Final decisions weigh on Matt Willams, bubble players

Washington Nationals' Jamey Carroll plays in an exhibition spring training baseball game against the Miami Marlins, Monday, March 24, 2014, in Jupiter, Fla. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

Jamey Carroll hopes to secure a roster spot, at least learn his fate. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

Last night when the Nationals arrived home from Jupiter, Matt Williams met with his coaching staff and front office representatives. They met again this morning. They will meet again after today’s game. Soon, they hope, they will finalize the Nationals’ roster. For now, they have not.

“It’s still fluid,” Manager Matt Williams said. “It’s still there. I want everybody to continue to play and play hard. We have constant contact about it. Nothing has changed from yesterday. We’re just going to continue the process of talking about it.”

Williams could announce decisions after today’s game, and he hopes to make them within 24 hours. He would prefer the roster be settled before the Nationals fly home Thursday evening. Doug Fister’s status may complicate that goal.

The effect of the Nationals’ continuing discourse can be seen in the clubhouse. Jamey Carroll, a strong candidate for the final bench spot, wore stubble and rings around his eyes. Stress wears on players on the bubble. They know nothing and think about everything. Williams understands.

“You care about people,” Williams said. “These guys are people. They have family and they have to make plans as well. Hopefully, we can get to that within the next 24 hours here.”

Carroll’s aspirations to continue his career at age 40 in the majors may depend on the Nationals’ decision. If they choose Tyler Moore over him, Carroll may seek employment elsewhere. (One assumes with certainty he will not play in the majors minors after 12 seasons.)

The Rangers, for example, could use an extra infielder and Carroll would fit their need. But at this stage of spring, as teams pare their roster, other infielders flood the market and vie for remaining jobs. If the Nationals decide Carroll will not make the team and wait until the last minute, he could lose the late-March game of musical 25th man jobs.

“The issue is, Jamey has a legitimate chance with us,” Williams said. “That’s the problem, right? Out of respect to him and out of respect to anybody, we want to make sure they know what’s going on. But we also have to continue to look at our club, and what the best 25 guys are that we’re going to take north with us and go from there. He’s going to continue to play.”

Williams will also wait to name his fifth starter. The Nationals believe Fister’s previously inflamed right elbow will be fine for the regular season. But they want to be sure before they make a call between Tanner Roark and Taylor Jordan – if Fister suffers a setback, both could be on the roster. Or Chris Young, who can opt out of his minor league contract Thursday, could even crack the rotation.

The assumption, though, is that Fister, who dominated in his first major league start in three weeks, will be fine. Fister will start Thursday in a minor league game, while Jordan Zimmermann will start the Grapefruit League finale. “We can just control it a little more,”’ Williams said. “With Doug, it’s about his strength at this point, how we can progress him with his pitch counts, make sure he’s fully healthy, able to go.”

Young is scheduled to pitch after Fister in the minor league game, although the Nationals may trade Young before he can opt out.

Also on Nationals Journal

Nationals release Michael Gonzalez