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Nats consider playoff roster

Nats consider playoff roster

This season has brought about many new ideas and emotions for the Nationals, who for the first time since they arrived in Washington are legitimately in a pennant race. And as a result of that, here's another new concept we're going to have to consider: the August 31 playoff roster deadline.

You've probably been vaguely aware of this deadline in the past but never really had to consider the ins and outs of it. Rest assured, you're not alone. I've had to learn more about all this myself, and even the Nationals front-office folks I talked to the last couple days admitted they had to take something of a crash course on the subject because they've never needed to be experts before.

So consider this an entry-level class in the suddenly pertinent matter of playoff roster construction...

You've probably heard plenty of times before that all postseason rosters must be set by August 31. But that's not entirely true. The only thing that must be set by the end of the month is the pool of players who are eligible to appear in the postseason. And even then, there are exceptions that allow more players to be added at the last minute.

The only real significance of the August 31 deadline is that it marks the final day in which a player can be acquired from another organization and be eligible to participate in the postseason. So the Nationals can't trade for someone on Sept. 1 and use him in October.

That doesn't mean a player must be on the active, big-league roster on August 31 to be eligible for the playoffs. Anyone on the 25-man roster, plus anyone on the disabled list, bereavement list or suspended list is eligible.

So that makes this the Nationals' initial pool of roster candidates (we're going to assume there are no changes in the next seven days)...

Pitchers (12): Sean Burnett, Tyler Clippard, Ross Detwiler, Gio Gonzalez, Michael Gonzalez, Tom Gorzelanny, Edwin Jackson, Ryan Mattheus, Craig Stammen, Drew Storen, Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann
Catchers (2): Jesus Flores, Kurt Suzuki
Infielders (6): Ian Desmond, Danny Espinosa, Adam LaRoche, Steve Lombardozzi, Chad Tracy, Ryan Zimmerman
Outfielders (5): Roger Bernadina, Bryce Harper, Tyler Moore, Michael Morse, Jayson Werth
Disabled list (6): Mark DeRosa, Cole Kimball (60-day), Wilson Ramos (60-day), Henry Rodriguez, Jhonatan Solano, Chien-Ming Wang

So that's 31 eligible players. But wait, there's more.

If any one of those 31 players is injured at the start of any postseason series, the Nationals can replace them with any other player from the organization (provided they were acquired by August 31).

Ramos will remain on the DL at season's end, so that's a playoff roster spot that can be given to someone else, whether they're on the 40-man roster or not. And it's not a stretch to think any one of those other players currently on the DL could still be there come October, opening more spots.

Which means September call-ups can be used in the postseason. That opens the door for potential additions like Corey Brown, Eury Perez, John Lannan and others we may see over the season's final month.

And truthfully, it opens the door for anyone else in the organization to be a part of October baseball. Not that this would happen in a million years, but even a guy like Carlos Alvarez (who you may remember as the fake Esmailyn Gonzalez, currently a 26-year-old shortstop at short-season Class A Auburn) could appear for the Nationals in the postseason, provided he was added to the 40-man roster.

The whole thing may sound a bit convoluted, but there's really only one key point you have to remember: If a player is in the organization on August 31 (and is still there at the end of the regular season) he's eligible for the playoffs.

Something you probably never thought about before. Certainly something I never did.

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What will Joe Ross' role be for Nationals in playoffs vs. Dodgers?

What will Joe Ross' role be for Nationals in playoffs vs. Dodgers?

It was just a few weeks ago that Joe Ross' postseason availability was in question, and if he could return in time, whether he would pitch out of the Nationals' bullpen and or as a starter wasn't clear. Manager Dusty Baker wondered aloud if he would get his young right-hander back, even as Stephen Strasburg dealt with elbow injuries.

The progress Ross has made in a short period of time since is remarkable and after his 90-pitch outing on Thursday afternoon against the Diamondbacks, the 23-year-old looks and feels ready for the playoffs, and not just to pitch in relief, either.

"I'm hoping I get the opportunity to start, but that's up to them," Ross said. "But I'll take any opportunity I get to pitch and go out there and compete. I just want to help the team in any way I can."

Ross wasn't great on Thursday in his third start back from the disabled list. He only made it four innings, as his pitch count soared early. But in giving up just one run, he's now pitched 9 2/3 innings in three games back. During that stretch he's allowed three runs and struck out 14.

[RELATED: Wilson Ramos hopes to be back with Nationals]

It has been a process of baby steps for the Nats starter, a slow progression back from right shoulder inflammation, an injury rehab that featured a setback in late July. Now, though, he is essentially back to normal, just in time for the NL Division Series which begins next week.

"I feel good. I felt really good today. I felt really good last start. I guess it's just a point of executing pitches," he said. "There's no doubt in my mind really on whether I can go out and compete."

Baker mentioned that Ross could pitch in releif early in the NLDS against the Dodgers. That could keep him available for a start later on, if it's kept short like a normal bullpen session.

But one has to wonder if Ross has improved his case enough to pitch Game 3 of that series, given Gio Gonzalez' recent struggles. The lefty has allowed 19 earned runs in his last 23 innings going back five starts.

Regardless, Ross has certainly come a long way in just three MLB outings.

"He looks ready," second baseman Wilmer Difo said through an interpreter.

With all the negative injury news the Nationals have received in recent days, between Wilson Ramos' season-ending injury and Strasburg essentially ruled out for the NLDS, having Ross fully back in the mix is a nice change of fortune for the NL East champs.

[RELATED: Matt Belisle sounds like safe bet for Nats playoff roster]

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Wilson Ramos knows his knee injury could mean the end of Nationals' tenure

Wilson Ramos knows his knee injury could mean the end of Nationals' tenure

Wilson Ramos won't be on the field for the Washington Nationals when the team takes on the Los Angeles Dodgers in the N.L. Divisional Series next week.

The 2016 N.L. All-Star catcher will undergo surgery to repair the ACL he tore in his right knee on Monday night against the Diamondbacks

Ramos has been arguably the Nationals' most constant offensive threat this season, and had positioned himself as the team's backstop for the foreseeable future.

But the injury changed everything.

Not just because the surgery and rehab will stretch well into Spring Training, but because the 29-year-old Ramos will become a free agent at the end of the season. On top of that, a second ACL injury (He tore it in 2012 as well) means that taking the field everyday as a catcher may not be a viable option for him much longer.

"Unfortunately, this injury happened so close to the end and it may affect whether I’m able to stay with a National League team or not," Ramos told reporters prior to the Nationals' 5-3 win over the Diamondbacks on Thursday afternoon.

"But if it’s up to me, I definitely would like to keep playing for the Nationals and play as long as I can."

Ramos is a solid defensive catcher, but his biggest strength is at the plate. Being able to be a part of a lineup everyday is where he is most valuable, and that may mean playing in the American League, where he can serve as the designated hitter and fill in as catcher.

But this doesn't mean Ramos is done as a member of the Nationals, just that he's aware his time could be coming to an end.