Here’s some good news to brighten your Monday morning: The Nationals are going to hold a workout today at Nationals Park, and they’re finally going to open their season Tuesday.
It’s far from ideal, and the roster that takes the field Tuesday afternoon to face the Braves is going to be missing a significant number of big league players. But given the apparent severity of the situation when the weekend began, it’s probably the best possible scenario they realistically could’ve asked for.
At the end of all this, the Nats will have had four games postponed, three against the Mets plus one against the Braves. They’ll all need to be made up eventually, but there’s plenty of time and opportunity for that over the next six months. Chances are, they’ll have some 14-inning doubleheaders vs. the Mets added to the schedule. And there’s an easy makeup option for today’s originally scheduled game vs. the Braves: May 3, a common off-day right before they were scheduled to meet here again anyway.
When you consider what the Cardinals and Marlins had to endure last summer following their COVID-19 outbreaks - 11 doubleheaders in 32 days, in St. Louis’ case - this doesn’t sound nearly so rough.
And though the Nationals roster will be depleted for now, it may not remain that way for long. Once they get through the two games with Atlanta and fly to Los Angeles to serve as the Dodgers’ home-opener opponent Friday afternoon, they’ll be a full 11 days removed from the date their first player tested positive (nine days since they learned of his positive test) and a full week removed from the quarantining of most everyone else on the list.
They may not be at full strength at Dodger Stadium, but they could be much closer to it than you’d think right now.
And on top of all that, they’re going to get to work out this afternoon in advance of their reconfigured opening day. It wasn’t a given Major League Baseball would grant permission for that - the Cardinals were allowed only to conduct individual workouts for two days before returning to action last summer - but general manager Mike Rizzo made a convincing case for it as a health and safety precaution.
“It makes a lot of sense for baseball, player protection-wise, to have these guys go through their paces in a full workout before we take the field and go from zero to 100 miles an hour without working out for a very long period of time,” Rizzo said Sunday in his Zoom session with reporters.
Indeed, while it may not seem all that important to the outside world, it’s a lot to ask players who have been holed up in their homes and apartments for six days to just show up and play a regular-season game. A full workout with defensive drills, batting practice, bullpen sessions and perhaps even a few innings of a simulated game go a long way toward preparing everyone for Tuesday’s opener.
Today’s workout will be open to reporters, so we’re going to get our first look at which players are on the field and which ones are not. Be careful not to take all of that as gospel, because it’s possible someone could be cleared to return Tuesday without having participated in today’s workout. But after this frustrating period of uncertainty, we should finally get at least some clarity on the state of the roster.