WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - Nationals position players officially report to spring training this morning, and there may be nobody in camp happier to hear that than Davey Martinez.
“I’ve actually been excited since right after the New Year, really,” the third-year manager said. “I’ve started gathering my thoughts and looking forward to seeing all the guys, and then all of a sudden you’re here, you’re excited and after about two days of watching pitchers throw bullpens, it’s like: ‘Let’s move on.’ I’m ready for the whole team to get here and start doing other things.”
There’s only so much that can be gleaned from bullpen sessions and pitchers’ fielding practice, which is about all that has taken place (at least formally) since camp opened Thursday. That will change now that position players are joining the fun. They report and take their physicals today, then everybody will be on the field together Tuesday morning for the first time in 2020.
There’s a lot to get done in a short amount of time. With Saturday night’s Grapefruit League opener looming, the Nationals have only four days scheduled for full-squad workouts.
“We do let them know that the games creep up on you really fast,” Martinez said. “So you’ve got to come in shape and be ready and then hone in on your baseball skills when you’re here for four days.”
Not that all of these guys are just now showing up. Many position players have been here for a while, some (like Adam Eaton) dating as far back as early January. Trea Turner, Carter Kieboom, Eric Thames, Wilmer Difo, Victor Robles and others all were seen in camp prior to the weekend. Ryan Zimmerman, Howie Kendrick and Starlin Castro all arrived Sunday.
Pitchers and catchers, of course, have been here longer, and some of them are itching to ramp things up. At the top of that list is Max Scherzer, who threw another 56-pitch bullpen session Sunday and now is ready to face hitters for the first time. Martinez said his ace will throw live batting practice in a few days (most likely Wednesday) and that may be all the preparation Scherzer needs before taking the mound in an actual game.
Martinez was asked if he expects Scherzer to start Saturday’s highly anticipated spring opener against the Astros.
“We’re talking about Max,” the manager said with a hint of incredulity in his voice. “He’s definitely on schedule. We’ll see. He’s going to throw a live BP in a couple of days, and then we’ll go from there. But, yeah, he’s adamant about being the first guy out there.”
Martinez wouldn’t go so far as to name Scherzer his opening day starter just yet, though, insisting he hasn’t made that important decision yet.
For what it’s worth, if the Nationals want to plan out their rotation this way, they could give Scherzer the ball for their March 26 season opener in New York and then have Stephen Strasburg start their April 2 home opener against the Mets, a fitting honor for the World Series MVP.