Like aces? Here are the Nationals' spring plans

Zimmerman to make spring debut 'by the weekend'

February 25th, 2020

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- A broader picture of the Nationals’ arms is expected to take shape this week.

is in line for his first Spring Training appearance Friday afternoon at home against the Rays. He has not pitched in a game since Oct. 29, when he pitched 8 1/3 innings in Game 6 of the 2019 World Series. In preparation, Strasburg went through a side session on Tuesday.

“He has a routine; we’ll try to keep him on it,” manager Dave Martinez said. “Today he’ll do a side, and that will give him his two days in between.”

Strasburg was joined on the bullpen mound by . The reliever, who signed a three-year deal with the Nats this winter, is slated to make his spring debut on Thursday night. The opponent? His former squad: the Astros. Harris led the American League among relievers with a 1.50 ERA last season. On Tuesday, he threw what Martinez described as a “heavy” bullpen.

“He says he wants to let it eat,” Martinez said. “That means let it rip.”

The Nationals are aiming for starter to get on the mound for his first Spring Training game this weekend. He threw a light side session on Tuesday.

The team is being conscious of the pitchers’ workloads last postseason, and it's having some make their debuts later in spring because of that. While , and have pitched, made his debut on Tuesday (more on that below) and ’ first appearance was pushed back to Wednesday after Saturday’s game was rained out. Scherzer is on schedule to start against Justin Verlander on Thursday, and Voth is set to back up Strasburg on Friday.

Sánchez taking it start by start
Making his last start before his 36th birthday, Sánchez struck out two, and allowed two hits and a run over two innings in the Nationals’ 9-6 win over the Cardinals on Tuesday.

“I just want to hit the spot,” he said. “I don’t want to try to rush anything. I don’t want to be the hero today. I just want to be able to throw a lot of strikes. I want to just command every pitch.”

The veteran, entering his 15th season after going 11-8 with a 3.85 ERA in 2019, will review video on Wednesday to take a closer look at his delivery, specifically on the two hits.

“I feel good,” he said. “I feel comfortable with my location today, just a couple pitches yanked from my hand. But it’s the first day. Everything starts working from that.”

Zimmerman sighting soon?
It's almost time. The 35-year-old could see his first Spring Training action in a matter of days.

“We’re hoping by the weekend,” Martinez said. “He’s doing good.”

Zimmerman reported to camp a day early for position players. He is entering his 16th Major League season -- all with the Nationals.

Castillo progressing
is getting closer to a return. The backup catcher was scratched from the lineup on Saturday because of right shoulder soreness.

“He’s a lot better,” Martinez said. “He threw a little bit of long toss. I think in a day or two, we’ll get him to start throwing.”

The Nationals could utilize Castillo in the designated hitter role when he is cleared to play. He hit 12 home runs in 72 games for the White Sox last season.

Up next
After a pair of 20-minute bus rides to nearby Jupiter for games against the Marlins and Cardinals, the Nationals will embark on their first lengthy road trip of the spring. On Wednesday, the team will travel to George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, Fla. to take on the Yankees at 1:05 p.m. ET. Ross will get his first start of Spring Training.