With just one more exhibition game against the Yankees this afternoon, eyes are starting to look ahead to the start of the regular season against the Braves on Thursday.
We’ve figured for some time how the Nationals rotation would be lined up to start the season: Patrick Corbin was officially announced as the Opening Day starter on Friday, with Josiah Gray, MacKenzie Gore, Trevor Williams and Chad Kuhl (replacing the injured Cade Cavalli) seemingly following suit.
Manager Davey Martinez, keeping his cards close to his chest, confirmed Corbin will get the ball for Opening Day on Thursday and Gray will start the second game of the season Saturday.
“I know who's going to start on Thursday,” Martinez said with a grin during his first pregame meeting with the media back in the press conference room at Nationals Park. “I can tell you Gray will start the second game.”
Williams and Gore are both scheduled to pitch three innings today, with the right-hander getting the start based solely on his veteran status. That means they will both be in line to pitch Sunday for the series finale against the Braves.
“They're gonna go three and three,” Martinez said of today’s plan for Williams and Gore. “Some of our bullpen guys need to throw, so they're gonna go play catch now. We'll figure out who wants to throw, who needs work.
“We want to give them at least three ups and keep them sharp. We got a workout tomorrow, so some of these other guys will throw tomorrow as well.”
Despite the uncertainty of the starters for Sunday and Monday, the Nationals will maintain a regular five-man rotation with 12 straight games scheduled after Friday’s off-day.
“We really only have that Friday off and then all of a sudden we play 12 in a row,” the skipper said. “So yeah, we'll keep the one through five intact until we start getting days off.”
As for the rest of the club, Martinez didn’t give any clues as to who is going to make the Opening Day roster, which doesn’t need to be officially announced until Thursday morning. As it stands right now, it seems that Michael Chavis has won the last spot on the bench while Thaddeus Ward, Hobie Harris, Mason Thompson and Anthony Banda will fill out the bullpen.
But again, nothing is official yet.
“We'll announce everything Thursday,” Martinez said. “I want to get through today and tomorrow. I have talked to some guys, brought them in today and I kind of was honest with them. Bar nothing happening, some of these guys, you'll be here, but we still got a couple of days. So we'll get through these days and we'll see how things go.”
We do know Matt Adams will accept his assignment to Triple-A Rochester. Back on a minor league deal, the 34-year-old slugger was told over the weekend that he wasn’t going to make the Opening Day roster. Given the chance to seek a major league opportunity elsewhere, Adams came with the team to D.C. and will head to Rochester after today’s game.
“Matt decided he's gonna go to Rochester, which is awesome,” Martinez said. “Look, I thought Matt had a really good spring. I talked to him (in length). I told him: Hey, for me, he knows how I feel about him. So he's gonna go down there. I said continue to swing the bat like you did in spring. And you never know what's gonna happen. I mean, Opening Day is great to be here and start with the team. But it's not the end all, right? Things happen quick, so stay ready.”
Adams, who played 205 games with the Nationals over the 2018-19 seasons, is familiar with Martinez and the culture the manager has established with the big league club. Martinez says it will be good to have an extension of his voice in Rochester.
“It's awesome because I know the kind of person Matty is, not only as a player but as a person, as a teammate,” Martinez said. “I know when he goes down there, we got a lot of young kids down there. So his voice will carry a lot, which will help out a lot. And also too, he's gonna go out and play and try to put up numbers and get back up here as well. So he understands where he's at in his career. He said it was a lonely world last year, playing independent ball. Given an opportunity again, he's just gonna go down there and knock the door down.”
* Sean Doolittle and Tanner Rainey are with the club in D.C. They’ll remain here through Opening Day before returning to Florida to continue their respective elbow rehabs. Doolittle is further along than Rainey, who is still recovering from Tommy John surgery.
“He’s building up strength, he's throwing,” Martinez said of Doolittle. “Actually he's throwing the ball really well. So hopefully we get him back soon. He's gonna go back and I think pretty soon he'll be throwing off the mound. But he's throwing the ball well. So I wanted him here. He's been through this before. He's gonna go to the (Homecoming) Gala with us. And I told him to stick around for Opening Day, him and Rainey both. So they're going to be around for Opening Day and then they're going to take off and go back to Florida.”
* Top prospects James Wood and Elijah Green joined the Nationals on the trip north as well. Martinez said he’ll look for opportunities to get both in the game today, but many of the regulars are scheduled to play a lot to continue getting at-bats before the regular season.
Green said he will start the season at Single-A Fredericksburg. Wood said he has not yet been told where he will begin the year, but it is presumed he will report to High-A Wilmington.
Fellow prospects Drew Millas, Jesus Liranzo, Amos Willingham and Jose Mujica are here with the team, too.