VIERA, Fla. - After a spring training filled with Nationals starting position players dropping like flies with injuries, manager Matt Williams finally was able to exhale when he received news on the team’s latest medical scares.
First baseman Ryan Zimmerman left Friday’s game prematurely after banging his left shoulder on a diving stop. But Zimmerman was able to participate in full pregame drills today and expects to play tomorrow when the Nationals travel to Jupiter to take on the Cardinals.
Right fielder Bryce Harper is not feeling any effects from a fall that shook him up in the sixth inning of yesterday’s loss to the Mets. He will bat third today.
Left fielder Jayson Werth is finally working full hitting sessions in. He has mostly focused on fielding and throwing throughout the spring while recovering from right shoulder surgery in January.
“Normal soreness, spring soreness,” said Williams. “But took a really good round of batting practice, with his own bat, live off a coach. Everything else is good. His throwing’s good, his legs are underneath him. So really positive after yesterday.”
Williams is reluctant to make the final call but it looks unlikely that Werth will make start of the season with opening day eight days away.
“Again, I would put nothing past him,” Williams. “But he’d have to really get into games and feel good about it. I think that’s a stretch, probably. But he’s making good progress, which is good.”
The positive news continued with center fielder Denard Span, who is ramping up his rehab from abdominal muscle surgery at the beginning of the month.
“Yesterday, he ran again with no issues,” said Williams. “He swung in the cage. His throwing is good. He’s out past 120 (feet). So he’s out there letting it go throwing-wise. So all the medicals look good in that regard. I think he’s progressing well. He’s on his way.”
Meanwhile, it seems as though third baseman Anthony Rendon’s sprained left MCL is taking longer than expected to heal.
“Anthony’s still feeling it,” said Williams. “We’re just continuing the protocol on him and seeing where he’s at. He’s running. He’s doing stair work, walking up and down stairs. He’s doing strengthening exercises. He’s doing everything he can do otherwise to make sure that when it’s good to go, he’s in shape to start doing all the things again.”
“At this point, opening day is in jeopardy for him. Given the fact that it’s been so long and he would have to get back into baseball mode. They’re strengthening as much as they can without getting him into a position where he feels it.”
All of these injuries has left Williams trying to piece together a Nationals’ lineup for opening day.
“We have guys that have hit at the top of the order,” said Williams. “Michael (A. Taylor) has hit there, albeit on a minor league basis. Yunel (Escobar) has hit there. He has hit two a lot. He profiles as a No. 2 guy because he makes contact. He has good on-base percentage. Harp profiles three. Zim profiles three or four or five, any of those middle spots. Guys are able to flip-flop back and forth. Yunel, given his propensity of putting the ball in play, can hit leadoff, as well. We’ve hit Desi (Ian Desmond) a lot two, so Desi can hit two.
“There’s a lot of options. Depends on who we’re facing, matchups against that guy. We’re trying to put together the best lineup for that particular day. It’s fluid. It could be one (lineup) one day and a different the next day. That’s how we did that for three months last year.”