The Nationals are headed to Lakeland later today to play a 6:05 p.m. game against the Tigers. Jordan Zimmermann will start, and just about every position player left in camp aside from Ryan Zimmerman, still recovering from a groin tweak, will make the trip. That includes Ivan Rodriguez, who came back from his personal matter (a positive personal matter he chose to keep private) in Puerto Rico a day early. I’ll list the travel roster below.
One player not going, of course, is right-handed reliever Henry Rodriguez. He has not pitched since last Thursday, a full week, while trying to hone his wayward mechanics. He’s made only three appearances and thrown just 2 1/3 erratic innings this spring. His only work has been long toss and bullpen sessions with Steve McCatty.
Rodriguez’s struggles may actually be helpful in regard to the Nationals’ bullpen composition. Rodriguez, whom the Nationals acquired along with Corey Brown when they traded Josh Willingham to the A’s, is out of options, so he would have to be placed on the 25-man roster or the Nationals will risk losing him. The Nationals are trying to wedge Rodriguez and seven other relievers – Drew Storen, Tyler Clippard, Sean Burnett, Todd Coffey, Brian Broderick, Chad Gaudin and Doug Slaten – into seven spots. That’s not even counting Collin Balester, who lately has been perhaps most impressive reliever in camp.
So how could Rodriguez’s issues help? Well, it would not be a stretch for the Nationals to claim Rodriguez is injured and needs to start the season on the 15-day disabled list. The other day, Manager Jim Riggleman said Rodriguez has no health issues. But Rodriguez is the one who requested not to throw in games, and when he did he complained of some soreness in his side and his shoulder. It’s never good when a player is hurt, but it would not be a surprise for Rodriguez to start the year on the disabled list and buy the Nationals some time.
And, in the end, the opening day roster matters less than we all think this time of year. Last season, Brian Bruney, Jason Bergmann and Jesse English were part of the Nationals’ bullpen on day one while Slaten, Storen and Joel Peralta started the season in Class AAA Syracuse. Balester, for example, will probably start the year in the minors but wind up making an impact by the end of the season.
As for tonight, here are the pitchers following Zimmermann:
And the position players: