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Notes: Hudson at ease; Ross 'good and healthy'

@cdenicola13
March 2, 2020

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Had Nationals reliever Daniel Hudson debuted in 2019 with the kind of spring outing that he did on Monday, the right-hander admits he would've felt behind the proverbial eight ball. In Washington's 3-2 walk-off win over Miami at FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches, Hudson

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Had Nationals reliever Daniel Hudson debuted in 2019 with the kind of spring outing that he did on Monday, the right-hander admits he would've felt behind the proverbial eight ball.

In Washington's 3-2 walk-off win over Miami at FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches, Hudson allowed two runs on three hits with a lone strikeout in the fourth inning. After an infield hit, the 32-year-old righty surrendered a hard-hit double, an RBI groundout and a bloop RBI single.

A year ago, the Angels released Hudson on March 22 toward the end of Spring Training. Three days later, the Blue Jays signed him. By season's end, he had recorded the final out of the World Series for the Nationals.

"I think it's just knowing that one pitch isn't going to knock me down a peg or two in the pecking order. Knowing that definitely puts your mind at ease a little bit," said Hudson, who feels as though his stuff was the same then as it is now. "If I had this outing my first outing last year, I would've been pretty down on myself leaving the stadium. It's nice to have that comfortability to go out there and work on stuff and try to get ready for Opening Day."

The late-inning reliever has been eased back this spring like the rest of Washington's pitching staff, including Sean Doolittle, who was sharp in his debut on Sunday.

Between the regular season and postseason, Hudson threw 82 2/3 innings across 78 appearances -- both career highs since he became a reliever in 2014.

"Just trying to get those reps in," Hudson said. "I'm not really thinking about last year or anything like that, just trying to get ready for 2020 and trying to put everything that happened in the rearview and looking forward to competing again and getting out there with the guys."

Ross' encore performance
Right-hander Joe Ross continued to build a case for the fifth spot in the rotation with his second straight scoreless performance of the spring.

Ross, who went two perfect innings in his spring debut on Wednesday against the Yankees, pitched three shutout frames in his second spring start on Monday. He permitted one hit, walked one and struck out two on 43 pitches (26 strikes).

According to Nationals manager Dave Martinez, the 26-year-old Ross received a confidence boost pitching in Game 5 of the World Series. More importantly, he looks healthy and isn't relying on his fastball as much when behind in the count.

"I just watched him come in today and his arm slot, everything is almost back to where he was pre-[Tommy John] surgery," Martinez said. Ross underwent surgery in 2017. "I thought it was good, and I talked to [pitching coach Paul Menhart], and we all thought he had a little bit of a shorter arm slot, and I thought that's how he was when he was here before he got hurt. To me, that means he's good and healthy."

Right-handers Erick Fedde and Austin Voth are also in competition for the final spot on the starting staff. After pitching in 27 regular-season games (nine starts) in 2019, Ross is ready to return to the rotation full-time.

"A hundred percent," Ross said. "We talk about it, just pitchers in general, controlling what you can control, stuff like that. That’s always been my motto as far as Spring Training goes, is take care of the stuff I can do and obviously everything else is in their hands. State your case. Feel good right now, and hopefully keep improving as camp goes on."

Injury updates
• The Nationals are optimistic that right-handed reliever Will Harris (left abdominal injury), who threw off flat ground from 75 feet on Sunday, can get in a bullpen session this weekend. Until then, he'll continue to lengthen his throwing.

• Victor Robles (left oblique) remains day to day but is "doing better," according to Martinez. He last appeared in a game on Wednesday.

Up next
Max Scherzer will make his third spring start when the Beltway Series extends to the Grapefruit League on Tuesday, when the Nationals host the Orioles at 1:05 p.m. ET at FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches. Listen live on MLB.com.

Christina De Nicola is a reporter and game producer for MLB.com based in Miami. Follow her on Twitter @CDeNicola13.