Breaking down two days of bad Nationals pitching
Well, 36 runs, 47 hits, 14 walks, and seven home runs later, the Washington Nationals pitching staff is off to an 0-3 start in spring training. Those numbers, on the surface, are pretty bleak.
"It can be a little deflating, you know?" Manager Jim Riggleman said. "Get in guys heads and all that. But we just kind of break it down to each individual rather than -- we're looking for individual performances out of a group that will eventually form a team."
That last part of that statement is what's most important -- a group that will eventually form a team. The Nationals pitching staff has been beat around for two days, and that's never good, no matter when or who's out there. But take a look at the parties responsible for the team's 12.75 ERA:
Luis Atilano (1 IP, 4 ER)
Collin Balester (2, 1)
Miguel Batista (2, 2)
Jason Bergmann (1, 1)
Brian Bruney (1, 2)
Matt Capps (1, 2)
Tyler Clippard (1, 0)
Jesse English (1, 1)
Victor Garate (2/3, 2)
Eddie Guardado (1, 3)
Logan Kensing (1, 0)
J.D. Martin (2, 0)
Shairon Martis (1-1/3, 6)
Garrett Mock (2, 0)
Joel Peralta (2/3, 3)
Doug Slaten (1, 0)
Ryan Speier (1, 1)
Craig Stammen (1-1/3, 3)
Ron Villone (1/3, 3)
Josh Wilkie (2/3, 0)
The majority of those pitchers will not be part of a group that will eventually form a team anywhere but Syracuse or Harrisburg. The only guys who are locks or near-locks to make the team are Bruney, Capps and Clippard. It's possible that not one member of the starting rotation has thrown a pitch yet. The pitchers with the most realistic chance of cracking the starting rotation - Mock and Martin - both pitched well, especially Martin. Take away the spring training fodder, maybe sub in John Lannan and Jason Marquis for Victor Garate and Luis Atilano, and it doesn't look as bad. Plus it's, you know, March 5.
"We're trying to get ahead throwing strikes, and they just came up and started slashing," pitching coach Steve McCatty said. "You can look great in spring training coming out with a breaking ball on the first pitch. But I want them to get comfortable throwing quality strikes, start hitting their spots.
"To sit here and say I'm happy with it, I can't say that," McCatty said. "We've walked too many. That's part of it. The guys that are trying to make an impression, you do a little too much. You overthrow a little too much. Stammen's pumped up because he feels good, he overthrows the ball too much. I expect after one or two rounds, when they go out there the second time, I expect it to calm down. And then we're going to mix in more breaking balls and all that kind of good stuff.
"Am I concerned? I am. Nobody is ever happy when, what's our ERA, 12-something right now? It's spring training. That's not an excuse or lets you off the hook, but it is what it is. Usually your best pitchers are your starters. Once we start getting through 4, 5, 6 innings with those guys, it'll be a different story. I fully expect us to do well. I do."
So that was probably a deeper look than the sample size deserved. The point is pretty obvious: The Nationals pitching has been downright pathetic, but it's too early to have any significant performance-based worry about it, especially about the guys who have been throwing.
* * *
Speaking of J.D. Martin: I caught up with him today in Viera before heading to Lake Buena Vista. It's a bit stale by now, but these were his main impressions of his nice first outing in Jupiter, in which he retired all six batters he faced on 19 pitches, 14 of which were strikes.
"It's good to get that first one out of the way," Martin said. "Once I got out there and got started, I kind of fell back into my normal groove. It felt good, man. I was trying to throw nice and easy."
Ivan Rodriguez caught Martin, which "was awesome," he said. "I was definitely looking forward to it." Rodriguez called for a pretty even mix of Martin's four pitches - fastball, curveball, slider and changeup. "I think it was good for my first outing to go out there and throwing everything, get a feel for all of them," he said.
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