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A few nuggets (chicken and otherwise) from Viera

Let me be the first to offer you those magical words you've been waiting to hear: Greetings from Viera.

Having found the trusty Viera Starbucks to be too crowded this morning, I am hunkered down at the Chick-fil-A on the other side of I-95, poaching off the Wi-Fi from the adjacent Holiday Inn.

I got down here on Saturday night, missing out on things both good and bad back home. For the record, it's sweater weather here -- not that I'm complaining, mind you -- with temps in the 50s, climbing to a high of 62 later.

I came down early (pitchers and catchers don't officially report until Friday, and won't work out formally until Sunday) to do this story on Stephen Strasburg, but I've also spent a lot of time the past two mornings watching the informal workouts over at the minor league complex, and wanted to offer some observations for those of you starved for Nats news:

*I haven't been writing down the names of everyone who is here early, but I'll take a stab from memory. Inevitably, I'll leave someone out, so apologies in advance:

Pitchers: Collin Balester, Jason Bergmann, Matt Chico, Tyler Clippard, Jesse English, Logan Kensing, J.D. Martin, Garrett Mock, Scott Olsen, Craig Stammen, Drew Storen, Stephen Strasburg, Aaron Thompson, Tyler Walker, Jordan Zimmermann

Catchers: Devin Ivany, Wil Nieves

Position players: Roger Bernadina, Ian Desmond, Justin Maxwell, Nyjer Morgan, Ryan Zimmerman

Nats Alumni (and Viera residents): Ryan Church, Shawn Hill

*I haven't done a full injury-progess report, but Zimmermann (elbow surgery) was playing long toss and throwing free and easy, and Olsen (labrum surgery) threw a bullpen Monday and says he's feeling great.

*Chico, who had elbow surgery in 2008 and pitched in the minors last year, also said he is feeling great, and is pitching completely pain-free for the first time since 2005. Having "learned to pitch at 80" mph while struggling through elbow pain in 2007 and 2008, he says he's back up in the 90s now -- but also a much better and smarter pitcher for having gone through what he did.

*Ivany, who caught Strasburg's bullpen session Monday, said this about his first experience with the phenom: "It was impressive. It's the first time in my career I've caught somebody and thought to myself, 'Wow, I wouldn't want to face this guy.'" Ivany, who has been in the Nationals' organization since 2004, said he guessed Strasburg was throwing in the low to mid 90s, but added, "And he was barely throwing -- maybe 80 percent effort."

*Finally, I wanted to offer one other Strasburg nugget that didn't fit in the print-edition story. Paul Menhart, the pitching coach for Class A Potomac who served the same role for the Phoenix Desert Dogs in the Arizona Fall League, was telling me about Strasburg's progress during the AFL season and said that when Strasburg first got to him, he didn't know anything about how to use his repertoire of pitches properly, owing to the fact most college coaches call pitches from the dugout.

"So there wasn't that much learning going on [in college], in terms of the proper way to attack hitters' deficiencies while still pitching to his own strengths. But he asked me questions -- above-average intellectual question, the kind of stuff I love -- and we went over it often. And he enjoyed it.

"In college he was able to blow guys away. But in Arizona, against guys who are going to be in the big leagues within a year -- those are high-quality hitters, and he needed to throw his change-up more. It's nice to throw 100 [mph]. But guys catch up to 100. So I asked him to use his change-up often, and he was on board with it from day one. I think by the end, he learned he's going to have to use that pitch on a more regular basis to set up that powerful fastball."

By Dave Sheinin  |  February 16, 2010; 11:36 AM ET
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Next: Nats reach deal with Wang


I look for the team to be better,somewhat,than last year. So I am looking forward to the updates and Opening Day.

Posted by: ridgely1 | February 16, 2010 11:47 AM | Report abuse

Time for optimism. Go Nats!

Posted by: dand187 | February 16, 2010 11:48 AM | Report abuse

encouraging to see a few major league position players already in camp. Hopefully Strasburg stays open to learning about how to attack hitters and uses his entire skill set.

Posted by: bzerante1 | February 16, 2010 11:51 AM | Report abuse

Thanks Dave.

Posted by: natbiscuits | February 16, 2010 11:52 AM | Report abuse

Dave Sheinin wrote...Chico, who had elbow surgery in 2008 and pitched in the minors last year, also said he is feeling great, and is pitching completely pain-free for the first time since 2005. Having "learned to pitch at 80" mph while struggling through elbow pain in 2007 and 2008, he says he's back up in the 90s now -- but also a much better and smarter pitcher for having gone through what he did.

Wow, haven't thought of Matt Chico in the mix until I read that. There is a possible sleeper in the mix!

This is what a struggling team from the previous season really needs for a marked improvement is to have someone step up in a big way.

I am thinking Elijah Dukes will have the most positive turn of the position players and hoping one of the existing pitchers (not including Marquis) can turn a 15+ win year.

It obviously will be tough to get to 75 wins given the young pitching staff and the many question marks, but I am feeling this is a much better team than the Lasting Milledge at leadoff and Acta at the helm of circa April 2009.

Posted by: dmacman88 | February 16, 2010 11:54 AM | Report abuse

Hot off the wires via MLBTR via Ladson Twitter ... THe Nats have signed Wang....

Posted by: natbiscuits | February 16, 2010 12:02 PM | Report abuse

We signed Wang! Presser on Friday...

Posted by: thepostischeap | February 16, 2010 12:06 PM | Report abuse


This was a long time coming. SO glad you're there. Thanks for this.

Posted by: NatsNut | February 16, 2010 12:13 PM | Report abuse

The "pitching" wounded: Wang, Olsen, JZimm, Stammen, and Chico.
To some extent Stammen as swll.

Its great to take a flier out on guys but they aren't folks you rely on to work in the starting rotation ... relying on miracles was Bowden's MO wasn't it?

Posted by: periculum | February 16, 2010 12:16 PM | Report abuse

OK so thats:

Bruney, Rodriguez, Marquis, Capps, Walker, Kennedy, Slatten and Wang added to the 40 man from outside the organization. Plus Jaime and Severino added from within the organization. Or 25% turnover to the 40 man since the 2009 season ended. Plus Guardado, Peralta, Spier, Bruntlett, Duncan, and Taveras (among others) invited to spring training. There may not be any superstars on that list, but that is a substantial infllux of talent into the organization. There are at least 12 players (out of 16) on my list that stand some chance of making it onto the opening day roster. Probably no more than 6 or 7 actually do, but that is still a 20-25% turnover of the roster - with qualified personnel. And each and everyone of them appears to be an upgrade over the people filling those slots last year.

Posted by: natbiscuits | February 16, 2010 12:21 PM | Report abuse

They HAD to sign Wang. Customized Wang jersey and T-shirt sales at the Nats website have been off the charts, and there's no way the Lerners would ever refund all that money.

Posted by: nunof1 | February 16, 2010 12:24 PM | Report abuse

oh vey .... some people can find a negative in anything. How consistent.

Posted by: natbiscuits | February 16, 2010 12:25 PM | Report abuse

There's no denying it that this WILL be a better ballclub than in 2009. The addition of Wang come May or June can only solidify the starting rotation - numerous baseball sources keep saying that Rizzo's not done searching out more starting pitching. One more SP should take the pressure off the kids...Can't wait for things to shake out in ST !!!! Go Nats

Posted by: MTLNatsPatsHabsFAN | February 16, 2010 12:27 PM | Report abuse

Would be hilarious if Rizzo introduced Wang with a Rodney Dangerfield impersonation.

Posted by: shanks1 | February 16, 2010 12:29 PM | Report abuse


No matter how you analyze it, sideways, upside down ... in the mirror ... they have really only upgraded setup guys. They have many more possibilities, some intriguing. In terms of even a closer the jury is still has to be out, fortunately Storen looks to not be far from major league ready.

But at starter they have not really done much ... Marquis and Lannan do not a top of the starting rotation make. Other than
that they are betting on injured (some seriously) guys to come back? Chico, Olsen, Wang, JZimm, and even Stammen. This can't possibly inspire anyone's confidence that a .500 season is in the offing?

