After a couple weeks of workouts, throwing and bullpen sessions, super-exciting live batting practice matchups and even two intrasquad games, the Washington Nationals start their 2016 Grapefruit League schedule this afternoon in a Spring Training matchup with the AL East's Tampa Bay Rays, in what is actually the Nationals' first game in the Rays' Spring home, Port Charlotte, FL's Charlotte Sports Park.
As noted in their press release on the Spring schedule earlier this winter, Washington played a home and home series with Tampa Bay in 2005, but after the home half in Space Coast Stadium, the Nationals traveled to Tropicana Field for an exhibition game in the Rays' regular season home.
This afternoon, at 1:05 PM EST, the Nationals are in Port Charlotte, where Tanner Roark takes the mound against Rays' right-hander Jake Odorizzi for what will likely be two innings of work for each starter.
According to reports on the Nationals' plans for the Grapefruit League opener, right-hander Joe Ross will follow Roark on the mound and MASNSports.com's Mark Zuckerman provided the following list of pitchers who made the trip to the Rays' Spring home: "Austin Voth, Rafael Martin, Wander Suero, Paolo Espino, Abel De Los Santos and Erik Davis, plus lefties Sammy Solis, Matt Grace and Nick Lee."
MLB.com's Bill Ladson tweeted out the following lineup for the Nationals yesterday, which is, of course, subject to change, though it appears to be the same as of an hour before game time:
We're trying our best not to read anything in to the fact that Trea Turner is atop the lineup for the Spring opener. Dusty Baker told reporters he plans to play a number of the "big boys" in the home opener at Space Coast Stadium tomorrow afternoon, but it's a mix of young Nationals and bench players making the trip to Port Charlotte today (which is actually three hours away from the Nationals' Spring home).
Here is the Tampa Bay Rays' lineup via Tampa Bay Times' writer Marc Topkin:
#Rays lineup as expected: Mahtook RF, Kiermaier cf, Longoria 3b, Morrison DH, Jennings LF, Loney 1b, Beckham SS, Franklin 2b, Casali c, Odo— Marc Topkin (@TBTimes_Rays) March 2, 2016
Game Time: 1:05 PM EST... it appears as if the Rays' radio broadcast will be available via MLB.com. As always, feel free to help out your fellow FBBers with updates in the comments section. Who's ready for Spring Training baseball?