Nationals make final moves to set opening day roster

The Nationals officially announced their opening day roster this morning, clearing three spots for players who made the club this spring off minor league deals by placing pitchers Will Harris and Seth Romero on the 60-day injured list while designating reliever Gabe Klobosits for assignment.

Stephen Strasburg and Ehire Adrianza also were placed on the 10-day IL to begin the season. Strasburg, still recovering from last summer’s thoracic outlet surgery, is targeting a season debut sometime in May or June. Adrianza, projected to be the team’s utility infielder, strained his left quadriceps muscle during the final week of spring training.

Those procedural moves, plus last week’s outrighting of outfielder Andrew Stevenson to Triple-A Rochester, cleared room on the 40-man roster for four players who made the team this spring off minor league contracts: third baseman Maikel Franco, starter Aníbal Sánchez, reliever Víctor Arano and utility man Dee Strange-Gordon.

Major League Baseball is permitting teams to carry a 28-man active roster in April, a concession to the abbreviated spring caused by this winter’s lockout. The Nationals are using the two extra spots on relievers, believing they need as many available arms as possible to back up a five-man rotation that didn’t get as much work as it normally would this spring.

Patrick Corbin starts tonight’s season opener against the Mets, with Josiah Gray announced as Friday’s starter against one the stars he was traded for: Max Scherzer. Manager Davey Martinez hasn’t announced the order for the rest of the rotation, but it will be some combination of Sánchez, Erick Fedde and rookie Joan Adon, a somewhat surprising pick to make the club given his lack of upper-level minor league experience.

The 10-man bullpen features a couple of recognizable veterans (Sean Doolittle, Steve Cishek), several returning members from last year’s group (Tanner Rainey, Kyle Finnegan, Paolo Espino, Austin Voth, Andres Machado, Mason Thompson, Patrick Murphy) and one newcomer in Arano. The 27-year-old right-hander owns a 2.65 ERA and 1.138 WHIP in 73 career appearances with the Phillies from 2017-19 but did not pitch in 2020 following elbow surgery before making 32 appearances for the Braves’ Triple-A affiliate last season.

The Nationals’ expected opening night lineup includes second baseman César Hernández leading off, followed by sluggers Juan Soto, Nelson Cruz and Josh Bell. Catcher Keibert Ruiz is likely to bat fifth, followed by left fielder Lane Thomas, shortstop Alcides Escobar, Franco and center fielder Victor Robles, who will bat ninth.

That leaves a four-man bench to open the season: catcher Riley Adams, infielder Lucius Fox, outfielder Yadiel Hernandez and utility man Strange-Gordon, the 33-year-old former National League batting champion who made the club after hitting .455 (15-for-33) this spring.

Needing to clear up 40-man roster spots for Strange-Gordon and the other minor league invitees, the Nationals placed both Harris and Romero on the 60-day IL. Harris, who missed most of last season following thoracic outlet surgery, had a follow-up procedure last week to clear out scar tissue near his right armpit. Romero, the 2017 first-round pick whose career has never taken off due to injuries and off-the-field incidents, has a left calf strain.

The final 40-man roster spot opened up when the Nats designated Klobosits for assignment. The 26-year-old had a 5.56 ERA in 11 games late last season, then appeared in only one Grapefruit League this spring before he was optioned to Triple-A.

Here’s the official opening day roster:

STARTING PITCHERS (5): Joan Adon, Patrick Corbin, Erick Fedde, Josiah Gray, Aníbal Sánchez

RELIEF PITCHERS (10): Víctor Arano, Steve Cishek, Sean Doolittle, Paolo Espino, Kyle Finnegan, Andres Machado, Patrick Murphy, Tanner Rainey, Mason Thompson, Austin Voth

CATCHERS (2): Riley Adams, Keibert Ruiz

INFIELDERS (5): Josh Bell, Alcides Escobar, Lucius Fox, Maikel Franco, César Hernández

OUTFIELDERS (5): Yadiel Hernandez, Victor Robles, Juan Soto, Dee Strange-Gordon, Lane Thomas

DESIGNATED HITTER (1): Nelson Cruz

10-DAY IL (2): Ehire Adrianza, Stephen Strasburg

60-DAY IL (4): Will Harris, Carter Kieboom, Seth Romero, Joe Ross

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