Matt Williams spent the majority of his pregame press conference this afternoon in Nationals Park updating reporters on the Washington Nationals' walking wounded with a brief detour into a discussion about his decision to go with Jordan Zimmermann in the series opener tonight and let Max Scherzer get a little extra rest before he gets back on the mound to start the so-called "second-half" of the 2015 campaign.
Starting with the injuries, Williams talked first about Ryan Zimmerman (plantar fasciitis) and Anthony Rendon (left quad).
"Full workouts today," Williams said. "They had that as well yesterday. Ran the bases yesterday in a controlled environment, but nonetheless they were both on the bases. That's a good sign.
"So we'll just keep progressing them. They're both taking batting practice, they're both taking ground balls.
"Our clubhouse is pretty full right now with a lot of guys here that are close to getting back going again, which is a good sign."
"[Zimmerman and Rendon] have done everything except get on the basepaths and go full on the basepaths," Williams continued.
"Yesterday they did first-to-thirds, second-to-home, doubles, turns and stop and come back, albeit controlled, it was a good step for them."
Asked if with the progress they made they might be close to playing games, Williams said they'll wait and see.
"It's part of the process," he explained. "But the fact that they can do it and they're out there doing it is a positive sign, so without putting a timetable on it, we're just going to continue to progress them and keep ramping them up to the point where they don't have any issues with it and they can go play and react like they normally would."
Williams said Zimmerman's foot was better -- though he was "a little ginger with it" -- and not pushing it too hard, but the pain was "not as great" which the Nats' skipper said was a positive sign.
Denard Span, who's on the DL with back spasms, was put on a "serious program" after the Nats' center fielder and leadoff man visited a back specialist.
"He's doing that. He's really close to getting back out there," Williams said.
"What we don't want to do is have a repeat.
"So all the tests were good and he's okay, he's just continuing to strengthen his core, working on his flexibility and he'll be ready to go soon."
Before this afternoon's game, the Nationals placed David Carpenter on the 15-Day DL retroactive to July 12th, with right shoulder inflammation, which Williams said cropped up before the All-Star Break.
"There [were] a couple of times where he got up in a bullpen -- one time in particular in Baltimore -- that he got up, we were going to get him in a game and he couldn't go, so the official on it is 'shoulder inflammation'.
"Last night he threw but still was feeling it a little bit and rather than play short, he was already a few days into it anyway and we can retro it back to the 12th... so he's already a few days in and we want to make sure, so we decided to put him on the DL retro to the 12th and make sure he's ready to go when he gets back."
Carpenter was getting work in the eighth inning after he joined the Nationals early last month, so with him out, who's going to be setting up for Nats' closer Drew Storen?
"It will be a number of guys," Williams said. "Depending on the situation, depending on matchups and what the game presents us. So we have options. Of course Casey [Janssen] is familiar with it. [Matt] Thornton is familiar with it. We can use [Aaron] Barrett. We can use either of the lefties, depending on the workload and who's pitched and who hasn't."
Max Scherzer going Sunday instead of in the first game out of the gate was the next topic of discussion.
New York Mets' skipper Terry Collins talked recently about lining his starters up out of the break so that he has his top three (Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey and Noah Syndergaard) going against the Nats in the nation's capital in the three-game set next week.
So why did Williams push Scherzer to Sunday, which means he'll miss the Mets, who are currently second in the NL East, in each of the upcoming series between the divisional rivals?
"One: [Scherzer's] workload has been pretty immense as compared to what he's used to," Williams explained.
"Certainly pitch counts are one thing, but ups and innings are different. That, the fact that he pitched the last game and went into the ninth inning is a factor. One off day in the next thirty-one days is a factor.
"So I have to look at it long-term as we all do and look at the next thirty-one days and look at how much rest he is going to get which will be virtually none, so this is an opportunity, probably the only opportunity, that we'll have to give him an extra couple days."
Asked if Scherzer missing the Mets was factored into the decision, Williams said there are a number of tough matchups coming up.
"We have three games against the Dodgers that we want to win," he said. "And then we've got four games against the Pirates after the Mets that we want to win.
"So if we get to where we want to get to, it's going to take five guys, not one.
"I know there's a lot made of it, and I can have an opinion about it and everybody else can too, but if we want to get to the postseason and be a contender in that postseason, we're going to need all five of the guys. And so, that and the answer I just gave -- we've got to get him some rest at some point, granted he's our ace, we're not looking at the opponent, necessarily, as we are the long-term of the rest of the season."
Stephen Strasburg was on the field in Nationals Park this afternoon as well, working his way back from the oblique strain which landed him on the DL.
"He threw yesterday, he threw today," Williams said. "It's good. Normal throwing program, not on a mound yet, but a good sign that he's back out there doing it and that he's having no issue with it. So we'll look to a bullpen in the next four or five days probably and see where he's at."
As for when Strasburg might make some rehab starts and how much time/how many starts it might take to get him back?
"The longer he's off the more it takes," Williams said. "Granted, he's been to 100 pitches this year, we know that he can do that, but the more time he takes off, you've got to build that back up. Is it one? Probably not? Could it be two, maybe."
"We know that in one of those rehab starts, we've got to get him to five innings at least and with the ability to go out for six and on a regular pitch count. And once we can do that, then he'll be ready to go. Is that the second one, we don't know yet, so we'll progress him to the first one and go from there."
Jayson Werth made his first rehab appearance last night, going 1 for 2 with the Potomac Nationals, and he's serving as the P-Nats' DH tonight, so what's the plan going forward?
"He reported today prior to going to Potomac and his legs feel good, he's been doing a lot of running, so that's not an issue," Williams said.
"He felt good in his at bats last night, physically, timing is off, of course, which is normal, but didn't have any issues coming out of it, so that's a good sign.
"The deal with broken bones [is] when they're healed, they're healed. And right now it's about strengthening the area because he was in a splint for a while and getting at bats, so all things considered he came out of it really well."
Good news all around, apparently. So when will the Nationals' injured everyday players start returning to the lineup?
Who's first? Will it really be Werth? Can Span beat Werth back? When will Zimmerman and Rendon be back in the majors? They're all getting closer, barring any hiccups or setbacks...