Since the decision to call Wilmer Difo up this morning caught many by surprise, Washington Nationals' skipper Matt Williams was asked to go through the Nats' thinking in bringing the 23-year-old infielder up to the majors today with Jayson Werth on the DL (retroactive to 5/16) with a left wrist contusion. Williams said there were a number of reasons that Difo made sense for the Nationals.
"He's on our roster," Williams explained. "He is one of our top prospects. And that being said, we've given him an opportunity to come here and experience it. We do have pretty good coverage in the outfield with Michael [Taylor], [Tyler Moore] and Clint [Robinson]. The issue that we have run into if we get down to it in a long game is that extra infielder, so given the fact that Jayson is going to be down for a few days, we have coverage there too [with Difo]."
Werth, who was hit by a pitch this past Friday night in San Diego, is still dealing with a swollen left wrist, and Williams said he's not yet ready to get back swinging a bat.
"It's still -- he's got a contusion," Williams said. "It's going to be sore, it's going to be swollen. It's still swollen, so we have to get that taken care of before he can start back. Three days down already and not really ready to even get back to swinging."
Welcome, Wilmer! pic.twitter.com/GpegDINtqA— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) May 19, 2015
Going back to Difo, who put up a combined .315/.367/.520 line with 15 doubles, three home runs, nine walks and 22 Ks in 33 games and 139 plate appearances between High-A Potomac and Double-A Harrisburg before getting the call today, Williams said the top infield prospect in the organization on Baseball America's list of the Nationals' top prospects gives the Nats options.
"He gives us a lot of options," Williams told reporters.
"He gives us another middle infielder without having to move Yunel [Escobar] potentially. It allows us to use Dan Uggla a little more than ordinary, because he would be the other middle infielder. There [are] a lot of things that go into it. He provides a lot of things for us. He can certainly hit a fastball. He provides speed. He's a good baserunner. He plays both positions in the middle of the diamond, it's important for us."
Though Difo might not get regular at bats while he's up, Williams said he wasn't worried about it affecting the young infielder's development.
"I don't think it will affect his development," he said. "I know that's he's excited to be here. He's already been out on the field for early grounders and early hitting. He's working hard. So we don't know exactly what the game is going to provide for us on any day, but he's got a lot of tools. He can do a lot of things for us."
Williams got a good look at Difo this Spring, in the infielder's short stint in the big league camp.
Difo was 7 for 22 (.318/.333/.455) with a double, triple, a walk and six Ks in 13 games before he was optioned to minor league camp.
Williams said he saw Difo making improvements.
"I saw him making steps. Early on he was really swinging the bat well, he played both [second and short] for us which was important. He was aggressive on the basepaths, and taking those steps that are necessary to further his development.
"The thing that I liked about it was he was aggressive. In big league camp he was there to play and eager to play every day."
Difo's likely extremely eager to play now, and get his MLB out of the way. He was asked this afternoon who got the first call when he got the news. Of course, it was his mother:
The first person Wilmer Difo told he was getting called up to the big leagues? "Mama!" And her reaction? "Crazy!"— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) May 19, 2015