Final roster decisions come into focus with 48 hours to go

ANNAPOLIS - The focus of today's game at the United States Naval Academy is mostly on the setting and the hundreds of midshipmen who are getting the chance to watch major leaguers up close and personal.

There is, however, still some business to attend to, and for the Nationals that means finalizing their opening day roster.

They haven't made any formal announcement yet, but there does appear to be some more clarity to their 25-man roster.

Guthrie-Throws-Red-Sidebar.jpgJeremy Guthrie was the lone player still in big league camp who was not in the clubhouse here in Annapolis before today's game, suggesting the 37-year-old pitcher did not make the final cut after all. The Nationals had contemplated keeping Guthrie as a long reliever and emergency starter, but that would have reduced their bench.

Michael A. Taylor and Wilmer Difo, the last position players competing for roster spots, both are here today and available for the final exhibition against the Red Sox. The Nationals could actually wind up keeping both if they decide to option No. 5 starter Joe Ross (who won't be needed until April 9) to Triple-A Syracuse.

That would be a temporary move, but it might give manager Dusty Baker some infield insurance with Anthony Rendon still hampered by a bruised left calf.

Rendon, who fouled a ball off his front leg Monday in Florida, still has not played since, though he did take batting practice this morning with the rest of the team. One club official, asked today if he's concerned, was confident the third baseman would be good to go in Monday's opener.

Baker was less committal when he spoke pregame.

"He's doing better," the manager said. "He's feeling a little sore. He's not playing today. He might even be a question a little bit for opening day, we're not sure. We'd rather have him miss opening day, possibly, cause we've got a day off after that, and be ready to go the next day than take a chance and then miss him for 10 days or two weeks. That's the state of Anthony right now. He does feel a lot better than he did yesterday or the day before."

Do the Nationals need to take Rendon's health into consideration as they finalize their bench?

"Not yet, because his injury is a temporary injury," Baker said. "What it might do, it might change my lineup, my proposed lineup."

The Marlins are not expected to have a left-hander in their bullpen to open the season.

"I'll just deal with that, especially if they don't have a real No. 1 left-hander available, maybe a starter," Baker said. "They don't have any in their bullpen. That sort of goes into my decision on what my lineup may be, with or without Anthony."

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