Nats to open against Yankees in prime time

The Nationals will open defense of their 2019 World Series title on July 23 at Nats Park against the New York Yankees, according to broadcast sources. The likely first pitching matchup is tantalizing, with former Astros star Gerrit Cole taking on Nats ace Max Scherzer.

This was supposed to be the World Series Game 5 matchup until Scherzer had to be scratched due to back and neck spasms.

Thumbnail image for Scherzer Bears Down Blue Sidebar.jpgCole was the top offseason free agent acquisition for the Yankees. He is a three-time All-Star whose 2.50 ERA and 20-5 record in 2019 were career bests. Scherzer is a three-time Cy Young Award winner, a seven-time All-Star and won Game 1 of the World Series against Houston. Cole won Game 5, later signing a $324 million, nine-year deal with the Bronx Bombers.

The New York Post was first to report the game, and said it would be broadcast in prime time on opening night.

The consensus is the summer training schedule will open at major league parks beginning this Wednesday.

And if you cannot get enough Nats in your diet today, FOX will rebroadcast Game 7 of the World Series at noon.

The 2020 regular season schedule has yet to be finalized. Reports earlier revealed the schedule calls for the Nats to play the Braves, Phillies, Mets and Marlins 10 times apiece for a total of 40 games. The Nats will take advantage of their closest neighbors with six games - three home and three away - against the Orioles. That leaves 14 games to be split amongst the Yankees, Red Sox, Blue Jays and Rays. So that works out to a pair of home-and-home three game sets and two series that will reach four games. If the Nats begin against the Yankees July 23, that could very well be a four-game set stretching from Thursday to Sunday at Nats Park.

* The Nats will begin the 2020 shortened season with 30 players on their roster. This means manager Davey Martinez and general manager Mike Rizzo will need to decide which players from their 26-man roster to add some depth to begin the season.

Which players would the Nats add to the roster to get it to 30 to begin the campaign?

Catcher Welington Castillo and outfielder Andrew Stevenson seem to be smart choices. The Nats are carrying only four outfielders on their current roster, plus veteran catchers Yan Gomes and Kurt Suzuki, who both missed some time last season to injury. Catchers Tres Barrera and Raudy Read are also available off the Triple-A Fresno roster and both are on the 40-man roster.

The Nats’ current roster on MLB.com is certainly not official, but lists 28 players, half of them pitchers. The rundown of pitchers includes right-handers Ryne Harper and Austen Williams. The club has right-hander Erick Fedde stashed on the Fresno roster and right-hander Wil Crowe on the Double-A Harrisburg roster. Crowe is not yet on the 40-man roster, but Harrisburg right-handers James Bourque and Kyle Finnegan are.

Also available in Harrisburg is utility infielder Adrián Sanchez, and in Fresno there is infielder Jake Noll, who was solid during the 2019 spring training in making the opening day roster. Outfielders with major league experience on the Fresno roster include Emilio Bonifácio, Carlos Tocci and Rafael Bautista.

The Nats will most likely have 30 players working out in the new home of the high Single-A Fredericksburg Nationals, which is 53 miles to the south of Nats Park.

The Nats also have veteran relief pitchers Javy Guerra and Fernando Abad on the Fresno roster. They both have experience with the Nats and were non-roster invitees during spring training.

* Nats trivia question: Juan Soto and Anthony Rendon combined to hit eight homers in the 2019 postseason. Who were the only two Nats to hit home runs in the 2019 National League Championship Series?

Answer: Victor Robles and Michael A. Taylor. Taylor hit a solo homer to begin the scoring in Game 2 and Robles’ blast came at Nats Park in Game 3. The Nats swept the Cardinals in four games.

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