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Posted at 7:14 PM ET, 02/28/2011

The Nationals look sharp, and other notes from Game 1

By Adam Kilgore

desmond throw.jpg

Bryce Harper's dispiriting debut, naturally, will receive the brunt of attention compared to the rest of the proceedings today at Digital Domain Park. But Harper's two strikeouts may have been the only blemish for the Nationals in their 9-3 win over the Mets.

Last year, the Nationals began the spring with 11 consecutive losses, earned with rotten pitching and sloppy play. It's just one game - one spring training game - but today was the polar opposite. The Nationals took extra bases. They bunted for hits. Their bullpen retired the final 11 batters of the game.

During initial workouts, Nationals officials drilled into players a theme of hustling. For one game, they adhered.

"That's kind of the message that got delivered to us in spring training early on, before games started," shortstop Ian Desmond said. "We just carried it out. Everyone pretty much hustled today we picked up a couple extra bases. Hopefully, for the rest of spring training, we continue to do the same thing."

In many ways, Desmond set the tone for the Nationals' crisp performance. In the first inning, he clobbered a fly ball to the warning track in center, and as Angel Pagan gave, it seemed the ball would either be caught or creep over the fence. But when the ball ricocheted off Pagan's glove, Desmond had already almost reached second base. He slid into third with a triple.

In his third at-bat, Desmond lined to right. Nick Evans made a diving attempt but couldn't corral the ball. Desmond, having bolted out of the box, motored into second with a double. When Michael Morse flied to right, he tagged up and went to third, beating the throw with another slide.

The Nationals' hustle showed up elsewhere, too. Wilson Ramos went from first to third, for example, on an error by second baseman Luis Castillo on a chopper. General Manager Mike Rizzo assembled this Nationals team hoping for a more athletic brand of baseball. While it's hazardous, if not foolish, to draw conclusions from the first game of spring, the Nationals enacted that vision today.

A couple other notes before wrapping up:

>>>Jesus Flores made his first appearance as a catcher in a major league game since May 9, 2009, when a foul tip dinged his right shoulder and led to excruciating injuries and rehab. He pinch-hit for Jesus Flores in the fifth and then caught the remainder of the game. Flores went 0 for 3 with two strikeouts and a pop up, but it was "a milestone," Riggleman said, for him to even take the field.

"He looked fine back there, blocked some balls well," Riggleman said. "It's all coming back together for him, but it's good to see him back there."

>>>Nationals pitchers combined for 10 strikeouts, four in three innings by starter Chad Gaudin and two in one inning by left-handed reliever Doug Slaten. Relievers Slaten, Todd Coffey and Adam Carr pitched consecutive 1-2-3 innings.

>>>After results came back for reliever Cla Meredith's arthrogram, it is "undetermined as to whether he will need surgery," Riggleman said. If Meredith needed surgery on his right elbow, it would be "significant," Riggleman said. Given the circumstances, it seems likely that, should Meredith require surgery, it would be Tommy John ligament-replacement surgery.

By Adam Kilgore  | February 28, 2011; 7:14 PM ET
 
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Next: For Bryce Harper, no rush to judgment

Comments

Jesus Flores made his first appearance as a catcher in a major league game since May 9, 2009, when a foul tip dinged his right shoulder and led to excruciating injuries and rehab. He pinch-hit for Jesus Flores in the fifth and then caught the remainder of the game.
_________________________________________

He pinch hit for himself? Is that one of those Spring Training rules?

Posted by: TimDz | February 28, 2011 7:18 PM | Report abuse

"Jesus Flores made his first appearance as a catcher in a major league game since May 9, 2009, when a foul tip dinged his right shoulder and led to excruciating injuries and rehab. He pinch-hit for Jesus Flores in the fifth and then caught the remainder of the game. "

Tomorrow, Riggleman will double switch out Jesus Flores and bring in Jesus Flores. It's a whole new ballgame this year.

