Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
DigitalDomain Park, spring home of the New York Mets.
The Grapefruit League begins this afternoon for the Nationals, who open exhibition play against their division rivals from Queens at the recently renamed DigitalDomain Park. Just rolls off the tongue, doesn't it?
The big story today, of course, is Bryce Harper's debut. The 18-year-old outfielder made the trip but is not in the Nats' starting lineup. He's slated to enter sometime later in the game and get at least one at-bat. He won't be facing Mets starter Mike Pelfrey, but there's a decent chance he'll face veteran reliever Jason Isringhausen, who is slated to come out of the bullpen for New York.
Chad Gaudin, attempting to make the roster as either the No. 5 starter or as a long reliever, gets the nod for the Nationals. The right-hander will throw either two or three innings, depending on his pitch count. Other pitchers scheduled to appear today include Craig Stammen, Brian Broderick, Doug Slaten and Todd Coffey.
Several regulars (Ryan Zimmerman, Jayson Werth, Adam LaRoche, Ivan Rodriguez) did not make the trip today and will make their debuts tomorrow at home. But we will get a good look at the double-play combo of Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa, Nyjer Morgan in center field and both Wilson Ramos and Jesus Flores behind the plate.
Plenty of updates to come, so be sure to check back throughout...
NATIONALS AT METS
DigitalDomain Park, Port St. Lucie
Gametime: 1:10 p.m.
TV: SNY (New York), MLB.com (live online), MLB Network (tape delay, 9:30 p.m.)
Weather: Sunny, 82 degrees, Wind 19 mph out to LF
STARTING LINEUPS11:45 a.m. -- Sounds like we won't be seeing much of Harper today. Jim Riggleman said the kid will probably just get one at-bat, and there's a decent chance it will come out of the DH slot. He'll probably get more action tomorrow in Viera, replacing Jayson Werth in right field for several innings.
CF Nyjer Morgan
SS Ian Desmond
LF Roger Bernadina
RF Mike Morse
DH Matt Stairs
C Wilson Ramos
1B Kevin Barker
2B Danny Espinosa
3B Jerry Hairston
(P Chad Gaudin)
2B Luis Castillo
CF Angel Pagan
LF Jason Bay
1B Nick Evans
DH Fernando Martinez
RF Scott Hairston
3B Daniel Murphy
C Mike Nickeas
SS Ruben Tejada
(P Mike Pelfrey)
1:10 p.m. -- And we are underway. Nyjer Morgan takes a fastball for strike one from Mike Pelfrey to kick off the Grapefruit League season.
1:15 p.m. -- And the Nats have their first lead of the season. After Morgan fouled out to third on an 0-2 pitch (not exactly the kind of productive at-bat you want to see from Nyjer), Ian Desmond smoked a deep drive to center field that went off Angel Pagan's glove. Desmond cruised into third with a triple, then scored moments later when Roger Bernadina roped a base hit to right. Bernadina immediately stole second, perhaps further evidence of the aggressive baserunning we can expect to see this year. Roger was stranded at second, though, when both Michael Morse and Matt Stairs grounded out to end the top of the first with the Nats up 1-0.
1:28 p.m. -- So much for that. Angel Pagan ties the game up in the bottom of the first with an oppo-boppo to left field on a 1-2 breaking ball from Chad Gaudin. The wind is really blowing out in that direction, though, and the way Bernadina reacted, it looked like he never thought the ball would carry that far. Gaudin actually looked pretty good. He did allow a couple of two-out singles but recorded three strikeouts, all swinging, all on fastballs that registered around 90 mph. Threw 22 pitches, 16 strikes. It's 1-1 as they head to the second.
1:35 p.m. -- And the Nats retake the lead. Wilson Ramos singles and moves to third when Castillo boots Danny Espinosa's routine chopper. That sets the stage for Jerry Hairston's sac fly, putting the Nats up 2-1 as we go to the bottom of the second. I'm heading down to the stands to take some photos. Will be back in a bit.
2:18 p.m. -- We are now in the bottom of the fourth, the Nats leading 3-2 in a game that has already seen 12 combined hits and three errors (only one by the Nats). Gaudin wound up allowing two runs on five hits in his three innings of work, but he struck out four and overall didn't do anything to hurt his chances, I'd say. The Nats hit the ball pretty well off Pelfrey and continued the trend against D.J. Carrasco, who was all over the place in the top of the fourth. Craig Stammen now pitching for Washington.
2:37 p.m. -- Here we go. Top of the fifth. Matt Stairs drives in a run with a single to right, then is removed for a pinch-runner named ... Bryce Harper. At the same time, Jesus Flores steps to the plate for his first major-league at-bat in nearly two years. Good stuff here. Oh, by the way, the Nats lead 4-3.
2:45 p.m. -- Nothing too exciting from Harper on the bases. He advanced to second as the trailing runner when Bernadina was thrown out trying to take third. Flores then popped out to first. So Harper is now the DH, and he'll take Stairs' spot in the order, due up eighth in the sixth. Barring a big rally, he probably won't come up until the seventh.
3:05 p.m. -- We go to the seventh, Nats still leading 4-3 after Rule 5 draftee Brian Broderick tossed a scoreless inning of relief. Harper is due up fifth this inning. Lefty Taylor Tankersley coming in to pitch for the Mets.
3:16 p.m. -- Bryce Harper's first career at-bat is a three-pitch strikeout. He fouled off the first offering from Tankersley, then swung and missed twice, including on a breaking ball for strike three. Welcome to pro ball, kid. (Oh yeah, Michael Morse hit a three-run homer right before it, putting the Nats up 7-3.)
3:25 p.m. -- Whoa, Mike O'Connor pitching for the Mets in the top of the eighth! Blast from the past!
3:29 p.m. -- Here's my quick story for CSNwashington.com on Harper's debut. It will be updated and expanded after the game.
3:42 p.m. -- We've reached the ninth inning, and Harper may get another shot. He's due up fourth this inning, and he has a bat in hand and his helmet on. Right-hander Ryota Igarashi now pitching for the Mets.
3:50 p.m. -- Two at-bats, two K's for Bryce. This time, he took a couple of 78-mph offspeed pitches from Igarashi for strikes, took a 93-mph fastball for a ball and swung and missed at an 86-mph, 1-2 pitch from the right-hander. Not sure what the pitch was, perhaps a sinker. Either way, Harper has looked a bit overmatched here today. (Oh yeah, Morse homered again in front of him. Nats lead 9-3 as we go to the bottom of the ninth.)
3:58 p.m. -- Ballgame over. Nats win 9-3. Plenty of postgame reaction to come.