- - Thursday, March 15, 2018

WEST PALM BEACH, FLA. — Washington Nationals second baseman Daniel Murphy has not played in a spring training game yet, but first-year manager Dave Martinez said Thursday that doesn’t mean he won’t be ready for Opening Day.

“I am not ruling him out because he is progressing really well,” Martinez said before the Nationals hosted the world champion Houston Astros on Thursday. “We want to make sure he is 100 percent ready. We will give him as much time as he needs.”

The Nationals begin the season in two weeks, starting the year March 29 against the Reds in Cincinnati.

Murphy, who had right knee surgery in October, has played second base the past two years for Washington. Last season he hit .322 with 23 homers and 93 RBIs.

Veteran Howie Kendrick has seen a lot of action at second base this spring after playing mostly in left field for Washington last year. Wilmer Difo is also an option.

“We still feel optimistic [Murphy] will be ready” for Opening Day, general manager Mike Rizzo said Thursday. “Obviously we are not going to rush him.”

Outfielder Adam Eaton, who tore his ACL in April while running out a grounder and missed the rest of the season, has also not played in a spring training game. Fellow outfielder Michael A. Taylor has been slowed with tightness in his right side.

“They are both very close,” Martinez said. “They are getting at-bats [in minor league games], which is really nice.”

Taylor is slated to play center with Eaton in left and Bryce Harper in right field. Taylor (.182) is two-for-11 this spring.

Rizzo also confirmed the Nationals had talks with the representatives of free agent pitcher Jake Arrieta before he signed a three-year deal with the Philadelphia Phillies this week.

“The Phillies got a great pitcher and great competitor,” Rizzo said.

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