- The Washington Times
Thursday, October 6, 2016

Back in spring training, Dusty Baker was just trying to learn the names of all the new people he met on a daily basis. He was asked early on about minor league infielder Wilmer Difo, whom had not yet reported to Viera, Florida. Perhaps Difo, who is from the Dominican Republic, was having Visa problems. His absence could have been caused by numerous issues, so Baker was asked if anything seemed to be amiss.

Baker was unable to answer for Difo’s whereabouts because he did not know who Difo was. He told reporters to let him know if they see Difo.

On the eve of Game 1 between the Washington Nationals and Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League Division Series, Baker knows much more about Difo. The rookie infielder will be part of the Nationals’ 25-man roster for the first round of the playoffs. The roster must be announced before 10 a.m. Friday.

“Number one, he’s a switch-hitter,” Baker said. “You know, he has speed. He’s very good from the right side and also he can play all three infield positions, and with Daniel Murphy still coming off an injury, he gives us a possibility at second base late in the game and run for Daniel Murphy, as well.”

Baker was hesitant to reveal the rest of the roster because he wanted to inform the players prior to telling the media. He has repeatedly said positive things about rookie pitcher Reynaldo Lopez, making it appear Lopez is likely to be on the roster. Baker also revealed that rookie Pedro Severino would be the starting catcher over veteran backup Jose Lobaton.

“In most scenarios, having a rookie catcher behind the plate, you probably have pause for concern of not being in sync with him,” Nationals Game 1 starter Max Scherzer said. “But Severino is completely different. First off, he’s way more mature and understands the game way further than any rookie catcher I’ve been around. He gets it. He really understands the game and he does a great job, in between my starts, of understanding everything that goes into calling the game and understanding what numbers I’m looking at, understanding my sequences, understanding the signs that are going down so that when he does — when I have pitched to him, I pitched to him in Arizona, it felt very comfortable throwing some of those. I was actually excited to throw to him because he’s actually really good back there as a catch-and-throw catcher.”

Baker added that the Nationals will carry three left-handed pitchers in the bullpen, meaning Sammy Solis, Oliver Perez, Sean Burnett and Mark Rzepczynski are options to oppose the Dodgers, who were the worst team in baseball against left-handed pitching this season.

One thing Baker still has not announced is Washington’s Game 2 starter.

“Well, we just haven’t decided yet,” Baker said. “I mean, you know, we’re just thinking of as many scenarios as we can, and if things go great and if things go poorly, and that’s why we haven’t, you know, decided on it yet.

“[Pitching coach] Mike Maddux and [general manager Mike] Rizzo and myself, we’ll probably get together even [Thursday] afternoon to discuss that. It would be easy if we had Strasburg.”

Thursday, the aforementioned Murphy put together his most strenuous workout since straining his left buttocks in Atlanta on Sept. 17. Murphy went through more infield practice on Thursday than he had during the week’s two prior workouts. He also maintained the running routine the Nationals’ trainers have put together for him. Like Wednesday, Murphy said he felt good following the workouts. He is expected to be ready Friday.

• Todd Dybas can be reached at tdybas@washingtontimes.com.

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