Kendrick: I'll still have the same butterflies

July 17th, 2020

Fifteen seasons into his Major League career, the rush from anticipating that first game never gets old for .

“I’ll still have the same butterflies I have every year,” Kendrick said. “I think every year we start the season, you never forget that feeling. Opening Day since I was a kid has always been those butterflies.”

The 2019 World Series hero is playing catch-up after being cleared for workouts one week ahead of the season opener on Thursday against the Yankees. He has participated in two intrasquad scrimmages, and he is slated to be in the lineup for the Nationals' first exhibition game on Saturday vs. the Phillies.

“The big thing is getting at-bats in and trying your best to get your timing down,” Kendrick said.

Kendrick is a candidate to play first base and DH this season. He stayed ready while waiting to be cleared by hitting into a net and completing “a lot” of pushups.

A little extra motivation arrived at his home, too, when general manager Mike Rizzo and manager Dave Martinez delivered his World Series championship ring.

“Getting that ring, it takes me back to going down Constitution Ave with the parade and being in the nation’s capital,” Kendrick said. “To be able to bring a championship like that, a lot of guys playing their whole career don’t have an opportunity to do that. That all comes back when I put on my ring and I look at it. It was definitely well done.”

Sánchez brings the energy
The beats emanated from inside the Nationals' clubhouse on Friday afternoon, a sign it was 's turn to start.

“He had the music cranking just like he normally does before he goes out on the gamedays he’s pitching,” Martinez said. “It was loud. He was dancing in front of his locker.”

Sánchez tossed five innings in the Nats’ last intrasquad competition before they play the first of three exhibition games on Saturday. Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin are in line to start those games, and Sánchez got in 54 pitches in the scrimmage before then.

“He threw the ball really well,” Martinez said. “This guy’s been throwing off the mound almost every day since he’s been here. He’s a different breed. But he’s come in, he’s ready, he looked really good today.”

Martinez credited Sánchez, a 15-year veteran, for being one of the players who keeps the clubhouse loose and the energy flowing. Sánchez carried his personality onto the field this week when he didn’t just walk to the mound -- he danced.

“I just did that on the first outing because I know nobody’s around and it’s between us. But I take my job seriously as soon as everything starts,” Sánchez said, adding, “I’m learning, I’m learning. It costs me a lot of time, but I’m learning how to dance.”

Elías arrives to the stadium
Left-handed reliever joined the team and made his first trip to Nats Park on Friday. Elías had been placed on the injured list Monday for an undisclosed reason. Martinez said he could throw a live bullpen as soon as Sunday, the day after their first exhibition game.

“He played long toss, he threw the ball a little bit,” Martinez said. “It’s his first day back. We’ve got to take it easy. We’ve got to see where he’s at. I know he’s going to throw a little bit again tomorrow. We’re going to try to get him a side, try to get him some live BP and then we’ll go from there.”

Roster moves
The Nationals added another top prospect to their player pool -- 12th-ranked Yasel Antuna. The 20-year-old infielder was Washington's main target during the 2016-17 international period. He signed with the team for $3.9 million. Antuna has been hampered by injuries early into his career, though. He underwent Tommy John surgery in '18, and he was limited to three games last season with the GCL Nationals because of leg injuries. Antuna had a Major League ETA of ‘22, per MLB Pipeline, and can get more reps at the alternate training site.

“He’s just one of our young kids that we really like,” Martinez said. “We feel like we didn’t want to stop his development, so we thought we’d bring him here as well and let him go to Fredericksburg and get ready to play in case we need a shortstop, second baseman, even third baseman.”

In other moves, the Nats released left-hander . The nine-year veteran was among the group of players who had not yet participated in Summer Camp workouts. He had an out in his contract for Saturday, and Martinez said the Nats were “comfortable with the guys we’ve got here.” Abad appeared in four Spring Training games for Washington, and he helped build team chemistry by setting up a makeshift barbershop in the clubhouse with Wander Suero.