Tense final days for Nationals on roster bubble

Tense final days for Nationals on roster bubble
March 24, 2014, 7:45 am
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PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — Aaron Barrett is having the time of his life right now, pitching extremely well in his first-ever big-league camp and thrusting himself smack dab into the middle of one of the Nationals’ toughest Opening Day roster decisions.

The 26-year-old reliever has absolutely no idea where he’ll be living this time next week. He’ll be searching for an apartment either in Washington, Syracuse or Harrisburg. And he has no way yet which city he’ll be calling home.

“I honestly haven’t had the time to even think about that stuff,” he said. “I’m literally living day-by-day, trying to get better day-by-day and trying to put myself in the best position as possible. When I get an opportunity to think about that stuff, I’ll let you know.”

Such is life for the select final few players on the roster bubble during the final week of March. We tend to focus entirely on the baseball aspect of this, whether Player X deserves to make the club over Player Y, whether one has minor-league options while the other doesn’t, whether the team needs an extra guy on the bench or in the bullpen.

But we sometimes tend to forget that these players’ entire lives are up in the air this week. Everybody is packing up right now. Ryan Zimmerman, Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper know their stuff is headed to Washington, and they already own or rent homes in the area.

But players like Barrett, Blake Treinin, Tanner Roark, Taylor Jordan, Tyler Moore, Jeff Kobernus and Jamey Carroll are packing their things without knowing where to send them.

“It’s tough, but it’s part of the game,” said Roark, who could wind up as the Nationals’ No. 5 starter, final reliever or be optioned to Syracuse. “You’ve got to get used to it. Can’t really dwell on it. Can’t think about it much.”

All these players can do is try to stay focused on baseball. Though it’s unlikely anything they do on the field at this point is going to change the organization’s mind, they realize there’s no sense stressing out over a decision they don’t get to make.

Not that they can ever completely shut out those thoughts, though. It’s tough to do that when you still don’t know where you’ll be living next week.

“As a human, probably,” Barrett said. “I think it’s going through anybody’s mind that’s in the same situation as I am. At this point, it’s out of my control. I’m just going out there controlling what I can control. At the end of the day, whatever happens, happens. I think either way, I put myself in position. At the end of the day, I’m not worried. Whether I make the team or I go to Syracuse or Harrisburg or whatever, I’m just looking forward to the opportunity and very grateful for it.”