Gonzalez earns spot on 25-man roster
Utility infielder finding success with new batting stance
JUPITER, Fla. -- Nationals manager Jim Riggleman all but said that infielder Alberto Gonzalez is on the team's 25-man roster.
Gonzalez is having a great spring, going 14-for-37 (.378) with a home run and eight RBIs entering Tuesday's action against the Marlins. Gonzalez will be a utility infielder, who will play shortstop and second base. Riggleman didn't rule out Gonzalez playing third and first base during the season.
"I'm not really surprised there. He's a good player," Riggleman said. "He has great hands. He has a good strong arm, doesn't make errors and has good at-bats. Unless there is an unforeseen circumstance, we would count on him ... this year. He has been very solid this spring and did a nice job for us last year."
There are two reasons for Gonzalez's success this spring: He is healthy and has followed the advice of hitting coach Rick Eckstein.
Last November, Gonzalez had left hand surgery to remove a hamate bone, which he broke while playing winter ball. Gonzalez said he had a sore hand during the second half of the 2009 season. He believes it was the one of the reasons he hit .222 after the All-Star break.
"I feel good and I feel right," Gonzalez said. "I was a little hurt [during the second half of the season] and maybe I was tired."
Gonzalez also changed his batting stance, thanks to Eckstein. Instead of having his hands in the air, while waiting for the pitch, Gonzalez now has his hands close to his stomach in order to have a short compact swing.
"He knows his strike zone, he is discipline to swinging at strikes in the strike zone," Eckstein said about Gonzalez. "He is really battling and staying on pitches during his at-bats. He is a very solid player. Since he walked into camp, he's had a real good focus, real good work ethic and a passion to be the best he can be.
Wang, Zimmermann throw in 'pen
VIERA, Fla. -- Right-hander Chien-Ming Wang and Jordan Zimmermann had bullpen sessions on Monday and didn't have any problems. They threw 45 pitches -- all fastballs. They are expected to have another bullpen session Wednesday.
Wang is not expected to pitch in a big league game until sometime in May. Wang is still recovering from shoulder surgery. Zimmermann had elbow reconstruction and will not pitch in a game until August.
Mock not a given in rotation
VIERA, Fla. -- A couple of weeks ago, it seemed a certainty that right-hander Garrett Mock was in Washington's rotation because he didn't walk a batter in his first nine innings this spring.
But, before Tuesday's action, he had allowed five runs in his past nine innings. That's not including the disappointing outing last week against Astros Minor Leaguers in which he gave up three home runs.
Now, Mock is competing against left-hander Scott Olsen and right-hander J.D. Martin for the final spot in the rotation.
Mock didn't do himself any favors in Tuesday's 9-5 loss to the Marlins, allowing six earned runs -- five earned -- in 4 2/3 innings. Even worse, he walked five batters and struck out three. He threw 96 pitches, 57 for strikes.
"The outing speaks for itself. I can't say much about it. You saw it," Nationals manager Jim Riggleman said. "He was good for two or three hitters in a sequence. He would throw to a couple of hitters and leave the balls up in the zone and get hit."
Mock's worst inning was the fifth. He was able to get two quick outs, but he walked Ronny Paulino and gave up a double to Gaby Sanchez to put runners on second and third. Mock had Bryan Petersen in an 0-2 hole, but Mock couldn't throw a strike and walked Petersen to load the bases.
Mock was taken out of the game in favor of right-hander Jason Bergmann, who allowed five straight hits before retiring Mike Lamb to end the inning.
"His stuff wasn't bad, but he was throwing a lot of pitches per inning," pitching coach Steve McCatty said about Mock. "Ninety-six pitches, you should pitch seven innings. There were some foul balls, but you still have to be more aggressive, because he wasn't able to get out of that inning. I don't know if he was tired. I don't think so. He didn't make the pitch he needed to make."
Mock most likely pitched his final game of the Spring Training. Did he hurt his chance to be in the starting rotation?
"No, I don't think so," Riggleman said. "The choices are not that varied. We know we are going to pick between him, J.D. and Olsen. They are doing OK, but none of them are grabbing the job."
Guzman gets work at second base
VIERA, Fla. -- Cristian Guzman started at shortstop on Tuesday, but by the bottom of the seventh inning, he was switched to second base.
It was the first time Guzman played the position during a game in his career. He had only one play, however, and it wasn't terribly challenging, as he easily caught a popup by the Marlins' Mike Lamb.
Guzman was able to get one more at-bat in the top of the eighth before leaving the game.
Nationals manager Jim Riggleman said Guzman will start at second against the Cardinals on Wednesday at Roger Dean Stadium.
Bergmann experiments with curveball
VIERA, Fla. -- Jason Bergmann was hit hard by the Marlins on Tuesday, surrendering five consecutive hits at one point during the fifth inning.
Why did Bergmann have problems getting hitters out? He had problems with his breaking ball. The pitch was often up in the strike zone.
"I was trying to bounce my breaking ball a few times, and I wasn't able to get it down," Bergmann said.
Nationals manager Jim Riggleman continues to say that Bergmann will be part of the bullpen even though the right-hander has a 6.23 ERA this spring.
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.