WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- More sun is coming Howie Kendrick’s way.
The Nationals’ veteran right-handed bench bat is staying in Florida when the team breaks camp Sunday night. Kendrick’s hamstring strain has greatly improved. He’s just not going to be ready for Opening Day in Washington.
“I’m almost there,” Kendrick said. “I think we have quite a few spring days [to work] down here. So I’m not going to break with the team, obviously. I’m going to stay down here and try to get back as soon as possible. I’ve been running, running, running, but I’m not quite there yet.”
Kendrick expects to participate in multiple minor league games to start the week. He’s been running almost full speed in a straight line and lightly running the bases. He’s fielded ground balls, but limited his range while doing so. Kendrick has been swinging throughout.
“As far as the offensive side, I don’t think it’s really going to take long to get there,” Kendrick said. “Especially if I’m [in Florida], I can get at-bats every inning pretty much. I think the biggest thing is trying to feel good running and things like that. That’s what’s most important. The bat will come around. That’s just timing.
“I think the biggest thing is not wanting to have to go backwards. If I try to come back too soon – and I’ve done my hamstrings before, and I’ve been hard-headed about it where I’ve hurt it again later and you’re out more time. So I think the biggest thing is trying to feel great and really confident about where I’m at and trusting it a lot more. I trust it now, but I know I’m not 100 percent.”
Going to Washington but not as a starting pitcher is Jeremy Hellickson. He will be a long man out of the bullpen to start the season. Washington has three off days in the first eight days of the season. So, it doesn’t need a fifth starter until April 10 in Philadelphia to close the opening road series against the Phillies.
“He’s had a really good spring training,” manager Davey Martinez said of Hellickson. “His stuff is really good. He added a little slider, which turned out to be pretty effective.”
The Nationals will open with Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Patrick Corbin and Anibal Sanchez as their rotation. That lines up Sanchez to pitch April 2 in Bryce Harper’s return to Nationals Park. Scherzer will pitch the April 3 day game which completes the quick two-game set with the Phillies. It also means the Nationals have Scherzer and Strasburg lined up to open a three-game series in Philadelphia the following week.
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