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Expected Max Scherzer-Nationals reunion slated for Apple TV Plus, not cable

Plus, notes on catcher Riley Adams, Luis García and the Opening Day roster, and Nelson Cruz’s brackets.

Max Scherzer signed with the Mets late last year. (Mark Brown/Getty Images)
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WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — The Washington Nationals-New York Mets game April 8 will be broadcast exclusively on Apple TV Plus, according to four people with knowledge of the situation, kicking off Major League Baseball’s newest streaming partnership. The game, which will be available for free and not require an Apple TV Plus subscription, will not be shown on Mid-Atlantic Sports Network, the Nationals’ television network, or SportsNet New York, which broadcasts all in-market Mets games.

And if pitching plans hold as expected, that is the night Max Scherzer will return to face his old team at Nationals Park.

The game will not be subject to any blackout restrictions, but fans will need to have or download Apple TV Plus. According to a joint announcement from MLB and Apple earlier this month, games will be free and won’t require a subscription only for a limited time. Nationals-Mets will be part of an Apple TV Plus doubleheader, though the other matchup is not yet public.

This is the fifth season MLB has had a streaming package; it partnered with Facebook in 2018, Facebook and YouTube in 2019, and YouTube in 2020 and 2021.

It makes sense for both MLB and Apple to want to make a splash with their first offering. It’s also fair if some fans are frustrated with having to shift their setup or miss the second game of the regular season — one that, given what Scherzer means to each team, will be chock full of emotions and intrigue.

How did the Nationals fare in their exhibition against the Mets on Saturday? Washington lost, 4-2, in Port St. Lucie and got only 2⅔ innings from starter Erick Fedde. The plan was for Fedde to throw four innings and around 60 pitches. But because 60 pitches came quickly, with the Mets fouling off 18 of them, Fedde was hooked in the third, setting up Reed Garrett, Steve Cishek and Kyle Finnegan to yield runs out of the bullpen. Lane Thomas, starting in left field, accounted for the Nationals’ damage with a two-run homer over the batter’s eye in center.

Svrluga: Max Scherzer, a Met? Man, that doesn’t feel right.

Is Riley Adams the Nationals’ backup catcher? Ostensibly, yes, since Manager Dave Martinez said Friday that he wants Adams to catch every day if Keibert Ruiz suffers an injury (then he knocked his head for good luck when there was a wooden table right in front of him). But because Martinez wants Adams ready for that scenario, he pondered aloud whether it could make sense to stash him with the Class AAA Rochester Red Wings, where he could be the regular starter. And that would push Tres Barrera, 27, into the mix after he earned the pitching staff’s trust this past summer.

At this point, Barrera’s defense is sharper than Adams’s. Adams, though, has power from the right side and a knack for getting on base. The Nationals have toyed with sliding him to first for a few extra at-bats over the course of the season. Signing Nelson Cruz this month means there won’t be many to pick up at designated hitter. But Adams is making his case to both head north with Washington and get in the box. Against the St. Louis Cardinals on Friday, he clubbed one homer to dead center and another way out to left, showing his offseason focus on flattening his swing plane to keep his bat in the zone longer. So far, it has worked.

Speaking of, when’s the last time Adams cracked two homers in a game? “Gosh, it might have been all the way back in college,” Adams, 25, said Friday afternoon outside the visitors’ clubhouse at Roger Dean Stadium. “ … I mean, this is spring training, but I don’t think I’ve ever had [a two-homer game] in pro ball or the minors. I think! I don’t know. I don’t really pay attention to those things. It’s been a while, at least.”

Well, he’s certainly right about not paying much attention to his own home runs. After the interview, the team’s communications director told Adams he had a pair of two-homer games with the Class AAA Buffalo Bisons last season.

Will Luis García make the Opening Day roster? As of Saturday morning, it didn’t seem to be trending that way. Martinez called García, a 21-year-old infielder, the Nationals’ “future” in his pregame meeting with reporters. The manager also admitted to considering a platoon with García and a right-handed-hitting infielder to start the year, which probably means Alcides Escobar. But Martinez wants García to play every day as the Nationals often do with young players, and the best opportunity to in April is probably with the Class AAA Rochester Red Wings.

Is there an argument to try García at shortstop during what’s expected to be a rebuilding year? Yes, though the Nationals would contend that he’s not ready there and more poor defensive results could stunt his growth. After signing a regular second baseman in César Hernández, then giving Escobar the bulk of reps at shortstop this spring, the middle-infield plans seem clear. The question, then, is whether Martinez and the front office see any short- or long-term value in carrying García on the bench. Precedent suggests they won’t.

How is Nelson Cruz doing in the team’s bracket pools? Not great, thanks to North Carolina’s win over UCLA on Friday night. Walking through the clubhouse Saturday morning, Cruz looked at a taped-up bracket and asked: “UNC won? No way.” The score had been final for about 10 hours.

Yes, UNC won, a few of the clubhouse attendants told Cruz. The veteran designated hitter smiled and shook his head.

“Damn,” he said quietly. “That means I’m down.”