Nyjer wants to hit lefties; Trying to figure out bench

Nationals center fielder Nyjer Morgan was seen taking batting practice against left-hander Randy Tomlin, a Spring Training instructor, on Sunday. Morgan seemed comfortable at the plate, hitting mostly line drives and stopping himself from swinging at inside pitches.

The left-handed hitting Morgan is looking to improve against left-handed pitching after going 18-for-103 (.175) against them last season.

“Basically, I kind of stunk up the barn last year hitting lefties. Basically, I killed righties [.344],” Morgan said. “If I can hit the lefties a little bit, it’s going to get me on base a little bit more. It will create a little more offense, too, for the club.”

* Nationals manager Jim Riggleman said the most difficult part of Spring Training will be trying to figure out his bench. There are 15 players vying for roles off the bench: Outfielders Roger Bernadina, Chris Duncan, Willie Harris, Justin Maxwell, Jerry Owens and Willy Taveras, infielders Eric Bruntlett, Ian Desmond, Alberto Gonzalez, Mike Morse, Pete Orr and Josh Whitesell and catchers Jamie Burke, Devin Ivany and Wil Nieves. 
 
Of the 15, Harris and Nieves are all but locks for the bench, so it’s more than likely the rest of the reserves will be fighting for the final four spots, provided that Washington carries 11 pitchers. 

“I think there are a lot of different scenarios with the bench,” Riggleman said. “The bench is tough because you can paint a picture of 11 pitchers as oppose to 12. Most team carry 12 pitchers. That has something to say about how your bench is used or how many left-handed or right-handed hitters you could carry.

“The [player] options factor in there. Sometime there is a bench player who you think would help the club, but somebody else is out of options. You don’t want to run that player out of options through waivers and lose him There are four or five different scenarios and we are not even close to knowing how that’s going to end up.”     

* Riggleman still hasn’t decided who will be the team’s Opening Day pitcher. The assignment will either go to left-hander John Lannan or right-hander Jason Marquis. Whoever it is, that pitcher will face the Phillies twice  in two weeks.

Last year,  Lannan was the Opening Day starter for Washington and lasted three innings and gave up six runs against the Marlins in Miami.

* Right-hander Rafael Martin, who was at Space Coast Stadium on Sunday for Photo Day, said there were at least 10 teams who were interested in his services, but he is glad Washington selected his contract from Saraperos de Saltillo of the Mexican League because he has a shot to pitch in the big leagues sometime this year.

Before playing in the Mexican League, Martin worked for Slater Incorporated in Riverside Calif., building concrete structures for storm drains. He also played softball during the week and baseball on Sundays.

It took a friend from California who helped get a tryout with Saltillo. Martin ended up playing for the  team for three years, going 13-6 with a 3.81 ERA and one save.   
      
* The Nationals are not having an intra-squad game before the start of the exhibition season. Riggleman prefers to see the team work on fundamentals and have bullpen and live batting practice sessions.

“The intra-squad stuff — I like it, but there is a downside to it,” Riggleman said. “It can get less than serious because it’s your buddies you are playing against. There is a lack of seriousness about the matchup between a pitcher and hitter in some situations.

“The thing you do get out of it is, your hitters are one day closer [to being ready for the season]. They saw some pitching today. When that first exhibition game starts, they are seeing something similar that they saw the previous day. Other than that, I don’t think we get a lot of it.”
              
* Riggleman announced that right-hander Miguel Batista will start against the Braves at Champion Stadium on March 5.

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