There have been certain subjects when it comes to his postseason roster that Nationals manager Dusty Baker has been quite forthcoming with. He's suggested that Reynaldo Lopez and Matt Belisle will make his bullpen and that catcher Pedro Severino could start Game 1 with lefty Clayton Kershaw on the mound.
There are other areas where Baker has done his best to avoid specifics. He named Max Scherzer his Game 1 starter on Tuesday, but won't name his Game 2 pitcher, even though Tanner Roark is almost certain to be the guy.
Baker has plenty of knowns when it comes to his roster, but in terms of filling out his bench it is much more complicated. He has a lot of options and, to throw an especially tough wrinkle into things, he has several injuries to consider when comprising his final 25.
Daniel Murphy (buttock) and Jayson Werth (back), for instance, are likely to start Game 1. But between them, Bryce Harper's jammed thumb and Ryan Zimmerman's sore calf, Baker may need to prepare with contingency plans.
Could that mean an extra bench player instead of another bullpen arm for roster spot No. 25? Baker can't rule it out.
"That's what we're wrestling with right now," he said. "You don't normally carry extra bench players or carry extra relievers or an extra left-hander. We're trying to determine, trying to get this roster ready. I don't think any roster is completely the way you want it, but we're gonna try to get it as close as we can to fill as many holes or possibilities as we can. It is what it is, it definitely hurts to have some key guys hurt, but again, we just gotta find a way."
Baker has been meeting with his assistant coaches and members of the front office about those decisions. They rested some regulars in the final week and got to see others play in what Baker referred to as their "final interviews." They will also continue to evaluate throughout this week at Nationals Park before Game 1 arrives.
"We're gonna have some guys continue to work out in case they have to take the place of some other guys on the roster," he said. "There's a lot that goes into this and we're gonna try to wait until as late as possible to make that decision."
If Belisle and Lopez are indeed on the roster, that gives the Nats at least seven relievers, it would seem. Mark Melancon, Sammy Solis, Blake Treinen, Shawn Kelley and Marc Rzepczynski would be the others. With Scherzer, Roark, Gio Gonzalez and Joe Ross in store, that's 11, leaving one spot for a pitcher, if they decide to keep 12 and tip the scale towards their bench with 13 position players.
If they take 13 position players, the bench would likely include Jose Lobaton (if Severino starts), Clint Robinson, Stephen Drew, Chris Heisey and one other, likely a backup outfielder chosen between Ben Revere and Brian Goodwin, with Revere holding the advantage as a more proven player.
For that final roster spot, will they go with another reliever like Oliver Perez, Sean Burnett or Yusmeiro Petit? Or, would Wilmer Difo or another outfielder make sense to ensure they are well-positioned if Murphy or Zimmerman aggravates their injury early in a game?
Major League Baseball allows a player to be replaced during a series due to injury, but that player then becomes ineligible for the remainder of the series and for the following playoff round. If Murphy went down and had to be removed from their roster, for instance, he would then miss the rest of the NLDS and the NLCS, if they make it that far.
It's not an easy decision and Baker is doing his best to sort it all out.
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