Despite the major changes made to the Washington Nationals’ roster during the off-season, the players have not proved this Spring Training that much has changed. Opening the spring at 6-13, the offensive woes have not disappeared, while the pitching this past week has been atrocious. Luckily for all of us, during Spring Training, batters and pitchers are usually working on new techniques so they do not really care about their performance as long as they can work on their stuff. Although these games really do not matter, these are not the results that fans have been looking for.
The biggest issue though has been injuries to some of the best players on the Nationals, the first being Adam LaRoche. In spite of the expectation that he should be 100 percent healed and ready by Opening Day, LaRoche has not played in one major league game yet. The Nationals are even limiting his running because of a sore right foot in the few minor league games that he has played. The second player is 2011’s Nationals Spring Training and Regular Season MVP, Michael Morse. Morse suffered a strained lat muscle early this spring training and has struggled to return. This has not only limited him to 3 games but also a serious concern as to when he will return. Drew Storen is the latest significant player to experience an injury. Just the other day he underwent an MRI to check out bicep/tricep pain that he had been experiencing. Luckily no damage was found, but he will have to undergo some treatment. All three of these players who would have been slated to start Opening Day if fully healthy may now miss some games in the beginning of the 2012 season.
Just yesterday, manager Davey Johnson put together a lineup that was supposed to resemble the Opening Day lineup if all three players were unavailable that day. He placed Mark DeRosa at first replacing LaRoche, Steve Lombardozzi in left field replacing Morse, and pitched Brad Lidge in the top of the 9th to close the game out replacing Storen. The Nationals scored 12 runs against some of the New York Mets’ top pitching prospects while holding them scoreless with only eight hits. This performance showed an aspect of the Nationals that they really never had before this season: the amount of depth they have at almost every position.
At starting pitcher, they have seven proven pitchers competing for the five rotation spots. In relief they have a surplus of help that can be called up at any time from the minors. At first base they have two major league players in Chad Tracy and Mark DeRosa competing for the back up/platoon position. In the middle infield, they have one of the best prospects in baseball in Anthony Rendon and last years Minor League Gold Glove Winner Steve Lombardozzi behind Desmond and Espinosa. At third base, they have numerous utility players, plus Rendon, who can play the position. Lastly in outfield, they have an amazing wealth of prospects waiting to be called up such as Eury Perez and Michael Taylor, as well as multiple major league players competing in Spring Training for a spot.
Coming into the regular season this depth will be the secret for the Nationals to launch the 2012 season on the right foot in the face of injuries hurting some of the starters. Luckily, Washington doesn’t have the toughest first 14 games, starting with last year’s 71-91 Cubs and ending with a four game series against the 106-loss Houston Astros from 2011. This combination should allow the Nationals to jump out to what should be the best season in Nationals history.