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Dusty Baker on Washington Nationals’ lineup for season opener + how things might change...

Dusty Baker fielded questions about the Nationals’ closer search for weeks, and now that the issue is resolved, the questions are focused on his lineup choices.

Miami Marlins v Washington Nationals Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images

Apparently lineup construction questions from reporters are the new closer search questions for Washington Nationals’ skipper Dusty Baker.

Towards the end of March, when the Nationals were close to finally naming their closer after a long Spring of trying to identify a ninth-inning option, Baker expressed his own frustration with the constant inquiries.

“I hope we have it settled [soon] so you all can keep asking,” Baker said, as quoted by Washington Post writer Chelsea Janes.

“You hope we have it settled prior to going up north so everybody knows what their job is.”

With Blake Treinen named closer last week, and that narrative finally wrapped up, the big question for Baker in the lead-up to Monday’s opener was how he planned to line his hitters up.

Would he split his lefties up (Adam Eaton, Bryce Harper and Daniel Murphy) or keep them in the 2-4 spots in some order?

Would he stack them in the 2-4 holes and risk having another team counter with left-handed relievers?

Early Monday morning, before the season opener with the Miami Marlins, Baker’s first lineup of the year was released.

“So, how did you come up with that lineup?” a reporter asked before the series opener.

“Am I going to have to answer this every day?” Baker asked. “Please no. Because I put a lot of thought into it. I just settled upon this one because no Anthony [Rendon], No. 1. [Daniel] Murphy hadn’t had many at bats, so he’s behind, so I wanted to get — originally I had [Murphy] in front of Bryce [Harper], but now I have him in front of [Ryan] Zimmerman because Zim has been swinging a pretty good bat and Eaton at the top of the lineup because they don’t have a left-hander out of the bullpen unless they go with [Adam] Conley.

“So from time to time depending on who’s pitching against us — [Edinson] Volquez is tougher on righties, he’s almost equal, but he gives up more homers to lefties — I had Volquez [in Cincinnati] — and so you weigh all these things, especially no left-handers in the bullpen, unless they go with Conley — and Conley has probably more trouble against lefties than he does righties, even though he gives up more homers to righties.”

Rendon sat out of the season opener with a bruised left calf, suffered on a foul ball late in Spring Training.

Baker said that his third baseman could have played, but he decided to let Rendon get more rest.

“He’s doing better, he’s doing a lot better. He could have played if I had wanted to push him,” the manager explained, “but I decided not to since we’re off tomorrow.

“So he could be available to pinch hit or something late in the game.

“It was my decision. He wanted to go. And after kind of much deliberation and thought in my office, I decided it would be best if he didn’t.”

Baker didn’t worry about leading off with Turner and then Eaton, Harper and Murphy 2-4, since, as he said, the Marlins don’t have any left-handed relievers.

It worked out fairly well. The top four were a combined 5 for 13 with two RBIs and three walks in the season-opening win.

Baker liked what he saw from Turner and Eaton atop the order.

“They functioned well,” Baker said. “That’s why in Spring Training I experimented with so many different lineups, to try to have guys be in that situation so it’s not foreign to them once we start. It helps that the [Marlins] didn’t have a lefty over there, which is the reason why [Eaton] was there and the three lefties in the first place which I’m not crazy about and we’ll probably do something different if they come up with a lefty before Wednesday or if we’re playing a team that has a lot of lefties, so he came in and we discussed it before the game.”

Things might stay the same against the Marlins in the next two games. What will the lineup look like when the Nationals visit the Philadelphia Phillies this weekend?

Don’t ask Baker that question. Please no.