VIERA, Fla. -- Fifty-two healthy players took the fields today outside Space Coast Stadium for the Nationals' first full-squad workout of the spring. They very quickly realized a Davey Johnson-run camp will boast some significant differences from ones run by other managers.
Johnson prefers to keep things moving quickly, and he prefers to keep players together in large groups instead of breaking down into small units. Today's workout, including pre- and post-session conditioning, lasted only two hours. And instead of being spread out over four fields, it was mostly confined to two, with all of the regular position players together in one large gathering.
"It was great," shortstop Ian Desmond said. "I like the way we're doing it this year. We're spending the whole time on one field and everyone gets to, in a way, bond. It's good team-building, because everyone's not running around all over the place. You're not seeing each other in passing. It's not like we're going 150 mph. I think we're kind of being treated like pros."
The first portion of the workout was devoted to defensive fundamentals, and plenty of eyes were on Adam LaRoche. The veteran first baseman, eight months removed from surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder, didn't put a lot of mustard on his throws across the diamond while starting double plays, but neither did most of his teammates.
LaRoche did play long toss yesterday and said his shoulder was "a little sore," though he actually found that to be an encouraging sign.
"It's the kind of sore I want to feel right now," he said. "If it's not sore at all, I'm probably not throwing enough. It was nice to push it a little bit."
At the plate, LaRoche said he felt "good." He didn't seem to be suffering any lingering effects of the shoulder surgery, driving balls to the gaps with a smooth, effortless swing.
One guy whose swing is anything but effortless is Bryce Harper, who goes all-out every time he grabs a bat and put on an impressive show during his BP session today. The 19-year-old crushed one home run to deep right-center, well over the heads of a group of fans watching from behind the fence.
(Harper, by the way, was the subject of a playful prank this morning, walking to his locker to find "Joe Namath 12" on his nameplate. He laughed when he saw it.)
Today's workout was a bit lighter than usual because all pitchers were given the day off from throwing bullpen sessions. They'll resume tomorrow with the first round of live BP of the spring, a welcome addition for guys who have grown weary of simply throwing to catchers and batters who haven't seen live pitching in months.
"I like it," Desmond said. "I spend the whole offseason hitting in a cage and hitting BP. That first live BP, you figure out where you're at."
Desmond, like many batters, won't swing much during his first live BP session, preferring instead to track pitches and get a feel for the strike zone again. That doesn't always sit well with pitchers who would rather their teammates take some hacks.
"I prefer you swing, because it lets me know what the ball is doing," reliever Sean Burnett said. "If I throw a sinker, it might look good to me, but I only get a real idea of it when you swing and get some action off the bat. I'd rather them swing at every pitch."
Not everyone is a fan of these sessions, which can be a bit awkward considering the "L" screen set up in front of the mound and the batting cage hovering over the plate for everyone's protection.
"I hate live BP," LaRoche said. "The cage and the screen, there's something about it that's just not fun. I mean, we've got to do it, it's the only way to get right, get ready. But it's not something I look forward to."
Something everyone should look forward to tomorrow: Stephen Strasburg is scheduled to be on the mound, and Bryce Harper is among the hitters scheduled to be on the same field at the same time. The two phenoms may not actually get to experience a one-on-one encounter, because not every batter faces every pitcher.
Still, that could prove to be one highly anticipated showdown if it does occur.