The Day When Everybody Is In The Best Shape Of His Life
Clearly, I am a spring training newbie.
"Want some sunscreen?" hitting coach Rick Eckstein asked me today, just around 11 a.m., as I followed him to the batting cages.
"Nah," I said. "I put some on earlier this morning."
Well, now I'm up in the Space Coast press box, and sunburnt. Viera is hot today, maybe 80 under direct sunlight, and it feels like an oven rack... or a panini press.
Anyway, it turned out to be a beautiful morning for all of the day's baseball-related activities -- namely, batting practice (with Eck, Nick Johnson, Willie Harris, Jesus Flores and a few others), and the obligated pitcher-catcher reporting. Today is the day by which pitchers and catchers must "report" to camp. Reporting can be as simple as a phone call to the clubhouse manager, so it's not like everybody has to show his face. That said, almost every P and C is at camp. According to a hot-off-the-presses 2009 Nats roster, the team is expecting to have 32 pitchers and six catchers in camp this spring. Clubhouse attendant Mike Wallace is keeping a list of those players who he has physically seen.
I just matched up the full P/C list with the list of players that Wallace has seen in person, and hereby present to you -- accurate as of 2:10 p.m. -- the list of Washington's pitchers and catchers who have yet to materialize at SC HQ:
Luis Atilano. Marco Estrada. Gary Glover. Preston Larrison. Shairon Martis. Jorge Sosa. Terrell Young. Gustavo Chacin. Odalis Perez. Oh, and catcher Javier Valentin.
Everybody else is here, or at least was here earlier today.
On a day like this, a certain anything-is-possible vibe extends from player to player, locker to locker. As the Nationals reconvened after a winter apart, certain guys looked in better condition, plenty felt healthier, and in the end, that formed the basis of their conversations.
Jason Bergmann: After finishing the 2008 season in a rut (and in the bullpen), Bergmann decided to focus with greater intensity on offseason conditioning. "Well, I think it was the kind of decision I needed to make," he said. "I should have done it earlier in my career, and I regret not doing it." He joined a gym in Viera. He found a trainer, an ex-military guy named David Rivers. Bergmann worked mostly on his core, his abs, but you can see now that he's a lot more square across the chest. Oh, and he shaved his head. That was a big decision, too. He got sick of people pulling his leg for the premature balding, so he flipped a coin -- heads or tails -- and decided that if it fell on heads, he'd go with the Mr. Clean look. The coin landed on tails. Bergmann shaved his head anyway.
Kory Casto: He added 15 pounds of muscle this offseason. The lean, sinewy player of last year is hidden somewhere under a lot of new bulk. I overheard a few guys talking about it yesterday, in fact -- 'Hey, you gotta see Casto.' Well, today I saw. Evidently, he decided that if his future lies as a bench player, he might as well have some pop. "If I'm going to be a role player," he said, "there's no point in trying to be lean. Speed has never been my thing anyway. I might as well thump." As he spoke, Casto had some kind of Russian iron "kettle bell" -- it looked like a remnant of a shipwreck -- right next to his locker. "I used to run on treadmills in the offseason, do distance running," Casto said. "I stopped that. It was lunges, shuffles, stuff for explosiveness. Ninety minute workouts. Here's the guy he worked out with: Dave McHenry.
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