The weather in the DC area may not indicate it, but Spring Training is in the air once again. The Washington Nationals enter the season with much loftier expectations than last season, with many picking them as the favorites to win the World Series. Using history as our guide, whether you believe in teams of destiny or not, it’s non-debatable that teams that win the World Series have always been prepared to handle and overcome any obstacle that the baseball gods may throw their way. So without further adieu, let’s take a look at what the Nationals need to accomplish this Spring so that they’re prepared to make a run at baseball’s ultimate feat.
Find A Designated Replacement Starter
Whether it’s Gio Gonzalez getting suspended, Dan Haren’s shoulder not holding up or some other predicament, the Nationals need to be prepared in the event that they lose a starter. They have a powerful enough rotation that losing one of their five All-Star caliber pitchers will not hamper their World Series chances immensely, but regardless it’s important to get guys like Zach Duke and Christian Garcia some significant innings in a starting role so that they’d be prepared to slide right into the rotation if need be.
Name The Second Lefty Specialist
It’s almost a given that Zach Duke will be the first left-hander named to the 2013 bullpen, but what if he either sustains an injury or is forced into the starting rotation? Bill Bray and Jeremy Accardo both provide solid options, but the roster only has room for one. Finding out which one that is essentially goes hand-in-hand with finding a replacement starter.
Get Wilson Ramos Back In The Swing of Things
The Nationals have already begun doing this, but another key to a successful Spring Training will be getting Wilson Ramos familiar with the revamped pitching staff. There are four pitchers currently slated to be on the 25-man roster that have never had Ramos as a battery mate before, and Ramos also lacks significant time working with Gio Gonzalez. So even if his hitting is subpar coming out of camp, getting him in sync with his pitchers will be absolutely crucial to getting the most out of what is perhaps this team’s biggest strength.
Prepare The Backups for Battle
Though it is a dangerous one, the Nationals certainly do not boast the most durable infield in baseball. All four projected 2013 starters in the Nationals infield either missed time in 2012 or, in the case of Danny Espinosa, enter this season with an injury. In the event that one infielder went down, it’s easy to point to Steve Lombardozzi as the natural replacement, but what happens after that? Having such a quality player in that swing role is a great weapon for Davey Johnson, and losing it would effectively mean taking two weapons away with one injury. So, preparing either Will Rhymes or signing someone like a Freddy Sanchez will be very important over the next 30+ days, especially due to the fact that one Nationals infielder (Espinosa) enters camp having already sustained a significant injury. The Nationals have a free month and a half to prepare their team for the season, and while it’s important to get your everyday players ready, it’s also a perfect time to experiment and do things outside of a team’s comfort zone. Spring Training gives teams some 20+ games to try whatever they want, as losses are meaningless, so running through the motions of various injury scenarios is crucial. Get Chad Tracy heavy reps at first base, get Tyler Moore some time in left field, get Sandy Leon back in the swing of things coming off his season-ending injury last year; get Davey Johnson to take some ground balls at second base in case his services are required for all I care. Injuries are the one thing that stand between this team and the promised land, and if they’re prepared for whatever comes their way, there’s no reason that there shouldn’t be a nice and shiny trophy in the trophy case come November.