PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. - The last five days have been a bit of a roller coaster for Kevin Frandsen.
The 31-year-old infielder, who had spent the last three years with the Phillies organization, was stunned to find out on Sunday that the Phillies were outrighting him to Triple-A. Frandsen had 72 hours to decide whether to accept the assignment to the minors or opt for free agency, and he did the latter, forfeiting a guaranteed $900,000 salary for this season in the process.
After a brief time of being in free agent limbo, Frandsen finalized a major league contract with the Nationals yesterday, giving the Nats their final bench player to open the regular season, and giving Frandsen a new home within the NL East.
Today, wearing a No. 90 Nationals jersey without his name stitched atop the back, Frandsen got settled in the visiting clubhouse here at Tradition Field and briefly met with reporters, discussing the wild ride that this week has been.
“Ultimately, it went from shock on Sunday to sick to my stomach on Monday, then Tuesday being really confident what I was about to do,” Frandsen said.
Frandsen had great things to say about new Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg, but he wasn’t prepared to start the regular season at the Phils’ Triple-A affiliate in Lehigh Valley. Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. told reporters that Frandsen would still have had an opportunity to compete for a spot on the opening day roster, but nothing was guaranteed.
“That was what was hard, leaving (Sandberg) and all those guys in that clubhouse,” Frandsen said. “On the other hand, I’ve been around long enough to know this is a business. They made their decision, thought I was roster flexibility, and I didn’t feel that way.
“I have a lot more pride in myself, I feel like. I know that wasn’t so much really from Ryno, at all. But it is what it is. The Nationals gave me an opportunity. They were aggressive, obviously willing to show the confidence in what Philly saw just to sign me in the first place. I’m really excited for this opportunity, because it’s a winner over here. It was a winner over there, and I’m coming to a very promising team now.”
Frandsen and his agent might have known that there were some teams that would have interest in him as a free agent, but he acknowledges that opting for free agency and tossing aside a guaranteed contract was a bit of a leap of faith.
“People thought I was crazy,” he said. “But at the same time, I thought I earned myself an opportunity to be in the big leagues. I know I’m a big league player, I know I can help a big league team out. And I feel like I’m a winning player. I want to help out and win something. Obviously the Nationals present that opportunity, and I’m excited. I know there’s an energy around here that’s awesome. ...
“I’m jealous of all my buddies in San Francisco that have two rings now. I want my hands to be a little heavier.”
Meanwhile, manager Matt Williams said that today’s lineup, which features Anthony Rendon leading off and Denard Span batting second, is just something he’s experimenting with in the Nats’ final Grapefruit League game of spring.
“Just having a look,” Williams said. “That’s it. Potentials during the season. You never know. Not too much to read into it other than we want to take a look.”
Rendon is playing third base today, with Ryan Zimmerman getting the day off. Williams said that Zimmerman has been dealing with a bit of a stomach issue of late, but the Nats apparently feel it’s not anything serious.
“He’s good,” Williams said. “He had some good work yesterday. Today he’s going to go through a full one. He’s a little bit sore. He had a little stomach issue. Not injury-wise, but his stomach hasn’t been feeling good. We’re just making sure. He’ll play Saturday. He’s got a lot of at-bats. He’s good.”
Williams said that Zimmerman’s shoulder, which was a little sore earlier in camp, is fine, but that the third baseman is just dealing with the stomach issue currently.
Right-hander Doug Fister is throwing in a minor league game back in Viera today, a game that started around 10 a.m.
The plan, Williams said, is for Fister to meet up with the Nationals here in Port St. Lucie and fly back to D.C. with the team following today’s game. Assuming all goes well in his outing today, Fister will then fly back down to Florida to start another minor league game, likely on April 1.
If he comes through that start feeling good, Fister would then be on track to make his regular season debut April 6 at Nats Park against the Braves.