The Nationals may be sending Max Scherzer to the mound for their Grapefruit League opener against the Astros on Saturday, but Houston manager Dusty Baker won’t be countering with any of his star hitters.

None of his everyday players will be taking the field Saturday, Baker announced Friday. He said that most of them are slated to make their spring debuts either Sunday against Washington or Monday against the Detroit Tigers.

"It's time for the kids to play,” Baker said. “They get in shape quicker and find it sooner."

Baker already told reporters Thursday that pitching prospect Cristian Javier would start Saturday against the Nationals, who beat the Astros in the World Series last October. Both teams played deeper into the season than any other clubs in the sport last fall, so it’s unsurprising that Baker would want to ease his veterans back into action.

The former Nationals skipper took a similar approach with Washington’s regulars in 2016, when he started Tanner Roark for the first game but didn’t play any of his usual suspects. Baker did go away from that in 2017, however, playing Trea Turner, Adam Eaton, Daniel Murphy and Bryce Harper against the New York Mets in their first game with Gio Gonzalez making the start.

Camera crews will be out in full force for the first game of the spring between the defending World Series champions and an organization exposed this offseason for egregious cheating. Baker sitting his starters will keep them out of the spotlight, at least for a day.


Nationals manager Davey Martinez said Thursday he hopes his players “act professional” throughout the contest. With none of the Astros’ players who went outside the rules in order to gain a distinct advantage over opposing pitchers taking the field, the chances of any headline-worthy moments happening on the field Saturday take a hit.

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