New Nats Blanton, Wieters preparing for debuts

Right-hander will pitch Friday; catcher will play Sunday

March 9th, 2017

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Two of the newest additions to the Nationals are getting ready to make their Grapefruit League debuts this weekend.

Right-hander Joe Blanton is scheduled to pitch during Friday's game against the Cardinals, and catcher Matt Wieters will make his debut on Sunday against the Astros.

Blanton, who signed with the Nationals on March 2, threw his first bullpen session that same day and a live batting practice session on Tuesday. He spent the offseason working out at Napa Valley Junior College, but he did not feel behind even though he joined camp so late.

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"He came in outstanding shape," Nationals manager Dusty Baker said. "This is the best I've seen him. That's a good sign."

On the other hand, it took a little longer than expected to get Wieters up to speed. His debut will come just over two weeks after he officially signed with the team and arrived at camp on Feb. 24. His progress was slowed by an offseason injury to his left wrist that prevented him from participating in baseball activities for 10 weeks. The injury occurred in the beginning of November and set him back in his preparation for the season for about two or three weeks.

Since joining the Nationals, Wieters has caught bullpen sessions to familiarize himself with the pitching staff. He caught Tuesday's live batting practice session with Blanton and Max Scherzer. The switch-hitting Wieters estimated he will need 20-30 at-bats from each side of the plate. He will also need to catch seven to nine games to feel ready for the start of the season.