Today was supposed to have been Jon Lester‘s debut game in Spring Training for the Washington Nationals, but instead he was scratched because of the decision to have surgery to remove his thyroid gland. Nationals’ manager Dave Martinez will now use reliever Kyle Finnegan as his opener followed by several other pitchers in this first 2021 meeting with the New York Mets in Port St. Lucie.
The Mets are scheduled to pitch lefty David Peterson in this afternoon game to be televised on ESPN. Depending on lineups, Nats fans might get their first glimpse of Francisco Lindor in a Mets uniform as that team’s biggest acquisition of the off-season. The Mets also upgraded at the catcher position with James McCann as well as depth in their starting rotation and on their bench.
The Nats will be showcasing for the first time their top-3 prospects with Jackson Rutledge, Cade Cavalli and Cole Henry. In addition, the team’s ninth rated prospect, Matt Cronin, will pitch in a scheduled appearance. Cronin, made a unscheduled appearance a few days ago when the team needed help during a 9th inning meltdown.
— Talk Nats ⚾ (@TalkNats) March 4, 2021
“I saw Rutledge today, and talked to him and joked around with him,” Martinez said. “I said, ‘Big debut for you today.’ He said, ‘Yah.’ I said, ‘Are you excited?’ He said, ‘Heck yah.’ I asked him what the best pitch is in baseball, and he said, ‘Strike one.’ I said, ‘Perfect — let’s go.'”
Obviously Henry does not get the fanfare like Rutledge or Cavalli. The Nats skipper spoke about Henry for moment.
“He’s got unbelievable mechanics. Really good,” the manager said. “He has 3 or 4 really good pitches. He’s young for us. He hasn’t pitched much because of the pandemic. I just want him to go out there and throw his fastball, locate his fastball. … I just want him to go out and compete and have fun.”
Yesterday, Davey went with a lineup that had Victor Robles leading off and Trea Turner hitting behind Juan Soto. While everyone has an opinion on lineup construction, that lineup is not a guarantee of what the Nats’ manager will pencil in on Opening Day which is exactly four weeks from today against these Mets.
“I kind of wanted to stagger the lineup a little bit, just right now to see what it looks like,” Martinez said. “I wouldn’t read into it too much. It was vice-versa last year for the most part — Trea hit in front of Soto, and they did well together, but I just want to see what this kind of looks like.”
For Soto, he is there to drive in runs and get on-base with the hopes that the batters behind him will drive him in. They pitch the 22 year old so carefully, you can expect a lot of walks regardless of who bats behind him.
“It’s going to be a fun year with all these guys in here,” Soto said. “I think I get a little protection by them. They’re going to be out there. They want to walk me now, they can walk me. I won’t worry about it, because I know I have really good teammates behind me. They’re going to get their job done.”
The real fun is when Soto is walked and the next batter up comes through with a big hit to make the pitcher pay for the transgression. In yesterday’s game, Josh Bell and Kyle Schwarber both hit solo home runs because they had no runners on-base. That has to change in 2021. Runners on-base and driving in runs to put points on the board as Davey likes to call it is the key.
Coming up with the right combination is part analytics, part matchup baseball, and part of it is luck.
Washington Nationals vs. New York Mets
Stadium: Clover Park, Port St. Lucie, Florida
1st Pitch: 1:10 pm EDT
Line-up subject to change (without notice):
- Victor Robles CF
- Josh Harrison 2B
- Kyle Schwarber DH
- Ryan Zimmerman 1B
- Yan Gomes C
- Andrew Stevenson LF
- Carter Kieboom 3B
- Yadiel Hernandez RF
- Hernan Perez SS
Kyle Finnegan RHP
This pre-game presser with manager Dave Martinez has a lot of information: