Wood gets chance after Hill injury, Abbott survives Yankee lineup

abbott delivers white

TAMPA – James Wood boarded the Nationals’ team bus in West Palm Beach at 6:15 a.m., before the sun rose. He sat through a 3 1/2-hour bus ride across the state of Florida, watching the driver deal with heavy fog, construction and on-and-off traffic before arriving at Steinbrenner Field for the first Grapefruit League game of his career.

Wood, the Nats’ newly anointed top-rated prospect, had all morning to think about it. And he figured he’d have at least five innings to anticipate his insertion into the nationally televised game against the Yankees.

He did not anticipate his time would come during the top of the third, with no advance notice, after a teammate was injured.

When Derek Hill pulled up lame beating out an infield single, Wood suddenly found himself taking over as a pinch-runner and eventually as the Nationals’ center fielder for the final seven innings of this game, which ended a 4-2 Yankees win on Carlos Narvaez’s walk-off homer off Gerardo Carrillo.

“Hey, the best way to do it is just put him in, right?” manager Davey Martinez said. “He looked good. He took some good pitches, worked some good counts, and he moves well. … He’s going to be really good.”

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What are Nats looking for in a fourth outfielder?

Alex Call swinging gray

TAMPA – Davey Martinez has another four weeks before he has to decide who he wants to keep as his fourth outfielder to begin the season, but the evaluation process is already underway. And this afternoon, the Nationals manager has the opportunity to watch all three candidates for that job at the same time.

Alex Call, Derek Hill and Stone Garrett are all in the lineup for today’s game against the Yankees, manning the three outfield positions from left to right. All have some, but not extensive, big league experience. All bring a specific skill or two to the table. In all likelihood, only one will make the Opening Day roster.

If anyone has a leg up from the outset, it might be Call, strictly because he already played for the Nationals last season. The 28-year-old became a semi-regular in left field down the stretch, producing a .772 OPS with five homers in 115 plate appearances and playing the outfield with energy.

Garrett was claimed off waivers from the Diamondbacks, for whom he delivered an .848 OPS and four homers in 84 plate appearances. A physical specimen at 6-foot-2, 224 pounds, he’s got an all-or-nothing swing that led to 27 strikeouts and only three walks in Arizona.

“I’ve seen Alex play last year,” Martinez said. “This is our first year of Stone. I know he’s got a lot of power. I hope that comes out this spring and we see some of that. But they’re very different. They both can do things really well.”

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