WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - The Nationals head north Sunday night following their Grapefruit League finale. Tony Sipp and Howie Kendrick might not make the trip, though both will be in Washington for opening day.
With Sipp and Kendrick each hurriedly trying to get ready in time to make the opening day roster but running out of time to return to game action, the Nationals are making plans to have both veterans stay back in Florida and continue to work up until the last minute.
Manager Davey Martinez did say he wants all of his players, ready or not, to be in Washington for opening day festivities. But it appears the club will take advantage of three more days of minor league games in West Palm Beach to give Sipp and Kendrick more prep, rather than bring them north for Monday’s final exhibition against the Yankees and then two off-days.
“We’ll definitely leave them back here,” Martinez said. “But we talked and, regardless of what happens, I want them all there for opening day. Like I said, these next few days we’ll see what goes on.”
Both veterans took an important step toward making it back in time today when they faced each other in a live batting practice session. Sipp, who signed on March 13, threw 15 total pitches in his first session against live hitters this spring.
The left-hander now will spend Friday working on fundamental drills, then could pitch in a minor league game Saturday. After that, he could stay at the complex and pitch in another game or two before flying to D.C. in time for Thursday’s opener.
“We’ll see where he’s at and how he feels,” Martinez said. “For me, it’s more about just getting him in baseball shape, facing hitters. It’s a lot different when you’re actually facing a guy standing in the box than when you’re throwing the ball in the bullpen. So we’ll see how comfortable he is doing that today.”
Because Sipp signed a major league contract and is out of options, he must make the opening day roster unless he suffers an injury and can be placed on the injured list.
Kendrick, meanwhile, is trying to make it back from a hamstring strain suffered March 5. Martinez said the veteran utility man will need to play in at least three or four games before he’s placed on the active roster. That could come over the next several days in minor league games, which will essentially serve the purpose of a rehab assignment in-season.
Would that be enough for the Nationals to activate Kendrick for the season opener?
“I am very optimistic,” Martinez said. “But like I said, I want to make sure this doesn’t become a recurring thing.”
Meanwhile, Koda Glover has finally resumed throwing nearly a month removed from his lone game appearance of the spring. The oft-injured reliever suffered a forearm strain Feb. 24 and had been held back from throwing ever since.
His throwing again is an encouraging sign, but Glover is nowhere close to ready to pitch on the active roster.
“We’re going to make sure he’s really ready,” Martinez said. “He’s got to have spring training. I would just say that his progression is going well and every day we get reports on him and he’s getting better. So we’ll just let him prepare himself to be ready, but he definitely has to get innings in.”
Update: The Nationals jumped out to an early lead tonight on the Cardinals, thanks to Ryan Zimmerman. Zim took an outside pitch from Chris Beck and belted it down the right field line for his second homer of the spring, giving the Nats a 1-0 lead. Jeremy Hellickson has gotten himself into a bit of trouble early on, with five baserunners in three innings. But the right-hander has escaped without surrendering a run.
Update II: Brian Dozier hasn’t done a whole lot of damage at the plate this spring - he came into tonight’s game 6-for-33 - but he has made his hits count. Dozier crushed a two-run homer off lefty Chasen Shreve to extend the Nats’ lead to 3-0 here tonight. So that means four of his seven hits this spring have gone for extra bases.
Update III: The Nats have pulled away here in this one. They just scored four runs in the seventh despite recording only one hit in the inning (Anthony Rendon’s bases-loaded single). Let’s just say the two relievers the Cardinals put out there were dealing with some command issues. Nats lead 7-1 after seven.
Final update: Sean Doolittle surrendered a pair of base hits on sharp grounders in the ninth, but no harm done. The Nats notch a nighttime spring training win by a score of 7-1 over the Cardinals.