Matt Williams isn't getting much sleep these days. With decisions to be made and just a little over a week to go before Opening Day next Monday afternoon in New York's Citi Field, Williams is feeling the stress a little in his first Spring Training as a major league manager.
"My sleepless nights right now are consumed with the bench, the 25th guy, the bullpen and all of that stuff," he told reporters on Saturday afternoon. "It's a lot of fun to have sleepless nights, but nonetheless they're sleepless."
Earlier this week, the first-year skipper explained that the final decisions will likely not come until after next Saturday's exhibition game against the Detroit Tigers in Nationals Park, but it's getting close to the time for Williams and his staff to make their final choices for the Opening Day roster.
"We're close," he said earlier this week. "We have that exhibition game too, so we're going to have a lot of extra players with us because the regulars aren't going to go nine that day, but yeah, we're close."
When Williams talked on Friday about getting bench bat and backup outfielder Scott Hairston more at bats so he was sharp if he was going to be on the team, reporters wondered about that "if" and asked on Saturday if there was a possibility that Hairston, acquired from the Cubs in a trade last season and under contract for another year at $2.5M, would not make the team?
"He's certainly competing for a spot like everybody else," Williams said. "We have to approach it that way, all of us do, including Scott, but including everybody else that is vying for a spot. That would include Anthony [Rendon]. That would include Danny [Espinosa]. We have to approach it that way. There's no other way to do it. So, that's what I meant. It wasn't to say that I'm thinking about not having him on the team. I want to get him at bats and make sure that he feels good, that his timing is there and all of that."
Every word is being parsed. Every decision broken down. But at this point, Williams said there wasn't much a player could do positively or negatively to chance his mind.
"I don't know if I would be able to see something in a particular game or a particular week on the field at this point that would say, 'Well, it's now clear,'" Williams explained.
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"I think we're looking at our team as a whole and what we want to take with us to New York to start the season and how it all works together. So all of that being said, it's just kind of... we're weighing it right now and we'll make a decision pretty soon."
Making those final judgements, Williams is discovering, is not always easy. In fact, he said he found the whole process frustrating and said it was in mild ways affecting his health.
"I've got acid reflux which is a product of that I'm sure," Williams joked. "So yeah, but that's part of the job. We want to go north with our 25 best guys and compete and certainly win and all of those things. It's fun and it's nerve-wracking and frustrating and all of that all at the same time."
The frustration, he explained, comes from hoping he and his staff are doing what's best for the Nationals.
"Just that I'm hoping we're making the right decisions and we're taking our 25 best," he said.
"Beyond that we look at structure of roster and what we may need. Also looking at the fact that the guys that you go north with are not necessarily the guys you'll have the next month. It changes. So what we need going in? And how are we going to structure the roster? So those are frustrating some times because you have your plan and sometimes it goes on a different path."
Williams was asked if, when it came down to it, he would just go with his gut in his final decisions? He said he's taking a more practical approach.
"I look at it for our roster and how we would navigate through games and how we would structure it to make sure that we're covered in all aspects of it," Williams said. "Offensively, defensively, all of those things."
The Nationals' new manager has one more week to make those tough choices.
Who will be the fifth starter? Who will be the 25th man? Who's the starting second baseman? Who makes the 'pen?
No one ever said it was going to be easy...