With eleven players in quarantine (four for positive COVID tests; seven via contact tracing), the Washington Nationals had to make significant changes to the 26-Man roster they were expecting to field for their planned season-opener that didn’t happen last Thursday night.
GM Mike Rizzo, talking to reporters on a Zoom call from Nationals Park last week, said there would, of course, be roster moves to make up for the absence of the players in quarantine, noting that, “the majority of them were on our 26-man roster,” though, “... several of them were not.”
In spite of the fact that he knew they would be missing some players they hoped to have, Rizzo said last week that they would field the best team they could.
Multiple reports said that the Nationals were calling up infielder Luis García, catcher Tres Barrera, outfielder Yadiel Hernández, left-handed reliever Sam Clay, and right-hander Kyle McGowin, while Nats’ left fielder Kyle Schwarber, infielder Josh Harrison, starter Jon Lester, and backup catcher Alex Avila were rumored to be among the eleven unavailable players.
Whoever was going to be on the roster, and in today’s lineup, Rizzo explained, was going to have to be ready to hit the ground running, with a challenging schedule to start 2021’s 162-game season.
“You got to hit the ground running and you’ve got to scrap and play every game like it’s a playoff game,” Rizzo said. “You’ve got to start off with that mindset.”
He was, of course, expecting to play the New York Mets at that point, but the three-game set with the Nationals’ NL East rivals was postponed in its entirety, as was Monday’s series-opener with the Atlanta Braves.
But, as Rizzo explained, the club tries to take the same approach to each and every game they play anyway, so it does not matter who the opponent is, when it comes to the club’s approach.
“I always say, ‘Tonight is the biggest game of the year,’ and I’ll say that just about every time we tee it up. And I think that’s going to have to be our mindset going forward, and kind of look to get these players that are on the COVID list back and win as many games as we can until we get perfectly healthy and get a rhythm. We’ve got a lot of new players even without the COVID protocols, and we’ve got to get a little synergy and a little rhythm with our new guys, and hopefully it clicks in sooner rather than later, but we’re going to play from the start to win that game that night.”
“As always, I’ll tell you again, we’re going to try to go 1-0 tomorrow, and then worry about the other games,” Davey Martinez said when he spoke yesterday in advance of the series opener with the Braves this afternoon.
“When we left Spring Training we had some tough decisions to make on some of these younger kids and what to do with them.
“You’re going to see Luis [García] probably play tomorrow, play second base for us. Some of those decisions were tough. He’s here now. I’m excited about watching these guys play and get a chance to play,” Martinez added, while also suggesting that Jonathan Lucroy, if his test for COVID comes back negative, would be behind the plate today.
After watching the club’s workouts yesterday, and noting who was, and wasn’t, in Nationals Park, reporters assessed the likely Opening Day roster and one asked Martinez if he would, potentially, be fielding a lineup with as many as five expected everyday regulars out of their lineup?
“It is possible,” Martinez said with a laugh. “We’re going to make it work. Like I said, the last two days I saw a lot of energy in these guys. Especially the young guys.
“It’s been a lot of fun. It makes me realize how much — when the game is taken away from you for a little bit, how much you really miss it and how much you miss being around the guys.”
It might be the lineup they expected to run out in the 2021 season opener, but as Martinez said of the club’s makeshift roster right now, “This is who we are.”
Will they win Game 1 of 162, or go 1-0 today?
How did Martinez line things up for the opener? The lineup is [finally] out...