With his team reeling from a quick turnaround from playing Sunday Night Baseball, manager Dusty Baker opted to sit five of his regulars for Monday's opener against the Atlanta Braves at Nationals Park. Out of the lineup are Bryce Harper, Daniel Murphy, Wilson Ramos, Jayson Werth and Ryan Zimmerman.
What's left is basically a split-squad spring training lineup. But with a 4:05 p.m. matinee on Labor Day, Baker felt he had no choice.
"Some of my guys are walking around like zombies," he said. "We have five regulars out. I'd have Anthony Rendon out too if I had a guy that can play third. Because of ESPN, who I like a lot, that game last night messed us up today. It was already scheduled, this 4:05 game today, but they changed that at the last minute. I don't know what time everybody got to bed. I got to bed at 4 o'clock in the morning."
An expanded roster due to September call-ups allowed Baker to sit so many of his guys. It's not the most ideal timing for it be a home game and the first of a long homestand. Fans want to see their favorite players, and Baker gets that.
"I see the Harper jerseys. I came to the stadium later than normal, so I saw all the jerseys. I'll hopefully try to get him in there to pinch-hit, if not more, if I can," Baker said.
Though Baker has emptied his bench for Monday's game, he made it clear he is not trying to overlook the Braves, who are in last place and are just one loss away from being eliminated in the NL East.
"They're playing for contracts, they're playing for jobs. I've been there. This is your playoff, to play against a first place team. Some might even want to impress that team and come join them next year," Baker explained.
"You've seen how they have given us some tough matchups the last few games. They have the ability to come back, so you can't count them out of any game. We're not overlooking them. These are the dangerous teams because they have nothing to lose. They can try hit-and-runs, they can squeeze, they can do just about anything and nobody's going to ask any questions. It's different in a pennant race. If things do work or don't work, then you have to answer for it. But right now they don't have to answer anything to anybody."
-- Stephen Drew (inner ear issue) played another minor league rehab game on Monday with the Single-A Potomac Nationals and went 1-for-2. It was his fifth rehab game and next for him will be a meeting in Baltimore with a neurologist. He should then have a more clear timeline to return.
-- Sammy Solis (left shoulder inflammation) is expected to start throwing this week. That, according to Baker, is sooner than the Nats originally thought.
"I know he's champing at the bit," Baker said. "He's ahead of schedule."
-- Joe Ross (right shoulder inflammation) threw his third minor league rehab game on Monday afternoon with Triple-A Syracuse. He gave up one run on three hits, including a homer, through three innings on 41 pitches.
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