No more "Viera, Fla. - ..." dateline. What a beautiful sight.
I'm back in the mid-Atlantic region, where the temperature isn't really that much colder than it was on the east coast of Florida.
The Nationals arrived back in D.C. last night and will take on the Yankees at 2 p.m. this afternoon at Nats Park, an exhibition that will serve as the final chance for guys to get a taste of game action before the regular season arrives. For those of you with the day off or TV access at work, the game will be aired live on MASN.
Jordan Zimmermann and Andy Pettitte are scheduled to take the mound to start today's game. It's unclear how many of the Yankees' regulars will start today (not that we might recognize some of their new "regulars" anyway), but the Nats should end up playing most of their starters, at least for a few innings.
There are really only two question marks surrounding the Nationals as today's game approaches: Who will serve as the Nats' starting catcher on opening day, and who will grab the final spot in the Nats' bullpen?
Manager Davey Johnson is expected to announce today whether he'll go with Wilson Ramos or Kurt Suzuki as his guy behind the plate on April 1. Johnson has said he'll split time evenly between Ramos and Suzuki to begin the season, but he's opted to wait until today before announcing who will get the honor of starting opening day against the Marlins at Nats Park.
If I had to guess, I'd say Johnson ends up going with Ramos as his opening day guy. Ramos provides a bit more pop offensively, and the Nats still view him as their catcher of the future. He worked incredibly hard after tearing the ACL and meniscus in his right knee last May, and he's looked great this spring. This would be a nice reward for him.
Plus, going with Ramos opening day would allow Johnson to come back with Suzuki behind the plate for the second game of the season, when Gio Gonzalez takes the mound on April 3. Suzuki and Gonzalez have a good working relationship, having known each other back to their days with Oakland.
As for the final bullpen spot, Johnson has said that barring an injury, it will go to Henry Rodriguez, not left-hander J.C. Romero, who also made the trip north with the team.
Rodriguez is scheduled to pitch in today's game, and there are some in the media crew who covered the team in spring who feel that if Rodriguez struggles again today, the Nats will start him on the DL and go with Romero as part of their opening day roster.
Rodriguez had elbow surgery last August and his throwing program this spring got a delayed start. He's been shaky this spring, but if we're playing the guessing game again, I'd say he's on the Nats' roster come April 1.