Washington Nationals

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MLB.com's Gameday Audio provides me with the second chance this "Spring" to hear for myself how the Washington Nationals are progressing with less than a month left before the March 30th Opening Night at Nationals Park in DC.

Today it's the Washington Nationals and St. Louis Cardinals in an afternoon tilt from the Nationals' Spring Training home, Space Coast Stadium in Viera, Florida, which will feature, for the first two innings at least, Tim Redding on the mound for the Nationals against the Cards' Braden Looper. The Nationals' starting lineup:

Felipe Lopez SS
Willie Harris 2B
Ryan Zimmerman 3B
Nick Johnson 1B
Wily Mo Pena LF
Elijah Dukes RF
Matt Whitney DH
Justin Maxwell CF
Wil Nieves C

With Shawn Hill reportedly suffering "right forearm tightness" according to MLB.com's Bill Ladson's article, "Notes: Arm trouble shuts down Hill", and a diagnosis still a day or so away, starts like today's for Redding or yesterday's by right-hander Garrett Mock (1.2 IP, 2 hits, 3 runs, 1 earned, 2 walks, 2.45 ERA) take on an added importance as a spot in the bottom of the rotation might soon be up for grabs. Redding retires the Cardinals in order in the top of the first. As for Hill, in Bill Ladson's article, "Nats Notes: Shell impresses in rare start", Mr. Ladson quotes Nationals' GM Jim Bowden who states:

"The nerve has already been transposed, the ligament has been replaced. There is no medical reason to think that it's anything more than tendinitis."

John Patterson passed his first test of the season with his (2.0 IP, 2 hit, 1 run, 2 K, 1 HR allowed) outing on Saturday, and Patterson told MLB.com's Bill Ladson in an article entitled, "Patterson smiling, arm feeling good", that:

"'I knew what my game plan was for today. If I gave up three home runs, that was fine, because I knew how my approach was going to be today.

"'I'm throwing pain-free. I'm just working on my mechanics and trying to have fun...I had a smile on my face all day today. I'm just excited and ready to get to the mound.'"

THE KIDS CALL HIM ZIM!!! Ryan Zimmerman hits a two-out double off Braden Looper to give Nick Johnson an RBI opportunity in the first inning. Johnson's bat breaks and the ball rolls slowly to first. No score after one. Kory Casto is on the field at third after the first inning, the announcers promise to look into the reason for pulling Zimmerman after 1 AB...

But now it appears MLB.com has crashed....

...Back up in the third inning as Justin Maxwell singles off Braden Looper to start the bottom of the frame. A hit and run single from Wil Nieves allows Maxwell to take third. Felipe Lopez grounds into a force at second, scoring Maxwell for a 1-0 Nationals lead, but Lopez gets caught stealing with Willie Harris at bat, and Harris grounds out to first, 1-0 Nationals after three.

Jason Stanford pitches a scoreless top of the fourth in his second outing this Spring. Cardinals' non-roster invitee pitcher Mitchell Boggs, a 5th Round St. Louis pick in the '05 Draft, walks Kory Casto to start the Nationals' fourth. Nick Johnson grounds into a double play. Wily Mo Pena flies out to Rick Ankiel in center to end the fourth inning of play. Stanford comes back out for a scoreless top of the fifth, still 1-0 Nationals.

Conspicuously absent so far this Spring...Dmitri Young, who has yet to appear in a game. According to Washington Post baseball writer Barry Svrluga's "Nationals Journal" entry from Saturday 3/1 entitled, "A newsy start to Saturday":

"Dmitri Young is not the lineup today against Baltimore because of a strain in his side and down his left quad. He said he did it swinging, and it might cost him three-four days."

Elijah Dukes takes Mitchell Boggs deep to left and...GONE!!...for a solo shot into the wind to lead off the fifth. So far this Spring Elijah Dukes is batting (.455 AVG, 1 HR, 1 RBI as of the 5th inning today). 2-0 Nationals after five. Nationals' righty Tristan Crawford strikes out the first two batters he faces, and gets Albert Pujols out with Rick Ankiel on first to end the top of the sixth inning.

A real good sign for Nationals' fans...as Nick Johnson legs out a double off Cardinals' righty Ryan Franklin and slides safely into second to lead off the bottom of the sixth. That's enough for today. Johnson's fine, but a pinch runner, Jorge Padilla, replaces him at second base. Wily Mo Pena flies out deep enough to right to allow Padilla to take third. Elijah Dukes works a walk. Jason Dubois, a former Chicago Cubs' prospect hits an RBI groundout. 3-0 Nationals.

Three hits off Tristan Crawford and two errors by the Nationals' defense in the seventh get the Cardinals on the board. 3-2 Nationals after six and a half. Stand up and stretch...

Nationals' lefty reliever Ray King makes his second appearance this Spring in the top of the eight, allowing a hit but no runs to preserve the Nationals' 3-2 lead through seven and a half...Saul "Sa-ool" Rivera comes on to close out the ninth for the Nationals and retires the Cardinals in order for a 3-2 Nationals win.
"I turned 30 three weeks ago - maybe 30 is the new 20," Redding said Monday after pitching three scoreless innings in the Washington Nationals' 3-2 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals. "I feel really good. My arm feels good; there are no aches, no pains."

The six-year major league veteran allowed three singles, striking out one and walking none.

"I think this year could be a special year not just for me, but for this whole team," he said.

Redding pulled a muscle in his neck last week and was scratched from a start against the Marlins in Jupiter. He felt no restrictions Monday, and was able to throw all of his pitches without discomfort.

"He kept the ball down at the knees and was able to throw his breaking ball over the plate, too," Washington manager Manny Acta said. "And I liked the velocity - he had some giddyup."

After struggling in Nationals camp last spring, Redding started the 2007 season at triple-A Columbus. In July, he was called up to Washington, where he finished 3-6 with a 3.64 ERA in 15 starts. Acta has said a starting job is Redding's to lose this spring.

St. Louis starter Braden Looper allowed one run and three hits in three innings, with one strikeout and no walks.

"His first time out there, I thought he threw the ball well," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. "He got three solid innings in - a good day of work."

Washington's Elijah Dukes hit a solo home run off Mitchell Boggs in the fifth.

Notes: Nationals starter Odalis Perez was to pitch in an accelerated game Tuesday at the team's training complex. Perez, a 30-year-old left-hander who was signed by Washington on Feb. 19, is unable to compete in exhibition games until he obtains a work visa.
- In December, Paul Lo Duca signed a one-year, $5 million contract to serve as the Washington Nationals' starting catcher. Yet when Tim Redding threw the first pitch of Monday's exhibition game against the St. Louis Cardinals, Lo Duca was inside Space Coast Stadium, enduring various exercises to help strengthen his injured left knee.