By Chico Harlan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
VIERA, Fla., Feb. 24 -- For the last few days, Washington Nationals pitcher Saúl Rivera waffled. Finally, he made up his mind: The reliever plans to participate in the World Baseball Classic.
Though non-roster invitee Pete Orr will represent Canada, Rivera, who will play for Puerto Rico, is the only player on the Nationals' 40-man roster who will be participating.
He is also a certainty to make the Opening Day roster, barring injury.
Washington's other players who were WBC candidates -- Roger Bernadina and Shairon Martis, who were eligible to play for the Netherlands -- elected to remain in Viera, in large part to bolster their chances at a roster spot. Starter Daniel Cabrera, who had the chance to represent the Dominican Republic, also elected not to play.
The WBC begins on March 5.Let the Games Begin
The Nationals kick off their spring training schedule -- 35 games, including one against the Italian national team -- Wednesday afternoon by taking a one-hour drive west to Kissimmee for a 1:05 game against the Astros.
The Nationals will pack their team bus with a roster of B-listers, especially among the position players. Center fielder Lastings Milledge and catcher Jesús Flores are expected to be the only likely everyday players to make the trip. John Lannan, the Opening Day starting pitcher, will likely go two innings, and be followed by Martis, Garrett Mock, Gary Glover and Steven Shell.Good News for Desmond
Shortstop Ian Desmond was in Baltimore on Monday having his left hand examined by specialist Thomas Graham. The team and Desmond, 23, feared the possibility of a stress fracture in his left hamate bone that would require surgery. But Desmond, after getting X-rays and a CT scan, was told that no surgery is necessary, and on Tuesday he was back with the team.
"Definitely relieved," Desmond said. . . .
First baseman Dmitri Young, who suffered a contusion after being plunked on the left hand Sunday, still is unable to practice. "He is having a tough time gripping the bat," Manager Manny Acta said. Young is listed as day-to-day.