3/25/2014 6:41 P.M. ET
Strasburg much more comfortable with slider
By Andrew Simon / MLB.com
VIERA, Fla. -- Right-hander Stephen Strasburg came into Spring Training wanting to develop his new pitch -- a slider -- and work on controlling opposing baserunners out of the stretch. After making his fifth and final Grapefruit League start on Tuesday afternoon against the Mets, he feels more comfortable on both counts.
When the 25-year-old takes the mound against the Mets again for Opening Day on March 31 at Citi Field, he expects to bring the slider with him from Florida. He isn't getting rid of his fastball, changeup or curveball, but he believes he can throw the slider in any situation.
"I think it was a natural pitch that I think could really help my game," he said. "Just based on what guys were doing off me in years past, it's kind of an equalizer. They can't really sell out on a single pitch anymore."
Strasburg was pleased with Tuesday's outing, although he wasn't at his most effective. He allowed three runs on five hits over 5 2/3 innings, walking two and striking out seven. The Mets did all of their damage in the third, highlighted by Travis d'Arnaud's leadoff homer, which came on a hanging curve and rode the wind over the left-field wall.
But Strasburg acknowledged that his pending Opening Day matchup with the Mets -- in a game that counts -- affected his pitch selection and the way he went after hitters. He won't have to worry about holding anything back on Monday.
Williams gets another call overturned via replay
VIERA, Fla. -- Center fielder Denard Span knew he'd caught Andrew Brown's line drive in the top of the eighth inning of Tuesday's game against the Mets at Space Coast Stadium. Thanks to instant replay, the umpires eventually agreed.
With a runner on first and two outs, Brown hit a liner to center field off reliever Ryan Mattheus. Span raced in, reached down and made an awkward, tumbling catch. The umpires initially ruled it a hit, with Josh Satin moving from first to third.
"I got it, and I saw [shortstop Ian Desmond] and [second baseman Anthony Rendon] screaming for me to throw the ball just in case they didn't call it a catch," Span said. "You've got to keep playing, because the runner was still going. But yeah, I knew I had caught the ball."
Manager Matt Williams saw Span's reaction and left the dugout to ask for a review.
"His reaction told me we needed to have them take another look," Williams said. "The players know."
Right fielder Jayson Werth was so confident the call would be changed that he got his gear and went to the on-deck circle to get ready to lead off the bottom of the inning.
Indeed, the umpires reversed the ruling, in one minute and 21 seconds. It was the second call Williams has gotten overturned this spring thanks to Major League Baseball's expanded replay system. It was the first time for Span.
"As long as they're going to get it right, I think it's worthwhile," Span said. "It felt a little bit like NFL Sunday, I'm going to be honest with you. You're kind of waiting for the ruling on the field. Everybody is standing around. Once he said it was a catch, I don't know. Just watching football, it felt similar to that. I knew I caught it."
Williams has abundance of top-of-the-order hitters
VIERA, Fla. -- Manager Matt Williams believes he has a problem, but it's not one for which he's likely to get much sympathy from his peers.
"One of the issues that we face is [that] we have a lot of really good hitters, so you worry about offending guys, putting them too low in the lineup," Williams said. "But that's a good thing to have."
Going into his first season as manager, Williams has an idea of his preferred batting order, but he also expects it to evolve based on any number of factors. Under Davey Johnson last year, Washington used 108 lineups, not counting pitchers.
The No. 2 spot was frequently in flux. Ten players started there, and five hit there at least 16 times. Ryan Zimmerman led the way, with 42, followed by then-rookie Anthony Rendon, with 33.
Williams on Tuesday called Rendon a "prototypical" No. 2 batter because of his ability to get on base, hit to the opposite field and still drive in runs. As more of a free swinger, Ian Desmond might not carry that same label, but Williams is prepared to use him in that spot without tempering that aggressiveness. The only exception could be asking Desmond to take a pitch early in a count to clear the way for a stolen-base attempt.
"We can't take away from his game," Williams said. "His game's pretty good as it is, so it's a question of where he's going to hit in the lineup. If he's hitting second, we're not going to change him. We can't. Because ultimately, he won't do well. So I want these guys to be free to play and do what they do."
• Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann will start the Nationals' final two Grapefruit League games, on Wednesday and Thursday, respectively, before the club heads to Washington for an exhibition game against the Tigers on Saturday. They also are on track to start the second and third games of the regular season, respectively.