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First official workout marks start of Williams era

Rookie manager draws positive reviews for much anticipated Day 1 of Spring Training

VIERA, Fla. -- The Matt Williams era officially began Saturday morning as Nationals pitchers and catchers had their first workout at their Minor League complex.

Williams arrived at Space Coast Stadium at 5 a.m. ET Saturday. He went over the schedule for, as he put it, the 5000th time to make sure everything was in order. Williams and his coaching staff have been putting together the schedule since Nov. 1.

"We spent every afternoon [putting together the schedule] from 2 eastern time until about 5. Three hours a day," coach Mark Weidemaier said. "It's a lot more intricate than people understand. There is a lot more moving parts than people figure."

In fact, members of his coaching staff -- Weidemaier, Bob Henley and Randy Knorr -- joked with Williams that if he mentioned the schedule again, he would have to put $1 into the pot. They assured Williams he had nothing to worry about.

"I already put in a couple bucks for Day 1," Williams joked.

Williams implemented some changes to the team. Instead of walking to the Minor League complex like they did in the past, the players rode in golf carts or vans. Williams wanted to give the players the opportunity to get to the complex on time and do their work.

"We got vans, we got carts," Williams said. "So we'll transport them over to the Minor League complex everyday and transport them back. We want to make sure we are efficient in what we do. That is a small change, but it's different. But everybody seemed to be fine with it."

Workouts started at 10 am ET and ended by noon. There was Williams watching the pitchers throw their bullpen sessions, doing fielding drills and working on pickoff throws. Stephen Strasburg was impressed on how the first day turned out.

"I thought it was extremely [organized] out there," Strasburg said. "There was attention to detail. It wasn't like overkill, but as far as the instructions, they broke everything down. They talked about doing bunt plays and having all of us play positions just so we know what every guy is doing. I thought that was ingenious because I think that is something I never had an opportunity to do. What is the shortstop is thinking in that situation? That's just baseball IQ. … You kind of forget all this stuff. I'm looking forward to doing that."

Williams' day didn't end after the pitchers and catchers were done. In the past, the position players, who came to camp early, would practice at the complex after the pitchers and catchers were finished. This time, the position players, including the likes of Ian Desmond, Danny Espinosa, Nate McLouth and Steven Souza, were working out at Space Coast Stadium.

"It's fun to get into some warm weather and hang out with these guys, get to know them and see how they go about their business," Souza said.

Bill Ladson is a reporter for and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats.
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