Goofy subject title, I know...
By Dave Sheinin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 3, 2006; Page E10
VIERA, Fla., March 2 -- The first pitch Ramon Ortiz threw for Jose Rijo during an impromptu audition in the Dominican Republic this winter was clocked at 96 mph. Rijo, a special assistant to Washington Nationals General Manager Jim Bowden, immediately called his boss and said, "Jim, I think this guy could be a real sleeper."
The Nationals signed Ortiz, 32, to a one-year deal in December, and on Thursday he made his first appearance of the spring, stretching out to 50 pitches over three innings in a 9-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Ortiz, who is expected to win one of the Nationals' three rotation spots up for grabs this spring, debuted a new slider taught to him by Rijo and struggled some with his command -- issuing three walks during the second inning -- but impressed his new team with the life on his pitches.
"I like what I saw," pitching coach Randy St. Claire said.
"I like his arm," Manager Frank Robinson said. "He has a live arm."
Ortiz said he was not too worried about the control problems because of his unfamiliarity with the new slider, which has a sharper bite and tighter spin than his old one.
"For my first game in spring training," he said, "I feel happy."