Manager Jim Riggleman spoke for a while this morning about all the potential machinations of the Nationals opening day roster, and what’s most apparent is the number of unsettled decisions and potential surprises. It’s hard to go over all of the different scenarios, because many decisions (bench outfielders, utility infielder) are dependent on how other decisions (mainly center field) shake out.
The most significant thing Riggleman said is probably this: Matt Stairs, 43-year-old pinch-hitter extraordinaire, is looking good to make the opening day roster.
“We brought Matt in here because of what he’s done in the past,” Riggleman said. “We’ve seen no indications that he can’t do that and continue. So he’s got a real good chance of being on the club. We’ve still got a week and a few days to go here.”
Stairs’s likely inclusion would seemingly spell doom for Laynce Nix, a minor league free agent who, like Stairs, is a left-handed bat off the bench. He has made an impression on the Nationals and a few opposing scouts. Nix is more athletic than his stocky, muscular build suggests, and he would provide power off the bench.
But Riggleman said the Nationals could include both Nix and Stairs on the 25-man roster. Interestingly, Riggleman said Nix could play center field. All this is still up in the air, but it sure sounds like the Nationals could be considering optioning both Nyjer Morgan and Roger Bernadina to Class AAA Syracuse, which would mean the Nationals feel like Rick Ankiel, Jerry Hairston and Nix will give them enough in center field to be without Morgan and Bernadina.
“The whole thing with how it shakes out in center field and who’s getting the most playing time there, that will affect Nix and Bernadina and Morgan, that whole mix,” Riggleman said. “Ankiel is doing a good job in center. Nyjer has really had a great week or 10 days here. Nix is a veteran guy with a good track record.”
And then there is the final infield spot, being battled for by Alex Cora, Brian Bixler and Alberto Gonzalez. Riggleman said all three are playing well enough to make the team. Riggleman clearly loves what Cora would bring to the Nationals with his experience, solid defense and understanding of the game.
With less than two weeks before opening day, the Nationals are still unsure of their initial 25-man roster. As Riggleman reminded everyone today, making the opening day roster carries some prestige, but it’s not as
important as it can be made out to be.
“It’s a big deal, that opening day roster,” Riggleman said. “Sometimes within a week, it’s different. It’s more important who’s there for the 200 at-bat utility guy, the 600 at-bat regular, how that shakes out more so than who’s there the first week of the season.”
With that in mind, informed by Riggleman’s chat today and a few other voices from inside and outside the organization, here’s a guess at the 13 position players on that first roster:
1. Ryan Zimmerman
2. Ian Desmond
3. Danny Espinosa
4. Adam LaRoche
5. Alex Cora
6. Jerry Hairston
7. Jayson Werth
8. Rick Ankiel
9. Michael Morse
10. Laynce Nix
11. Matt Stairs
12. Ivan Rodriguez
13. Wilson Ramos