MLB.com Columnist

Bill Ladson

With neck better, prospect Taylor displays power stroke

Outfielder leads off game against Yankees with a home run, adds single in third

With neck better, prospect Taylor displays power stroke

TAMPA, Fla. -- Nationals outfielder Michael Taylor started his first game of the spring Sunday afternoon and went 2-for-3 with a home run in a 3-2 loss to the Yankees at George M. Steinbrenner Field.

Taylor didn't start the first three games of the Grapefruit League season because of a twinge in his neck. He doesn't know how it happened; he just woke up one day with pain in his neck. Before the game, Taylor was able to participate in batting practice, proving to manager Matt Williams that he was OK to play.

Taylor didn't waste any time once he entered the batter's box against the Yankees. He led off the game and hit the first pitch from right-hander Adam Warren over the left-center-field wall. Taylor had the green light to swing at the first pitch.

"Spring Training is a little different," Taylor said. "You don't know how many at-bats you are going to get, so I went into it like it's another at-bat. I got a good pitch to hit. I took a hack."

Two innings later, Taylor swung at the first pitch from Warren again, this time hitting a single up the middle. Taylor said he is more relaxed than he was last year at this time.

"It's great to be back around the guys, having spent a little time with them last year. I'm able to build some relationships," Taylor said. "It's nice to be in the clubhouse with them."

Williams said experience is the reason Taylor is relaxed this year. After all, Taylor, ranked by MLBPipeline.com as the club's No. 3 prospect, made his Major League debut last August.

"He showed what kind of power he has. So that's a good thing," Williams said. "The inexperience shows, too. He swung at a bad one in the dirt [in the fifth inning]. It's a learning process."

Pleskoff on Nationals' prospects

Taylor has a chance to be the Nationals' starting center fielder by 2016, but he has to cut down on his strikeouts if he wants to be an everyday player. He is expected to see a lot of playing time this spring because of the shoulder injury to Jayson Werth.

While Taylor had an impressive game, he seemed more impressed with the season Tyler Moore is having so far. Moore is 6-for-8 [.750] with a homer and a team-leading six RBIs. Taylor would like some of Moore's magic.

"He's raking," Taylor said. "I have to find his bat bag and put my bats in there."

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the Time. He also can be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.