The Nationals added another element to today's pre-playoffs workout: live batting practice. And Daniel Murphy added more elements to his personal workout in an attempt to return from injury and start Game 1 of the National League Division Series: hard running in both the outfield and on the bases.
By all accounts, both went according to plan, leaving everybody as ready as they could reasonably expect to be at this point for Friday's series opener against the Dodgers.
All of the Nationals' position players took swings against live pitchers, simulating the game experience more than what's possible in traditional batting practice sessions. Eight pitchers threw off the mound to batters: Tanner Roark, Shawn Kelley, Marc Rzepczynski, Sammy Solis, Sean Burnett, Blake Treinen, Reynaldo Lopez and Yusmeiro Petit. Bryce Harper took Kelley deep, crushing a ball off the facade of the second deck in right field.
Mound work today would typically be a precursor to pitching in a game on Saturday, so it's reasonable to speculate Roark will be starting Game 2. Manager Dusty Baker cautioned against reading too much into it, though, and still isn't revealing the order of his NLDS rotation beyond Game 1 starter Max Scherzer.
"Tanner wanted to throw today," Baker said. "All the guys either threw in the bullpen, or whoever wanted to face live hitters. Kelley wanted to throw, Treinen wanted to throw, Burnett wanted to throw. They felt they needed to throw."
The full workout, which also included regular rounds of BP after the eight pitchers were done throwing to hitters, lasted 2 1/2 hours, a significant block of time for a team trying to stay fresh during its four-day layoff between the regular season finale and postseason opener.
Murphy remained on the field even beyond that so he could give his legs their toughest test since he last started a game 2 1/2 weeks ago. The All-Star second baseman, who has been dealing with a strained buttocks muscle, ran several sprints in the outfield, then ran from the plate to second base several times at nearly full speed.
"I felt really good today," Murphy said. "I think today was a step in the right direction. See how we respond tomorrow. Get some work in tomorrow. See Friday."
Murphy wouldn't make any firm declarations about his status for Game 1, but when asked if there's anything left he needs to do before he knows he'll be ready, he admitted there isn't anything at this point.
"I can't really think of one," he said. "I hit the bases today, got to do some turns. I think that's the toughest part when you take some time off, replicating the turns. The real answer to that is there's things I'm not going to be able to replicate until the bell rings. Some of this stuff, I won't find out until I'm in game action."
The Nationals won't know for sure whether this will hamper Murphy's play in any way. But at this stage of the season, they recognize they have to take that chance.
"Would you take 80 percent of Daniel Murphy or 100 percent of somebody else?" Baker said. "This guy knows what it's like to be in the playoffs and to be a playoff hero. He has a pretty good idea, and he knows his body. He's been working hard at this. He's been working so hard at this. I'm proud of how he worked and how he wants to come back. We're going to give him that opportunity."