WASHINGTON --More than a week into the Major League Baseball’s reboot, and its gleefully-named and grotesquely-sponsored Summer Camp, the Nationals are still in wait-and-see mode.
Two players tested positive for Coronavirus at intake screening. The team is not obligated to release their names and cannot do so without the player’s permission. So, what we do know is Juan Soto, Victor Robles and Howie Kendrick are among multiple players not yet in Nationals Park for workouts 12 days before the season is scheduled to begin.
Their health and safety is paramount. However, when they are not working with the team, the organization needs to formulate a baseball-specific plan to go forward without them, should the need arise. And, that time is close because the preparation window is closing.
“Right now, we’re taking things one day at a time,” Davey Martinez said Saturday. “I’ve got to put eyes on these guys and see where they’re at. I know Soto was actually working out pretty good in the Dominican back home, so was Robles. I talked to those guys. We talked to the strength-and-conditioning guys. They think they’re in really good shape. They worked really hard. We’ll have to get them on the field.
“The biggest thing is they can be in great shape, but how much baseball shape have they done? To me, where something happens, if anybody strains an oblique, you’re looking at a significant amount of time. You’re probably looking at almost a whole season here with only 60 games. We got to be careful, we’ve got to see where they’re at. Then once they get here, we’ll determine whether they’re going to be ready or not.”
The Nationals have three exhibition games scheduled before the season opener against Gerrit Cole and the New York Yankees. They can carry 30 players into that game. Martinez is trying to worry about who is in the stadium since he has no control over the clearances for the players who are not.
“We’re in a difficult situation,” Martinez said. “We really are with these guys. We’ve done everything we can. I know our strength guys have Zoomed with them and actually put them on some kind of workout program and watching them do what they can do in their apartment. You’re talking about some of our younger players, too. We don’t want to get them hurt. We’ve got to be smart. We’re also talking about a shorter season where we’ve got to win games right away. We’ll see how these guys come in and for me, it’s the baseball shape....Standing on their feet for seven, eight, nine innings.”
Catcher Raudy Read played first base during Saturday’s intrasquad workout at Nationals Park. He was there in part because Read could well be a first baseman in the long-term. The Nationals also needed another body at the spot because Eric Thames -- their lone true first baseman available -- played for the opposing side.
The team variations spread across the infield and into the outfield because Soto, Robles and Luis Garcia remain in quarantine.
Martinez said “hopefully” the players in quarantine will be with the team soon. Even if they are, their window to be prepared for Cole is extremely limited, which is going to force the Nationals to start making contingency plans.