Said Carroll: “You’re looking to add valueany way you can.”
With one week remaining before opening day, as the Nationals continue constructing the bottom of their roster, the players competing for the last spots anxiously await resolution. Wednesday, they received both clarity and confusion: Michael Morse will likely start the season on the disabled list and Adam LaRoche will not, but the Nationals called veteran Xavier Nady — whom they signed to a minor league contract 10 days prior — to major league camp.
The developments meant the Nationals have two final bench spots for four players: Carroll, Nady, corner infielder Chad Tracy and left fielder Jason Michaels. When Nady boarded the team bus Wednesday morning in Viera, the three others may have tried not to notice. They surely did.
“Let me tell you one thing about the game of baseball,” Manager Davey Johnson said. “They know their competition. They can count — everyone, whatever situation. Whether you’re talking about the outfield situation, the first base situation, I don’t have to say diddly. They know it better than I do.”
The Nationals will make their decision with the knowledge that Morse, barring a setback, will miss a handful of games at most. After he played catch Wednesday morning, Morse underwent a sonogram that revealed the strain in his right lat muscle had “flattened out and healed,” Johnson said. “That was the best news I had all day.”
Doctors cleared Morse to accelerate his baseball activity, but because he has not played since March 13, he still needs to prepare for the season and will probably not be ready by April 5, opening day. A player who begins the year on the DL can debut April 10 so long as he did not play in a spring training game after March 26.
With 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. Carroll’s athleticism and versatility seems to have won him Johnson’s favor.
The Nationals would then choose between Michaels, who has hit .220 this spring, and Nady for the final spots. Michaels has an out clause, meaning he can leave for another major league team if he doesn’t make the Nationals’ roster. Michaels, a 34-year-old veteran whom the Nationals lockered next to Bryce Harper, said he would be willing to accept an assignment to Class AAA Syracuse.