MLB.com Columnist

Bill Ladson

Baker wants hitters to battle, put ball in play

Baker wants hitters to battle, put ball in play

VIERA, Fla. -- Nationals manager Dusty Baker made it clear Saturday that he is not a fan of position players striking out often. If a player is known to strike out often, Baker said, he better hit a lot of home runs. Baker would like to see hitters focus on putting the ball in play.

"It wouldn't be hard to sell if they are convinced they are not helping the team by striking out," Baker said on a day when the Nationals' game against the Mets was cancelled due to rain.

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The best at-bat Baker saw this spring came from Astros first baseman A.J. Reed on March 8. In the first inning against Nationals right-hander Max Scherzer, Reed fouled off 15 pitches before hitting into a forceout. Although Scherzer was able to get the out, his pitch count was up and he was out of the game after two innings. The goal that day was to pitch three innings.

"Imagine if everybody had those fight 'em at-bats? That's how you get his pitch count up," Baker said. "During a strikeout, nothing can happen. You better be hitting a whole bunch of home runs to me. Then you can take strikeouts."

Baker said the team is helping Michael Taylor cut down on strikeouts. Taylor has struck out once every 2.92 at-bats during his career.

Taylor is showing signs of improvement this spring, hitting .467, but he has nine strikeouts in 30 at-bats.

"We are working on all the guys. We are saying, 'Put the ball in play,'" Baker said. "I remember Hank Aaron used to strike out once in every 10 at-bats. I [wasn't that good]. It was like one in every [7.6] at-bats [for me], but I'm seeing one in three ratio."

In other news, the Nationals have reassigned infielder Jason Martinson to Minor League camp and granted outfielder Logan Schafer his unconditional release.

Martinson had a productive spring, going 7-for-24 (.292) with two RBIs, while Schafer struggled, going 4-for-20 (.200) with three RBIs.

Up next: The Nationals travel to Lakeland on Sunday to play the Tigers for the third time this spring at 1:05 p.m. ET on Gameday Audio. The two teams split the first two games they have played. Right-hander Yusmeiro Petit will take the mound for Washington and is expected to pitch four innings and throw 65 pitches. He is expected to be the long man out of the bullpen.

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.