MLB.com Columnist

Bill Ladson

Baker pushing Nats to improve defense

Skipper also hoping for lower pitch counts, fewer strikeouts from batters

Baker pushing Nats to improve defense

JUPITER, Fla. -- After Saturday's 7-0 win against the Cardinals, the Nationals rose to 16-4-2 during the exhibition season. While manager Dusty Baker is pleased with the record, he would like to see improvements on the field before the regular season starts on April 4 against the Braves.

Baker would like to see his starting pitchers command the strike zone better and limit their pitch count per inning. He would also like to see fewer strikeouts from his position players, and to have the hitters advance runners from second with fewer than two outs.

Additionally, Baker would like to see the Nationals play better defense, which has been fair, according to the skipper. Baker made it known Saturday that he is big on defense.

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"Baseball is such a great game that you never really have it figured out," Baker said. "You can't take anything for granted, like we got it all together.

"I'm real big on defense. Defense doesn't win you games, it can certainly lose you games. The games we've lost, we've given away outs and it cost us -- or when you don't turn that double play, that's big. The double play is the pitcher's best friend. Nothing can get you out of trouble more than a double play."

Worth noting
 With Tanner Roark pitching in Saturday's game against the Cardinals, right-hander Joe Ross pitched in a Minor League game. Ross was scheduled to pitch against the Cardinals, but the rainout from Friday's game against the Marlins changed the pitching schedule.

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.