FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Washington Nationals came within one spot of finalizing their Opening Day 25-man roster Monday afternoon by deciding that both Michael Morse and Rick Ankiel will begin the season on the disabled list.
The moves mean that the Nationals do not have to cut any other position players before the season begins on Thursday — and also means that Steve Lombardozzi, Chad Tracy, Brett Carroll and Xavier Nady have all made the team out of camp.
All four will be part of the Nationals’ bench, along with Jesus Flores. Mark DeRosa, who was brought in to be a bench player, will likely be a starter until Morse or Ankiel return healthy.
Closer Drew Storen and right-hander Chien-Ming Wang will also both begin the season on the disabled list. The Nationals have not yet decided on who will take the bullpen spot on the roster vacated by Storen with the competition between Chad Durbin, Ryan Mattheus and Craig Stammen coming down to the final exhibition game of the season, Tuesday in D.C.
While Johnson conceded he “pretty much has got a good idea,” they will not make the final decision until after Tuesday’s game.
At this point, Stammen appears to be the one with the longest shot since he profiles more as a starter or long reliever and the Nationals are already full-up on those both in the rotation as well as the bullpen.
Durbin can serve as a one-inning set-up man or be extended to multiple innings if necessary but the veteran right-hander — who welcomed his second son on Friday morning — has an opt-out on his minor league contract. The Nationals would most likely lose him after a strong spring if he is not put on the roster.
Mattheus is more exclusively a set-up man, though Johnson has said he’d be willing to go two innings with him if he absolutely had to, but he has a minor league option remaining. The Nationals could send him to Triple-A without the risk of losing him to another organization.
All three pitchers will throw in the final two exhibition games.
“That’s really it,” Johnson said. “It’s a great feeling to be knowing we’re going home.”