NEW YORK METS (79-83, second place/NL East) at WASHINGTON NATIONALS (96-66, first place/NL East)
NATIONALS SHORT HOPS
Several of the Nationals’ primary pieces open the season on the disabled list, including left fielder Jayson Werth, center fielder Denard Span and third baseman Anthony Rendon. Werth had Jan. 9 surgery on the A/C joint in his right shoulder. He could return a week into the season. Span, who underwent offseason hernia surgery, then abdominal muscle surgery on March 9, played in a minor league game of Saturday. Rendon, who sought opinions from three medical experts, has a sprained MCL in his left knee. He suffered the injury diving for a grounder on March 9. Among sidelined position players, outfielder Nate McLouth (shoulder) also opens the season on the DL.
Matt den Dekker, acquired from the Mets for left-hander Jerry Blevins late in spring training, made the Opening Day roster due to the injuries. So did fellow outfielder Reed Johnson, who had been released by the Miami Marlins on March 29. Den Dekker’s only major league homer came in D.C., off Ross Ohlendorf on Sept. 1, 2013.
Ex-Brave Dan Uggla should start at second base because of the injuries, with Yunel Escobar transitioning to third base while Rendon is out. Uggla, who was drafted by Nats GM Mike Rizzo back in 2001 with the Arizona Diamondbacks, hit only .149 in 141 at-bats last season with the Atlanta Braves and San Francisco Giants. After being released for the second time last season in August, he sought out a specialist to address vision issues. Escobar had been acquired from the Oakland Athletics on Jan. 14 for setup man Tyler Clippard with the intention of using him at second base. Escobar has started 19 career major league games at the hot corner.
Rookie Michael Taylor, who debuted in mid-August, will handle center field and should lead off in Span’s absence. He was den Dekker’s high school teammate. Tyler Moore should start in left field minus Werth.
Former American League Cy Young winner Max Scherzer makes his Nats debut after signing a seven-year, $210 million contract on Jan. 21. With Scherzer’s addition, Tanner Roark moves to the bullpen, despite going 15-10 with a 2.85 ERA in 31 starts for Washington last season. Scherzer went 18-5 with a 3.15 ERA in 33 starts for the Detroit Tigers in 2014.
With Clippard in Oakland, the Nats signed former Toronto Blue Jays closer Casey Janssen to serve as Drew Storen’s primary setup man. Janssen is guaranteed to earn $5 million, with Washington holding an option for 2016. However, Janssen will open the season on the DL with right shoulder tendinitis.
Ryan Zimmerman is now a first baseman with Adam LaRoche’s departure as a free agent to the Chicago White Sox. The Mets won’t miss LaRoche. He had six homers in 53 at-bats against the Mets last season.
The Nats reportedly will be awarded the 2018 All-Star Game at a press conference on Monday. The District of Columbia last hosted an All-Star Game in 1969, during the days of the Washington Senators.
Switch-hitting Danny Espinosa primarily hit right-handed during spring training. Last season, Espinosa hit .301 as a righty batter and .183 as a lefty batter.