JUPITER, Fla. - Roger Bernadina is back with the Nationals after flying down to Curacao for his father’s funeral, but he’s not in manager Davey Johnson’s starting lineup today against the Cardinals.
Jayson Werth will start in center field today, with Mark DeRosa in left and Xavier Nady in right. Johnson said yesterday that Werth is his third option in center behind Rick Ankiel and Bernadina, but option No. 3 will be put into action this afternoon.
Ankiel - who is now looking like he might start the season on the DL because of quad tightness - is with the Nats here in Jupiter, and will take batting practice today. His status for the next few days is uncertain, but as I wrote yesterday, the Nats will take things slow with their center fielder and make sure he’s fully healthy before returning.
There appears to be only one bullpen spot up for grabs - the spot that will be created by Drew Storen being put on the DL to start the season.
Ryan Mattheus is the favorite to grab that spot, but Chad Durbin has put together a strong spring and is still in the mix. Mattheus has an option remaining, while Durbin has an opt-out in his minor league contract, meaning if Durbin was reassigned, the veteran righty could choose to become a free agent. Should that happen, Durbin would almost certainly find a major league job elsewhere.
So essentially, if Mattheus gets the final spot in the ‘pen, the Nats would lose Durbin to free agency, whereas if they keep Durbin on the 25-man roster, they could option Mattheus and keep both guys in the organization.
Johnson said that those contractual situations are discussed when determining who will head north with the team at the end of camp.
“All that’s taken into consideration,” Johnson said.
Mattheus (3.75 ERA, nine strikeouts, four walks this spring) is more of a back-of-the-bullpen type of guy, and with Storen down, could provide another option in late-inning situations. Durbin (1.88 ERA, 13 strikeouts, three walks this spring) can work multiple innings, and although he could come in for one-inning stints late in the game, is more of a long man.
As expected, Durbin will meet the Nationals in Ft. Myers prior to tomorrow’s game against the Red Sox after going home for the birth of his second child on Thursday.
Storen, meanwhile, threw off a mound yesterday for the first time since experiencing elbow inflammation a few weeks ago. The Nats’ closer didn’t report any issues after that throwing session and will be brought forward on a throwing program.
Here’s today’s Nationals lineup against the Cardinals:
SS Ian Desmond
2B Danny Espinosa
3B Ryan Zimmerman
CF Jayson Werth
LF Mark DeRosa
1B Adam LaRoche
RF Xavier Nady
C Wilson Ramos
P Gio Gonzalez