Nothing is going to be decided in the first week of workouts in Spring Training, though you can certainly make a strong first impression, and for the Washington Nationals this Spring, there aren’t too many roster decisions to make anyway, barring injury concerns, setbacks, etc.
Nats’ skipper Dave Martinez acknowledged as much when he spoke to reporters this past weekend.
“These first few days, even the first week or so, you just want to see guys come out and make sure that they are healthy and they’re getting their work in and start competing,” Martinez said.
“I think that these guys, they understand what our roster is like,” he added.
“Of course the fifth starter spot is open, maybe a couple bullpen spots are open, but for me it’s about talking to them and saying, ‘Hey, just be yourself, just go out there and do your thing, there’s people above that make those kind of decisions, just go out there and compete.”
The first-time manager talked on Sunday about what he’s seen from the left-handers who are competing for a spot in the Nationals’ bullpen, and two of the starters who are in the mix for the fifth spot in the rotation.
“We’ve got some pretty good options,” Martinez said of the left-handed relievers in camp this Spring.
“We’ve got Enny [Romero]. We’ve got Sammy [Solis]. [Matt] Grace-y. We’ve got some pretty good guys out there and they’re all — there are no guarantees, as everybody knows, so they all want to be on this team, and hopefully they come out and compete and the biggest thing for me is, like I said, is to make sure they are healthy coming out of camp and they’re ready to go for the first game in Cincinnati.”
How many lefties will the new skipper have in his Opening Day bullpen? Will the Nationals load the bullpen up with extra arms early in the season when they don’t necessarily need to carry five starters? How will options affect the decisions Martinez and the Nats make in shaping the roster for March 29th?
While they likely won’t need a fifth starter at the start of the season, with all the days off in the schedule, the two pitchers considered the frontrunners for the job this Spring, right-handers Erick Fedde and A.J. Cole, have also caught Martinez’s attention with their work in their first bullpen sessions in West Palm Beach.
Fedde, 24, whose 2017 campaign ended when he was diagnosed with flexor mass strain in his right arm in September after struggling in his first taste of major league action, is back on the mound this Spring, working hard to put himself in the mix for a rotation spot in the majors, though Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo has publicly stated that Cole, 26, who is also out of options, entered Spring Training as the frontrunner for the fifth spot.
Martinez said he’s been impressed with what he’s seen from Fedde so far in the first few bullpen sessions.
“He’s been great,” Martinez told reporters on Sunday. “His bullpens have been awesome.
“I just had a conversation with him a couple minutes ago, and we look for big things from him, but once again, he’s a guy that was hurt at the end of last year, so we want to make sure that — right now he’s ready to go, but it’s early. So we’re going to take our time, he’s going to get his innings in, and we’re going to make sure we do things right.”
Asked what he likes about the 2014 1st Round pick, Martinez said he was impressed by the young pitcher’s demeanor.
“I love his demeanor, I really do,” the manager said.
“He’s a quiet kid, but yet he’s very competitive. The first thing he said when I asked him what he thought his strengths were was that, he loves to compete. That’s always good. But he’s got really good stuff and he’s just really trying to figure things out. It’s good to see.
“Working with [Pitching Coach Derek] Lilliquist, he’s going to change little things with his grip and stuff like that, but he’s excited to get going and he’s 100% healthy.”
As for Cole, the 2010 4th Round pick, who impressed late last season, and as Rizzo said in an interview last month, finally showed signs of the promise they’d been looking for in the last few years, Martinez noted that the once-wiry righty has bulked up this Spring and he’s growing into his 6’5’’ frame.
“He’s been solid,” Martinez said after watching Cole throw up close.
“I didn’t realize he was that big. He’s big, strength-wise. I’m looking forward to watching him pitch, watching him compete.
“He’s competing for the fifth starter’s spot. But he looked great. Today — he had another bullpen today and he ... was really letting it eat and the ball was coming out really good, so I’m excited to see him pitch.”