VIERA, Fla. - It’s hard to say anyone in the Nationals organization has been negatively affected by the offseason signing of right-hander Max Scherzer. But coming off a season where he went 15-10 with a sterling 2.85 ERA as a starter, it appears righty Tanner Roark will get bumped from the rotation due to Scherzer’s arrival.
Manager Matt Williams continues to say that Roark is preparing as a starter during spring training, although he’s made only one start and that was on the road in a split-squad game last week against the Mets. He’s scheduled to pitch at least two innings after left-hander Gio Gonzalez against the Tigers today.
Roark has struggled through his first three exhibition appearances, allowing nine runs, including three homers, in just 5 2/3 innings.
“The only thing that is concerning me is that he’s throwing strikes,” Williams said. “We know what he can do and how he changes speeds and all of that. So if he throws strikes, he’s fine. Spring training numbers are spring training numbers, but the fact that he’s upping his pitch count and getting prepared is all that matters to me.”
Gonzalez’s start today means the Nats have gone through their rotation a full three times. Williams said Gonzalez will throw around 60 pitches or four innings today and then he’ll ramp up the workload for all starters to 70-plus pitches or five innings, beginning when Scherzer faces the Astros tomorrow in Kissimmee.
Left fielder Jayson Werth should see his first game action tomorrow on the minor league side. Williams said Werth will just play in the field without throwing and won’t hit yet. The Nationals are able to control game situations like that in minor league camp during the spring. Werth continues light hitting drills and tee work.
Second baseman Yunel Escobar will take 50 ground balls today at second base as he continues recovering from a Grade 1 oblique muscle strain. Escobar has yet to appear in an exhibition game.
“We got to get him into some dynamic work,” Williams said. “The grounders are fine, but we’ve got to ramp it up. We’ll do that with some live baserunners and he can react to some situations and then progress on his hitting. As soon as he’s ready to go, we’ll get him into some games. Light at first, of course. “
Third baseman Anthony Rendon has completed two days of running on the treadmill with no issues. There still isn’t a timetable on when he’ll return to the field after suffering a mild left MCL sprain in his third exhibition game.
Williams said Nate McLouth has been getting multiple at-bats during minor league games, but has yet to play in the field. He’s still not cleared to fully throw as he rehabs from shoulder surgery.