Notes: Harris takes hill; keeping 'pen fresh

July 15th, 2020

The last time Will Harris threw in a game, he was in an Astros uniform and had been charged with the loss in the deciding matchup of the 2019 World Series -- against the Nationals.

Harris signed with the Nats over the winter, but he didn’t take the mound in Spring Training because of an abdominal injury. On Tuesday, he pitched in an intrasquad scrimmage for his new team. After the outing, Harris donned a red T-shirt for his interview with the media. It read, “District of Champions,” commemorating the very championship he was on the opposing end of last season.

“I was excited just to be here in Washington and get acclimated to the city and spend time with my teammates and get to know them, and get to know the coaching staff,” Harris said. “In Spring Training when I started to get that comfort level, it all got shut down. I was excited to get back out here and to start pitching.”

The Nationals inked Harris to a three-year deal to bolster the back end of their bullpen, which also includes and . Harris, 35, is coming off a 2019 campaign in which he led all American League relievers with a 1.50 ERA. He said he felt “really good” during the delay as he recovered from his injury and threw bullpens.

“I haven’t pitched in game setting since the World Series. So for me, that was a really long time,” Harris said. “Everything felt normal. Mentally [I] was in the moment and trying to make pitches and thinking my way through at-bats and what I wanted to do.”

Harris plans to review his game video on Wednesday to “make sure my stuff’s doing what I’m accustomed to it doing” and continue his throwing program in preparation for Opening Day on July 23.

“Obviously I’m a competitor and I like my job and I want to do it,” Harris said. “I’m happy to be here.”

Keeping ‘pen options ready
Instead of going with the traditional starting-pitcher format in Tuesday’s intrasquad scrimmage, the Nationals used all relievers -- right-handers Harris, Hudson, , , Kevin Quackenbush and Ryne Harper.

The bullpen has been down some arms so far in summer camp. Righty Wander Suero and southpaw Roenis Elías were placed on the injured list on Monday without having gone through workouts, and left-hander Fernando Abad is among the players who have not been cleared yet to participate.

Having a depth of relief pitchers who can alleviate the workload of the starters is key in a 60-game regular season with only six off-days. Some of those innings could come from players at the Nationals' alternate training site in Fredericksburg, Va., where 15 pitchers were selected to workout.

“They’re going to work out the same time we play the games, so that if something does happen throughout the day, they didn’t already work out and we can’t use them,” manager Dave Martinez said. “We’re going to keep everything on our schedule. … If we need them, they’re going to be readily available.”

Dinner is served
The Nats are taking the guesswork out of deciding what to eat for post-scrimmage meals. They have hired chefs to prepare reheatable to-go dinners so the players can limit their exposure once they leave Nationals Park, rather than venturing to the grocery store or ordering takeout.

“This is totally different for everybody,” Martinez said. “We’re making it a point with these guys, ‘When you leave here, you’re pretty much either going to a hotel or you’re going to your place that you have, and you’re staying in.’ ... If we’re really going to do this and keep everybody safe, I tell these guys all the time, ‘You can’t be messing around and you’ve got to really take this serious because one, I don’t want to get sick, and two, I don’t want anybody else getting sick around here.’ We’ve got to be smart about everything we do.”

Who’s got the ball?
When caught the final pitch from Hudson in Game 7 of the World Series, there was question as to who would keep the ball. There had been some talk about the players sharing -- or even splitting -- the ball. Gomes had kept it, and he updated the custodial situation when asked about it on Tuesday.

“I don’t think that’d be a good thing to ‘half-it’ in any way,” Gomes said. “It’s at home.”