After spending one day in major league camp, with one week before opening day, Xavier Nady may have a chance to crack the Nationals’ roster. Nady went 1 for 3 and made a slick backhand play at first base today, his first major league action after signing a minor-league contract with the Nationals 10 days ago.
Manager Davey Johnson called Nady “very capable” and said he will evaluate him along with Jason Michaels, Chad Tracy and Brett Carroll, the three non-roster invitees with the best chance to nab the final available bench spots. After Johnson watched Nady take batting practice this morning, he decided Nady would remain with the major leaguers, competing for a roster spot.
“I hadn’t seen him play that much in the last couple years except on TV,” Johnson said. “I know he’s very capable. What I was more concerned about, the type of hitter he was wasn’t fresh on my mind. After I saw one round of BP, I knew where he was. And I knew I wanted to see a lot of him with us.”
Nady, 33, missed the final quarter of last season after a wayward fastball broke his hand. Nady also missed a large chuck of the 2009 season after he underwent Tommy John surgery for the second time.
“I’m thankful now to finally have nothing,” Nady said. “Hopefully I got all the things out of the way that have bothered me. I’ve been able to do everything, first time in a while. It’s been a grind to get healthy. Most importantly, I’m just thankful from that.”
Last year, Nady hit .248/.287/.359 with four homers in 223 plate appearances with the Arizona Diamondbacks. He primarily played first base, but also appeared in 10 games in left field.
“My goal is just to obviously be ready, whatever the situation calls for me, and we’ll go from there,” Nady said. “Whether it’s first, outfield or whatever. A lot of things can happen. I’ll just stay ready and contribute when my name’s called.”
Johnson explained how Nady, a client of Scott Boras, came to sign with the Nationals. Nady nearly signed with them in early winter, but after the Nationals signed since-retired Mike Cameron, another right-handed hitter, Nady decided to wait. Finally, he took a deal from the Nationals’ that did not include an out-clause if he didn’t make the major league roster.
“Obviously sitting at home, you’ve got to make a decision,” Nady said. “And obviously the longer I was sitting there, I understood what was going to happen. Finally being healthy and being able to do stuff I haven’t been able to do in three years, it’s nice to be able to just go back and play again without things bothering me. That’s the most important part.”
And now, suddenly he may have a chance to make the team. Carroll seems to have shored up his place on the team with his athleticism and versatility, which includes the ability to catch in an emergency. That leaves one more spot, figuring Michael Morse begins the year on the disabled list, Rick Ankiel starts in center and the Nationals use a bench of Jesus Flores, Mark DeRosa, Roger Bernadina and Carroll otherwise.
With Adam LaRoche expected to be ready at first base opening day, the Nationals do not need another left-handed first baseman, which limits Tracy’s chances. The Nationals would then choose between Michaels, who has hit .220 this spring, and Nady. Michaels has an out clause, which may actually work against him – the player that the Nationals choose will likely be sent to the minors after Morse returns, and so the ability to demote Nady could help him.