Nats break camp, Opening Day roster takes shape

Brian Tinsman
March 24, 2019 - 10:47 pm

Adam Hagy-USA TODAY Sports


The Washington Nationals broke camp today in West Palm Beach, Fla., with most of the remaining players heading north with the team. 

The Opening Day roster has a few more days to shake out, but two important questions got definitive answers over the weekend.

Jeremy Hellickson is the team's fifth starter and will start the season in the bullpen. The righty will turn 32 on April 8 and has had a dominant Spring, allowing two earned runs in 19 innings, while striking out 19.

The decision allows the top four pitchers (Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Patrick Corbin and Aníbal Sánchez) to pitch on regular rest during a point in the season where every team has multiple days off.

As MASN beat reporter Mark Zuckerman points out, this also allows the Nats to pitch Scherzer three times in the first nine games, which is advantageous at any point in the season.

Hellickson's plan isn't that surprising, as each of the other four pitchers is coming off of a better 2018, and none of them are young enough to stash in the minors.

With Hellickson winning the fifth job, he needs a spot to hang around on the big league club, and can provide spot-start or long relief services. Once the schedule gets back to usual, Hellickson will enter the rotation.

Howie Kendrick will start the season on the injured list (the league's new name for the disabled list), a move that was expected as he worked back from a strained hamstring.

Kendrick missed most of last season with a torn Achilles', and was brought along slowly this Spring. After returning to exhibition games, Kendrick strained his hamstring on March 5 running down the first base line.

It is not uncommon for players to get these kinds of compensation injuries when recuperating. That's why Kendrick is taking it slow, telling Zuckerman that he trusts the injury, but it isn't ready to go.

Instead, he will stay behind and report to minor league camp for rehab. He will be joined by Michael A. Taylor, who is returning from a leg injury of his own, and will start the season on the injured list.

The Nationals open the 2019 season against the New York Mets on Thursday at 1:05 p.m.


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