Handful of Nats regulars will play in exhibition opener

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - After more than a week of bright sunshine and temperatures in the mid-80s, the Nationals walked outside this morning to an unfamiliar sight this spring: rain.

For the first time in camp, weather altered the club’s plans. What should’ve been a two-hour full squad workout instead was condensed into a quick session that took care of the day’s most pressing needs (a group of pitchers throwing live batting practice, moved to the covered batting cages) and little else.

Manager Davey Martinez will try to work some of today’s planned activities into Saturday’s pregame workout.

“Our biggest concern was getting the live BPs in,” Martinez said. “Everybody threw, so that was nice. We wanted to get in some baserunning stuff, but we can always alter that and do it tomorrow. But the live BPs, we got in and everybody’s good. All the hitters went and hit a lot in the cages. We got a lot of stuff in. And for the most part, they came in, they worked out in the gym. Everybody’s good to go for tomorrow.”

As for Saturday evening’s Grapefruit League opener (6 p.m. on MASN), expect to see only a handful of regulars take the field against the Astros.

Max Scherzer will start and throw one or two innings, depending on his pitch count and how he feels at end of his first frame. (Knowing Scherzer, he’ll insist he can go two innings.) Joe Ross is the first scheduled pitcher out of the bullpen, but don’t read anything into that. He’ll get a start within the next week.

Robles-Fields-Blue-sidebar.jpgThe lineup includes Victor Robles in the leadoff spot, Michael A. Taylor in right field, Juan Soto batting third ahead of first baseman Eric Thames, Yan Gomes behind the plate and Carter Kieboom at third base. Several other regulars are expected to make their spring debuts Sunday afternoon.

Don’t expect to see two of the Nationals’ top relievers in game action for a little bit longer. Sean Doolittle and Daniel Hudson each will throw another bullpen session, then face live hitters at least once before debuting in an exhibition game.

Martinez was planning to meet this afternoon with pitching coach Paul Menhart to set the rest of the rotation for the next week, but expect both Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin (who have been on the same throwing program as Scherzer) to make starts within the next few days. Aníbal Sánchez may not take his turn in the rotation right away; the veteran right-hander is being built up a bit more slowly and today threw one inning of live BP instead of the two innings his rotation mates have thrown.

“We’ll see how he rebounds tomorrow, but he threw well,” Martinez said of Sánchez. “He went through his whole routine, one up-and-down, and he threw the ball well.”

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