He’s had only two days in camp after spending 14 days in mandatory quarantine. He’ll get to play in only three exhibition games. But Howie Kendrick insists he’ll be at Nationals Park on Thursday night, in the lineup as his team opens its title defense against the Yankees.
“I’ll be ready,” the veteran hitter said today in his first Zoom session with reporters of the summer. “Whether I am or not, I’ll be ready.”
Kendrick was ready to go when camp opened two weeks ago, but District of Columbia laws required him to stay quarantined in his apartment. He tried to do what he could to stay in shape, hitting balls off a tee into a net and doing - in his words - “a lot of pushups.” But he couldn’t do much else except sit around and wait for the green light.
“I was meditating, man,” he said with a laugh. “I was trying to be like Bruce Lee. Be like water, you know?”
Once cleared to participate Thursday, Kendrick (along with left fielder Juan Soto) went right to work. He took six at-bats as designated hitter on his first day on the job, then returned today and took four at-bats - he doubled to deep left-center off Sean Doolittle - and even played the field for a few innings.
Impressed with what he saw from Soto and Kendrick, manager Davey Martinez said he plans to play all his available regulars - everyone but Victor Robles, who has not yet been cleared - in Saturday night’s exhibition opener against the Phillies.
“Oh, yeah. We’ve only got three games against different teams, so we’ve got to get them out there,” Martinez said. “Barring nothing happens from now til tomorrow, they’ll all be out there.”
Kendrick, 37, has always been the kind of professional hitter who seemingly can roll out of bed and go 2-for-4. But he admits he does face a few challenges to making sure he’s in top form in time for the season opener.
“If I can get my timing down, and we’ve got some things that can simulate that in the cage, I think that’s the biggest thing for me,” he said. “The defense and stuff, we take a lot of groundballs. I’ll be able to get a lot of those things done. But I think the biggest thing for me is just trying to get the timing down. ... If you can get your timing, the rest will take care of itself.”
* Roenis Elías was cleared to participate in workouts for the first time since camp opened two weeks ago and played catch in the outfield before today’s intrasquad game. The left-hander was placed on the 10-day injured list Monday for undisclosed reasons, and though he’s eligible to be activated for opening night, it’s unlikely he’ll have enough time to get ready that soon.
Martinez said the plan for Elías is to face live hitters Sunday, after which the club will decide the next course of action.
* Elías’ status becomes more important after fellow lefty Fernando Abad was released this morning. Abad, who never did participate at a workout this summer, had a clause in his non-roster contract that allowed him to opt out Saturday if he wasn’t placed on the major league roster. (It’s the same type of clause many veteran non-roster invitees to spring training have.)
Nationals officials informed Abad he was unlikely to make the opening night roster because of his delayed start to camp, so the veteran reliever decided to opt out and become a free agent.
Abad’s release and Elías’ delayed return open the door for Sam Freeman to make the opening night roster as the only other left-hander on the Nationals’ staff besides Doolittle.
* MASN will broadcast both of the Nats’ exhibition games against the Orioles next week. MASN’s Orioles broadcast crew will handle Monday’s 6:05 p.m. game at Camden Yards. The Nationals tandem of Bob Carpenter and F.P. Santangelo will call Tuesday’s 6:05 p.m. contest from Nationals Park.