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Q&A: Spring Training 101 with Nats Reliever Ryan Mattheus

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VIERA, Fla. (CBSDC) - Someone who’s accustomed to the pressure of trying to crack an everyday Major League roster, Ryan Mattheus is entering his second full season with the Washington Nationals, and his first as a proven commodity in their bullpen.

In 66.1 innings of work in 2012, Mattheus was a reliable option coming out of the pen in short-relief, giving up 57 hits, 21 earned runs, 8 home runs while only walking 19 batters. He also struck out 41, to finish the regular season with a 2.85 ERA.

Having seen Spring Training from both sides: first as the guy scratching and clawing to prove himself, and now as a solidified member of the 25-man roster, Mattheus has been able to step back this March and focus on honing his craft without any added pressure.

For these reasons, he’s the perfect candidate to explain the ins and outs of Spring Training to baseball fans still familiarizing themselves with the game.

He sat down with 106.7 The Fan’s Holden and Danny for a quick Q&A session from the clubhouse in Viera, Florida on Wednesday.

Did you get free bats from Michael Morse?

No, I think he left a couple lying around the cage that didn’t quite make it to his bags to Seattle. So I picked it up the other day in the cage and now I know why the ball goes so far. All  you got to do is touch it with that lumber; that half a tree he’s got laying down there. The thing’s like 35 inches, almost 35 ounces I think, so it’s in Stammen’s bag. I think I strained a wrist trying to swing it yesterday, but yea it’s a pretty big piece of wood.

Do you think he did kind of that leave-behind move that you do if you go over a girl’s place for the first time? And you kind of leave something behind so she’s got to call you again? Or did he actually forget it?

That might actually be Michael’s plan is for us not to forget him around here. Just leave a few things lying around.

For you at this stage, how’s the wing feeling? Is everything feeling the way it’s supposed to? Or are you going through that dead arm period? Is it working out the kinks? Do you feel full-throttle at this point?

Yea, you have all that. I definitely feel full-throttle; definitely not mid-season form yet. Today I’ll go through out there full-throttle. The next two days it’ll be rough on the arm just to get that early season soreness out of there. You go through a little bit of dead arm period. I’m getting through that now. I’m starting to bounce back a little bit better, but the last two weeks here we’ll get it tuned in good and nice for April 1.

Tell us a little bit more about dead arm, because I don’t think a lot of our listeners know what dead arm feels like.

It’s no sharp pains or anything. Everybody in here has been through dead arm.  You know, you pick the ball up and it doesn’t come out quite as well. The arm feels heavy for a few days, but it’s just the workload. We can kind of monitor it during the winter. You get here and you’re on the schedule every other day, so you start logging those innings that you’re not used to right away, you’re going to get some dead arm.

Nobody’s hurt when they say they have dead arm. It’s nothing anyone needs to see the doctor about. It’s part of the routine. So dead arm’s not really a big deal.

When I look at a starting pitcher, especially in Spring Training, they got these nasty lines, but it really doesn’t matter because ultimately they’re working on something. Even in the bullpen is that how you guys are too? Are you working on something or is it about performance?

In years past for me it’s been about performance because I got to come in and make the team. It’s nice when you can come in here and you can kind of use Spring Training to dial things in; just kind of get locked in.

So for me, I’m really focusing on facing guys standing in the left-handed batter’s box. Tyler Clippard, Storen, myself, we’re probably going to be asked to get some left-handed hitters out with only Zack Duke down there in the bullpen. So I’m really trying to see how left-handed hitters are approaching me right now. I know I got the two-seam fastball that I can throw down and away to them but I got to work on something here in the last couple weeks to keep them off-balance.

Have you noticed a lot of times, especially with pitchers, if a guy gets lit up he’s working on something and if a guy’s getting outs he feels really good? Same for the hitters, if he’s striking out, ‘I’m working on something and if I’m hitting ‘Oh, it’s all good…’

At the end of the day, everybody’s working on something. The guys that are locked in early, they just probably say ‘Hey, you know I was working out all winter and I’m locked in before you are.’ You’ve got guys that will come in here and hit ten home runs, and you know, just start off fresh and you’re like, ‘Man, these guys are raw.’ And then you got big name guys that aren’t getting hits and stuff like that, and you’re wondering what’s going on. But at the end of the day, I think they all reach their handicap.

Follow Ryan Mattheus on Twitter.

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