Taylor returns to camp following father's death

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - Michael A. Taylor has returned to the Nationals after a five-day absence due to the death of his father.

Taylor left camp Saturday to join his family in nearly Fort Lauderdale, with manager Dusty Baker telling the outfielder to take as much time as he needed. Taylor decided he wanted to return today; he was hoping to play in a minor league game (before rain arrived) and plans to be in the Nationals lineup Friday.

Taylor-Running-Catch-Red.jpgTaylor will leave camp again Monday for the funeral.

"He says it's tougher sitting at home than it is being out here," Baker said. "So this can be like a sanctuary away from reality. Cause when you go home, it really sinks in again."

Taylor had been enjoying an impressive spring, hitting .444 (16-for-36) with two homers, seven RBIs and six stolen bases before he departed. He remains in the running for a spot on the opening day bench, competing with fellow outfielder Brian Goodwin and utility players Wilmer Difo and Brandon Snyder.

"It's tough," Baker said. "Life doesn't stop. Death has no season. We just have to help him deal with it and just kind of leave him alone. I'm sure he wants to play. He said the funeral's on Monday. So we wish Michael the best, with strength and spirit."

The final spots on the bench and the bullpen are among the toughest decisions the Nationals need to make, and the time is fast approaching when those decisions need to be made.

In addition to the competition between the aforementioned players for what ostensibly is the fifth outfielder's position, the Nationals must decide which of two similar backup first basemen (Adam Lind or Clint Robinson) to keep. Lind, who is 7-for-35 with two doubles and three RBIs, signed a $1.5 million contract the day before camp opened. Robinson, who is 7-for-37 with one double and five RBIs, is on a non-guaranteed contract and is out of minor league options.

In the bullpen, the Nationals have a host of candidates for likely two available spots: Koda Glover, Enny Romero, Joe Nathan, Vancy Worley, Jeremy Guthrie, Matt Albers, A.J. Cole, Neal Cotts, Rafael Martin, Jacob Turner, Trevor Gott and Matt Grace.

"Personally this is the time I look forward to the least when I leave home, this last week to 10 days," Baker said. "Because you're affecting lives. You're bursting bubbles. You're affecting the economic stability and future of families. Agree or disagree, I'm the one who has to tell them.

"That's probably the toughest and most solemn time for me, making these final cuts. Not only kids but veterans. Because at this time, every other team has the same problem we have with roster problems. It makes it harder for them to latch on and get jobs. ...

"You try to give them the best opportunity to make the club. Sometimes the numbers just don't work. I wish I could carry 27 or 28, but you can only carry 25. Sometimes it's contracts, sometimes it's options. There's a lot more that goes into these decisions than just pure ability or how you perform."

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