Zimmerman heats up, Maxwell slumps, Marquis makes progress
I'll have a longer post later on about Craig Stammen and the start that may have solidified his spot in the Nationals' rotation. First, some quick hits from the Nationals' fifth win in seven games:
Ryan Zimmerman is on fire: Early this spring, despite some gaudy early numbers, Ryan Zimmerman felt like he wasn't yet locked in. "I'm getting to the point now where I feel almost there," Zimmerman said Monday. "I'm happy with what I've done. I'm trying to get back to where I was last year and try and do that for a whole season instead of three-quarters of a season."
"Almost" there? Zimmerman went 2 for 3 with two home runs Monday, with the only out being a line drive to right field. It is easy to overlook Zimmerman this time of year because you pretty much know what you're going to get once the season arrives. It's worth noting how on point he's been early. He's batting .457 with a 1.443 OPS, which is, you know, pretty good.
"This is right where he ended last year," Manager Jim Riggleman said.
Zimmerman was typically subdued about his hot start. About his first homer Monday, a high blast that rode the wind, he said, "That's an out during the season." He allowed that he feels good, but he doesn't pay attention to the results.
"I don't put any stock into anything in spring," Zimmerman said. "As long as I can feel comfortable and, more important, stay healthy, then I think you're going to be ready. Once the season starts, you are who you are."
Justin Maxwell is running out of time: Justin Maxwell could be a wonderful spring training story. He's a local kid. His attitude toward everyone he meets is, to borrow from scouting jargo, plus-plus. He has a chance to become a major contributor after the release of Elijah Dukes.
The only thing lacking is production, which happens to be the most important thing. Maxwell, after an 0-for-3 afternoon Monday, is 4 for 39 (.103) on the spring. Maxwell seemingly has the tools to play at this level, but the only knock is whether he can be a major league hitter. ("The jury's out," one scout opined the other day.) If he wants to make the roster, he needs to prove it now.
"He's probably pressing a little bit," Riggleman said. "We keep putting him out there, and the player has to win the job."
Mike Morse has also tailed after a fast start, a drop-off due in large part to the four days he missed with strep throat. Morse went 1 for 4 on Monday, but his on-base percentage is still at .282 for the spring.
"He's may be taking a few pitches that he was being a little more aggressive on earlier," Riggleman said. "He's competing for a job. He needs to be producing. There's about six or eight guys there competing for a couple spots. They're all competing for those jobs."
Jason Marquis still has some work to do: Jason Marquis summarized his start as "a step in the right direction," which was both accurate and not wholly encouraging. He improved from his first two starts, but he still allowed seven hits, a walk, and three runs in 4 2/3 innings. He needed 90 pitches, 59 of which were strikes.
"It was better," Marquis said. "It's not where I want it to be. I was making more quality pitches than I was last time. A little more life on the ball. I'm going to keep working until I get it right."
Marquis wants to start feeling more comfortable in his delivery and get a better feel for his breaking ball in particular. He's got two more spring training starts before he starts the second game of the Nationals' season.
"At least here, you're allowed the leniency if something doesn't feel right," Marquis said. "That's why we're here."
March 22, 2010; 5:47 PM ET
Categories: Jason Marquis , Justin Maxwell , Ryan Zimmerman
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