Winker still recovering from illness, Weems able to pitch again

As ballgames up and down the East Coast were being delayed or postponed altogether due to rain, Davey Martinez tried to remain optimistic about the Nationals’ chances of actually playing the Pirates as scheduled at 6:45 p.m. tonight.

“We’re going to get ready to play until they tell us otherwise,” the manager said about 3 hours before scheduled first pitch. “Hopefully we do play. All these days off at the beginning, it’s tough to get in that routine. So I want to play. I want to get them out on the field and get them going.”

Today is the seventh day of the regular season but only the Nats’ fifth scheduled game. They already had a day off in Cincinnati following the season opener, then another Tuesday following the home opener. The notion of another one at this early juncture isn’t exactly popular with anyone in uniform.

Even though they played as scheduled Monday, the Nationals weren’t able to take batting practice on the field due to the poor conditions. They same held true today, with players restricted to the indoor batting cage.

A break in routine, or an unexpected day off, can be appreciated at certain points during the long season – “August!” Martinez quipped – but not so much this early in the marathon.

“I get why they do it (schedule extra days off in April) because of the weather,” Martinez said. “But we’ve got to keep them going. They’ve been hitting in a cage since 2:30 today, doing some other agility drills in there. We’ve got to just keep them going, and hopefully the sun will come out here soon and we get back on the field and get some work done.”

If they play, the Nationals won’t have Jesse Winker in the lineup again. The veteran outfielder still isn’t 100 percent after leaving Monday’s game before the bottom of the first with a stomach illness that has been sweeping through the clubhouse all week.

“Jesse’s still a little under the weather, so he’s not going to play today,” Martinez said. “I’m hoping that throughout the game, if we play today, that he’ll be available to pinch-hit.”

With Winker sidelined, Victor Robles gets a second straight start in center field, with Eddie Rosario shifting to left field. Joey Meneses also is batting third again, with Joey Gallo returning to the cleanup spot after sitting Monday’s game against Pirates left-hander Marco Gonzales.

Reliever Jordan Weems, who also was sick Monday, is feeling better and is available to pitch tonight, according to Martinez. That leaves the entire eight-man bullpen available if needed.

* Jose A. Ferrer and Stone Garrett are here with the team this week and got to be introduced to the crowd before the home opener despite beginning the season on the injured list.

Ferrer, who has a strained teres major muscle in his upper left back, underwent a follow-up MRI earlier today; the Nationals are still awaiting results. If the MRI comes back clean, the lefty could be cleared to begin throwing again, though the team is probably going to remain cautious with him.

Garrett, still trying to get back into full game shape after breaking his left leg last August, will head back to West Palm Beach soon and play in extended spring training games. The outfielder will start out playing five or six innings at a time, but the Nats want him to get used to playing every day again before deciding if he’s ready to go on a minor league rehab assignment.

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