a P-Nat reliever in 2007, Everts went 3-2 with a 3.02 ERA and an even 2:1 ratio of K's to walks. Granted, that was relief in High-A ball, but it's a hopeful sign.

Whether that performance will translate to Double-A (where at least some of last year's Vermonters may well be breathing down his neck soon -- good point, 5mw) is, of course, quite another matter.

The big upside is that, if his arm stays strong and he remains effective in relief, he could step in for Rauch / Cordero if the Nats need him to. In any event, he'll be one to watch in Viera.

Posted by: Hendo | January 10, 2008 9:18 AM | Report abuse

The Nats web site is down. For that matter, so is www.mlb.com. So I can't access the spring training schedule. Hopefully, the disruption will be short-lived.

Posted by: Union Station | January 10, 2008 9:59 AM | Report abuse

Guys (and ladies), are Spring Training games broadcasted on the radio? Would be an amazing way to make it through the workdays before Opening Day rolls around. Also, I have a dilemma. I pick up ZERO radio reception in my office and baseball games through the net are now for subscribers only - anybody have any relatively inexpensive suggestions on how to combat this issue?

Posted by: Corey | January 10, 2008 10:02 AM | Report abuse

Corey: Last year SOME of the spring training games were available online (MLB audio was $14.95 for the year), but definitely not ALL. And, as a thanks for my answering this question, please don't put us ladies in parentheses in the future. It is an improvement over "fellas" but still a bit degrading. Thanks!

Posted by: JennX | January 10, 2008 10:12 AM | Report abuse

Thank you. Forgive me.

Posted by: Corey | January 10, 2008 10:18 AM | Report abuse

some games were also available on XM, if i remember correctly.

XM may not be as relatively inexpensive (at $12.95/mo + equipment (altho you can get equipment for next to nothing if you're not picky about which receiver), but you get *all* games from all teams and can listen anywhere you can get XM reception, including your car. haven't regretted my XM subscription yet and i'm starting year 5 with it now.

Posted by: 231 (other 506) | January 10, 2008 10:20 AM | Report abuse

I signed up for the mlb audio last year after hemming and hawing about whether it was worth it or not. It was! They definitely don't have every game during spring training, but you will still get some coverage and you'll be able to pull in all the (away) day games throughout the rest of the year. All this while (apparently) steadfastly working on your computer at work...

Posted by: Brewer | January 10, 2008 10:20 AM | Report abuse

FYI: At least we'll be able to see a spring training game in HD (nothing but crikcets on this issue from MASN to date):

TV Sports
ESPN/MLB Announce 2008 Spring Training Schedule
All Nine Games To Be Shown in HD
(from MLB.com)

Major League Baseball today announced a slate of nine pre-season baseball games to bew shown on ESPN this year.

Each of the Spring Training games will be available in HD.

Here is the schedule:


Code:
DAY/DATE TIME (ET) GAME
Fri. Feb. 29 1:05 pm Dodgers at Braves
Wed. Mar. 5 1:15 pm Twins at Yankees
Thur. Mar. 6 1:05 pm Dodgers at Red Sox
Fri. Mar. 7 1:05 pm Mets at Indians
Tues. Mar. 18 1:05 pm Nationals at Tigers
Wed. Mar. 19 12:05 pm Blue Jays at Red Sox
Thur. Mar. 20 1:05 pm Yankees at Blue Jays
Fri. Mar. 21 4:05 pm Cubs at Rockies
Thur. Mar. 27 1:05 pm Mets at Braves

Posted by: HD Nat Fan | January 10, 2008 10:29 AM | Report abuse

I've been checking out the MLB Audio and the only available package they have now is the Offseason package....are Spring Training games/add. coverage included in that or will it reset and be included in the 2008 Regular Season package?

Posted by: Corey | January 10, 2008 10:49 AM | Report abuse

Ditto Brewer on MLB Audio. It's the only way I can keep up with the Nats when I'm overseas, and it works quite well in all but the most bandwidth-challenged situations.

Also, come April, don't forget that the minor-league affiliates -- up to this past season, anyway -- all have free audio feeds of some kind, which are also surprisingly good; better, in fact, than quite a few major league broadcasts.

Posted by: Hendo | January 10, 2008 10:57 AM | Report abuse

Agree about hw great XM is to have during the baseball season. There's nothing like listening to night Grapefruit and Cactus League games in mid-to-late March to set the stage for the regular season. Also, even though I'm not a Dodgers' fan, just to hear Vin Scully do the first three innings of home games while falling asleep is priceless.

Posted by: leetee1955 | January 10, 2008 11:01 AM | Report abuse

Anyone know if there's anything to see/do there that first weekend pitchers and catchers report? I have a long weekend because of presidents day and am looking for a short trip to take with my son. But I wasn't sure if the only thing worth going to in Viera are the games themselves.

Posted by: Mick | January 10, 2008 11:10 AM | Report abuse

Nats320 notes that Charlie Slowes is listed as a moderator for the Winter Caravan, which is an indication that he is still with the team. Great news.

Hendo- Thanks for the Everts clarification. I certainly hope it works for him, and I intend to see more PoNats games this year.

Posted by: Five more weeks | January 10, 2008 11:20 AM | Report abuse

Spring Training games are included in the regular season MLB Audio package. Typically the Nationals only broadcast their weekend games, but last year many of the weekday games were available via the opposing teams' broadcasts.

Posted by: Cosmo | January 10, 2008 11:27 AM | Report abuse

All the best to Craig H. - he is in our prayers. Hope to hear him again soon.

