Nats spring training: Success and fist bumps

Ryan Zimmerman in bats in the cage while Adam LaRoche waits his turn. (WTOP/Jonathan Warner)

VIERA, Fla. – “It takes a great deal of stamina to pursue success.”

That’s the message of the day from Nationals manager Matt Williams for Thursday, Feb. 20, the day the Nats held their first full-team practice.

Williams says it went very well, and that everyone was enthusiastic. At this time of spring, he says, it’s all about fundamentals. He’s emphasizing defense and asking the players to trust the process and that it will benefit the team in the long run.

At the first full-team meeting this morning, he reminded the players that they were 13th in the league in fielding last year. He brought in a defensive coordinator, and Mark Weidemaier is running infield drills.

Danny Espinosa spent most of his time today as shortstop. That was his position before switching to second in recent years. Anthony Rendon took plays at third.

Both he and Espinosa are battling for the starting second-base job. Whoever doesn’t get it will probably be the backup infielder.

As for the pitchers, Williams says everyone appears to be on track and he especially pointed out newly acquired Doug Fister. Williams loves the way he throws and the angles that he takes. Everything Fister is throwing is down in the strike zone, and he is throwing strikes with all his pitches, even this early in spring training. Williams thought that was pretty impressive. He also liked what he saw from closer Rafael Soriano.

Jayson Werth is starting his 12th major league season, his fourth with the Nats. Matt Williams will be his third manager in Washington. Werth could find only one word to describe his new skipper: intense. He used the word a number of times.

Werth also praised Williams for being organized and efficient. He says Williams is well prepared and it’s exactly how the rest of the team portrays Williams. Werth says he made a good impression this morning.

Meanwhile, Bryce Harper would like to see the Nationals institute a new home-run celebration. He got the idea while watching the U.S. beat the Czech Republic in Olympic hockey Wednesday in the clubhouse. After each Team USA goal, the scorer skated by the bench, bumping gloves with the rest of the team.

Bryce turned to some of his teammates and said, “We should do that.” He would like to exchange fist bumps while moving down the outside of the dugout. Tyler Clippard immediately seconded the idea.

We’ll have to see whether Bryce can get the rest of the team to go along.

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