For baseball fans, it’s been a long three months since they’ve been able to enjoy a game. And for Nats fans, the wait has been even longer.
But finally the Nationals seem ready to return to the diamond.
Pitchers and catchers reported to Space Coast Stadium in Viera, Fla., Tuesday morning, but they’re definitely not alone. Most of the team has been slowly trickling in this week, including a heavily bearded Jayson Werth and new first baseman Adam LaRoche, the two men picked up to replace the slugging power of Adam Dunn.
But offense was not the main concern management had during the offseason. According to CSNWashington, GM Mike Rizzo’s objective was to patch up the sieve that is the Nationals defense. The team committed a league-high 127 errors last year.
They hope to address that problem with the addition of LaRoche, a healthy battle for a couple outfield spots and letting rookie Danny Espinosa take over at second base. Of course, Ryan Zimmerman will continue to hold down the hot corner and Ian Desmond will return at shortstop.
In fact, one of the biggest question marks comes with the first players to take the field -- the bullpen. With Stephen Strasburg still on the mend and potentially out for the season, the Nationals are looking for a solid starter. And there are few new additions to choose from. Newcomers Todd Coffey and Henry Rodriguez will likely fill relieving roles and Tom Gorzelanny, while a starter, probably won’t take the top spot.
The most likely pitcher to do that, according to CSNWashington, is Jordan Zimmermann. Zimmermann, who missed most of last season after Tommy John surgery, should be fully healthy and has the potential to be the Nationals' go-to guy.
Things really won’t start to shape up at least until everyone arrives in Viera on the 20th, and even then we might have to wait until the 28th win the Nationals play their first preseason game against the Mets. But early arrivals and an attitude of commitment bodes well for a young team that is looking to build into a contender.