VIERA, Fla. - After a stretch where they went winless in a span of 11 Grapefruit League games, the Nationals have now won five of their last six following yesterday’s split-squad sweep.
It’s too bad the results mean just as little now as they did during the losing streak.
The Nats will host the Marlins at 6:05 p.m. tonight, and you can catch the battle of division rivals on MASN. Bob Carpenter and F.P. Santangelo will have the call for you.
We know that Ross Detwiler will be on the mound tonight, making his first Grapefruit League start this spring, while Stephen Strasburg will go tomorrow when the Nats host the Cardinals. I’ll be heading over to the Nats’ complex a little later today to pass along manager Davey Johnson’s lineup as well as any pregame notes of importance.
I mentioned yesterday that with the release of outfielder Jason Michaels and the current construction of the Nats’ roster, Brett Carroll is looking increasingly likely to head north with the team at the end of camp.
That line of thinking got a boost when Johnson essentially said that Carroll has a spot locked up after yesterday’s game, a game in which the 29-year-old utility man smacked a bases-clearing triple and walked twice.
But for Carroll, nothing is certain until he’s told that he officially made the opening day roster. He’s not blind; Carroll can look around the clubhouse and see guys he was competing with for a spot packing up their lockers after being let go, and he can count down the days until final roster cuts. But with all that going on, Carroll says he tries to keep a narrow focus and push the business side of the game out of his mind.
“I’m definitely human. I’m not a robot,” Carroll said. “I know there’s a decision to be made, and there’s limited spots that everyone’s competing for, but being in this role a few times and having some experience in it, one thing I can avoid is trying to play general manager.
“Obviously I’d love to be here and help this team win in any way I can, but there’s things you have no control over, and the only thing I can control is how I continue to prepare and get ready for the games and compete. I believe there can be some good stuff to come from that, so hopefully I can get a longer time to show that.”
Carroll, a career .203 major league hitter in parts of five seasons, knew that the odds were stacked against him coming into spring when he signed a minor league contract with the Nats this offseason. Instead of having a set position or a roster spot secure, Carroll has needed to do whatever it takes to impress the coaching staff this spring, including playing all three outfield positions, taking ground balls at first base and even agreeing to be the Nats’ emergency catcher.
As the Nationals’ established veterans have gotten games off, Carroll has been throwing on his uniform day in and day out, riding the team bus to nearly every road game. He played in 24 spring contests (tied for most on the team), just looking for any chance to impress the Nats brass.
“I think coming in here as a non-roster invitee, you can only really hope to get the at-bats and the amount of playing time that I have. That’s been encouraging,” Carroll said. “I definitely have room to grow, but that’s the exciting part for me, because I really don’t believe that I’ve come into the fullness of the player I want to be, and so whatever that role’s going to be here, I’m going to embrace that role with everything I’ve got and contribute the way I can.”
Carroll has hit .241 this spring, but he says he doesn’t read that much into his average. He’s still trying to work on things and get on track for when the real games begin.
With the Nats needing outfield depth and Carroll showing an ability to play anywhere at any time, he’s in good shape right now. But you won’t find the Tennessee native celebrating just yet, not until he hears from Johnson or general manager Mike Rizzo that he’s definitely heading north with the big club.
“You just never know, unless you’ve got a Jayson Werth guaranteed contract or other guys on this team,” Carroll said. “A guy like myself, it’s really just taking it one day at a time. I know that sounds clichÃ©, but for me, that’s when I keep myself simple, that’s when I keep the game fun and when I enjoy it is when I don’t get wrapped up in trying to play general manager.
“Instead, I honestly want to come and play well and encourage my teammates and win and let the other stuff fall where it does.”