VIERA, Fla. -- Nationals infielder Matt Skole arrived at Space Coast Stadium on Sunday and took grounders at first and third base. The left-handed-hitting Skole later took batting practice and left an impression on manager Matt Williams, who went so far as to say that Skole reminded him of former teammate Jim Thome because of the power Skole displayed to the opposite field.
"[Skole] stays on the baseball well," Williams said.
Skole started getting noticed in 2012 while playing for Class A Hagerstown and Class A Advanced Potomac. He hit a combined .291 with 27 home runs and 104 RBIs in 119 games. Skole was named the Nationals' Minor League Player of the Year that season.
"I worked hard this offseason. I have a good program in Atlanta," Skole said. "My agent runs a facility where we get to hit a lot. I've been hitting four or five times every week and working out. I feel like I'm getting back into the groove. I had to learn where my swing was. It's the most time I've ever taken off. I'm working hard, hitting every day and getting more and more comfortable each day as we get closer to the season."
Skole missed most of last season because of Tommy John surgery on his left elbow. He was playing for Double A Harrisburg when he suffered the injury during a first-base collision last April. Skole healed up in time to play in the Instructional League and in the Arizona Fall League, but it took some time to find his swing. He also suffered a right hamstring injury while in the AFL. It didn't help that part of Skole's hamstring helped repair his left elbow.
"When they do the procedure, they actually take the ligament from your hamstring and put it in your elbow," assistant general manager Doug Harris said. "So it's very typical for guys to have leg soreness related to procedure. It's not as noticeable because most of the Tommy John guys are pitchers. The leg factor doesn't play into it. For Matt, playing third, playing first and hitting, the legs are vital in all aspects. He was learning to build his legs."
Ask Skole about the hamstring injury, you would think he was still in pain while talking about it.
"It was just some scar tissue that blew up in my leg and it took six to eight weeks to recover," Skole said. "I really couldn't hurt it anymore, but the pain was going to be significant for the rest of the time I was in the Fall League. I played through that."
Skole is now healthy, but it's not known where he will start the season.
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.