LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - The tarp has been pulled off the field here at Champion Stadium and it looks like there will be baseball played tonight between the Nationals and Braves.
It’s incredibly overcast and gloomy-looking here, and based on the radar that I just looked at, there’s a chance we get a little more rain before first pitch. But Jordan Zimmermann should be good to make his second start of spring, both of which will be against Atlanta.
Manager Matt Williams said that he’s looking for his starters to give him three innings or somewhere around 45 pitches this turn through the rotation, as they build up their arm strength in their second outing of spring.
He could end up going with his starters a bit over the 45-pitch mark, but don’t expect much more than that this early in the Grapefruit League schedule.
Ross Ohlendorf will make his first appearance of spring tonight, this after dealing with some tightness in his side and an issue with one of the fingers on his throwing hand, which split open recently. Ohlendorf’s throwing program has been set back a little bit, but he has progressed enough to the point that he can get in a game tonight.
Ross Detwiler, Tanner Roark and Taylor Jordan are widely considered the top three candidates for the fifth spot in the Nationals’ rotation, but Ohlendorf made seven starts for the Nats last season and certainly has experience in a big league rotation.
I asked Williams today whether he views Ohlendorf as in the competition for the No. 5 spot in the rotation at this point, or whether he sees the 31-year-old righty as more of an option as a long reliever.
“I think we have to see him (as a candidate for a rotation spot),” Williams said. “Again, it’s gonna determine itself as we go, depending on how long he has, dealing with issues, the stuff he’s dealt with, and where he can be pitch count-wise and strength-wise. That’ll kinda figure itself out. We hope that he’s able to pitch and able to progress normally from here and he’s up there and able to get all those pitches that he needs to get and build the arm strength he needs to build.
“But if we have any other setbacks with him, then that will take care of itself and we just won’t be able to get there. But as of right now, if we get him in and get him his work starting now, then he should be fine. And we’ll try to build him towards that.”
Williams said he hopes to get Ohlendorf through two innings today, as was the case with the other starters in their first spring appearance, but that might not be how things play out.
“We’re going to monitor him closely, though,” Williams said. “It may be just one. We’ll see how it goes. It all depends on how he feels, certainly. If he gets through a clean one, we may just keep him at that.”
It looks like the stomach bug that was making its way around the clubhouse might be fading. Jeff Kobernus had been battling flu-like symptoms for a few days, but felt well enough to make the trip with the Nats today. He might see some action in tonight’s game.
Infielder Zach Walters, who was scratched from yesterday’s lineup with a stomach virus, was feeling better this morning and took part in the Nats’ morning workout. He was not scheduled to come on this trip. Bryce Harper and Tyler Moore had also previously dealt with some type of stomach bug, but they’re back in action, as well.
Finally, Williams said that newly-signed left-handed reliever Michael Gonzalez made an appearance at the Nats’ facilities today. He’ll report tomorrow for workouts, and the Nats plan to have him throw a bullpen session to determine where he’s at in his throwing program and what his next step will be.
“He said he’s ready to go, he’s been throwing, throwing bullpens, things like that,” Williams said. “I can’t imagine he’s faced any live hitters lately. So that might be part of the process, initially. ... We’ll check with him when he gets here and see where he’s at.”