Zimmerman scheduled to play Wednesday (Nats lose 6-1)

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - Ryan Zimmerman is the lone Nationals position player who has yet to appear in a Grapefruit League game this spring, but it doesn't appear he'll hold that distinction much longer.

Zimmerman is scheduled to make his 2019 debut Wednesday when the Nationals host the Astros here in West Palm Beach, manager Davey Martinez said.

Zimmerman Swings Gray Sidebar.jpgZimmerman, who infamously played in only one major league game last spring and did the vast majority of his work in minor league games on back fields, worked out a plan with Martinez at the start of camp that would allow him to get his desired 50 plate appearances and get more reps in the field as the manager desired.

Last week Martinez hinted that Zimmerman would debut before the calendar shifted to March. If the veteran first baseman plays Wednesday, he'll have made that target with a day to spare.

Kurt Suzuki made his debut today, getting behind the plate to work with starter Aníbal Sánchez. Suzuki, who regularly caught Sánchez last season with the Braves, obviously has already established a rapport with the veteran right-hander. But Martinez suggested he won't have Suzuki open the season as Sánchez's personal catcher.

"I definitely want to have (Yan) Gomes catching Sánchez, as well," the manager said. "I know Sanchez is very comfortable with Suzuki. He knows him well. So for the first outing or two, I want Suzuki to get him going. But I definitely want Gomes to catch him as well, because there will be parts of the season where you don't know how things are going to play out. And I have to give Suzuki a day off. I want Gomes to be comfortable. I want Sánchez to be comfortable throwing to Gomes."

Gomes has already been behind the plate twice, catching Max Scherzer in Saturday night's Grapefruit League opener and Patrick Corbin on Monday in Lake Buena Vista. That was a long drive for Gomes, and he'll make another one Thursday for the Nationals' game against the Red Sox in Fort Myers.

That's because Scherzer will be making the trip as well. Like Corbin, the ace of the staff was given the option of staying back in West Palm Beach and facing hitters on a back field. But like Corbin, Scherzer elected to make the long trip to face a big league opponent.

Scherzer will slot into the rotation in between Jeremy Hellickson (who starts Wednesday against the Astros in West Palm Beach) and Stephen Strasburg (who starts Friday against the Marlins in Jupiter).

Sánchez, meanwhile, was sharp in his debut start today. The veteran right-hander cruised through his two innings, retiring six of the seven batters he faced. Sánchez issued a leadoff walk to José Martínez in the top of the second but nothing else. He struck out Matt Carpenter to open the game and didn't allow a ball to leave the infield while throwing 24 pitches.

The Nationals took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the third when Michael A. Taylor doubled off the left field wall, stole third and then scored on a Chasen Shreve wild pitch.

Update: We're getting our first look at several Nationals relievers today. Some have looked quite good, another has not. The good: Sean Doolittle, who tossed a scoreless third inning with a strikeout. The very good: Trevor Rosenthal, who hit 100 mph during a 1-2-3 fifth inning. The bad: Tanner Rainey, who allowed four runs on four hits in the fourth.

Final update: The Cardinals added two runs in the top of the eighth on a sac fly and RBI single off Ronald Pena. Final score: Cardinals 6, Nationals 1.

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