JUPITER, Fla. - The Nationals brought a bunch of regulars on the one-hour, 45-minute bus ride from Viera for tonight’s game, wanting them take advantage of a rare spring training opportunity to play under the lights in preparation for the regular season.
But you can’t really take advantage of a game under the lights if a massive cloudburst prevents that game from ever being played.
Alas, the Nationals’ scheduled game against the Marlins this evening was canceled after two hours of intense rain and lightning left much of the field at Roger Dean Stadium under water. At one point, a lightning bolt struck the light tower in left-center field, knocking out some of the bulbs.
As is typically the case in spring training, the game won’t be made up, though the Nationals are scheduled to be right back here Saturday afternoon to face the Cardinals in this same facility.
The rainout could wreak havoc with the Nationals’ pitching staff, which could ill afford to lose a day of work this late in camp. Tanner Roark, who was scheduled to start tonight and throw six innings or 100 pitches in his second-to-last appearance before the season begins, will be pushed back to start Saturday. It’s unclear what will happen to Saturday’s orginally scheduled starter, Joe Ross, who desperately needs work after getting knocked out by a comebacker in the second inning of his previous outing.
“That would kind of throw off my plans a little bit,” manager Dusty Baker said, asked about the possibility of a rainout earlier in the afternoon.
Baker had made a point to bring many of his regular position players to play this game, the lone scheduled 7:05 p.m. start for the Nationals this spring. Bryce Harper, who wasn’t originally on the travel roster, actually asked Baker to add him to the list for that reason.
“I always like to have my teams play a couple games under the lights,” Baker said. “Because the season starts, you probably play 80 percent of your games under the lights. You’ve got to get acclimated to seeing the ball, picking up the rotation. It’s a different game at night. I bet you most of these guys would rather play at night.”