WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Once the national anthem finished and he walked back to the dugout, it was business as usual for Nationals manager Dave Martinez. While he technically made his managerial debut during Friday's 3-2 loss to the Astros in the Grapefruit League opener, once he took his spot in the dugout, nothing felt different for him.
"It was just another Spring Training game," he said. "Making moves, trying to get guys in and out. But it was fun. The boys played well. We had good effort. We had some good at-bats. Good defense. Really good defense."
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Perhaps the moment will feel different during the regular season for Martinez. Or maybe not. After all, one of the main reasons the Nationals hired him was because his experience as a bench coach under Cubs manager Joe Maddon made him a sort of co-manager instead of strictly a bench coach. Martinez said he would constantly manage games in his mind during his years as a bench coach before he and Maddon conferred on decisions.
So even though Martinez is a first-time manager, general manager Mike Rizzo does not expect there will be much of a learning curve compared to most rookie skippers. This spring could nonetheless serve as a trial run for Martinez, a chance to try out some things before the stakes increase.
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"It'll be definitely a learning experience, not just for me but for all of the coaching staff to hone in on the things we want to hone in on," Martinez said. "Get to see some of the guys we haven't really seen, and just get to compete. That's the biggest thing, we haven't seen some of these pitchers on the field in a big league atmosphere, and some of the young hitters in a big league atmosphere."
Milone makes first audition for fifth-starter spot
For the first time since 2011, Tommy Milone took the mound for the Nationals, the team that drafted him in the 10th round of the 2008 Draft. Milone tossed a pair of scoreless innings in his Grapefruit League debut Friday, his first start as he auditions for the vacant fifth-starter spot in the Nats' rotation.
"I want to prove that I'm back to being the pitcher that I was before when I was here before, and back in 2012-13, that time," he said. "The last couple years haven't been the greatest, and I'm out to prove that I'm not that pitcher anymore."
Milone is entering a competition in which A.J. Cole is the favorite, but Erick Fedde and Edwin Jackson are also likely to compete. It is not often that Washington has such uncertainty in its rotation entering camp, yet the club seems comfortable with its in-house options.
Rizzo stood by his options once again Friday, denying that he was monitoring the market to add another starter.
"Like I said for a while, we really like the group of guys we have here," Rizzo said. "I think we're deep enough. I think we're good enough. I think we're talented enough to get to where we need to get."
Nats honored to be part of tribute
The Nationals were honored to take part in MLB's tribute to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Friday by wearing the caps of the baseball team during their spring openers. During their pregame circle of trust meeting, the Nationals held a moment of silence and then raised their caps to the sky in honor of the victims of the mass shooting and the 17 people who were murdered.
Angelique Meneses, a senior at Stoneman Douglas, sang the national anthem before the game and got a greeting from Martinez after her rendition.
"Incredible," Martinez said. "I mean, she did a great job. Very touching. Very touching moment."
Nationals outfielder Ryan Raburn, a non-roster invite, was scratched from the starting lineup prior to Friday's game with tightness in his left side. The Nats say the move was precautionary and Martinez said although Raburn tried to talk his way back into the lineup, he decided it was best to play it safe.
"It's Day 1, so I told him, 'Hey, take a couple days and let's get it right,'" Martinez said. "You'll get plenty of at-bats."
Up next: The Nationals travel to Jupiter, Fla., to take on the Marlins on Saturday at 1:05 p.m. ET on Gameday Audio. Tanner Roark will make his Grapefruit League debut on the mound, with top prospect Victor Robles manning center field behind him.