Nats eager to bring winning baseball to DC
Washington set to contend in NL East after offseason additions
Nationals pitchers and catchers reported to Spring Training on Sunday and there was a different vibe in the locker room. It's not hard to figure out what's going on. For the first time in their history in D.C., the Nationals are expected to win.
It helps that they acquired lefty Gio Gonzalez in a trade with the Athletics this offseason. Washington also went into the free-agent market, adding Edwin Jackson and Brad Lidge to the pitching staff.
"Everybody is more upbeat and excited," right-hander Jordan Zimmermann said. "It's time to turn the page and put a winning ballclub in D.C. We have some key additions and I'm pretty excited to get going."
Manager Davey Johnson was busy in meetings for most of Sunday. He met with his coaching staff, and then had a sit down with the front office, which included general manager Mike Rizzo. Johnson, who is in his first full season as manager of the Nationals, is expected to address the media Monday.
Washington's position players don't have to report to camp until Thursday, but, excluding catchers, 11 position players were working in the batting cage. Jayson Werth and Ian Desmond were two of the players working on their swings. Full squad workouts are not until Saturday.
To Desmond, the position players are showing how excited they are to get the season started.
"Everybody feels like there is a certain energy about this season," he said. "We talked to each other during the offseason and everyone was chomping at the bit to get out here. It's nice to get in early, see where everyone is at. It's good to be around the guys again. I think that's the way all baseball players are. They are anxious to get back to that fraternity-type life style."
Nationals reliever Tyler Clippard remembers when it wasn't fun to be a member of the Nationals.
"I came into this organization in 2008 and a lot of things were in chaos," Clippard said. "[It was] not a highly-thought-of organization. Since that time, every year we have taken steps in the right direction. Now, we are to a point where people expect us to do good things. As a player who has been to the bottom, hopefully we can turn it 180 degrees around. It's a good feeling. As players, we are excited."
Drew Storen, who enters his second full season as Washington's closer, believes the Nationals have the personnel to be one of the best teams in the National League.
"We have the right guys to do it," Storen said. "That's the most important thing. We have talented guys, we have good, quality clubhouse guys. We have a lot of good veteran leadership."
Entering this season, the biggest question mark is Washington's offense. Last year, the Nationals were near the bottom of almost every offensive category. It didn't help that third baseman Ryan Zimmerman missed 61 games because of an abdominal injury.
In Zimmerman's absence, according to Desmond, the Nationals tried to do too much at the plate. With Zimmerman healthy, Desmond believes the offense will be better.
"With Zim being out, everyone kind of tried to do something that was beyond them," Desmond said. "Now that we have Zim healthy, our pitching staff is settled in, we are going to be in a lot of closer games. There isn't going to be a lot of pressure to overperform.
"We are moving in the right direction. That's from management. They are spending the money. They are bringing in the players, putting the pieces together, and we are a competitive ballclub. Other teams around the league know that. It's just a matter of us putting the time in during Spring Training and going into the season playing our type of baseball."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.