Game #15 Jon Lester set for Grapefruit debut!

Clover Park in Port St. Lucie; Photo from Stan for TalkNats

Today is the day we will finally get to see LHP Jon Lester‘s debut game in Spring Training for the Washington Nationals.  His previous two starts were  scratched because of his decision to have surgery on his thyroid gland.  Nationals’ manager Dave Martinez pushed starter Joe Ross to tomorrow to make room for Lester who will face the New York Mets in Port St. Lucie.

The Mets are scheduled to pitch RHP Marcus Stroman in this afternoon game to be televised via SNY on the MLB Network.

In the offseason, the Mets made some significant acquisitions to get  Francisco Lindor as the team’s biggest acquisition of the off-season along with catcher James McCann as well as depth in their starting rotation and on their bench.

The Nats lineup needs to step up with the bats. Besides Victor Robles, Josh Harrison, Ryan Zimmerman, Starlin Castro, and Josh Bell, the rest of the lineup is lagging behind.  The Nats’ manager has been tinkering with the lineup, and hopefully we see the batters click into place.

“I kind of wanted to stagger the lineup a little bit, just right now to see what it looks like,” Martinez said last week. “I wouldn’t read into it too much. It was vice-versa last year for the most part — Trea Turner hit in front of Juan 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 after 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. For much of the spring, Turner has hit directly after Soto instead of what worked well last year when they were in the reverse order.

“It’s going to be a fun year with all these guys in here,” Soto said last week. “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. If the plan works, Josh Bell and Kyle Schwarber will both get multiple opportunities in each game with runners on-base.

Coming up with the right lineup combination is part analytics, part matchup baseball, and part of it is luck as the players click into place.

One interesting pregame note is that Alex Avila is catching Jon Lester in this game despite an ERA of 111.74 in their 2 games together when Avila caught him in the regular season. Of course small sample sizes will skew the numbers as it was a total of 7 2/3 innings. Of the potential catcher assignments, it was believed Yan Gomes would catch three pitchers and Avila would get the other two. We knew Max Scherzer and Avila would be matched up, and Patrick Corbin and Stephen Strasburg would go with Gomes. Initially Avila caught Joe Ross, and we will see tomorrow if he is switched to Ross. But if the ordering of the rotation is 1. Scherzer 2. Corbin 3. Strasburg 4. Lester 5. Ross and Avila is catching Lester, Ross and Schezer, that would not be optimal to catch three games in a row. Something to keep an eye on.

Washington Nationals vs. New York Mets
Stadium:  Clover Park, Port St. Lucie, Florida
1st Pitch: 1:10 pm EDT
TV:  SNY via MLB app or MLB Network
Radio: N/A

Line-up subject to change (without notice):

1. Victor Robles – CF
2. Juan Soto – RF
3. Trea Turner – SS
4. Josh Bell – 1B
5. Kyle Schwarber – LF
6. Alex Avila – C
7. Carter Kieboom – 3B
8. Luis García – 2B
9. Yadiel Hernandez – DH

Jon Lester LHP

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