Posted by: periculum | February 16, 2010 12:31 PM | Report abuse

Shawn Hill is in camp. They could sign him as well. ;)

Posted by: periculum | February 16, 2010 12:32 PM | Report abuse

Love all the "feeling greats' and "throwing easies" from the rehabbing guys. Ahhh, spring training is in the air. Soon, the "lost x pounds of fat and gained y pounds of muscle", the "new mental apporach" and "the trial by fire has helped so much" and the like will follow along. Here's to hoping it all to be true!

Posted by: dfh21 | February 16, 2010 12:38 PM | Report abuse

I thought some other team (Toronto?) has signed Shawn Hill to a minor league deal already. He's only in camp because he lives in Viera year-round, like Church and Bergmann, perhaps others too. Soon he'll be off to wherever he's really supposed to be.

Posted by: nunof1 | February 16, 2010 12:41 PM | Report abuse

periculum, if you do not think this roatation is better then last tears then I don't know what to tell you. Is it the Yanks or Sox? Obviously not, but to say we have not upgraded our pitching staff is ludicrous. Maybe Capps will turn out to be Hanrahan, maybe not, but at least with Bruney we have a fall back option. Still, if you want to see the worst then go ahead and see it.

I LOVE to hear that Zimm, Olsen and Chico are pain free... and while they have a long road ahead of them, this is much better then the proverbial 'just some tightness' post we all dread to read.

Posted by: SCNatsFan | February 16, 2010 12:47 PM | Report abuse

Good news re. Wang. Here's to an uneventful rehab and a healthy future for him.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | February 16, 2010 12:54 PM | Report abuse

(Waiting for the first Wang pun to arrive.)

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | February 16, 2010 12:55 PM | Report abuse


You're also a guest at that Holiday Inn next to the Chik-fil-A, right? In Florida, accessing someone else's wifi network without authorization can be a third degree felony.

I'm sure that you didn't mean to say "poaching," and you have their permission to use the free wifi for Holiday Inn guests...

Posted by: wahoo2x | February 16, 2010 12:59 PM | Report abuse

Now that Wang is signed, it makes me realize how lucky the Nats are to have Jason Marquis on the team. Jason can help him find the good Chinese restaurants....

Posted by: ramgut | February 16, 2010 1:10 PM | Report abuse

wang zoom go the fireworks

Posted by: bford1kb | February 16, 2010 1:11 PM | Report abuse

I just hope Wang will be able to stick to his regimen. I think Wang will have to go by feel. Nats are finally showing .... oh never mind. I was just trying to make 1a happy with .... must stop now.... i feel so ashamed.

Posted by: natbiscuits | February 16, 2010 1:14 PM | Report abuse

Where's Austin Powers when you need him ...

Posted by: natbiscuits | February 16, 2010 1:17 PM | Report abuse

While the team looks markedly improved, I worry about that brutal April schedule. If they can negotiate a.500 record thru that, who knows what the possibilities could be?

Posted by: cokedispatch | February 16, 2010 1:20 PM | Report abuse

Would be hilarious if Rizzo introduced Wang with a Rodney Dangerfield impersonation.

Posted by: shanks1 | February 16, 2010 12:29 PM

And if Wang showed up at the presser with a camera around his neck...

Posted by: TimDz | February 16, 2010 1:21 PM | Report abuse

getting ready to light up st pitching with his ole buddy manny for the tribe

Posted by: bford1kb | February 16, 2010 1:22 PM | Report abuse

I really thought we would have more weekday day games, but I only see one in April, one in July, and one in September. I love playing hooky for a weekday day game!

Posted by: poncedeleroy | February 16, 2010 3:25 PM | Report abuse

The most exciting news this spring is the opening of a Five Guys in Viera Town Center! Chick-fil-a is an upgrade, too, but nobody goes there, it's too crowded. Actually, Five Guys stays crowded too.

Posted by: Section314 | February 16, 2010 8:08 PM | Report abuse

Yogi, is that you? ;-)


Chick-fil-a is an upgrade, too, but nobody goes there, it's too crowded.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | February 16, 2010 10:27 PM | Report abuse

Hill is indeed Toronto property, but isn't he only about 3 months removed from his second Tommy John surgery (they think they found the actual problem this time)? Can he be throwing already?

I've got a soft spot for the guy - he started my family's first in-person Nats game. How's he look?

Posted by: zimbar | February 17, 2010 7:41 AM | Report abuse

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