WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - Nationals pitchers and catchers will go through drills for the first time today at The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches. But there’s a notable absence among the 32 pitchers scheduled to participate in the first spring training workout.
Right-hander Max Scherzer, recovering from a stress fracture on the knuckle of his right ring finger, is not listed among the pitchers who will throw bullpen sessions and take part in drills covering first base, and fielding popups, comebackers and bunts.
The injury caused Scherzer to pull out of his commitment to Team USA in the World Baseball Classic, but the Nationals expect him to be ready for the start of the season.
The quartet of pitchers to watch during bullpen sessions today is right-handers Shawn Kelley, Stephen Strasburg and Tanner Roark, and lefty Gio González. Promising prospects Erick Fedde and Austin Voth are among the pitchers scheduled to throw.
Left-hander Tim Collins, a non-roster invitee on a minor league deal, also isn’t listed on the workout schedule. The former Royals reliever is recovering from his second Tommy John ligament-replacement surgery, performed in March.
* Right-hander Vance Worley received nearly identical offers from the Nationals and Orioles to come to camp as a non-roster invitee on a minor league contract after being non-tendered by Baltimore during the offseason.
In the end, it was Worley’s preference to pitch for a National League club that tilted the balance in the Nationals’ favor.
“It was a tough decision,” Worley said. “I loved my time over in Baltimore. But I just think coming over here was a better fit for me, pitching in the National League for most of my career and pitching like a National League pitcher. I feel like the America League is power everything - power bats, power arms. I think I’m a better fit here.”
The Nationals announced Worley’s deal on Jan. 28, the same day the Orioles held their annual FanFest, during which manager Buck Showalter told reporters that he was hopeful that the O’s would soon announce Worley’s return. It caught some people in the Orioles organization by surprise.
“Neither team was guaranteeing me a spot,” Worley said. “However, there was openings on this side. So I thought the opportunity was better here.”
With young pitchers pushing their way into long relief roles in Baltimore, the 29-year-old Worley felt more comfortable that he could tackle multiple roles out of the Nationals bullpen. He’s capable of pitching an inning or more, working as a long man and making spot starts.
“(The Orioles) didn’t say how they would use me this time,” Worley said. “At least here they told me something.”
Worley, who went 2-2 with a 3.53 ERA in 35 games (including four starts) with the Orioles last season, is a prime candidate to inherit the long relief/swingman role vacated when the Nationals didn’t bring back righty Yusmeiro Petit.
* If major league ballplayers crave a little home-like familiarity, González’s comes in the form of a red box of breakfast cereal.
When he arrived in the clubhouse this morning, the veteran lefty opened up the lockbox in his locker stall, extracted a box of Fruity Pebbles with marsmallows and walked across the hall to the team cafeteria.
A few minutes later, González returned to the clubhouse and put the cereal box back in its resting place. But he didn’t store it under lock and key, just in case one of his teammates wanted to partake of the sugary goodness.
“I need the sugar rush,” González explained. “Just something to get me going.”
González didn’t need to tote his own cereal to camp when the Nationals trained in Viera, Fla., because there was a breakfast station featuring homemade omelets and pancakes every morning.
* Early position player arrivals in camp include first basemen/outfielders Clint Robinson and Adam Lind, third baseman Anthony Rendon, shortstop Trea Turner, second baseman Daniel Murphy, and outfielders Chris Heisey, Michael A. Taylor and Brian Goodwin.