CLEARWATER, Fla. - After using up about half a tank of gas on the trek across Florida, I’ve arrived at Bright House Field for today’s Nationals-Phillies Grapefruit League contest that will feature two of the game’s best pitchers.
Stephen Strasburg and Roy Halladay will toe the mound today, and while Strasburg will face a Phillies lineup filled with major leaguers, Halladay won’t get that luxury.
The Nationals brought just three position players who are expected to crack the opening day roster - Denard Span, Steve Lombardozzi and Tyler Moore. Other than that, Halladay will see a lot of unfamiliar faces today.
Nats manager Davey Johnson said that Strasburg will throw about 60 pitches this afternoon. If he can get through four frames at around that limit, that’d be ideal.
Johnson was asked during his pregame chat with reporters whether he’d settled on a batting order for the start of the regular season yet. While Johnson made sure to note that nothing has been finalized, it’s clear it would be a major surprise if the Nats’ opening day lineup didn’t have Span leading off, Jayson Werth hitting second, Bryce Harper third, Ryan Zimmerman cleanup and Adam LaRoche in the five-hole.
That’s how Johnson structured his lineup yesterday, and he insinuated that barring a change, that’s how things will probably look on opening day. Putting Werth in the two-spot and Harper third gives the Nationals a perfect left-right balance from 1-8 in the order, which Johnson really likes because of the match-up problems it creates for opposing teams.
Johnson said he approached Zimmerman earlier this spring and told him he might hit him cleanup some this season.
“He said he didn’t care,” Johnson said. “He said as long as Harper didn’t drive all the runs in before he got up.”
Johnson passed along one other good one-liner from Zimmerman after Anthony Rendon’s name was broached. Rendon, a natural third baseman, has been on fire this spring, hitting two home runs and three doubles in eight spring games.
“Zim asked, ‘Is there any other position he plays?’ ” Johnson said with a chuckle.
A couple of other quick-hit notes: Micah Owings, who has been held out of action because of a left wrist injury recently, has been cleared to start playing again. Johnson told reporters he plans to give Owings a couple of at-bats today.
Also, Johnson said he got good reports from Henry Rodriguez’s live batting practice session yesterday. Rodriguez had elbow surgery last summer and has been slowed this spring by biceps tightness, but he threw all his pitches and now is set up to face one hitter on Saturday in his Grapefruit League debut.
Here are your lineups for today’s game:
For the Nats
CF Denard Span
2B Steve Lombardozzi
SS Anthony Rendon
DH Tyler Moore
RF Corey Brown
1B Chris Marrero
LF Carlos Rivero
3B Matt Skole
C Jhonatan Solano
P Stephen Strasburg
For the Phillies
CF Ben Revere
3B Michael Young
2B Chase Utley
1B Ryan Howard
LF Domonic Brown
DH Laynce Nix
RF John Mayberry, Jr.
C Tommy Joseph
SS Yuniesky Betancourt
P Roy Halladay