- Adam Rubin, ESPNNewYork.com
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R.A. Dickey allowed five runs on eight hits and a walk in three innings and the Washington Nationals beat the Mets, 8-2, on Saturday afternoon at Space Coast Stadium.
The Nats delivered four straight first-inning hits, including Adam LaRoche’s RBI single and Wilson Ramos’ two-run double. Ryan Zimmerman doubled in each of the first two innings, the latter driving in two runs and giving Washington a 5-2 lead.
“Certainly you’d like to see a little bit better results, but there’s a part of spring training that you have to be real pragmatic about,” Dickey said. “I’m gathering information, and I got a lot of information today from the Nationals. Hopefully I can put that to use. You know, I faced these guys so much during the regular season last year and the year before. They’ve got a pretty good idea of what they need to do to probably have success. And I need to identify what that is, and feel like I took a step in that direction today.”
Asked what precisely he was looking for from the Nationals batters, Dickey added: “Their approach. The way they swing. How they work to contact the baseball in the strike zone. There are things out there that you can file and use. … Without wanting to put out to the public what I feel like I may or may not have discovered, a lot of times with teams with a knuckleballer they’ll take a different approach -- whether it’s that they take a two-strike approach the whole at-bat. That would be a general example. With certain guys on this team, they have had a way of attacking me.”
• The Mets had a two-run second inning against Chien-Ming Wang, although the Nats nearly escaped the bases-loaded, no-out jam. After Josh Satin struck out, Rob Johnson hit into a would-be 4-6-3 DP. However, second baseman Mark DeRosa flubbed Johnson’s grounder and had to settle for the out at first as Ike Davis scored. Omar Quintanilla followed with an RBI single.
• Wang underwent the same surgery to repair a torn anterior capsule in the pitching shoulder that Johan Santana did. After the ex-Yankee’s procedure, it took him precisely two full years to return to the majors, coincidentally against the Mets last July 29.
Santana’s procedure was performed on Sept. 14, 2010, so we’re approaching the 18-month mark. Santana makes his second Grapefruit League appearance Sunday against the Miami Marlins. He is scheduled for three innings and no more than 45 or 50 pitches.
“The first time on the mound you’re a little bit afraid,” Wang said about his own experience returning from that shoulder surgery. “And then you get that confidence, and you’ll be better. The injury is a big thing -- a big surgery. Each time I’m more better.”
Said Terry Collins: “We’re aware of that, that it takes a long time, but everybody heals differently. Everybody approaches it differently. And I’m not sure any surgeon can say they’re exactly the same. Johan looks great. He’s on pace to be where we want him to be. Hopefully tomorrow is step two in the process.”
• Johnson caught Dickey on Saturday, and the two also were teammates in Seattle. During the regular season, Collins said, he likely would just go with best offensive matchup that day based on the opposing pitcher, and not have Dickey throw to a set catcher.
“We probably will stay with whatever the best matchup is going to be,” Collins said. “Rob caught him in Texas, so he’s been familiar with him. Nicky [Mike Nickeas] has caught him before and done a good job. Josh [Thole] has caught him, and we know Josh can catch him.”
• Zach Lutz (1-for-3) started at third base and singled in his lone at-bat against Wang. It was a fastball from Wang last summer in Triple-A that nailed Lutz in the head and gave the infielder his second concussion of the 2011 season. After an absence, Lutz briefly returned, before the concussion symptoms resurfaced and he was forced to call it a season.
New York Mets
• Bobby Parnell, who plunked Lutz in the left elbow to end a disastrous intrasquad game for the reliever last Sunday, contributed his second straight scoreless one-inning appearance in Grapefruit League play Saturday. LaRoche led off with a single, but Ramos hit into a double play as Parnell faced the minimum. Parnell has faced six batters in two Grapefruit League innings.
Parnell has a minor league option remaining, so he needs to demonstrate this spring training that he is worthy of one of the two up-for-grabs spots in the bullpen to join Frank Francisco, Jon Rauch, Tim Byrdak, Ramon Ramirez and Manny Acosta. Continued appearances like the past two should solidify a spot for the gas-throwing Parnell.
“I threw two good innings so far, but I feel like I have a long way to go,” Parnell said. “I feel like I’m throwing strikes, and low strikes. I think I’m making improvements. … It’s taken a weight off my shoulders the last two outings, but I’m hard on myself. So there’s still improvements and there’s still stuff I’m going to keep working on. It’s still early and there’s a lot that can happen, so I’m going to keep pushing.”
Parnell failed to make the Opening Day roster two years ago, despite setting the franchise rookie record for relief appearances at 68 the previous season. So he knows he cannot take anything for granted.
“Last year I pushed a little bit with the mentality that I had to make a team,” Parnell said. “This year, same situation. But I kind of, in my head, say, ‘You know what? Relax and do what you’re capable of doing.’ I’m trying to take the pressure off of myself, because I’ve had a lot of pressure on myself through spring training and throughout the season. One of the things is that I’m just trying to back off my own self and let things happen.”
The intrasquad game last Sunday ended immediately after Parnell plunked Lutz.
Pitching coach Dan Warthen said the intrasquad game was called because Parnell had reached his pitch count in the final inning, but both Warthen and Collins had to console Parnell on the infield grass after the reliever hit Lutz.
Parnell acknowledged that appearance caused him to get bent out of shape.
“And not because of stats or anything like that,” Parnell said. “My arm felt great. Everything felt great. I threw some good pitches, and I ended up hitting Lutzy. It aggravated me because I’m sitting here trying to throw strikes and I ended up letting the ball go and hitting Lutzy. I was distraught about that.
“Maybe you need that bump in the road to kind of focus back up.”
• Left-handed prospect Robert Carson made his first 2012 Grapefruit League appearance and allowed a run in the sixth. Carson had been slowed early in camp by a right oblique strain.
“A lot of guys around the clubhouse told me obliques are very aggravating injuries,” Carson said. “So I have to keep going in and get treatment -- and keep warming it up, heating it, icing and stuff. Today was OK. It felt good warming up. And it felt good in the game. I’ll just take it day by day and see what happens.”
• Andres Torres went 0-for-3 with a strikeout in his return to the lineup after missing two games with right glute tightness.
• Lucas Duda will be in the lineup Sunday against the Marlins after missing two games with back stiffness, Collins said. “They actually said he could play,” the manager said about the medical staff clearing Duda for Saturday. “I wanted to give him one more day.”
• Ryan Church watched the Mets-Nats game from a Space Coast Stadium suite. Church, who played for both teams, lives in the area. He last played in 2010 with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
• Mets bench coach Bob Geren and Nats pitcher Gio Gonzalez had a lengthy chat behind the plate before the game. Now NL East rivals, Geren managed Gonzalez with the Oakland Athletics through last season.