Some news and notes on this Tuesday morning ...
* Baseball can be a respite from world events. Right now, it’s also a respite from baseball.
After spending all of Monday morning and afternoon consumed with the news of the Marlins’ coronavirus outbreak, the Nationals went out and played their own game. They went on to lose, 4-1 to the Blue Jays, but nobody was attributing their performance to the distraction of that far more important development.
“Honestly, once the game starts you get so involved you kind of forget about everything,” manager Davey Martinez said. “Then all of a sudden the game’s over, and you’re sitting in your office. A lot of times, I don’t fall asleep until 2-3 in the morning, just wondering what’s going to happen the next day. That’s kind of where we’re at.”
It’s where everyone’s at right now, but the question of where the Nationals will be this weekend is very much up in the air. After having both of their home games vs. the Orioles postponed, the Marlins’ next scheduled home series is Friday-Sunday against the Nationals.
Given their situation - and the fact they’re still in Philadelphia and likely to head to Baltimore next to play the Orioles - it seems perfectly logical to move this weekend’s games to Nationals Park, with the Marlins serving as the home team. But Major League Baseball has offered no official word on that possibility yet.
If it happens, the Nationals would end up with 15 consecutive games in D.C. to open this most unusual season.
“As you know me, I worry about today,” Martinez said earlier Monday when asked about the weekend series. “Hopefully, they make the right decision. That’s all I’m going to say. Miami is going through a difficult time with this virus, so we will see what happens the next day or so. But hopefully, they make the right decision.”
Players are keenly aware of what’s going on, not only in Miami but in Philadelphia (where the Marlins played over the weekend and the Phillies had to postpone Monday’s game against the Yankees). But they know there’s nothing, realistically, that they can do about it.
“Right now, everything is a new normal,” right-hander Aníbal Sanchez said. “Every day is different. You’re going to wake up one day and get big news, and another day everything is going to be normal, the new normal. So whatever you think about outside the game, you can bring to the game. One day you hear about the situation with the Marlins, and another day you’re going to hear about another team. The Marlins played the Phillies. You don’t know what you’re going to hear about the Phillies in 2-3 days. I don’t think that was on my mind during the game. Whatever happened in the game, it happened. It has nothing to do with what’s going on outside.”
* Stephen Strasburg took a small but potentially important step in his return from an impinged nerve Monday. The right-hander, who had his season debut scratched Saturday, played catch before Monday’s game and reported improvement in his right hand and wrist.
“He felt better,” Martinez said. “He has less tingling in his thumb, so that’s good news. He threw very lightly today, so we’ll see how he feels tomorrow. But definitely a lot better today.”
Strasburg still would need to throw off a bullpen mound comfortably before the Nationals would consider putting him back on the mound for real.
If Strasburg is able to do that today, it’s possible he could come back to start Thursday against the Blue Jays and end up missing only one turn through the rotation.
“He’s got to go out there and go through his routine,” Martinez said. “So we’ll see where he’s at tomorrow.”
* Starting tonight for the Blue Jays is none other than Tanner Roark, who makes his long-awaited debut at Nationals Park as a visiting pitcher.
The 33-year-old right-hander, who was dealt by the Nationals to the Reds for reliever Tanner Rainey at the 2018 Winter Meetings, did face his former team once last season. But that was in Cincinnati, where he gave up four runs in six innings.
This will be the first time Roark has ever pitched as a visitor at Nationals Park.