No team at this point has been hit as hard by the COVID procedures than the Washington Nationals. Opening Day for the team is just eight days away, and the team is missing one-third of their starting lineup from COVID self-isolation. We have been reporting since the weekend that Juan Soto was expected back on mid-week, pending a clear COVID-19 test from the lab, otherwise it could push to tomorrow if results are not available. This could also be the same timeframe for Howie Kendrick who is on self-isolation. Previously, we reported that hitting coach Kevin Long returned yesterday from his quarantine. And Victor Robles we are told by a source is set for Saturday.
With the designated-hitter rule being used for this season, Kendrick will be the team’s primary DH, and all of the players will have to ramp up quickly. Manager Dave Martinez thinks Soto and Robles will be ready, but the Kendrick who turned 37 this week could take a little longer.
“The other one, we’ve got to be careful with [Kendrick],” Martinez said.“ We’ll see where he’s at, as well. But you’re talking about three guys that are big pieces to our lineup. We need them, and hopefully we can get them back as soon as possible.”
With Wander Suero and Roenis Elias on the 10-day IL, they might not be ready for Opening Day, and the roster will open up several spots — especially considering the roster for Opening Day is thirty players. There are currently four open spots on the 40-man roster, and non-roster invitees like Emilio Bonifacio, Yadiel Hernandez, Javy Guerra, Sam Freeman, and Kevin Quackenbush are all vying for those spots. The 40-man players like Aaron Barrett, Kyle Finnegan and Ryne Harper have a leg up on the NRIs and yesterday it was Guerra, Barrett, Quackenbush, and Harper who pitched in relief yesterday in the Red/White squad games at Nationals Park. Like last year, would anyone be surprised if Jake Noll found his way onto the Opening Day roster?
The key for Davey Martinez’s team is getting off to a quick start in this truncated season. A 19-31 repeat of last year would be a knock-out punch this year in a 60-game season. This is about the best sprinters meaning you have to get off the blocks with a quick start. Part of that is dependent on good health and readiness, and we have discussed that some players like Soto, Robles, and Kendrick must get ramped up quickly.
“We cannot go 19-31 [to start this season],” Martinez said. “Every game in a 60-game season, you start off kind of like in a playoff run. We’ve got to try to win as many games as possible, especially early. … Obviously, everything’s different, so we’ve just got to focus on the here-and-now, and get ready for the 23rd.”
Yes, everything’s different.