The Nationals made their first cuts of the spring this week, informing 19 players that they’re no longer in contention for the Opening Day roster. Most of the players that got the ax weren’t expected to begin the season in the majors, but the series of roster moves did provide some clarity as to who’s being considered Nike Washington Nationals Jerseys for the 26th spot on the active roster should it go to a position player.
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The most familiar name to Nationals fans is Gerardo Parra, the veteran outfielder who joined the team midway through the 2019 season and helped bring the clubhouse together in order to overcome a 19-31 start, largely with the walk-up song “Baby Shark.”
Parra spent the 2020 season in Japan before signing a minor-league deal with the Nationals over the offseason. He underwent knee surgery that sidelined him until Monday, when he made his Grapefruit League debut against the St. Louis Cardinals.
“He looked good,” Nationals manager Davey Martinez said on a Zoom call after the game. “He ran well. Ran down some balls in the outfield. Cut a ball off and got it in quickly. He’s getting there. He looks good. Got a base hit. Hit the first ball pretty hard up the middle, but he looks good.”
Despite Parra’s endearment to the fanbase, he will have to beat out Jordy Mercer, Yasmany Tomás, Yadiel Hernández, Adrián Sanchez and Hernán Pérez. Mercer has the most experience of the group outside Parra, having played 904 career games across nine seasons — most of which were in a Pittsburgh Pirates uniform.
Of those 904 games, Mercer has played shortstop in 837 of them. That could be a key factor in his case for a roster spot as the Nationals don’t currently have a backup shortstop slated to make the team behind Trea Turner. Young infielders Luis García and Yasel Antuna are the only other players on the 40-man roster capable of handling the position, but the Nationals are expected to start them in the minors to get them everyday at-bats.
“He’s just one of those steady guys,” Martinez said of Mercer on Monday. “He’s got great hands, can play multiple positions in the infield…good instincts, he’s a professional. He’s been doing this for a lot of years, he knows the situation, he knows his role. So having him out there is just another guy that you can depend on to get the job done.”
The other four spots on the Nationals’ bench will likely be filled by Ryan Zimmerman, Josh Harrison, Andrew Stevenson and Alex Avila.
Washington has just over two weeks before Opening Day to decide how it will fill that final spot, if at all.