Auditions continue for final bench, 'pen spots

Baker experimenting with Nationals' batting order

Auditions continue for final bench, 'pen spots

JUPITER, Fla. -- The Nationals were late shoppers this offseason, making several key additions to their roster even as Spring Training got underway. One day before pitchers and catchers were set to report, they signed Adam Lind to add pop off their bench. Near the end of February, they signed free-agent catcher Matt Wieters. In early March, they brought in Joe Blanton to improve their bullpen depth. And on Wednesday, they released veteran catcher Derek Norris.

So, this projection of the 25-man roster will look different than it did before the start of camp. Washington still has a few unknowns in the bench and bullpen, but here is how the Nats' roster likely will look when the team breaks camp.


1. Trea Turner, SS
2. Adam Eaton, CF
3. Bryce Harper, RF
4. Daniel Murphy, 2B
5. Anthony Rendon, 3B
6. Jayson Werth, LF
7. Ryan Zimmerman, 1B
8. Matt Wieters, C

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Manager Dusty Baker is still experimenting with his starting lineup, and he says it could be in flux at the beginning of the season. The biggest question is how Baker will fit Eaton into the lineup. Eaton has traditionally been a top-of-the-order hitter, but Baker worries about slotting three left-handers in a row -- Eaton, Harper and Murphy -- so he has considered hitting Eaton as low as sixth and flipping Werth and Eaton. Still, the idea of Turner and Eaton at the top of the order as table-setters for the middle has to be too good for the Nats to pass up .

The Nationals are betting that Wieters will be an upgrade over Norris, and one who should balance out their lineup as a switch-hitter.

Rotation: Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Tanner Roark, Joe Ross, Gio Gonzalez

There has been some uncertainty since the start of camp regarding the health of Scherzer's right ring finger after a stress fracture slowed his progress. But Scherzer completed a Minor League game Thursday and mixed in his normal fastball grip without pain, a huge step forward as he gets ready to start the season. Now the Nats will just have to build up his pitch count and stamina during the final few weeks of spring, which should prepare him to start the season on time.

MLB Tonight: Max Scherzer

Bench: Lind, Stephen Drew, Jose Lobaton, Chris Heisey, Michael Taylor

The biggest change to the Nats' bench was the addition of first baseman/outfielder Lind, which means Clint Robinson almost certainly will begin the season elsewhere. Lind should add pop to a strong bench that excelled at pinch-hit home runs in 2016. Taylor is having another exceptional spring that should make him the favorite to retain the final bench spot. He still could have competition from players such as Wilmer Difo and Brian Goodwin, but the team needs an additional outfielder.

Taylor's RBI triple

Bullpen: Shawn Kelley, Blake Treinen, Blanton, Sammy Solis, Oliver Perez, Koda Glover, Enny Romero

This is perhaps the toughest part of the roster to predict. The first five spots are virtual locks, barring injury, even if their exact roles are still to be determined. Either Kelley or Treinen are likely to slot in as the closer. Glover has been fantastic this spring, and he is no longer feeling the effects of a torn labrum in his hip, so he seems likely to begin the season with the Nats. Romero is out of options and has been throwing around 98-99 mph during the World Baseball Classic for the Dominican Republic.

Glover strikes out the side

This would leave the Nationals without a traditional long reliever, something Baker values, but there is not an obvious open roster spot to make room for one. Their options in camp, if they should choose to keep a long reliever, would be Vance Worley, Jeremy Guthrie or perhaps A.J. Cole.

Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.