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Tense final days for players on the roster bubble

Mar 24, 2014, 7:41 AM EDT

AP AP

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — Aaron Barrett is having the time of his life right now, pitching extremely well in his first-ever big-league camp and thrusting himself smack dab into the middle of one of the Nationals’ toughest Opening Day roster decisions.

The 26-year-old reliever has absolutely no idea where he’ll be living this time next week. He’ll be searching for an apartment either in Washington, Syracuse or Harrisburg. And he has no way yet which city he’ll be calling home.

“I honestly haven’t had the time to even think about that stuff,” he said. “I’m literally living day-by-day, trying to get better day-by-day and trying to put myself in the best position as possible. When I get an opportunity to think about that stuff, I’ll let you know.”

Such is life for the select final few players on the roster bubble during the final week of March. We tend to focus entirely on the baseball aspect of this, whether Player X deserves to make the club over Player Y, whether one has minor-league options while the other doesn’t, whether the team needs an extra guy on the bench or in the bullpen.

But we sometimes tend to forget that these players’ entire lives are up in the air this week. Everybody is packing up right now. Ryan Zimmerman, Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper know their stuff is headed to Washington, and they already own or rent homes in the area.

But players like Barrett, Blake Treinen, Tanner Roark, Taylor Jordan, Tyler Moore, Jeff Kobernus and Jamey Carroll are packing their things without knowing where to send them.

“It’s tough, but it’s part of the game,” said Roark, who could wind up as the Nationals’ No. 5 starter, final reliever or be optioned to Syracuse. “You’ve got to get used to it. Can’t really dwell on it. Can’t think about it much.”

All these players can do is try to stay focused on baseball. Though it’s unlikely anything they do on the field at this point is going to change the organization’s mind, they realize there’s no sense stressing out over a decision they don’t get to make.

Not that they can ever completely shut out those thoughts, though. It’s tough to do that when you still don’t know where you’ll be living next week.

“As a human, probably,” Barrett said. “I think it’s going through anybody’s mind that’s in the same situation as I am. At this point, it’s out of my control. I’m just going out there controlling what I can control. At the end of the day, whatever happens, happens. I think either way, I put myself in position. At the end of the day, I’m not worried. Whether I make the team or I go to Syracuse or Harrisburg or whatever, I’m just looking forward to the opportunity and very grateful for it.”

  1. Hiram Hover - Mar 24, 2014 at 7:55 AM

    It’s kind of you, Mark, to include Kobernus as a player on the bubble – I don’t think it’s that hard for him to know where he’s headed.

    • nats128 - Mar 24, 2014 at 7:59 AM

      The A’s kept Bill Burns on that Opening Day roster as a toolsy 5th man on the bench. If I had to choose between Kobernus and Hairston I choose Kobernus.

      • Joe Seamhead - Mar 24, 2014 at 8:11 AM

        Oops. Didn’t see this before I mentioned it below.

      • Hiram Hover - Mar 24, 2014 at 8:14 AM

        If Hairston were also a 25 yo player with options, it would be a much easier call. Management will not be so eager as fans to flush $2.5M down the toilet.

      • laddieblahblah - Mar 24, 2014 at 8:24 AM

        Pretty neat story about Billy out in Oakland:

        http://blog.sfgate.com/athletics/2014/03/21/happy-ex-mercer-player-billy-burns-plus-as-injury-updates/

        If the Nats still had him he would have had no chance to make our 25-man roster. Nats cast-offs nowadays are major league caliber “cast-offs.” Really glad for Billy.

  2. Faraz Shaikh - Mar 24, 2014 at 7:58 AM

    Nice post! It makes fans like us look like jerks, doesn’t it?

  3. Joe Seamhead - Mar 24, 2014 at 7:58 AM

    Well, many on here thought that Espy had little chance of going north, but that’s now a forgone conclusion. I know that ST is what it is, but if I was Drew Storen I wouldn’t be too quick to send my stuff up to DC.

  4. natsjackinfl - Mar 24, 2014 at 8:00 AM

    I am probably out on a limb here but I am not convinced that Chris Young won’t be the number 5 starter heading north. All the scouts sitting in the section next to me are convinced he’ll be pitching on a major league club next week and I sure would hate to see him in Atlanta as their number 4 starter.

    • Joe Seamhead - Mar 24, 2014 at 8:09 AM

      Interesting curveball you threw there, Jack. Young does know how to pitch, and if he’s regained what he once had he’d be a serious consideration to at least start the season up here.

      Jack, did you see that Burns will likely start the season on the A’s 25 man?

      • natsjackinfl - Mar 24, 2014 at 8:26 AM

        Yep, Joe. I saw that. I will wait to see how it plays out once the season gets rolling. He’s a hustler with great speed but an arm that compares to Nyjer Morgan.

      • Joe Seamhead - Mar 24, 2014 at 9:27 AM

        According to Melvin they have been more than a little surprised how good of an arm he has.

    • Faraz Shaikh - Mar 24, 2014 at 8:13 AM

      Hmm, interesting thought! But can you really justify him being a fifth starter over Roark or Jordan (besides keeping him away from Braves)?

      Young does have good stats against us, if that worries anyone.

    • Theophilus T.S. - Mar 24, 2014 at 8:15 AM

      I also can see the case for Young being the fifth (or, temporarily, fourth) starter. I come up short of a commitment, however, because (1) I can’t see them getting rid of someone on the 40-man roster just in order to move him over to the major league side; (2) neither can I see the Brain Trust appointing him to the 25-man knowing that the need for him is most likely short-term; I think they would want to give him maximum opportunity to get another major league job. The ideal situation is that Young accepts going to Syracuse and remains there, at least for a couple of months, as insurance in case of injury.

      For Young to end up on the OD roster involves at least a couple of moving pieces, e.g, Hairston DFA’d and Solano traded.

      • natsjackinfl - Mar 24, 2014 at 8:22 AM

        For 40 man roster moves, I see both Kobernus and Ohlendorf as guys with no future as a Nat. I could see Barrett, Trennen as well as Young taking roster spots. Ad Eury Perez as someone with very little future going forward.

    • natinalsgo - Mar 24, 2014 at 8:24 AM

      He does have the opt-out and the Nats don’t want to lose him. I’m sure the A’s want him.

      • Joe Seamhead - Mar 24, 2014 at 9:36 AM

        I agree with natsjack regarding Kobernus and Perez. 5 years ago either, or both of them may have made the Nats roster, but this club has evolved way past having those level of guys on the club ,IMHO. Any chance Perez had he blew this spring with guffaws in the outfield, and many don’t want to hear it, but Kobernus doesn’t defensively play any position above a AAA level. As to Ohlendorf, I think that he’s caught up in a numbers game here, but with all of the serious arm injuries around the league the Nats should be able to get at least a bag of balls for him in a trade.

      • natinalsgo - Mar 24, 2014 at 9:42 AM

        Perez is an odd man out. I’m not ready to give up on Kobe right now. Ohlendorf is AAA depth right now. No need to do anything until you need a 40 man spot.

        Barrett is in the 40 man. It’s Chris Young and Jamey Carroll who are not.

    • Section 222 - Mar 24, 2014 at 9:44 AM

      I’d love to see him as a Braves starter. He’s just not that good.

  5. Theophilus T.S. - Mar 24, 2014 at 8:04 AM

    WaPo this a.m. says Williams last week refused to commit to Hairston making the Opening Day roster. If so I missed it It makes me feel more optimistic; I think I will go light another candle.

    • Hiram Hover - Mar 24, 2014 at 8:16 AM

      Light away, but that article also pointed out that this seems to be more about WIlliams’ MO than Scotty per se–he’s keeping his cards close on all these decisions.

      • natinalsgo - Mar 24, 2014 at 8:27 AM

        HH, that’s funny, light away. Hairston will be on the OD and then go from there. Lets just hope he’s not the RH Chad Tracy.

        The Angels cut Tracy yesterday.

      • natsjackinfl - Mar 24, 2014 at 8:32 AM

        I agree. Matt seems to have learned how to keep a “Rizzo camouflage” over all his press clips. It’s why I think his no mention of Young in his 5th starter clip says more than had he mentioned him.

