Eaton not playing yet, Rizzo not looking for starter

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - If he had his way, Adam Eaton would have been playing in games weeks ago. There weren’t any games to play weeks ago, of course, so today’s Grapefruit League opener was the first opportunity for the Nationals left fielder to make his return from a torn ACL.

That return isn’t happening quite yet, though. Eaton (like all of his lineup regulars) is not playing this afternoon against the Astros. Manager Davey Martinez didn’t offer any specifics about the plan to work Eaton into games this spring.

adam-eaton-close-white.jpg“Don’t know yet. That’s up to the trainers, and how well he’s progressing,” Martinez said. “Right now, he’s doing really well. We want to keep him on that program. He knows it’s a process. He’s going to get in games. When he’s ready, he’s going to get a lot of at-bats. I just like the fact that he’s coming along real good.”

Eaton, who tore his ACL on April 28, has been participating in nearly every drill during workouts over the last week, though he wasn’t in left field with the rest of the regulars this morning for a situational defense session.

With 32 exhibition games on the slate before opening day March 29 in Cincinnati, there will be ample opportunities for Eaton to get himself ready. And the Nationals continue to proceed as though they expect their leadoff man to be in the lineup for the opener.

“We’re going to put him in when we feel he’s ready to play,” general manager Mike Rizzo said. “And at-bats won’t be as crucial for him as they would be for somebody else. We’re hopeful and optimistic that he’s on schedule. Again, we’re preparing for opening day. I think that we’re on target.”

That hasn’t stopped Eaton from pestering the coaching staff to get him out there now.

“Always,” Martinez said with a laugh. “He goes out there every day and does his drills. It’s fun to see him back out on the field.”

Other newsworthy items as the Nats and Astros prepare to get underway here at FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches ...

* Rizzo reiterated that he doesn’t currently have any “lines in the water” for another starting pitcher, despite the continued availability of prominent free agents Jake Arrieta, Lance Lynn and Alex Cobb.

“We don’t. We really don’t,” he said. “Like I said for a while, we really like the group of guys we have here. I think we’re deep enough. I think we’re good enough. I think we’re talented enough to get to where we need to get.”

* Ryan Raburn, who was scheduled to start in left field today, was scratched a few hours before game time due to “left side tightness.” Raburn, who missed much of last season with a left trapezius strain, is trying to make it back on the roster this spring as a minor league invitee.

Andrew Stevenson started in Raburn’s place, batting seventh and playing left field.

* Players from both teams wore Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School caps for today’s game, honoring the 17 students and staff who were killed in last week’s shooting at the Parkland, Fla., high school.

Angelique Meneses, a senior from the school, sang the national anthem and was greeted following her emotional performance by Martinez, whose club held a moment of silence and raised their caps during this morning’s “Circle of Trust” meeting for the victims.

“It’s great to remember and honor the victims and to support the families that went through such a horrific ordeal,” Martinez said. “The boys wanted to have a moment of silence just among our team. It was really good to see them pull through and be able to honor the families.”

Players will be signing their caps after today’s game, and they’ll be auctioned off, with all proceeds going to the school’s official victims’ fund.

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