What do the Nationals do now?
Camp closed, they scattered, and Opening Day was pushed back. Which makes it time for a litany of contingencies and questions.
How long would pitchers need to become ready when -- if -- Opening Day comes around? How about older position players? How do the Nationals set everyone up to be prepared while they are otherwise waiting?
“We’re going to be fully ready when we’re asked to be ready,” Mike Rizzo said Friday. “Obviously the ramping up of pitchers and players in a safe manner is of the utmost importance to us. There’s a fine line and a delicate balance that we have to strike between having them ready on Opening Day, whenever that is, and ramping them up to get to that point. We will have in place a protocol in our set of different criteria to get them to that point.
“We usually work back from our schedule from Opening Day and we work ourselves backward to and through Spring Training, to the beginning of Spring Training, to ramp up the pitchers and players to be ready on Opening Day. So we’ll get a much better feel for what we have to do and how ready we have to be when we finally get a feel for when is Opening Day.”
So, everything is temporary, until it’s not. The Nationals put their pitchers and players on a workout regimen which they perform at home, in West Palm Beach -- where 13 players remain -- or in Washington. Players are in contact with the team’s medical personnel on a daily basis to keep them informed about how they are feeling in regard to the coronavirus. None have reported symptoms, so none have been tested, according to Rizzo.
“Each individual player at their home is obligated to call in and give us their progress on a daily basis,” Rizzo said.
Rizzo said he thinks there needs to be another spring training period before the regular season begins. Washington’s pitchers and catchers originally needed to report by Feb. 12. The position players needed to join them by Feb. 17. Multiple players from both groups showed up early. Then, camp disbanded after the final spring training games were played March 12, just two weeks before the season was supposed to start.
So, now they wait and workout and wonder. Players no longer spend the entire offseason gaining weight and twiddling thumbs. They instead begin their preparation for February in December. Max Scherzer started working at the spring training complex on Jan. 1. Adam Eaton showed up not long afterward. No one spills into bad shape, then has to fully reboot their body in Florida. No one who wants to keep their job, anyway.
Which leaves the Nationals players conducting maintenance at home, where Sean Doolittle has a portable mound and others have batting cages installed. Preparation now can mitigate the time needed later, whenever later comes.
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