    • laddieblahblah - Mar 24, 2014 at 8:52 AM

      I thought that if they were going to dump Hairston they would have done it with Souza, not with Kobernus or anyone else. When they sent Souza down, that seemed to clinch Hairston’s spot on the 25 man roster.

      I think that last bench spot is between Carroll and TyMo. I would not be surprised to see Carroll on the 25-man and TyMo sent down to AAA.

      RZ is the Nats’ obvious choice to back up ALR this year, and TyMo is a dreadful outfielder who is also a terrible bench player. Carroll would give Matt one of the best situational hitters in camp for those times, late in the game, when moving the tying or winning run over, or in, calls for a guy who can put the ball in play. No one else in ST does that better than Jamie Carroll.

      Now that Danny has stepped up, Kobernus is not needed as a backup infielder, and he is not much better than TyMo in left field. Hairston will be the 5th outfielder who will be used primarily as a pinch hitting specialist against lefties. He will probably hit around .200, but he will also probably hit 5-6 PH homers, with a couple of them game-winners.

      If he has a 5th outfielder who can give him 2 games in the win column, I think Rizzo takes that. Two games can make the difference between home field advantage for a playoff series, and playing in the elimination game.

      TyMo would spend another wasted year sitting on the bench, rusting away, just as he did last year. Better to have him playing every day in AAA, blasting 30 + dingers, hitting .340 and refining his defensive skills at 1b. If nothing else, he will improve his market value. Rizzo takes care of guys like TyMo, and if the Nats do not need him, they can trade him for more value than they can get for him, now. Or they can keep him and bring him up next year to step up if Zim goes down.

      I won’t even guess about the pitching situation. NatsJack knows more about it than any of us. The Nats GM, for a change, is confronted by an embarrassment of riches. Last year it was Roark and TJ as starters, and this year it is the early emergence of Barrett and Treinen as relievers, allowing Mike to send Garcia back to the minors.

      Mike and Matt have some decisions to make, but they can always revisit them if some of them don’t work out. Quite a change from the days when the Nats invited anyone and everyone to ST in hopes of finding just one gem among all the detritus.

      • Theophilus T.S. - Mar 24, 2014 at 9:14 AM

        “5-6 PH homers” would be a Jason Giambi-Gates Brown type season. You should send that white stuff you put in your coffee this a.m. for chemical analysis.

      • Hiram Hover - Mar 24, 2014 at 9:21 AM

        Laddie – A lot of good points there.

        But I am dubious about Carroll making it over TyMo–they’d have to clear a spot on the 40 man, and more importantly, Zimm has played all of 2 innings at 1B so far in ST, not enough imo for them to count on him as their only backup to ALR.

  6. natsjackinfl - Mar 24, 2014 at 8:51 AM

    So Blake Treinen (finally over road auto correct) gets sent to minor league camp.

    I still expect to see him on the big squad sometime this season.

    • natinalsgo - Mar 24, 2014 at 9:03 AM

      Agreed. He’s a 40 man casualty.

    • Eric - Mar 24, 2014 at 10:17 AM

      “over road auto correct”

      Ha!

  7. tcostant - Mar 24, 2014 at 9:13 AM

    And in other news:

    http://hardballtalk.nbcsports.com/2014/03/23/report-ian-desmond-turned-down-contract-extension-worth-about-90-million-over-the-winter/

    I’m glad to see the Nats. at least offered a decent deal. Desi is betting on himself, good for him…

    • natinalsgo - Mar 24, 2014 at 9:18 AM

      That’s been reported before though.

  8. natinalsgo - Mar 24, 2014 at 9:17 AM

    Lombo to the Orioles!

    • masterfishkeeper - Mar 24, 2014 at 9:21 AM

      Wow. For a 37 year old reserve. Guess the Tigers discovered Lombo couldn’t play shortstop. Makes the Fister trade look even more one-sided.

      • natinalsgo - Mar 24, 2014 at 9:23 AM

        Makes little sense for the Orioles except to sell some tickets to Atholton guys unless they believe he can be a 2nd base stated there.

