WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – Carter Kieboom, a rookie who will get a shot to be the Washington Nationals’ starting third baseman on opening day, took grounders alongside Asdrubal Cabrera, a versatile, 14th-year infielder who was among seven free agents returning to the World Series champions.
Across the diamond on Field 3 at the club’s spring training facility, Ryan Zimmerman, another one of those returnees, shared duties at first base with Eric Thames, one of the few new faces expected to be on the 26-man roster.
A short while later Tuesday, at Field 6, slugging left fielder Juan Soto sent kids chasing balls that flew over the wall as he joined Howie Kendrick and Cabrera for the first round of batting practice.
As the Nationals engaged in their first full-squad workout, manager Dave Martinez’s message was simple: Go ahead and think about the special moments of 2019, but also make sure to realize it’s time to start over.
“It’s 2020 now. At some point, you have to turn the page,“ said Zimmerman, back for his 16th season and the only player to be with the Nationals every year they have been in the nation’s capital. “No one will ever take that year away from us, obviously. But for us to succeed this year, we have to move forward.“
First, there will be some more reflecting in the days to come.
Some of that happened Tuesday, when Martinez gathered everyone for the daily top-of-the-morning “Circle of Trust,” with all players and staff members, general manager Mike Rizzo and owner Mark Lerner meeting for more than a half-hour, standing on a team logo on an artificial turf agility field.
Nearby, a drill whirred as a sign marking the team’s Fall Classic triumph was affixed to a wall near a door leading to the home clubhouse.
Wednesday and Thursday will bring finger measurements, so championship rings can be sized. A parade honoring the team will be held in West Palm Beach on Thursday.
On Saturday, Washington will face the team it beat in the World Series – and the team it shares this complex with, and the team at the center of a sign-stealing scandal that is the talk of the baseball – in a Grapefruit League opener.
And on April 4, at the second game of the season at Nationals Park, the title rings will be distributed.
“I like what Davey said: ‘It’s not about trying to repeat, it’s about trying to compete.’ That’s why we were great last year. We competed,,” shortstop Trea Turner said. “I would never say ‘We are going to repeat,’ but let’s have fun and enjoy it and see what happens.,”
While one big name no longer around is Anthony Rendon, the third baseman who left to sign a $245 million contract with the Los Angeles Angels, Turner is one of the many holdovers from a year ago.
Washington put aside a slow start that carried into May to play its best baseball when it mattered the most.
There was a lot made of the team with the oldest roster in the majors using a unique combination of camaraderie and mix of contributors to beat the Los Angeles Dodgers, St. Louis Cardinals and Astros in October.
“I really preached today: It’s the process. Focus on the process. If you want to talk about something about last year, pick a moment that really stood out to you guys, and share it. And talk about it. There’s nothing wrong with talking about it. We won. So talk about it. It’s OK,,” Martinez said after making his way from field to field on a golf cart during the workout. “But pick a moment that stands out to you, amongst your teammates and everything, and live it and feel it. It’s a good feeling. That should motivate people as you’re talking about it, even with guys that weren’t here. I’m sure they’d love to hear the stories about what transpired and how we do things. And go from there.,”
In other words, delight in it, but don’t dwell on it.
And get right back to work.
“We’ll always talk about it. It’ll always be crazy special,,” Zimmerman said about 2019. “The first week of the season will be cool. Getting the banner, getting a ring – all that stuff’s really special. But then it’s time to play this year. Get down to business.”
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