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Nats optimistic Kendrick will be ready for opener 

@JamalCollier
March 7, 2019

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Howie Kendrick walked throughout the Nationals clubhouse without much of a limp on Thursday morning. However, he was still favoring his left leg, which Kendrick said was a little sore, but he was able to move without much restriction. The results of his MRI the

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Howie Kendrick walked throughout the Nationals clubhouse without much of a limp on Thursday morning. However, he was still favoring his left leg, which Kendrick said was a little sore, but he was able to move without much restriction.

The results of his MRI the day prior had confirmed he suffered the initial diagnosis of a left hamstring strain, a sign of relief for Kendrick and the Nationals considering the veteran had surgery on a torn right Achilles in May.

Kendrick will spend the next few days focusing on rehab and strengthening before he attempts to return to baseball activity, and the Nationals want their team doctor to review the results of his MRI. There are just three weeks remaining between Thursday and Opening Day at Nationals Park. However, manager Dave Martinez is optimistic Kendrick will be ready to start the season on time.

“I think he’ll be ready,” Martinez said.

Kendrick spent the offseason rehabbing vigorously from the Achilles injury to be ready to start the spring on time. He surprised Martinez with how healthy he has felt, and he has played as frequently as any other Nats regular so far this spring, bouncing around to play first, second and third base and starting another game as the designated hitter. Kendrick injured his hamstring trying to run out an RBI infield single on Tuesday against the Red Sox, but both he and Martinez considered it to be more of a fluke accident than a product of playing time.

This injury is going to make the Nationals more careful with the veteran utility player going forward.

“We’re going to be cautious,” Martinez said. “Just let him go in there with the training staff to get him ready, but hopefully it won’t take him that long.”

Observations from 'B' game

Before their big league game at the FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches, the Nationals hosted the Mets for a scrimmage on the backfields Thursday morning, a chance to find at-bats and innings for players struggling to find playing time.

Victor Robles and Carter Kieboom, ranked as the Nats' Nos. 1 and 2 prospects, respectively, by MLB Pipeline, both played in the game, but Martinez was looking forward to seeing a few players he has not had a chance to watch much. Wil Crowe, the club’s No. 5 prospect, started the game for the Nats, his first opportunity to start a game this spring. He had tossed just one inning from the bullpen in the Grapefruit League, and he gave up three hits and two runs.

Adrian Sanchez started the game at first base as the Nationals attempt to transform him into more of a super-utility player this spring. He already has experience playing the other infield positions -- second base, shortstop and third base -- but the Nats want to expand his versatility. Sanchez could also see some reps in left field. It’s similar to the club’s efforts to expand Wilmer Difo’s flexibility in the field. Difo has proven to be an elite defender up the middle who can play third base as well, and the Nats plan to get him some reps in center field as well.

Although Difo is still the favorite to command the team’s final bench slot, it’s worth keeping an eye out for whether Sanchez can push his competition.

“Difo has a little bit more upside because he’s a switch-hitter, he can steal a base when you need him to,” Martinez said. “But last year, I watched Sanchez when he came up, he put together some real good at-bats. ... He’s gotten better. Here’s a guy that I see right now that we can count on to fill in and play second, short, third and hopefully left field.”

Up next

Patrick Corbin will take the mound for his third start of the spring when the Nationals face the Cardinals at 1:05 p.m. ET on Friday. Corbin has yet to allow an earned run in his first two starts in the Grapefruit League, holding opponents to three hits while striking out three in his first two spring tuneups.

Jamal Collier has covered the Nationals for MLB.com since 2016. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.