With their opponent in the World Series still undecided as of Friday afternoon, Washington’s Nationals gathered together for the first official team workout since they won Game 4 of the NLCS and clinched the first pennant in franchise history (2005-present). They will have one more light workout on Saturday, and then start to ramp things up as they prepare to take off for either Houston or New York for Game 1 of the 2019 Fall Classic.
“Sunday and Monday we’re going to get after it a little bit,” Davey Martinez told reporters in Nationals Park after the workouts were over for the day.
As for what’s next?
“Probably play a little intra-squad game,” Martinez said, “and I want these guys to come at night. These games are going to be late at night, so we’ll work out late Sunday/Monday.”
Regardless of which team they end up playing, GM Mike Rizzo said, they’ll be rested up and ready for the start of the World Series.
“We’re preparing for both [teams],” Rizzo said, “and we’re getting more and more anxious as the time goes on, but we’re going to be prepared. I think the rest will do us fine.
“We’ve got some veteran players that could use it. And I think that we’ll see today we’re going to kind of get some of the cobwebs out after a couple days off and we’ll be ready.”
In his weekly interview with 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies this week, Rizzo said that when it comes to the starting rotation, no one will be too surprised with how the Nationals line things up for the World Series.
“I don’t want to break news, because I don’t have the information right now, but I assume we would go with Max [Scherzer] one, and [Stephen Strasburg] two, I would think, maybe [Patrick] Corbin too, but we’ll get you that information, but that’s not going to be breaking news when it happens. We get to set up our rotation the way we want. It may matter which team we play, what we do, but we’ve been advancing the American League throughout, that’s just the way we do things.”
Twenty-four hours later, Rizzo still wasn’t ready to offer a definitive answer on how they’ll line things up for Tuesday night and beyond.
“Davey and I haven’t met officially yet, but I don’t think the pitching plans will come as any shock to anybody,” he said.
“I’m looking at it,” Martinez told reporters.
“Not by any means — I know the [ALCS] is 3-1, but they’re still playing baseball, so I’m very conscious that both teams are still in it, so we’re doing due diligence on both, so once that series is over then we’ll have a better idea of what we want to do.”
“It’s not just about Game 1,” Martinez added at another point, “... it’s about Games 4-5-6-7, and there on, so we’ve got to make sure we prepare ourselves for seven games, and that we do our due diligence on each one.”
And it’s not just the rotation that’s undecided. The roster they put together for the World Series will depend, to some extent, on which team they end up playing.
“We kind of have an outline of either opponent, and we’ll kind of pull things together as we get a little closer,” Rizzo said.
In the meantime, they’ve got to keep the Nationals sharp, after they won 8 of 10 in the NL Wild Card, Division Series, and Championship Series, and 16 of their last 18 going back to their eight-game winning streak at the end of the regular season.
“We kind of figured out who needs what,” Rizzo said, “... and it’s mostly about the hitters getting their timing and the pitchers getting their innings, so we want to make sure that everybody is as close to their routine as possible.
“Obviously we conferred with a lot of the pitchers and the players,” he added, “and see what they wanted to do and how much we wanted to push them, and we still have a couple of days left, so you’ll see us starting to ramp things up as we get closer.”
“We are planning to get our hitters some simulated at bats against some of our pitchers,” Rizzo said.
“And the pitchers that want to throw and need to throw will have a little simulation with those guys also.”
Asked if there were any concerns about having a week off between games after wrapping up the NLCS with four in a row over the St. Louis Cardinals, Martinez said the one thing to watch is their legs.
“I want to make sure they keep their legs underneath them,” he explained.
“And we ran them today. They had a full workout in the gym, they did a bunch of agility stuff, so for the everyday guys it’s their legs, and for the pitchers, it’s just getting them to throw. We’ve had everybody throw, and will continue to do that the next couple days, so everybody will throw.”
Has the reality of the fact that they’ll be playing in the World Series next week set in yet?
“I definitely imagined that,” Martinez said. “We all have. This is why we do what we do all year. It’s a grind, and to get to where we’re at right now, that’s what we work for all year, so I told the boys, I’m super-proud of you, but this is far from over. We got this far, so why stop now, and they’re excited.”
And the reaction to what the team has accomplished in fighting back from a 19-31 start and bringing the World Series back to D.C. for the first time since 1933?
“It’s been crazy,” Rizzo said. “It’s been a great atmosphere. This fan base has been terrific to me, personally, and to us as their support has been great since we arrived, and we couldn’t be happier to bring the World Series back to D.C. after a long-awaited time.”