PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. - Not only is Xavier Nady not going anywhere for the next couple days, but it shouldn’t surprise anyone if the guy who was without an organization 11 days ago is introduced with the Nationals come opening day at Wrigley Field.
After Nady went 1-for-3 today in his first major league spring training game with the Nationals, manager Davey Johnson said he will keep the veteran outfielder/first baseman with the big league club for the time being, and will write him into the starting lineup again tomorrow.
“I don’t have any plans for him to go back down (to the minor league camp),” Johnson said. “He’ll stay with us.”
Now the only question is if Nady can do enough in the final few days of spring in order to overtake Jason Michaels for what might be the final open roster spot, assuming Michael Morse starts the season on the DL.
This all represents quite a turn for Nady, who was without a team all offseason until signing a minor league contract with the Nationals last Sunday. But with the Nats desperate for healthy players who can man the corner outfield positions and fill in at first base, the 33-year-old Nady might just get a chance to earn a spot on the opening day 25-man roster.
“I’ve been on the other side of the spectrum, being hurt and not necessarily knowing the timetable,” Nady said. “But my goal is just to obviously be ready, whatever the situation calls for me. And we’ll go from there. Whether it’s first, outfield or whatever. A lot of things can happen. I’ll just stay ready and contribute when my name’s called.”
When Nady says he’s got experience being the guy that’s hurt and stuck rehabbing instead of playing, he’s not messing around. Nady has had two separate Tommy John surgeries over the course of his career - yes, two - and fractured his left hand last August, forcing him to miss the rest of the year.
Nady rehabbed this offseason and waited for a call from an interested team. He had thoughts about joining the Nationals, but reconsidered when the team signed outfielder Mike Cameron in December. Once Cameron decided to retire, however, talks between the Nationals and Nady’s agent, Scott Boras, picked up.
“My goal was to try to stay in shape however long it took to get a job wherever I was going to be,” Nady said. “And I felt like I did a good job of that. I’ve been trying to stay pretty active, and you never know what’s going to happen. I went to camp, and obviously everything being this late, you have to expedite the process. It’s a different situation, but my goal is to get ready. I’m excited I’m healthy. It’s been a grind to get healthy. Most importantly, I’m just thankful from that, and I’ll go from there.”
Nady didn’t look too good in his first two at-bats today, striking out swinging on a curveball in the dirt in the second inning and then going down looking in the fourth inning. But he did rip a single to center in his final at-bat of the afternoon, and made a nice play at first base in the fifth inning, when he slid to his left to nab an Ike Davis ground ball and then tossed it to Jordan Zimmermann for the out.
Johnson said Nady will play one of the corner outfield spots in tomorrow’s game against the Braves, allowing the Nats’ brass to get a better look at a guy who just recently joined them, but might be around for a while if he can show he’s able to help the big league team.
“I hadn’t seen him play that much in the last couple years except on TV,” Johnson said. “I know he’s very capable. The type of hitter he was wasn’t fresh on my mind, and after I saw one round of BP (today), I knew where he was and I knew I wanted to see a lot of him with us.”