The Washington Nationals boarded a flight Wednesday afternoon for Cincinnati, where they were slated to begin their season Thursday at Great American Ball Park against the Reds. Turns out they could have waited another day. With rain in the forecast for much of Thursday in Cincinnati, the Reds announced Wednesday that the Opening Day game has been postponed until Friday, which was scheduled as an off-day for this very scenario.
As of Wednesday evening, Thursday’s forecast called for a 100 percent chance of rain and temperatures in the low 60s. It is expected to rain again Friday morning but clear up in time for the game. The high temperature will be in the low 50s.
First pitch is scheduled for the same time Friday as it would have been Thursday — 4:10 p.m. — and will feature the same starting pitchers, Max Scherzer opposite Homer Bailey. Stephen Strasburg and Luis Castillo will start on Saturday. Gio Gonzalez and Sal Romano are slated to start the series finale Sunday afternoon. The Nationals will then travel to Atlanta for a three-game set against the Braves before playing their home opener against the New York Mets next Thursday.
The postponement affords Washington a rare two-day lull between games outside the all-star break; the Nationals completed their exhibition slate with a 3-1 loss to the Minnesota Twins at Nationals Park on Tuesday. It also grants the world another day to speculate about the few lingering questions surrounding the club, namely what will the lineup be, what does Manager Dave Martinez’s middle-relief hierarchy look like, and will Ryan Zimmerman actually start at first base after playing in just one major league exhibition game all spring?
The answer to the last of those queries according to Zimmerman and all the decision-makers is definitely. The question will inevitably then become how will the radical tactic — limiting his live-game action to minor league games on back fields — affect his production?
As for the rest of the lineup, Martinez warned not to read too much into the configuration he drew up for Tuesday’s exhibition, which included Anthony Rendon batting second, Howie Kendrick starting at second base for the injured Daniel Murphy while hitting in the cleanup spot, and Trea Turner, the club’s leadoff man for most of last season, in the six-hole. He emphasized that his lineup will be fluid, changing depending on the opponent, fatigue and “the human factor.”
“A lot of it is common sense really, what happens and what we do,” said Martinez, who has to wait an extra 24 hours to make his managerial debut. “Some of this stuff is based on information that I know about our players and the opponents and how we feel we need to proceed in a game. Every game is different. We take the information, and we use it wisely.”
Outside the back-end trio of Brandon Kintzler, Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle, bullpen roles remain somewhat unclear. Koda Glover hasn’t thrown a baseball since reporting to camp, and Joaquin Benoit, who was effectively signed to replace him, is also on the disabled list. As a result, Washington will have to rely on right-handers Shawn Kelley, who allowed six home runs in nine spring innings, and Trevor Gott for middle relief.
Sammy Solis, who allowed two runs in 10 spring innings, figures to be next in the hierarchy as a late-inning option after the big three, with Enny Romero and Matt Grace filling out the eight-man relief corps from the left side.
We’ll have to wait a little longer for the answers. But they’re coming, starting Friday.