As the regular season creeps closer - opening night versus the Yankees is 16 days away - the Nationals are starting to ramp up baseball activities following an initial period of light individual work to begin summer training.
This morning, all available position players were on the field together for the first time since March 12. With multiple players at each position, they ran through the kind of defensive fundamental drills that are a daily staple of spring training but stand out right now because of the circumstances.
Next up: game-like activities.
A simulated game is planned for Wednesday’s workout, with Max Scherzer leading the way. The staff ace is scheduled to throw three innings versus live hitters, his next step in building up to what he hopes will be a six-inning start on opening night.
Several relievers are slated to follow Scherzer and pitch one inning apiece.
“We’ve got to get our guys to see some live pitching and get things rolling,” manager Davey Martinez said. “With the shortened (summer) training, we’ve got to push things along. I’m assuming that the pitchers will be a little ahead of the hitters, but (hitters) have still got to get in there and start seeing the breaking ball, the (velocity), things of that nature.”
In a normal spring training, the Nationals would play roughly 30 exhibition games. In this case, they’re only allowed to play three. They’ll face the Phillies at Nationals Park on July 18, drive up to Baltimore on July 20 to face the Orioles and then return the favor with a rematch July 21 in D.C.
It’s not going to provide much opportunity for players to get into game shape, or for coaches and front office members to make final roster decisions.
Meanwhile, the Nationals’ alternate camp opened today at the new Single-A complex in Fredericksburg, allowing more players to get more work in a separate environment that allows everyone to spread out more than they could in one stadium.
General manager Mike Rizzo said 14-15 players are working out in Fredericksburg for now, with more to join them as cuts are made in the next two weeks. Most of the players already there are younger prospects and non-roster invitees who would’ve been the early-camp cuts at spring training.
And yet, as both Rizzo and Martinez pointed out, the unusual nature of this season forces every player training at supplemental camps to be ready at a moment’s notice.
“I talked to them all: Hey, we’re in a different situation right now. Anything could happen,” Martinez said. “You guys need to be ready to knock the door down and come up here and be ready for us. You’re here because we feel like one day you’re going to pitch in the big leagues. It could be one day sooner than later. You need to get yourself ready and you need to start learning what really matters most in the big leagues: consistency and routine.”