As big as the announcement of a club’s Opening Day roster is for fans and for some players, like those who may be making a big league roster for the first time, as Davey Martinez noted this past weekend, as he looked ahead to the start of the 2022 regular season, things will undoubtedly have to change in the coming days and weeks, but teams do still have to make choices when it comes to their 28 players for the season opener.
“April 7 is one day. It’s Opening Day. It’s a beautiful day for baseball,” Martinez told reporters earlier this week, as quoted by MLB.com’s Jessica Camerato.
“But, in two, three weeks’ time, things could change rapidly. We’re going to go out there and compete come April 7, and we’ll see where things lie after that.”
There were plenty of decisions to make this spring for the rebooting ballclub, but a number of roster battles sorted themselves out over the last few weeks of this spring’s abbreviated, three-week Spring Training.
The challenge this year was doing it on an expedited schedule, with the 99-day lockout while MLB and the MLBPA found common ground and agreed on a new collective bargaining agreement shrinking Spring Training to three weeks.
Not everyone was thrilled with the three-week ramp-up MLB settled on after the 99-day lockout ended with a new CBA after painful negotiations with the players.
“In general, pitchers need more than three weeks to prepare for a 162-game season,” GM Mike Rizzo told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies yesterday. “That’s always — Spring Training is really built for the pitchers. In a normal Spring Training you have 5 1/2-6 weeks to prepare pitchers and you build them up to get to their 100-105 pitches to start Opening Day, and I just think when you condense it to three weeks, you’re really banking on players to have been doing their strict Spring Training preparation regimen on their own, and I just think it’s unfair.”
Add to that the fact that the clubs and players could not communicate or coordinate work plans during the lockout and it made for a difficult winter for everyone involved.
“We had no access to players, to their health, how they’re feeling,” Rizzo added, “... what they’re going through in this preparation, ramping up to Spring Training. So when Spring Training did start in earnest, some people got out of the chute well and went too fast and we had to slow them back down, and some people started slowly and are progressing at their normal rate, but not at the rate where they’re stretched out for a typical beginning of the season.”
“This has been the toughest Spring Training, just because of the amount of time we had,” Martinez acknowledged, but he and his staff did what they could to evaluate their players and make the necessary adjustments and decisions before taking the best team to D.C. for Opening Day.
“There’s going to be a competition at every spot,” GM Mike Rizzo said on the first day of Spring Training last month.
“We’re going to bring the best 26 or so, whatever we’re allowed to bring north, and try to win baseball games.”
MLB announced recently that teams would get 28 players at the start of the season, giving everyone the opportunity to take more pitching with them for the start of the year, given the quick ramp-up this time around.
Here are the players the Nationals settled on for their Opening Day roster: