Notes: Williams shows he belongs
Guzman, Lopez play together for first time; Church patient
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Jerome Williams said that it was just another day at the ballpark on Saturday, but it was more than that for the Nationals' right-hander. He needed to show that he still belonged in the rotation.
In his previous two outings, Williams had a tough time throwing strikes. But Saturday was a different story against the Mets. Williams pitched four shutout innings as the Nationals routed the Mets, 13-1, at Tradition Field.
The outing assures that Williams is still in the mix for a spot in the rotation. Right-handers John Patterson and Shawn Hill are already set, and right-hander Jason Simontacchi and left-hander Matt Chico continue to show that they belong in the rotation.
Williams gave up two hits, struck out two batters and walked two others. He even picked off Shawn Green in the second inning. The only time runners were in scoring position was in that inning. The Mets had runners on first and second and two outs, but right-hander Chan Ho Park grounded out to end the inning.
"He kept the ball down, gave us a chance to score all those runs and I'm sure after scoring all those runs, he was able to relax," manager Manny Acta said of Williams.
Williams said he was relieved to show that he could be consistent on the mound.
"I felt good out there," Williams said. "First-pitch strikes were good. That's what I wanted to do."
Williams and catcher Brian Schneider had a different game plan to start the game. Instead of starting off with the fastball, Williams showed Mets leadoff hitter Jose Reyes, for example, the breaking balls.
"You have to do that sometimes," Williams said. "You can't always go out there and throw first pitch fastballs. Schneider made me real comfortable and I just felt comfortable throwing breaking balls."
Middle infield: Shortstop Cristian Guzman and second baseman Felipe Lopez played together for the first time this spring. While they did not turn any double plays, they communicated often about where they should play on the field.
"We didn't make the double play today, but we were talking throughout the game, and that's very important," Guzman said.
The game also marked the first time that Guzman, who missed the 2006 season with a right-shoulder injury, played defense for more than five innings and his big test came in the sixth. Mets outfielder Moises Alou hit a ground ball to deep short. Guzman backhanded the ball and easily threw Alou out.
"He is not a speedy runner, so I took my time making the throw," Guzman said. "I don't feel any pain. I feel good. The more I play, [the more I feel comfortable]."
Injury report: Outfielder Alex Escobar went 3-for-4, with two home runs in a Class A intrasquad game on Saturday, but Acta said that he doubts that Escobar will make the Opening Day roster because he is recovering slowly from his shoulder injury, which he sustained last August against the Braves.
"He is not making that much progress with his throwing program," Acta said. "At this point, I don't think he is going to be with us on Opening Day. Throwing-wise, he doesn't feel he is making much progress as he thought."
Escobar's absence most likely means that Chris Snelling is close to making the Nationals' 25-man roster as a backup. On Saturday, Snelling had another great game, going 3-for-5 with two solo home runs and four RBIs. Acta said he has no doubt that Snelling can be a valuable backup because of his work ethic.
"He gives you quality at-bats and he doesn't get cheated often," Acta said. "He is out of options, and he is having a great spring. He is helping himself -- big time."
He needed this game: Outfielder Ryan Church did something that rarely happened in the past. He didn't let the previous at-bat get the best of him.
In the first inning, home plate umpire Damien Beal called Church out on strikes. Church, a quiet man, argued the call. But in his next at-bat, an inning later, Church hit a three-run double off Park and had an RBI single two innings later off reliever Jorge Sosa. Overall, Church went 3-for-6 in the game.
"I was mad," Church said. "I thought the first at-bat was taken away from me. I got heated and I let him know about it, but it's part of the game. But the biggest thing is not to dwell on the first at-bat. It turned out that I got six at-bats today. I could have really wasted those other at-bats. In years past, I probably would have let it affect me."
Did you know? The Nationals are 3-0 against the Mets, but 2-10-1 against the rest of the league this spring.
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Coming up: The Nationals return to Space Coast Stadium on Sunday afternoon at 1:05 ET to play the Marlins for the first time this spring. Washington right-hander John Patterson will get the nod, while right-hander Anibal Sanchez goes on the mound for Florida. Patterson will make his first exhibition start since March 2. He has spent most of the time playing in the accelerated intrasquad games.
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.