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Nationals Spring Training 2017: Dusty Baker talks starter health, new ST facility

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Injuries are a part of the game, but Nationals’ skipper Dusty Baker is hoping to limit the damage and leave Florida healthy for the start of the 2017 campaign.

Photo © @Nationals on the Twitters.

Stephen Strasburg’s pronator tendon. Max Scherzer’s knuckle on his right ring finger. Joe Ross’s shoulder. Gio Gonzalez’s volatility.

While the Washington Nationals’ rotation is considered a strength, and GM Mike Rizzo said this winter that he is happy with the starting depth even after the deal that sent Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez to Chicago, there are legitimate questions about the starters and some relievers health-wise and otherwise as the Nats start their defense of the NL East title.

As Nationals’ skipper Dusty Baker told reporters on Tuesday, however, those questions and concerns about the Nats’ pitchers are nothing new.

“You go from year to year and you’re curious about that,” Baker said. “Case in point, I remember when I was in Chicago, one of the saddest days of my life was when the trainer and our general manager and Mark Prior came in and said that he was injured and we didn’t hear anything about it and it was like, ‘Dang,’ you know what I mean, when did this happen? You don’t know until they get out there. You don’t know until you see Stras. You don’t know until you see Scherzer. You don’t know until you see Tanner [Roark], [Shawn] Kelley, whoever has been hurt.

“You don’t know if the winter time is enough for them not to be hurt and to worry about it, it does no good, because worry is going to take care of itself. So, we’re going to be cautious. I talked to my trainer, so far there are only a couple of guys that are ailing a little bit, but I’ve never been on a team where I didn’t have somebody.”

The grind of a major league schedule is brutal, of course, and by the end of the season each of the players are normally dealing with something, but as Baker said, he hopes that everyone arrives in the Nats’ new Spring Training facilities in West Palm Beach healthy and leaves that way.

“You play a lot of games, throw a lot of innings. I’m just hoping — the thing that I hope for the most is that we train them, we have proper nutrition and we start the season off healthy,” Baker said.

“That was my goal last year. How you train them and how you hydrate them, how you do everything leads to Opening Day. One thing, this year we’ve got seven weeks before Opening Day.”

Those seven weeks will be spent in what Baker said Tuesday, as pitchers and catchers reported to Spring Training, is an impressive new home for the Nationals.

“I love the facilities,” Baker told reporters while noting that not everything is done yet and there are things to get used to (he walked by his office at first, not realizing where it was).

“I tell you, this is state of the art,” he said. “It reminds me of when the Reds and the Indians shared a complex, a brand new complex just like this, so this is the second new complex that I’ve been a part of. It’s going to be easier to do our work. The fields are in great condition. Sure there are some things that they still have to zero in on, but it’s outstanding.”

More important, Baker explained, is the location of The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches.

“In Viera, where we were, which is a nice place, we had some long road trips, and so you leave so early in the morning that you can’t work on any fundamentals,” Baker said.

“But here, I think we’ve got two long road trips, one to, well the same place, to play the Twins and to play the Red Sox and they’re kind of bookended in the schedule.

“Other than that we’re 20-30 minutes away.

“It reminds of Arizona, because that’s one of the drawbacks of training in Florida, is travel. And so this way we get to do some fundamentals in the morning. Guys can stay back and hit extra. It’s going to be nice to have B games if guys need some innings or they need some at bats, and so I think this is going to help us immensely.”