Starting lineups: Nats vs. Rays in Port Charlotte

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla - After five long months, the Nationals today will take the field and play another team in an actual (exhibition) baseball game. No, it’s not opening day, but it is the Grapefruit League opener, and that counts for something, right?

Game 1 of 31 total exhibitions to be played over the next month in Florida and Washington takes place clear on the other side of the state from the Nationals’ home base. This is their first-ever trip to Rays camp, and all it takes for them to get here is a three-hour, 15-minute bus ride that departed Space Coast Stadium at 7 a.m.

Suffice it to say, Dusty Baker (making his Nats managerial debut) isn’t bringing a whole lot of big-name players with him today. The lineup features a combination of major league reserves (Matt den Dekker, Tyler Moore, Chris Heisey, Jose Lobaton) and young prospects (Trea Turner, Wilmer Difo, Michael A. Taylor, Jason Martinson, Spencer Kieboom).

On the mound for this game is Tanner Roark, returning to the Nationals’ rotation after bouncing back and forth from the bullpen in 2015. Or so we think. While Roark’s starting job would seem fairly secure, the fact Joe Ross is also pitching today (as the first man out of the bullpen) does at least feed the notion that these two right-handers might actually be competing for one spot in the opening day rotation. (That theory also is contingent upon Bronson Arroyo making the club as a non-roster invitee.)

Other pitchers who are making the trip for the Nationals include right-handers Austin Voth, Rafael Martin, Wander Suero, Paolo Espino, Abel De Los Santos and Erik Davis, plus lefties Sammy Solis, Matt Grace and Nick Lee ...

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WASHINGTON NATIONALS vs. TAMPA BAY RAYS
Where:
Charlotte Sports Park, Port Charlotte
Gametime: 1:05 p.m. EST
TV: None
Radio: MLB.com (Rays broadcast)
Weather: Partly cloudy, 77 degrees, wind 12 mph out to center field

NATIONALS
SS Trea Turner
2B Wilmer Difo
RF Matt den Dekker
1B Tyler Moore
CF Michael A. Taylor
LF Chris Heisey
3B Jason Martinson
C Jose Lobaton
DH Spencer Kieboom

RHP Tanner Roark

RAYS
RF Mikie Mahtook
CF Kevin Kiermaier
3B Evan Longoria
DH Logan Morrison
LF Desmond Jennings
1B James Loney
SS Tim Beckham
2B Nick Franklin
C Curt Casali

RHP Jake Odorizzi

PortCharlotte.jpgAn overview of the field at Charlotte Sports Park before the Nats’ first exhibition game of the spring vs. the Rays.

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