Nats ready for the games to begin at last

Nats ready for the games to begin at last
February 28, 2014, 6:00 am
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Matt Williams mic'd up

VIERA, Fla. — It's not uncommon for big-league managers to drive themselves to road games in the Grapefruit League, and certainly previous managers of the Nationals traveled on their own.

Matt Williams, though, made it clear yesterday he'll be joining his players for the hour-plus ride this morning from Viera to Port St. Lucie for the Nationals' exhibition opener against the Mets.

"Oh, I'm on the bus," the rookie manager said. "Yeah, I mean, that's part of my job. I've got to get on the bus."

Told that his predecessors usually drove their own cars, Williams replied: "I don't think that I have authority to do that right now. (Plus), I don't know where I'm going."

Thus will begin a new era of Nationals baseball, with Williams and Co. debuting this afternoon at Tradition Field against the division rival Mets. It's the first of 31 exhibition games they'll play before meeting New York once again on Opening Day at Citi Field, and we should learn plenty about the Nats and their new skipper during that span.

For one thing, Williams appears more inclined to send prominent veteran players on spring training road trips, something Davey Johnson and others before him preferred not to do. The Nationals' lineup today will include the likes of Ryan Zimmerman, Adam LaRoche, Ian Desmond and Wilson Ramos, a strong showing for Feb. 28 in Port St. Lucie.

And this will be a regular occurrence over the next month.

"I mean, there's no getting around it," Williams said. "With the frequency in which we want them to play, you have to. There's a stretch in the middle of spring when we have a bunch of home games in a row, but other than that, we're on the road a lot. So we've got to get 'em out there and get 'em going. So it's gonna happen."

Does that philosophy apply to Jayson Werth as well?

"It certainly does," Williams said. "It most certainly does."

There may be plenty of big names on the field today, but don't expect to see a whole lot of them. Williams plans to sit his lineup regulars after two at-bats. And starting pitcher Taylor Jordan, making his first case for the open No. 5 slot in the rotation, likely will be limited to two innings.

But there will be baseball played this afternoon. And for the Nationals' 48-year-old rookie manager, the significance is clear.

"I've done it before," William said. "(But) not at this level. The only thing I'm worried about or nervous about is trying to get everyone into the game. I want to look at everybody. Unfortunately, that is almost impossible sometimes. But that's the plan."