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AND THEY'RE OFF ....

[March 3rd] -- Shortly after the Nationals' first exibition game, messages began to appear on team bulletin boards that took a poke-in-the-ribs, tongue-in-the-cheek swipe at "the plan," as in "Gee, the plan seems to be working."

Well, when I can't identify seven of the names in the box score, I'd say that the game wasn't a real representation of what the team can do.

And, it was the first game of the spring, for crying out loud.

I would have much preferred a 12-7 win, but really, it didn't matter. This was the Dodger's second game and the Nationals' first, and it showed. They'll get better.

Observations from the game:
First, take a look at this picture of Shawn Hill. Thank goodness that this is a spring-only uniform that won't be used in play once the regular season starts. I've been waiting for two weeks now for that hat to grow on me, but it hasn't. And it won't. I still like the general design of the jersey, but the "W" seems too small and too low on the front. A number on the bottom left would certainly add to the overall look as well. Also, I do-not-like the team wearing their red batting helmets with the blue hats and jerseys. It looks tacky ..... Felipe Lopez played three innings and didn't make an error at second. He didn't get a hit either .... Ryan Zimmerman's mammoth home run to centerfield was aided by the wind, but it was going to get out anyway. I still worry about Zim having a sophomore slump, but I've got to say, his performance today allays some of those fears .... Jesus Flores got a hit in his first at-bat of the spring, and his first at-bat as a player guaranteed to make a major league roster; that's got to give him confidence .... Nook Logan's line score shows he went 0-3, but really, a bouncer to short was called an error on the Dodgers' Wilson Valdez, but he would have beaten it out even if he'd have fielded it cleanly .... When Ryan Church lined his double into right-center, Dodger's announcer Charlie Steiner said that he'd talked to several Nationals' coaches who told him that the team loves what Church has done this spring .... Chris Snelling had a g'day, going 1-1 and throwing out Andy LaRoche at the plate .... Manny Acta said it is time for catcher Brian Schneider to take charge behind the plate; was that before or after he chucked the ball into centerfield on a steal attempt in the first inning? .... Larry Broadway went 1-3 with a single, but he also grounded into an inning ending double-play in the second with a runner on third .... It was nice to see Alex Escobar get a hit as the DH -- I really think that he still has the potential to hit .300-25-100 if he can ever stay healthy .... D'Angelo Jimenez had an interesting day, going 2-2 with 2 errors .... in fact both starting shortstops, Jimenez and Wilson Valdez, had 2 hits and 2 errors .... The "official box score" lists the Nats' second 3rd baseman of the day as Kory Castro. Brother of Bernie?

The pitching was .... well .... off and on. Shawn Hill and Chris Michalak were on while everyone else was off. Hill pitched 2 innings, giving up 2 hits and no earned runs. Michalak gave up just one hit and a run in his two innings. Chris Schroeder gave up 3 runs in an inning, but to be fair, the guy had just lost his grandmother and was on a plane for home before the post-game interviews began. Luis Martinez, who Charley Steiner kept calling a "big, big man" gave up a run in his first game back from Japan. Jesus Colome - who wasn't good enough to remain with the Devil Rays - joined the one inning, one run club as well. The only real clinker in the group was Emiliano Fruto, who many (including me) believe is going to be a studly star one day soon. Fruto game up 4 runs in 2/3rds of an inning and has a 54.00 ERA going into tomorrow's game. His "rep" in Seattle was that he had great stuff, that he struck out a lot of batters while walking a lot of batters. Yep. He walked two and struck out two. Same ol' same ol', at least for now.

On the Dodger's side, former Oriole Larry Bigbie went 3-3 with two long homers. James Loney, who is a much better 1st baseman than Nomar Garciaparra, went 1-2 with 2 RBI's. And the pitching - save Mark Hendrickson - was outstanding. Hendrickson gave up 7 runs in 1.2 innings while the rest of the Dodgers' pitchers gave up just 6 hits and no runs in 7.1 innings.

Let's get back to Charlie Steiner for a moment. Now, I love the guy. Dating back to the late 1980's on ESPN, he's been my favorite baseball broadcaster, and his show on XM is can't miss radio. That said, I think the guy was snockered on Friday. His words were slurred and he kept getting the names of the players wrong. At one point, he had "Brian" Schroeder pitching to "Chris" Schneider. Huh?

The only negative - at least from my perspective - was the baserunning. It was shades of 2006 all over again. Just like last year, the Nationals are looking like bush-leaguers on the basepaths. In the name of "agressiveness," Nook Logan was thrown out at home and Alex Escobar was out at second trying to stretch a single. They just can't keep doing this.

Overall, it was a good first day.


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