After Matt Williams revealed the most anticipated lineup of the Nationals’ season Monday afternoon, he said he expects it could change “daily.” Nine players capable of playing every day will share eight spots, with Williams juggling the lineup based on pitching matchups, fatigue and other factors.
“It’s going to be daily,” Williams said. “I was telling you guys the truth when I told you it’s going to be daily. It depends on a lot of things. We’ve had some stressful games lately. We certainly haven’t been able to give guys days off that we anticipated going in. It can change daily, depending on how everybody is feeling, depending on a potential matchup.”
Williams pointed at Jayson Werth and Adam LaRoche — who at 35 and 34 are the Nationals’ oldest players — as hitters who could receive days off. Williams has been checking with Werth regularly about his condition. LaRoche has played every game since May 26, including both games of Saturday’s doubleheader. With the Nationals facing three left-handers this series against the Rockies, LaRoche could receive a day off, with Ryan Zimmerman moving from third to first.
If Zimmerman played first, Anthony Rendon would play third and Danny Espinosa would play second base. Though Williams benched Espinosa in his lineup after Harper’s return, he backed the second baseman. Espinosa is hitting .217/.284/.348, but he has played exceptional defense.
“It’s a difficult scenario, because Danny has played really well,” Williams said. “You know what, he’s played through injury and getting hit in the knees, all kinds of things. And his attitude has been fantastic. Given everybody’s back now, it’s kind of the way we envisioned it. … But he’s played hard. He’s played really hard. It’s a function of where we’re at right now.”
Espinosa does have an .826 OPS against left-handed pitchers. Williams said he recognized that, and that he could look to give an Espinosa a start over the next three days.
Monday night, Williams mostly reverted back to the Nationals’ opening day lineup, with one major change. Wilson Ramos batted cleanup back on March 31. Monday, he’s batting eighth.
“He hit there a little last year, so he’s accustomed to it,” Williams said. “That’s one of the things we talked about. You have so many good players. It’s difficult to make a lineup. Everybody can impact the game. But that’s a good thing. It lengthens our lineup, too.”