The four-day layoff for division-winning clubs before their MLB playoffs begin presents a tough dynamic for teams as a whole to try to stay sharp before falling into the intensity of October. It's even tougher for the players on the playoff roster bubble.
The Nationals have plenty of those this year with a deep crop of relievers and a bench that may need an extra guy or two to compensate for injuries in their starting lineup. The Nats have avoided specifics publicly about their thinking for those final roster spots and the players have largely been left in the dark, too.
Even Clint Robinson, the backup first baseman who has a very good chance of making it, just doesn't know.
"If you want to know the truth, I don't even know if I'm on the playoff roster. We're still waiting on that," Robinson said. "I'm not going to lie and say that [waiting is] easy. It's like the last round of cuts in spring training. You get through the whole year here and then it's like 'man, here comes another round of cuts.' That's not what us as players, that's not usually our thinking."
Robinson compared the wait to last spring training when he was one of the final additions to the Nats' Opening Day roster. But then, his mindset was different. He was just looking for a job and his expectations are low. He also had spring training games to play and keep his mind off the final decision itself.
Now it's four full days.
"It stinks, to be honest with you. It stinks," he said. "It's a lot of sitting around, coming out with workouts at 11:30. Everybody just wants to get going. You know the playoffs are right there."
Like Robinson, reliever Sean Burnett is on the roster bubble, though his path to earning a spot isn't quite as clear. Burnett is in a crowded mix of relievers, hoping the fact he's a lefty helps his chances against a Dodgers team that struggles against them.
"They do have a lot of lefties and a bunch of lefties that I've faced throughout my career. I think I've had pretty good success against them. We'll find out what happens," he said.
For Burnett to even be at this point is notable in itself. The nine-year veteran made his return to the majors this season after missing all of 2015 with injuries. He's recovered from two Tommy John surgeries and just this season spent time with four different teams. It wasn't until Sept. 3 that he finally got back on the mound in a big league game.
"I've made a lot of progress here in the last couple months. Dating back to a full year ago, looking back on where I've come from, it's pretty neat to be in this opportunity to maybe make a postseason roster," he said.
"But at the same time, I've gotta look at the big picture and see how far I've come. A year ago, I was sitting at home and watching all this stuff on TV. Now there's a chance, a small chance, that I could be part of it this season. I've made good strides. It was good to get back to the big leagues and have a full year to stay healthy."
Burnett and Robinson are among many Nats players on the bubble still waiting to hear their fate. Some have better chances than others, but only a few will get the call.
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