Nats owner: Opener could be pushed to Friday
Lerner says team continues to track forecast, with rain likely
WASHINGTON -- Nationals principal owner Mark Lerner said the club's home opener against the Braves could be postponed Thursday afternoon because of rain and played the next day.
According to weather.com, there is a 50 percent chance of rain in the afternoon. Lerner indicated an announcement of a possible postponement will not be made until sometime Thursday. First pitch is tentatively scheduled for 1:05 p.m. ET.
"We've heard anywhere from 90 percent to 30 percent chance rain," Lerner said. "We are going to play it by ear and hold out as long as we can. Hopefully, we can get it in.
"We are going to monitor it all night long. If we know it's going to be really bad, then we'll cancel it early. We could go either way. We'll just keep on going and do the best we can."
Lerner also reiterated that the Nationals are looking to move their Spring Training home from Viera, Fla. It was reported recently that Alan Gottlieb, the chief operating officer for Lerner Sports, was in Arizona looking at potential sites. The team is also being pursued by other cities in the state of Florida. In the last year, Lerner has made multiple trips to Arizona and sites in Florida to review facilities.
The Nationals currently play at Space Coast Stadium, their Spring Training home since 2003. But the team has a proximity issue when it comes to playing in Viera. Washington has to travel more than an hour to play opponents like the Braves, Cardinals, Marlins, Mets and Astros.
In Arizona, Major League teams travel less than an hour to reach their destinations. The lease at Space Coast Stadium expires in 2017, but the Nationals could leave after 2013.
"It's a tough situation. Viera has been very good to us. The fans are wonderful," Lerner said. "The players, everybody loves the town. Our problem is the distance to travel to play other teams. When your closest team is a 110-mile round trip, it's just too much. We have to get closer to where other teams are.
"Plus you have the other issue. You are playing National League East teams all the time. We don't want to do that all the time. It's not smart. We would rather be playing a lot of teams on the West Coast [of Florida or Arizona] that we don't play.
"I think at the end of the day, we have to do something when the right opportunity presents itself. We have to do something different than what we have now. It's brutal on the team to do these kind of miles on every trip. Jupiter is 250 miles round trip. It's way too much."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.