MLB.com Columnist

Bill Ladson

Tailored approach helps Nats prospect to thrive

Two homers off Verlander with two strikes validates Taylor's preparation

Tailored approach helps Nats prospect to thrive

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Nationals center fielder Michael Taylor continued his productive Spring Training with an impressive two-homer performance against Tigers right-hander Justin Verlander during a 7-7 tie at Joker Marchant Stadium on Sunday afternoon.

After grounding out in the first inning, Taylor came to the plate two innings later and hit a fastball over the right-field wall. In the fifth inning, with Verlander still on the mound, Taylor hit a monster home run over the left-center-field wall.

Taylor, ranked by MLB.com as the Nationals' No. 2 prospect, was impressed that Verlander can throw at 80 percent in the early part of the game and then, after the third inning, throw his fastball as high as 96 mph.

"I was just happy [to put the first homer] in play," Taylor said. "I've been ... trying to work my two-strike approach and stay short. It was a pitch down and away. I just tried to get the barrel on it. The wind helped me out a little bit."

Entering Monday's game against the Yankees, Taylor is hitting .324 with three home runs and five RBIs -- most of the production coming in the leadoff spot.

Taylor's leadoff home run

Taylor also has 11 strikeouts in 34 at-bats, including four against the Tigers on Thursday. But Taylor believes he has made strides when it comes to his two-strike approach at the plate -- both homers off Verlander came when he had two strikes.

"I think I feel a little better than I did a couple of games ago," Taylor said. "I had a few ups and downs, a couple of bad games. I'm really trying to stay on the fastball, stay with my approach, put together good at-bats."

With Denard Span going on the disabled list to start the season, Taylor is expected to start the season as the Nationals' center fielder.

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.