Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Roger Dean Stadium, spring home of both the Marlins and Cardinals.
Because we're so close to the end, the lineups are starting to have more resemblance to the one Jim Riggleman will trot out next week. Plenty of regulars on the trip today, including Ryan Zimmerman, Adam Dunn and Ivan Rodriguez. Also note Cristian Guzman is starting at shortstop.
The key guy to watch today, though, is Garrett Mock. The right-hander has gone from seemingly a lock to make the rotation as the Nats' No. 3 starter to suddenly battling for the No. 5 spot. Plain and simple, he needs to put together a nice outing today to make his final case for inclusion on the Opening Day roster.
Check back for updates along the way...
NATIONALS AT MARLINS
Roger Dean Stadium, Jupiter, Fla.
Gametime: 1:05 p.m.
Weather: Sunny, 71 degrees, Wind 11 mph LF to RF
CF Nyjer Morgan
SS Cristian Guzman
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam Dunn
LF Mike Morse
2B Adam Kennedy
C Ivan Rodriguez
RF Willy Taveras
P Garrett Mock
LF Chris Coghlan
CF Cameron Maybin
2B Dan Uggla
3B Mike Lamb
C Ronny Paulino
1B Gaby Sanchez
RF Bryan Petersen
SS Brian Barden
P Chris Volstad
11:45 a.m. -- Though Cristian Guzman is starting at shortstop, manager Jim Riggleman said he'll move to second base for at least a few innings today. Guzman also is slated to start at second base tomorrow against the Cardinals.
1:07 p.m. -- And away we go ... Nyjer Morgan takes a strike from Chris Volstad.
1:11 p.m. -- I think it's safe to say Ryan Zimmerman is ready for the regular season. Zim smoked a two-out double to left-center, raising his spring average to a stout .408 with 10 extra-base hits. Adam Dunn, not quite so ready for the season. After striking out to end the inning, Dunn is now batting .167.
1:23 p.m. -- Kind of a shaky start for Garrett Mock. He fell behind Chris Coghlan 3-1 before retiring him on a groundout. Gave up a double down the third-base line to Cameron Maybin. Struck out Dan Uggla looking at a nice pitch. But then walked Mike Lamb and uncorked a wild pitch to put runners on second and third. Managed to get out of it by getting Ronny Paulino to pop out. Scoreless after one.
1:42 p.m. -- Mock's philosophy all spring has been simple: Attack hitters. Well, he's not doing that so far today. He's fallen behind just about every Marlins batter, and that cost him in the second inning. Bryan Petersen singled on a 1-0 pitch. Mock then fell behind opposing pitcher Chris Volstad 2-0, then after throwing a strike served up a towering double off the left-field wall. The Nats might have nailed Petersen at the plate, but Cristian Guzman's throw (while on-line) had very little mustard on it. We keep hearing that Guzman has the ability to cut loose on a throw if he needs to. Well, we still haven't seen it yet, so either he hasn't needed to or he simply can't. Marlins lead, 1-0, after two.
1:53 p.m. -- OK, Guzman still can hit a little. He smoked a gap shot to right-center in the third, scoring Nyjer Morgan (who reached on an error) and then took off to stretch the hit into a triple. Maybe Guzy can just serve as a pinch-hitting specialist, a la Lenny Harris. We're now tied 1-1 in the bottom of the third.
2:06 p.m. -- Boy, Guzman is just figuring into a lot of stuff in this game so far. He booted a routine grounder off Dan Uggla's bat with one out in the third, and that opened the floodgates. Mock allowed a single to Mike Lamb, then a double to deep right-center to Ronny Paulino. Bryan Peterson also walked, though Mock got out of the inning without allowing any more runs. It's now 3-1 Marlins, though.
2:10 p.m. -- Adam Dunn reached on perhaps the strangest base hit you'll ever see. He skied a pop-up about 75 feet down the third-base line. Looked like a routine out. But then third baseman Mike Lamb either lost the ball in the sun or else just misjudged it because he slid across the baseline and made a weak attempt to stab the ball, which landed about 12 inches fair and then just stuck there, like a perfectly placed pitching wedge. For a guy hitting .167, Dunn will certainly take it.
2:22 p.m. -- Despite allowing another hit to Volstad (a leadoff single to right) Mock gets out of the fourth with no other damage. His line so far: 4 ip, 6 h, 3 r, 2 er, 2 bb, 3 k. Nats still trail, 3-1, after four.
2:44 p.m. -- Mock can't get out of the fifth inning. Lost all command of the strike zone, issuing three walks this inning (he's got five for the game). The bases are currently loaded with two outs, Brian Barden at the plate and Jason Bergmann in to get out of the jam. I'll post Mock's final line as soon as the inning is over, since he's responsible for all three baserunners.
2:48 p.m. -- Bergmann gives up a two-run single to Barden, then an RBI single to Volstad (who is 3-for-3 today!), with another run scoring when Nyjer Morgan's throw to third gets away and neither Ryan Zimmerman nor Bergmann chases down the loose ball. It's 7-1 Marlins, and Garrett Mock's final pitching line is not pretty: 4.2 ip, 7 h, 6 r, 5 er, 5 bb, 3 k.
2:55 p.m. -- Speaking of poor pitching performances ... Jason Bergmann faced six batters this inning and allowed singles to the first five. Marlins now lead 8-1 after five.
3:17 p.m. -- Mike MacDougal's return to the Nationals was not exactly spectacular. The hard-throwing reliever served up two doubles in the sixth and allowed a run to score on a wild pitch. Looks like he could use some work with a pitching coach. Marlins lead 9-1 after six.
3:49 p.m. -- So much for Cristian Guzman playing second base today. Guzy is out of the game, replaced at shortstop by Eric Bruntlett. But Michael Martinez (a minor-league call-up for the day) is now at second base. Adam Kennedy, however, is playing first base for the first time all spring. For those wondering, the Nats trail 9-2 in the bottom of the eighth.
4:12 p.m. -- Despite a spirited rally in the ninth, the Nationals could not come all the way back. Marlins win, 9-5.
4:39 p.m. -- OK, I made a mistake. Cristian Guzman did indeed play one inning at second base today, the seventh inning. This occurred while all of us reporters were in the clubhouse talking to Garrett Mock. By the time we got back to the press box, Guzman was already out of the game and replaced by minor-leaguer Michael Martinez. Riggleman said he wanted to make sure Martinez (and several other minor-leaguers called up for the day) got a chance to play. Guzman will start at second base tomorrow as planned.