There are already three players from the 60-Man Player Pool the Washington Nationals sent out this past week who’ve opted out of playing in MLB’s 60-game season during the COVID-19/coronavirus pandemic, with first baseman Ryan Zimmerman, right-hander Joe Ross, and, manager Davey Martinez revealed in a Zoom call with reporters on Friday afternoon, veteran catcher Welington Castillo all opting out.
“I talked to [Castillo] and he decided he wasn’t going to come, so ... but he’s got two little kids, his wife in the Dominican,” Martinez said.
“I don’t hold anything against those guys. They have family. I know Zim, I love him to death, Joe is a big part of this organization, they all are.
“They chose to opt out and we have guys that are here that we’ve got to focus on right now to get them ready for the 2020 season.”
Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo said that 2020 1st Round pick Cade Cavalli is joining the other 57 players in the nation’s capital, having arrived and taken his coronavirus test just a month in to his professional career, which began when he was selected 22nd overall last month and signed with the club.
“Our first round pick Cade Cavalli is going to be invited to the roster of 60. He’s traveling — yesterday I think — took his test today, so hopefully he’ll be on the field very, very soon,” the GM told reporters in a separate Zoom call on Day 1 of Spring Training 2.0.
“We’ll have a couple of open spots to leave our options open a little bit for further on down the road.”
Cavalli joins pitching prospects like 2019 first round pick Jackson Rutledge, Matt Cronin, Tim Cate, Jake Irvin, Nick Wells, and Seth Romero in the Nationals’ player pool, which, as Rizzo, explained, allows them (and others like infielder Luis Garcia and outfielder Yadiel Hernandez (32 years old), and catcher Jakson Reetz) to get work and instruction since the minor league season has been officially canceled.
“There was no minor league season this year,” Rizzo explained.
“We feel that to have these guys in camp does a lot of positive things for us. It gets them a feel for major league Spring Training. It gives them several months of development.
“We’re an organization that if we feel you’re ready and we feel you can help this year, you may be in the big leagues before you know it. So, it kind of serves a lot of purposes for us.”
They’ll also have an opportunity to test themselves against major league talent since there will be intrasquad and some exhibition games before Opening Day (July 23rd-24th)
“We’re trying to schedule some exhibition games right now,” Martinez said.
“For the most part we’re going to work out for five days, and then we’re going to start incorporating some scrimmage games.
“Our starting pitchers need to go out and face hitters, our hitters need to face live pitching, so we’ve got some scrimmage games that we’re going to play every day, to get these guys ready, but we are looking to scrimmage later on in Spring Training before the season starts [with] other teams.”
“We’re probably going to have 2-3 games maximum to play against other teams,” Rizzo said.
“We’re going to have to really rely on our intrasquad games and our internal competitions to get ready and to compete to see who’s [on] the final roster.”
That is, if they play games at all this season. The biggest goal for Spring Training 2.0 is to keep all the players, their families, coaches, and staff healthy, while they see how things play out over the next three weeks.
“We have to care for each other,” Rizzo said. “We have to be a good teammate. We always talk about think about the name on the front of the jersey more than you do the name on the back of the jersey.
“If you’re thinking about the team, you have to conduct yourself in a way on the field and off the field that is conducive to keeping yourself healthy, which in turn keeps the team healthy, and healthy players on the field.”