Spring Training Game #16 Halfway mark!

No other Washington Nationals player was in the public eye as early as Robert Hassell III at 11 and 12 years old in the Little League World Series. Okay, Darren Baker will never live down being the bat boy who almost got steamrolled and then saved by J.T. Snow in Game 5 of the 2002 World Series when Baker was just 3½ years old. That changed the rules for batboy’s ages going forward. Both players have been competing in this Spring Training camp as NRIs. Hassell is 2½ years younger than Baker, and competing in a crowded outfield for a spot. His tiny chance of making the team vanished with his latest injury: the groin. A source tells us that he will have an MRI on his nagging groin pain, and they hope to rule out that it is a sports hernia or a tear. Baker will continue in camp as he survived the first cuts today.

Here is a graphic on the top-11 position player stats so far in camp:

If a player isn’t on that list, not good for them. Travis Blankenhorn was on the list, and that didn’t save him from being in the first round of cuts today. He wasn’t going to make the team anyway, and small sample sizes can be deceiving.

Here were the players in the first round of cuts: Joan Adon, Cole Henry, DJ Herz, Mitchell Parker, Amos Willingham, Jake Alu, and Blankenhorn. When it was disclosed last week that Roster Resource added back an option for Adon, it became clear he would not make the team given how competitive camp has been. Jackson Rutledge had certainly move ahead of Adon in starting rotation depth, and it is difficult to say whether Herz is before or after Adon on the depth chart. Also, in June, Cade Cavalli is expected to be ready to pitch in the big leagues again. He’s been throwing in camp on the minor league side per the team’s UCL/TJ protocols.

The team acquired Zach Davies as a starter on a minor league deal last month. He could turn out to be one the bargains of free agency — sure, plenty of time to hand-out that award when we have real results past small sample sizes. Davies K’d five of the first batters he faced over the weekend, and his teammates thought he recorded his sixth strikeout until the umpire blew the call. That ended up costing Davies a run eventually, and two more scored in his final inning as inherited runners on his record. Those are the only three runs he has been charged with while facing mostly starters in his outings.

While manager Dave Martinez has not publicly said that Davies and beleaguered starter Trevor Williams are competing for the final rotation spot, but it sure feels that way. Williams has a long history as a hybrid bullpen arm, as a do-everything guy, when he was with the Mets. His 9.00 ERA so far in this camp coupled with his 5.55 last year after a second half slide at a 7.43 in his final 12-games always tested the wisdom that the team needed to push him to the bullpen. But Williams was effective in results for his first 15-starts at a 4.14 ERA last season, and the team didn’t exactly find an ace in free agency. If not Davies, expect Williams to be the fifth starter to begin the season.

Yesterday marked the halfway point in Grapefruit League games, and a lot more cuts will have to be made. Some tough decisions coming. Two Sundays from now, the Nats will board planes for Washington, D.C. in a large group to include top prospects for an exhibition game at Nationals Park on March 26. This Friday is the Spring Breakout game as Nats’ top prospects will face top prospects of the Mets. Expect that Hassell won’t play, and we are still waiting to see if Daylen Lile plays in that game as he has been sitting out games after a back contusion from a tumble over the outfield wall last week. He is on that roster that was released over the weekend.

Today’s game has Patrick Corbin on the mound for his fourth start of Spring Training. Eddie Rosario will make his first start after being acquired on Wednesday. Also, Joey Gallo makes his first appearance in the field after tweaking his quadriceps early in camp. This game against the Cardinals will be shown on the MLB app and MLB.TV via the St. Louis broadcast. It is also on Nationals radio via the app. First pitch is scheduled for 1:05 EDT.

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