JUPITER, Fla. - The Nationals had plenty of reasons to want to relocate their spring training headquarters from remote Viera to the more centrally located West Palm Beach, but here’s another one: the chance to take batting practice at home before a road game in Jupiter.
That’s what the Nats did today, keeping everyone back at FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches for a full morning workout and BP session before the travel squad and coaching staff boarded buses at 11:45 a.m. and make the quick trip up Interstate-95 for their 1:05 p.m. game against the Marlins at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium.
That was never possible during the club’s 12 seasons training at Space Coast Stadium (which was at least a one-hour drive from every other Grapefruit League facility). They had the option to do it last year after moving to West Palm Beach, but Dusty Baker and his staff chose to stick with the old formula: the travel squad got on the bus at 9:45 a.m. and took BP on the road, while all others stayed back and held their own workout at home.
This method is commonly used by teams that train in Arizona, where every facility is within a 45-minute drive of each other, and after spending the last three seasons coaching the Cubs in Mesa, manager Davey Martinez decided to try it out here in Florida.
“We get to do a lot more here than we do going elsewhere and just taking batting practice,” Martinez said at 9:30 a.m. in West Palm Beach as the entire roster was taking the practice fields. “So we scheduled a whole morning workout for these guys. It gives them time to field extra ground balls, hit a little bit more, get into the cages and do our full routine. I think it’s better moving forward to get our work done.”
As for today’s game ... Tanner Roark makes his first start of the spring, scheduled to go two innings (pending a first inning that doesn’t require an excess of pitches). Martinez has made sure the right-hander understands he doesn’t need to prove anything this spring; his spot in the rotation is secure.
“We just want him to go out there and get his work in,” the manager said.
Edwin Jackson, who does have to compete for a spot on the staff, will be first up out of the bullpen today. He’ll be followed by Jefry Rodriguez, Jimmy Cordero, Bryan Harper, Chris Smith and Trevor Gott.
For the second straight day, Ryan Raburn was slated to be in the Nationals lineup only to be scratched due to “left side tightness.” The 36-year-old outfielder said he hurt himself on one BP swing a couple days ago but isn’t concerned this will keep him out for long.
“Just a little sore,” he said. “It’s definitely just precautionary. I’m at that stage of my career, you know? Blow it out now, and that’s probably it. So I’m trying to be smart about it for once, take care of it now so it’ll give me an opportunity to have a good spring training and see what happens.”
Acquired last summer when the Nationals had a flurry of outfielder injuries, Raburn filled in admirably and hit .262 with a .735 OPS in 25 games before a left trapezius strain abruptly ended his season. (He said this injury, which is located more in his lower back, isn’t related at all to last year’s injury.)
Raburn re-signed with the Nats this winter and now is trying to squeeze his way onto the roster as a backup outfielder. He admits this could be the end of the road of a 12-year career that has included stops in Detroit, Cleveland, Colorado and Washington. Which is why he’s being especially cautious now with this injury.
“I just don’t want to do something stupid and cost me my last chance,” he said. “Cause I’m not going to do the minor leagues anymore. I’m either going to play one more year or I’m going to be a full-time pops.”