Posted by: natswriter | January 10, 2008 11:37 AM | Report abuse

The Google Calendar for the Nats' spring training schedule has been updated to reflect the calendar as published on the Nats' website.


http://www.google.com/calendar/embed?src=6a3ume9ag1oiv0k2mlls9qhq78%40group.calendar.google.com&ctz=America/New_York

Posted by: i hate walks | January 10, 2008 12:53 PM | Report abuse

Does anyone know if there's a frequency to tune in to the games in Viera? While in the park?

Watching a baseball game live while listening good radio broadcast of that game is one of the little things that makes life great.

Posted by: i hate walks | January 10, 2008 12:57 PM | Report abuse

Couple other things to keep in mind...

University of Maryland baseball kicks off Tuesday, February 26, with a 2:00 contest against Towson. Not that the weather should be expected to be wonderful that soon in the (pre-)spring, but a March thaw could provide an excuse to sneak away from the office early.

UM schedule link: http://umterps.cstv.com/sports/m-basebl/sched/md-m-basebl-sched.html

Also, it's never to early to be aware of when the Nats' far-flung affiliates will be making some local appearances. Here's what I've gleaned so far from the various minor-league schedules that have been posted...

-- Triple-A Columbus visits Richmond Tuesday, July 29, through Friday, August 1.
-- Double-A Harrisburg makes two trips into Bowie: Friday, June 13, through Sunday, June 15, and Monday, July 21, through Thursday, July 24.
-- Short-season Class A Vermont swings into Aberdeen Wednesday, August 27, through Friday, August 29.

Posted by: Hendo | January 10, 2008 4:04 PM | Report abuse

You can also make road trips to see the Class A Potomac Nationals in Frederick on Fri-Sun April 25-27, Thu-Sun June 12-15, and Fri-Sun July 25-27.

Posted by: Cosmo | January 10, 2008 4:19 PM | Report abuse

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a new post. :)

Posted by: natsfan1a | January 10, 2008 4:28 PM | Report abuse

I too am planning on catching games during the Grapefruit season--just before teams head out, but after the Red Sox and Oakland head off for "regular season" games in Japan. It's a family trip and we're hoping to catch games not only in Viera but also in the Orlando area (and for a change of pace, maybe we'll drop in on Disney).

To Mick--who asked about the early weeks of Spring training--I can't speak to what the Nats do (indeed, I have questions for this list about what happens at Space Coast Stadium) but I have twice been in Tucson for early workouts to see the D-Backs and White Sox. Depending on the security and demeanor of the team (the Pale Hose were extremely protective; the D-Backs players were close enough to talk to and get autographs from), you can watch everything from batting practice to individual players working with coaches on specific skills. The season the D-Backs would go on to win the Series, I stood and watched Schilling and Randy Johnson and other pitchers take batting practice. Schilling--after his swings, yelled for some young kid to come over to the backstop gate--and then gave the kid his bat. That's what happens at Spring training.

My question is that by the time teams are doing formal games (e.g., March), are there "regular" practices and can we watch them? How much interaction is there between players and fans? Particularly with the Nats. If I can, I'll rouse my daughter early, head over to the ballpark and sit and watch practice with her before the game.

And I've been monitoring the overall schedule for Spring training at http://www.springtrainingonline.com/. Details of many teams' schedules were available on-line before their official MLB sites had the schedule.

Can't wait to see which of our prospects might be ready to watch at our new ballpark.

Posted by: Carl in 306 | January 10, 2008 9:22 PM | Report abuse

I'm going to visit Viera on my way back from seeing the Halos in Tempe.

Many of the Cactus league teams have their minor league spring facilities at the same venue as the majors.

Anyone know if this is the case with the Nats? I know at one point the Nats spring training sites were in different locations.

And any recommendations for lodging in the area or is staying in Melbourne my best bet?

Posted by: Los Doce Ocho | January 10, 2008 10:35 PM | Report abuse

Ocho,

The Carl Barger Sports Complex is on the other side of the parking lot from the stadium. It's like a Little League park with four fields and an indoor batting cage. In February, the Major Leaguers practice in the morning and the Minor Leaguers from noon to about 3.

Out of respect, you don't bother the players when they are on the field, but in the walkways between fields there is this crazy mix of players, management, old ladies with umbrellas (no shade here), geeks with books of baseballs cards they are trying to get the players to sign, etc. There the players are relaxed and willing to sign autographs and have pictures taken, etc.

Best is to find a perch on one of the mettle benches and watch the action. Last year I saw Nook Logan batting exclusively from the left side under the watchful eye of Manny Acta (Opps, that didn't work out). Later, I saw Jim Bowden and Bob Boone come over to see how Dmitri Young was doing with the Minor Leaguers. He was mentoring Chris Marrero at 1st base. Then he bowled over a minor league catcher at home plate during a pop-up drill. Very funny.

In March, when the games start, it becomes more formal with the Major Leagers. You only see them at the stadium and they don't open the park until after the home team batting practice is over. The Minor Leaguers are still very accessible.

Hotels anywhere near the stadium are very sparse - just threadbare chains at the interstate exits. You would do better to get a nice hotel in Melbourne because you have to drive to the park anyway.

Posted by: TransplantedNat | January 11, 2008 9:06 AM | Report abuse

Gracias

Posted by: Los Doce Ocho | January 11, 2008 9:52 AM | Report abuse

Balester is the poster boy for the organization. They will not let this guy go. They want him to be in the bigs! It shows stability in the lower levels. This kid is an awesome talent and will be great in the clubhouse.
His attitude is what every player should be modeled after.
My pick is that this kid makes the team and Starts as a solid #3 or #4 in the rotation.

Posted by: Spinning Man | January 11, 2008 3:41 PM | Report abuse

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