The long and anticipated wait is over for Washington Nationals’ fans as Manager Davey Martinez and the Nats look to turn the page from a record-losing 2022 season. The Nationals had a busy offseason, which included acquisitions of Trevor Williams, Stone Garrett, Jeter Downs, Jeimer Candelario, Corey Dickerson, and Dom Smith. On top of that, the team could get full-seasons from four players who debuted last year in MacKenzie Gore, Cade Cavalli, CJ Abrams, and Joey Meneses.
Let’s look at everything you need to know as the Nationals look to officially start their Spring Training games this weekend, and of course refer back to Sao Magnifico’s fantastic piece on the players you may not know.
What does the Nationals 2023 spring training schedule look like?
2023 spring training will differ from previous years, as the World Baseball Classic will start March 7th. After a six-year hiatus, the highly watched event will return next month. The international tournament will include many Nationals players. The full list can be seen below.
Pitchers and catchers reported to West Palm last week and held their first official workout on February 15th. Position players had been arriving on a rolling basis throughout the week, and everyone is present and accounted for except for Stephen Strasburg who is dealing with an injury back in Washington, D.C. The Washington squad will hold their first team workout today. Meanwhile, the Nationals will play their first game at 1:00 p.m. on February 25 against the Cardinals, and only have 4 full days to prepare.
The Nationals share their spring training ballpark with World Series Champions Houston Astros and will face them on February 26 for their first home game. This season will include 28 grapefruit contests and two exhibition games, including hosting Team Israel on March 9 and hosting the Yankees at Nationals Park on March 28.
Can fans watch on TV?
Unfortunately, only a handful of games will be televised for Nationals fans on the “home” network. MASN Sports will air three games, starting on Saturday, March 11 when the Nationals host the Mets at 7:05 p.m. MASN will also televise the March 18 showdown against the Marlins and the March 24 game against the Cardinals. Furthermore, the Nationals exhibition game against the Yankees can be viewed on MASN. Nationals fans can also tune in to 106.7, as they will broadcast 12 games with the dates pre-chosen. The full broadcasting schedule is below. The good news is that several of the games can be picked up on the MLB.TV app from the opposing team, and if it is not on TV, you might be able to hear it on the radio.
Who is on the team right now?
The Nationals will have 66 players in big league camp – their 40-man roster (minus Strasburg for now) plus 27 non-roster invitees. Tanner Rainey is one of the 40-man players who will start the season on the 60-day IL, and besides Strasburg is the only other player who is not participating. Two players are partial participants as they recover from 2022 injuries, and they are Carter Kieboom and Jackson Tetreault.
*-denotes non-roster invitee
Infielders: CJ Abrams, Jake Alu, Jeimer Candelario, Jeter Downs, Luis Garcia, Carter Kieboom, Joey Meneses, Dominic Smith, Ildemaro Vargas, Matt Adams*, Michael Chavis*, Lucius Fox*, Erick Mejia*, Leonel Valera*
Pitchers: Cory Abbott, Joan Adon, Victor Arano, Cade Cavalli, Patrick Corbin, Matt Cronin, Carl Edwards Jr., Paolo Espino, Jose Ferrer, Kyle Finnegan, MacKenzie Gore, Josiah Gray, Hunter Harvey, Jake Irvin, Tanner Rainey, Erasmo Ramirez, Jackson Rutledge, Stephen Strasburg, Mason Thompson, Thadeus Ward, Jordan Weems, Trevor Williams, Evan Lee*, Andres Machado*, Wily Peralta*, Francisco Perez*, Tommy Romero*, Jackson Tetreault*
Any roster battles to watch?
Some players will be battling for their spot this spring as the final bench player and bullpen arm are up for grabs. Also, according to the Nats’ manager, even starter Cade Cavalli is not guaranteed a spot. There will be movement throughout the team, but there are two positions in particular that require a deeper look. For the Nationals, there could be a battle for the starting job at third base although most see it as Jeimer Candelario‘s spot to lose, and then there could be a fight for the closer spot that most expect to go to Kyle Finnegan; however, the Nationals have plenty of options in the bullpen for the nod from Martinez to close out games.
Last season it was 30-year-old Tanner Rainey and 31-year-old Finnegan who shut down games for Washington. As mentioned, Rainey is recovering from UCL surgery, and the expectation is Finnegan will get the spot. Although the Texas State product had a rough start, he progressed into a reliable closer.
Meanwhile, other in-house options include Hunter Harvey, Sean Doolittle, and Mason Thompson. Doolittle suffered a season-ending injury early into the 2022 season and is a non-roster invitee to camp. Harvey turned heads last season as he had 45 strikeouts in 39.1 innings, posting a 2.52 ERA. Thompson has potential, but he’s still young and a little inexperienced. He struck out 15 players last year, in 24.2 innings, with a 2.92 ERA.
After Anthony Rendon’s departure after the 2019 season, the Nationals have been lost at third base. The Nationals hoped for former first round pick, Carter Kieboom, to fill the void, after he was drafted as the team’s top pick in the 2016 MLB draft. However, Kieboom has dealt with various injuries and hasn’t consistently maintained good numbers on offense or defense. The former first-round pick could grab the starting job, but it would take quite the camp to claim the role. During the offseason, the Nationals signed former Tiger, Candelario, to a one-year deal, and he is the projected starter. Barring a setback, Candelario should be given the job and start on opening day. In 124 games last season, the 29-year-old had 93 hits, 13 home runs, 50 RBIs, and a .217 average. The final candidate is Jake Alu, who has been with the Nationals down on the farm since 2019. Alu hasn’t made his major league debut yet, but he flashed in the minor leagues last season with 150 hits in 502 plate appearances and had a .871 OPS, and an impressive glove at third base. Alu was also used in the outfield and at second base to show some positional flexibility.
Nationals fans should be excited for the future after a lackluster 2022 performance. Can the Nationals continue to build in the right direction? The 2023 regular season will kick off on March 30, when the Nationals host their division foe, the Atlanta Braves, at 1:05 p.m.