    • Hiram Hover - Mar 24, 2014 at 9:23 AM

      Glad to hear he will be back in the area–looks like he could get a decent amt of playing time there, no?

      • natinalsgo - Mar 24, 2014 at 9:26 AM

        They have Schoop who is their hot Rookie plus Jemile Weeks they got in the Jim Johnson trade and Ryan Flaherty. They have a short term need for 3rd until Machado is back.

      • Hiram Hover - Mar 24, 2014 at 9:30 AM

        Thanks – I forgot about Weeks.

      • natinalsgo - Mar 24, 2014 at 9:36 AM

        Weeks has been spelled as Weaks for obvious reasons. I’m reading Flaherty could be their OD 3rd baseman with Schoop the starter at 2nd and Lombo on the bench with Weeks to the bench or AAA.

        Once Machado is back the weakest player is sent back to AAA. They bounce players back and forth between the bigs and AAA all the time.

  9. unkyd59 - Mar 24, 2014 at 9:24 AM

    Lombo lovers!! Your boy just got traded to B-more….

  10. NatsLady - Mar 24, 2014 at 9:32 AM

    Lombo, like Mikey Morse–takin’ the indirect route from DC to Ballmer. ;)

  11. thelatencn - Mar 24, 2014 at 9:48 AM

    So the Trienan move leaves Jordan, Roark, Young and Barrett for two spots on the roster, right?

    • masterfishkeeper - Mar 24, 2014 at 10:05 AM

      Cedeno and Gonzalez are also in the mix. Hard to see Gonzalez getting it, because he’d have to be added to the 40 man roster.

  12. jd - Mar 24, 2014 at 10:30 AM

    In 2012 Hairston hit 20 HR’s in 398 at bats for the Mets in Citi field which is just about the toughest parks to hit home runs in. As a frame of reference in that same year David Wright hit 21 HR’s in 670 at bats.

  13. Steady Eddie - Mar 24, 2014 at 10:30 AM

    OT — for those suggesting that Fister should start the season on the DL, it’s totally unnecessary. Because of the two days on April 1 and seventh, we can start Strasburg on normal rest (after Roark) against the Barves on April 5, and in Fister’s place in the rotation against the Fish on April 10. That lets Fister take his normal spot in the rotation against Atlanta on Sunday April 13, and gives us Roark/Stras/Gio vs Barves the first time, and Gio/Zimm/Fister the second time.

    I imagine the FO would prefer to do that instead of keeping TJ up for maybe 2 starts and then back down to Cuse.

    • Steady Eddie - Mar 24, 2014 at 10:38 AM

      That “two OFF days on April 1 and 7″. Edit function please….

  14. Section 222 - Mar 24, 2014 at 11:34 AM

    I’d be very happy to see Carroll make the roster over Ty-Mo, but like HH, I’m doubtful. RZ just hasn’t played enough over there to be the primary back up yet. And ALR is going to need regular days off against lefites I think, especially if he starts slowly.

    • Eric - Mar 24, 2014 at 11:52 AM

      Count me in on Carroll over TyMo. If nothing else, I feel like we’re shorter on veteran poise than we are on young talent.

      And, even in the later regard, TyMo doesn’t seem to be exactly consistent in delivering the goods.

Archives

NL EAST STANDINGS

W L GB
x-WASHINGTON 89 64 --
ATLANTA 76 77 13.0
MIAMI 74 79 15.0
NEW YORK 74 80 15.5
PHILADELPHIA 70 84 19.5
x-Clinched NL East title
Through Friday's games

NL PLAYOFFS STANDINGS

W L GB WCGB
x-WASHINGTON 89 64 --
LOS ANGELES 88 66 1.5
ST. LOUIS 86 68 3.5
-----------------------
SAN FRANCISCO 84 69 5.0 +1.0
PITTSBURGH 83 70 6.0 --
MILWAUKEE 79 75 10.5 4.5
x-Clinched division title
Through Friday's games

UPCOMING SCHEDULE
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WED: Mets at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
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