Tell us if you have heard this before — the Nationals have a Grapefruit League road game in Jupiter at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium. The 14-mile drive up I-95 is also great for Nationals fans to make the short drive up the road to see the team in another venue, and today they get to see Jon Lester on the mound and a whole new look to the lineup. For the first time in a Nats’ uniform, Starlin Castro is playing 3rd base.
All of the narratives and media driven commentary that he “would not” play 3rd base just got proven incorrect when that lineup was written. Castro merely said he would rather not play 3rd base. This was not an Alfonso Soriano situation of being threatened by a General Manager of a suspension if he did not move his position.
This is an opportunity to get Lester even closer to his ramp up for his first start of the season and puts him in line for one more start in Florida before Opening Day. Manager Dave Martinez has not revealed his rotation yet, but said he would like to split up his two lefties so they do not pitch back-to-back games. The other lefty is of course Patrick Corbin.
Spring Training for an established pitcher is about getting their work in while building up arm strength (stamina), and Martinez said that his pitcher’s stamina will determine whether or not he goes with an 8-man bullpen or 9-man. By the way, Alex Avila is catching Lester again.
The Nats lineup finally has Trea Turner in front of Juan Soto like we saw most of last season. Also of note is that Luis Garcia is starting at 2nd base and Victor Robles continues at leadoff. The normal R-L-R-L-R-L lineup we have seen for batting by righty-to-lefty has now been changed. It was odd to have changed the ordering of Turner and Soto in particular for the first 18-games of Spring Training because both hit so well last year and had Top-7 MVP seasons with Turner hitting before Soto, and we will see that today. There is that ole saying in life, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” That would apply to Turner and Soto in the lineup. The big news of course is Castro at third base.
“We just want to see what this looks like right now,” Martinez said this morning regarding Castro starting at third base. “Carter’s going to get an opportunity to play third base. We’ll see how it looks. This is the last week [of camp]. We’ve got to hone in on some things. No decisions have been made yet. But we want to make sure we take the 26 best guys that we can possibly take.”
Last Tuesday, I wrote an article that we published on St. Paddy’s Day as to, when or if, the Nats had a legitimate Plan B like playing Castro at third base. It was really the only viable plan given that the only free agent out there, Jedd Gyorko, did not seem to fit the Nats’ plans. The next day, one of the beat writers asked Davey that exact question about Castro.
“No,” Martinez said last week to a question of whether Castro had taken practice at third base. “So far, it’s just been second. So far.”
That was then and this is now. Martinez finally wrote Castro in at third base and admitted he had been taking groundballs away from prying eyes at the “hot corner” for a few days in practice.
“[Castro] played 45 games over there and did really well,” Martinez said. “I want to give him some time to take groundballs, but he says he’s fine. He’s got good hands and good feet. He’s going to get a chance to play there today, possibly tomorrow, and we’ll see how he looks.”
The Nats’ manager is insisting that this move does not cement anything for the final roster or positions at third base.
“Because Starlin is playing over there, it doesn’t mean that we made any decision whatsoever,” Martinez said. “We’ve got a week left, but we want to make sure that if something does happen — that we don’t throw Starlin over there on Opening Day and say, ‘Hey, go get ‘em!’ I’m not going to do that to him, either.”
Washington Nationals vs. St. Louis Cardinals
Stadium: Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium, Jupiter Florida
1st Pitch: 1:05 pm EDT
TV: Cardinals TV and via the MLB app
Radio: Nationals feed and via MLB app
Line-up subject to change (without notice):