At least two members of the Nationals’ projected Opening Day roster are expected to participate in this spring’s World Baseball Classic, with Joey Meneses and Erasmo Ramirez among those named to their home countries’ preliminary rosters.
Meneses (Mexico) and Ramirez (Nicaragua) were formally included on the WBC preliminary rosters that were reported Friday. Barring injury, each should hold a prominent role on his country’s national team for this spring’s tournament.
Meneses, who became something of a celebrity back home during his stunning two-month debut with the Nationals late last season, is likely to be Mexico’s starting first baseman and hit somewhere in the middle of the lineup. Ramirez, who was named Nats’ Pitcher of the Year after posting a 2.92 ERA in 86 1/3 innings, could start for Nicaragua even though he’ll again be a member of the Nationals bullpen this season.
Players who participate in the WBC could miss a significant chunk of spring training, depending on how far their teams advance in the tournament.
Mexico will compete in Pool C (along with the United States, Canada, Colombia and Great Britain), with pool play scheduled for March 11-15 in Phoenix following several days of workouts and exhibitions. Nicaragua (which qualified for the first time) is competing in the powerhouse Pool D (along with the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Venezuela and Israel), with games in Miami, also scheduled for March 11-15 following several days of workouts and exhibitions.
It’s possible more Nationals players could find their way to the WBC before the tournament begins. The biggest question may be Paolo Espino, who has been a member of Panama’s national pitching staff since the 2006 WBC but has not yet committed to this year’s team. Espino suggested at the end of last season he was torn between pitching for his country and staying with the Nationals throughout the spring because he didn’t think he was assured of a spot on the Opening Day roster.
* Tres Barrera has found a new home, signing a minor league deal with the Cardinals on Friday after spending the first seven years of his professional career with the Nationals.
Barrera, who was dropped from the 40-man roster in November, will attempt to make St. Louis’ club as a non-roster invitee to spring training.
The 28-year-old catcher was a sixth-round pick in the 2016 draft out of the University of Texas. He made his major league debut in 2019 and in total appeared in 51 games for the Nats over parts of three seasons, hitting .231 with two homers, 14 RBIs and a .631 OPS.
Presented an opportunity to secure the No. 2 catching job last season after Riley Adams struggled and was demoted to Triple-A, Barrera could not find a consistent hitting stroke. He also had trouble throwing out runners, stopping only three of 34 basestealers during his time with the Nationals.
By season’s end, the organization preferred to give prospect Israel Pineda a look instead. The 22-year-old will compete with Adams to be Keibert Ruiz’s backup this spring.