Easy like Sunday morning
Every day, Jim Riggleman focuses on one fundamental piece of team defense and then runs the Nationals through the drill. Yesterday, as you see above, they worked on run downs. Elijah Dukes sent the team into stitches at one point, when he avoided a tag by stopping and dropping to his chest. "I didn't want to break that one out so early," Dukes said.
This morning, be sure to read Dave Sheinin's moving piece about new closer Matt Capps coming to Washington following the death of his father. Despite Capps's 5.80 ERA and eight losses last year, Riggleman has annointed him the likely closer. But Riggleman also wants Brian Bruney and Sean Burnett prepared. "In an ideal situation, I'd like for all three of those guys to be comfortable pitching in the ninth inning," Riggleman said. "Somebody has to take the ball that first day or two, whenever we get a lead in the ninth. But as we go, I want other people to be comfortable with the ball in the ninth inning."
Elsewhere, Willie Harris feels irked about not being able to compete for an everyday job. Josh Willingham didn't arrive yesterday, and he may not for a few days after the birth of his son last Tuesday night. Mike Rizzo shared some thoughts about 2010. Old friend Felipe Lopez surfaced with a one-year contract to play for the Cardinals. Joe Beimel says he won't be back with the Rockies and is weighing an offer from the Mets. Last year, he didn't sign with the Nationals until March 18.
The New York Post rolls out its Stephen Strasburg story. Here's guessing you might see several more of these as spring churns along. Yesterday, Strasburg said he has not been surprised by the attention he's receiving from the media and that he appreciated how the Nationals media relations staff helped prepare him. Strasburg is polite in interviews and stays miles away from controversy or self-praise. Take away his answers to reporters, and Strasburg is one of the quietest players in the clubhouse, acting like any other rookie until he takes the mound (or checks his bank statement). Teammates have noticed his deferential approach.
"He's been dealing with that stuff for two years," third baseman Ryan Zimmerman said. "It's unfortunate that he has to deal with it, because it shouldn't be that way. He hasn't done anything, and now he's got to deal with everything already. But, you know, he handles it well. He's a nice kid. He works hard.
"He handles it the right way. Obviously, he's conscious of all the veteran guys around here. He knows what he's doing. He's a good kid."
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