MLB.com Columnist

Bill Ladson

Nationals taking time with last bench, bullpen spots

Ryan, Burnett could end up on roster, but club 'undecided' as of now

Nationals taking time with last bench, bullpen spots

VIERA, Fla. -- Nationals manager Dusty Baker said the final spots on the team's bench and bullpen will not be decided until later this week, when the Nats host exhibition games against the Twins at Nationals Park.

The bench needs one more player to join Clint Robinson, Stephen Drew, Jose Lobaton and Michael Taylor, while the bullpen is in need of two relievers to join Jonathan Papelbon, Felipe Rivero, Shawn Kelly, Oliver Perez and Yusmeiro Petit.

"There are some things going down to the wire," Baker said before the Nationals defeated the Braves, 7-2, on Sunday. "The bullpen, the bench, that's probably two areas where [we] are undecided."

One reliever who is making a case to be put on the Opening Day roster is left-hander Sean Burnett, who pitched Saturday and Sunday against the Cardinals and Braves, respectively. It was the first time since 2014 in which he pitched in consecutive games. Burnett, who had Tommy John surgery that year, didn't give up a run in those back-to-back appearances, allowing a combined three hits while striking out one batter.

Burnett gets out of a jam

In the seventh inning on Sunday, Burnett found himself in trouble after allowing a one-out double by Brandon Snyder to put runners on second and third. However, Burnett was able to get out of the inning by striking out Emilio Bonifacio and getting Gordon Beckham to ground out.

"He looked good," Baker said. "Everybody's out there looking real good."

Ryan's two-run single

As far as the bench goes, Brendan Ryan may have just hit his way on to the roster. In Sunday's game against Atlanta, Ryan drove in two runs with a single in the third inning. Ryan, who plays great defense at shortstop, is now hitting .379 on the spring. It helps that he is right-handed, considering the bench, the way it is constructed now, is mostly left-handed.

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the Time. He also can be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.