Tony Sipp, as promised, is here on opening day and ready to pitch in a big spot late against one of the Mets’ big left-handed hitters. Howie Kendrick and Michael A. Taylor, as expected, aren’t on the active roster yet. And they’re not in Washington, either.
While Kendrick and Taylor continue to rehab from their spring training injuries in West Palm Beach, Sipp made the trip north after pitching in a minor league game Tuesday, the lefty’s final tune-up before making his Nationals debut.
Sipp, who signed a one-year deal with the club March 13, never faced major league hitters prior to opening day. But he did face minor leaguers on a back field several times, including Tuesday’s 17-pitch session.
That will have to be enough for the 35-year-old reliever.
“Yeah, he’s ready to go,” manager Davey Martinez said.
Sipp last week said he wasn’t worried about the lack of prep against big leaguers, insisting at this point in his career he judges his readiness based on how the ball feels coming out of his hand and not based on who’s in the batter’s box.
We’re about to find out if it makes a difference, because Sipp is likely to be thrown right to the wolves. The Mets have lefties batting third (Robinson Canó), fourth (Michael Conforto) and sixth (Jeff McNeil). Today.
Sipp has plenty of experience against Canó, with 23 prior head-to-head plate appearances during their days in the American League West, more than any other active major leaguer except for the Royals’ Alex Gordon. Cano is 7-for-21 with three homers in those showdowns. Sipp has never faced Conforto or McNeil.
Kendrick and Taylor, meanwhile, remain in West Palm Beach going through rehab. Martinez had initially said he wanted to have the entire team, healthy or not, in D.C. for opening day. But the club decided not to disrupt Kendrick and Taylor’s rehab programs and had them stay in Florida.
Kendrick, who strained his left hamstring March 5, has begun taking at-bats in minor league games but hasn’t played the field yet. Taylor, who sprained his left knee and hip March 15, is further behind in his rehab but isn’t expected to miss nearly as much time as initially feared.
“I don’t want to put any timeline on them,” general manager Mike Rizzo said. “We don’t see either of those injuries as catastrophic or real long-term injuries. We’re going to have them go at their own pace.”
Kendrick and Taylor join reliever Koda Glover (right forearm strain) on the 10-day injured list to begin the season.