The Nationals have until 10 a.m. Friday to submit and announce their roster for the National League Division Series. Don't be surprised if they take every last minute available to them before finalizing which 25 players will take the field against the Dodgers.
These decisions are easier said than done, and Dusty Baker, Mike Rizzo and everyone else involved in the process have some legitimately tough decisions to make.
"Do you keep some veterans?" Baker asked rhetorically on Wednesday. "Do you keep some guys that are slightly injured? Do you go with the fresher bodies? Somebody is going to be disappointed this round."
Baker knows this from experience, having witnessed guys not take the news of their exclusion from a postseason roster well.
"I've seen some players tear up," the manager said. "Not going to mention any player or name. I was there to pull them off a couple of managers, guys that weren't on the roster because it means a lot to these guys. Guys get very emotional if they're not on the roster, and I don't blame them. That's natural."
The toughest decisions almost certainly involve the last spot or two in the bullpen and on the bench, and that appears to be the primary area of discussion right now for the Nationals.
The club is expected to carry eight relievers for the NLDS. Closer Mark Melancon and fellow right-handers Shawn Kelley and Blake Treinen are locks to be included. The Nats also figure to carry three left-handers from a pool of four candidates: Marc Rzepczynski, Oliver Perez, Sammy Solis and Sean Burnett.
That would leave two remaining spots to fill. One needs to be given to a long reliever, someone who could be counted upon for at least three innings or more if a starter gets knocked out early or a game goes into extra innings. Yusmeiro Petit has held that role all season and has postseason experience, but rookie Reynaldo Lopez has performed well as a long reliever in the last couple of weeks and has made a strong case for himself.
The pertinent question, then, might be this: Do the Nationals carry only one of those two long relievers and thus keep another middle man like Matt Belisle or Koda Glover, or do they actually decide it makes more sense to keep both long relievers?
Given the fact projected Game 4 starter Joe Ross made only three starts since returning from the disabled list and isn't guaranteed yet of being able to throw 100 pitches, not to mention the fact projected Game 3 starter Gio Gonzalez has failed to reach the sixth inning in six of his last nine starts, the Nationals might very well be wise to carry two long relievers.
"That's a very good question," Baker said. "We'll see. We will try to carry the best to try to combat the Dodgers."
On the bench, the Nationals appear to have four of the five available slots locked up: First baseman Clint Robinson, infielder Stephen Drew, outfielder Chris Heisey and whichever catcher (Jose Lobaton or Pedro Severino) isn't starting a particular game.
That leaves one more spot up for grabs, and it most likely needs to be an outfielder. Michael A. Taylor is dealing with a swollen left thumb and may not be ready to play in time. Which probably makes this a decision between veteran Ben Revere and rookie Brian Goodwin.
Revere has endured through a difficult season that began with a strained oblique muscle on opening day and ended with a .217 batting average, .260 on-base percentage and permanent spot out of the everyday lineup after rookie Trea Turner arrived. The 28-year-old, who hit a combined .306 over the previous three seasons, admitted Wednesday the oblique injury still hasn't fully healed.
"It's tough to come back from that," he said. "You tear a muscle, and it's going to take a while for it to heal up. And we go every day, playing every single day, so it gets tight every now and then. I know guys that have done it, and they say it's tough to come back that year from an oblique injury, their swings were just different. But it's a lot easier the next year, because they had time in the offseason to let it heal."
For now, Revere can only wait and learn whether he'll be part of the NLDS roster or not.
"It's been an up-and-down year," he said. "I've really had to learn how to compose myself and not lose my mind. Luckily I have good coaches and good teammates that kept me in line. Hopefully I get a chance to redeem myself in the postseason."
Goodwin has far less experience than Revere, with only 22 games in the big leagues on his resume. The slow-developing prospect, though, has impressed when given a chance to play in the last month, hitting .286 and slugging .429.
How do the decision-makers make the choice between experience and unproven talent?
"The veteran portion of your question is important, because being through this before, there's some advantages to that," Rizzo said. "Being able to control your emotions, being able to control the strike zone, be it as a hitter or a pitcher, is important. The experience aspect is real. But with that said, talent prevails all that stuff. Certain players - regardless of age, experience or major league service - have the propensity to rise above, and (with) the biggest stage, with the brightest lights, have the tendency to perform."