This was the week the 2020 campaign was supposed to start, with Opening Day for the Washington Nationals in Flushing, Queens, New York’s Citi Field on Thursday afternoon. Major League Baseball’s decision to postpone the beginning of the regular season, however, following the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) guidance on avoiding large gatherings of people amidst the COVID-19/coronavirus pandemic, has closed down all of the major sports in the U.S., with a delayed start now for MLB and shortened schedule at some point when it’s safe to play the likely, unfortunate result.
We should know by now if it’s Carter Kieboom starting at third base against the Mets at the beginning of the post-Anthony Rendon era in the nation’s capital, or if Asdrúbal Cabrera ended up claiming the spot as a stopgap until Kieboom is deemed ready to take the next step.
We should know how the fight for the fifth spot in the Nationals’ rotation played out and whether Joe Ross or Austin Voth claimed it, and whether Erick Fedde will be headed to the bullpen as well, or, more likely, to Double- or Triple-A since he is the only one of the three competing for a job in the rotation with an option remaining.
Who would have claimed the bullpen spot opened up by the Nationals’ decision to release Hunter Strickland after he struggled to keep the ball in the yard late last season and again this Spring?
Manager Davey Martinez talked after the season was postponed earlier this month about how his club would approach the 2020 season when/if it eventually starts, after the 2019 campaign ended with the Nationals as the last team standing following Game 7 of the World Series with Houston’s trash-can-banging Astros (who reportedly did not employ their underhanded tactics in the latest Fall Classic, though there were plenty of skeptics who put in a ton of work to combat potential nefarious activity in the opposing dugout).
Coming back, as the Nationals did, after a 19-31 start last season, made for a compelling narrative, but Martinez said it is going to be even more important for the team to avoid a repeat of those struggles when the 2020 campaign does start.
“We want to make sure,” Martinez explained, “... especially with a shortened season, I think the teams that get off to a fairly quick start are going to benefit from this, so I want these guys to understand that, hey when this season starts we’ve got to be in like June 1st form, like hey, let’s go, it’s go-time, and we’re going to prepare for that.”
At the time he spoke, of course, the start of the season had been pushed back to early April, and since then it’s been postponed to at least mid-May, and it will likely be delayed further, since pitchers will have to build arm strength back up again once baseball activity resumes in earnest.
When things do get going, General Manager Mike Rizzo said this past Friday, the Nationals will be ready to defend their World Series title.
“We are ramped up and we have our game plan together on how to prepare the roster and the players for the marathon of the season,” Rizzo told reporters, “albeit we don’t know exactly how long that marathon will be this year. But we will be very prepared to defend the world championship which we hold right now, can’t forget that, and that we are the defending World Champions, and we will go into this season, whenever that is, as the defending world champs, and we take it seriously, and we feel again that we like the team that we have, and we feel that we are capable of repeating as the world champs and we’re going to have a strategy in place for player health and player preparation to get us ready for Opening Day and from Opening Day it will be our goal to win another world title for D.C.”