There is “virtually no chance” Nationals second baseman Daniel Murphy will be ready for Opening Day, Mark Zuckerman of MASNsports.com writes. Murphy, who’s working his way back from the microfracture knee surgery he underwent last October, still hasn’t seen any game action this spring, notes Zuckerman, who expects Howie Kendrick to begin the season at the keystone for Washington. Wilmer Difo will back up Kendrick, and Zuckerman adds that Murphy’s unavailability could open the door for one of Matt Reynolds, Adrian Sanchez, Reid Brignac, Chris Dominguez, Andrew Stevenson, Moises Sierra or Ryan Raburn to be part of the Nats’ early season bench.
More on Washington and a division rival…
- The Phillies have made catcher Cameron Rupp available, Matt Gelb of The Athletic reports (subscription required). If they’re unable to find a taker for Rupp in a trade, the Phillies could end up cutting the 29-year-old and eating one-fourth of his $2.05MM salary, per Gelb. Rupp, who saw extensive action in Philadelphia in each of the previous three seasons, has hit .234/.298/.407 in 1,127 major league plate appearances and thrown out 31 percent of would-be base stealers (league average is 28 percent). He’s one of three catchers on Philly’s 40-man roster, along with starter Jorge Alfaro and Andrew Knapp, and has a pair of minor league options remaining.
- Phillies utilityman Jesmuel Valentin fell short of earning a roster spot in camp last year, but he may be playing his way to one this spring, Todd Zolecki of MLB.com observes. “The difference this year is more versatility. I’m playing more positions,” Valentin said. “I’ve played around 40 innings in the outfield. Last year, I did not do that. I’ve had more innings at third base, so I’m showing them that I am not only a second baseman and shortstop.” The 23-year-old Valentin, who hasn’t yet played in the majors, is one of five candidates for either two or three open bench spots, joining Roman Quinn, Pedro Florimon, Ryan Flaherty and Adam Rosales. He’s on the 40-man, as are Quinn and Florimon, which is an important advantage. Valentin, Quinn and Florimon are also switch-hitters.
- Back to the Nationals, with whom reliever Tim Collins is attempting to revive his career. Formerly an effective cog in Kansas City, Collins underwent back-to-back Tommy John surgeries in recent years, thus derailing his career. Now, he’s making a case to earn an Opening Day bullpen spot for the Nats, according to Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post. Both Collins and general manager Mike Rizzo have been pleased with the left-hander’s work, though he still hasn’t pitched back-to-back days since returning last season. Collins had a rough go in 2017 at the Double-A level, albeit over a mere 8 2/3 innings, as he allowed 14 earned runs on 12 hits and 10 walks, with eight strikeouts. He regarded the year as “a failure” at one point because he didn’t make it back to the majors, but a talk with team officials over the winter helped, which Castillo details in his piece.