Posted by: nunof1 | February 28, 2011 7:30 PM | Report abuse

Having seen the play on TV and heard Jesus scream and noting that he missed the better part of two seasons with the injury, I'm not sure it is accurate to say the foul tip 'dinged' Flores!

Posted by: Section314 | February 28, 2011 7:49 PM | Report abuse

Great job Nats ... keep it up!!!! Don't stop for nothin'!

Posted by: periculum | February 28, 2011 7:54 PM | Report abuse

section314:
True - In hindsight, it was more like that foul-tip demolished his shoulder. I'm just glad to see Flores finally back playing baseball with the Nationals.

Good games today from Desmond, Bernadina, Ramos, & Morse on the offensive side (9 of 14 hits), and the bullpen (6IP, 4H, 1ER, 6K, 1BB).

Posted by: BinM | February 28, 2011 8:04 PM | Report abuse

Dinged him? He was beside himself!

Posted by: Section3mysofa | February 28, 2011 8:10 PM | Report abuse

Think of the money you could save with him on the bench. Why, one Jesus Flores, carefully used, could last a family a lifetime!

Posted by: Section3mysofa | February 28, 2011 8:13 PM | Report abuse

You can conclude nothing from one game but certain players can set a tone, play hard and smart,hustle know the game situation and know your opponents weakness. This team can exceed expectations the Ryan Zimmerman's the Jayson Werth's must become leader's not only in words but in deed's.

Posted by: dargregmag | February 28, 2011 8:51 PM | Report abuse

dargramps:

Tomarrow, the big boys (RZim, Werth, LaRoche, Pudge) should see some action. We'll see how that plays against the Mets "roadies", and hope for the best.

Posted by: BinM | February 28, 2011 9:25 PM | Report abuse

Before coming to any conclusions about Flores, I want to see what happens when they try to run on him. Hoping to see him gun down a few would-be base stealers.

Posted by: gilbertbp | February 28, 2011 9:50 PM | Report abuse

What a pleasure it was to see the Nats on the field in a game, win or lose (but winning is so much better, anytime.)

Please cut AK a little slack. I'm sure he's writing fast, and keep in mind that all the posts he does are in addition to what a beat writer had to do just a few years ago (and for no more pay -- you can bank on that)

Posted by: nats24 | March 1, 2011 12:20 AM | Report abuse

Hear hear on both counts, Nats24!

Posted by: NatAlbert | March 1, 2011 12:34 AM | Report abuse

And just out of curiosity, what's the over/under on the number of "Hu's on first" jokes being bandied about during Mets games this ST?

Posted by: NatAlbert | March 1, 2011 12:37 AM | Report abuse

No surprise to see Desmond set the tone by hustling a double into a triple at the outset or Bernie's performance at bat and on the bases, but how about Ramos on the basepaths? This is a guy who, according to Baseball America, is a "well-below-average runner" and has had conditioning issues. I guess an average or even just a below-average runner would have scored from first on Castillo's error and would have already been in the dugout by the time Murphy's throw crossed the plate. Guess we'll just have to settle for what we've got.

Posted by: CapPeterson1 | March 1, 2011 5:03 AM | Report abuse

While the Nats are getting me excited, I'd like to take the time to thank one Adam Kilgore. The posts on the journal have actually been more informative and numerous than I'd come to expect of late. This has become the first place I check in the morning and evening since camp began in earnest. Other than the occasional need for a copy editor, the last week has made this a fun place to visit. Keep up the enthusiasm, Adam. I for one, appreciate it.

Posted by: Dougie3 | March 1, 2011 6:04 AM | Report abuse

Yay for the return of pro sports!

Posted by: alex35332 | March 1, 2011 8:03 AM | Report abuse

I knew the Nats had a lot of guys named Zimmerman(n), but I had no idea we were sitting on two Jesus Flores.

Posted by: js_edit | March 1, 2011 10:50 AM | Report abuse

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