Dusty Baker talked after Michael A. Taylor returned from the Disabled List this past weekend about getting some of his injured players back in time for the stretch run.
“We got Michael back today,” Baker said, “and hopefully nothing else happens and then we expect and hope to get [Jayson] Werth and [Trea] Turner back in a couple weeks, we’re unsure about Koda Glover, and so he’s progressing, so it will be like getting a whole new fresh team down the stretch if things go right.
“That’s why I just believe in the bottom of my heart that some of this is already written, that some of these guys are going to show up like the cavalry, right on time, and be fresh down the stretch drive and be a lot fresher hopefully than the teams we will be playing once the postseason starts.”
In an interview with 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies on Wednesday, GM Mike Rizzo ran through the list of injured Nationals and where they are as they work to return. It’s a long list.
“Koda is in West Palm,” Rizzo said. “He’s continuing his return-to-throw program, he’s well underway, he’s not at the point where he’s throwing a rehab assignment yet, but he’s getting close.”
Glover, who’s been sidelined since June 10th, was originally placed on the DL with lower back stiffness, but later revealed that he was dealing with severe inflammation in his right rotator cuff, “... as well as ‘two other strains and a couple of this and that,’” as he told reporters, including Washington Post writer Chelsea Janes, back in late June.
Great report from the doc! Gonna ramp up to get BACK!!— Koda Glover (@koda_glover) August 17, 2017
Glover was the Nationals’ closer when he landed on the DL, where will he fit in the mix when/if he’s able to return?
Rizzo had a couple more updates as well, including information on another reliever, Shawn Kelley, who served as the Nationals’ set-up man last season, and was filling the same role this year before he too landed on the DL, with a right trapezius strain.
Kelley has made eight appearances for the Triple-A Syracuse Chiefs at this point, giving up eight hits (three home runs) and six earned runs in 6 2⁄3 innings.
“Shawn Kelley has been on a rehab assignment for a while in Triple-A,” Rizzo said. “We just want to get him — log his innings and get his arm strength back where his velo is back to where he needs it to be, so he is close. He’s closer than Koda.”
Kelley hasn’t pitched in the majors since June 16th.
And the Nationals’ injured position players? Bryce Harper’s bone bruise is going to take a while to heal, but the Nationals think he’ll be back this season.
Brian Goodwin’s groin strain probably shouldn’t keep him out too long, as Baker told reporters after he too landed on the DL.
“It’s already been three or four days,” Baker said, “so it’s 10-Day DL, so that just leaves another week, he’ll travel with us. I mean, any time you do something in the groin, you don’t want it to -- even if it is minor, you don’t want it to turn severe by continually playing.”
Then there are the players who’ve already been out for a while like Jayson Werth and Trea Turner.
“Jayson Werth is doing really good,” Rizzo continued. “He’s taking some really good batting practice. He’s playing in simulated games. He can do everything but run full speed, 100% for nine innings back-to-back. So once we get him to be on his legs and on his toe and his foot for back-to-back nine inning games, where he can run and burst and just take the natural beating of a nine inning baseball game back-to-back, he’ll be fine, but he’s coming along well.”
Trea Turner, out since late June with a fractured right wrist, the result of a hit-by-pitch, took live batting practice in Nationals Park during the last homestand, and he’s making progress as he works to return.
“Trea Turner is progressing with his hitting,” Rizzo explained, “so that’s like the last step with the broken wrist. You go through — the bone heals, then you strengthen the wrist and the hand, you start with fielding, because it was his right hand he had to go on a throwing program and strengthen his wrist that way, and now he’s progressing to hitting. He took batting practice on the field the other day, looked comfortable, looked really good, we’ll see how he feels today, because it’s always the day after the workout or the sim game or the rehab start that you assess where the player is because usually the day they perform they are fine.”
Baker said last week that he believes the cavalry will return for the stretch, but will they have time to get up to speed and contribute to a team that is — barring an epic collapse — headed back to the postseason for the fourth time in the last six seasons?
Who gets bumped from the bullpen if Glover or Kelley is able to come back?
Does Werth take over in the left field as soon as he’s back? Will the outfielders who’ve filled in during his absence (Adam Lind, Howie Kendrick, Brian Goodwin, Andrew Stevenson) be relegated to the bench?
By the time most the injured Nats mentioned above return, rosters will likely be expanded with September call-ups, the task then will be for Baker to keep everyone sharp, though the extra at bats his bench players have gotten over the last few months should help if they move back into bench/backup roles.
The big question for Baker and his staff to sort out will be whether the likes of Werth, Turner, Glover, Kelley, and others (like that Harper guy) can get back up to speed in time to contribute how everyone expects them to down the stretch, or whether the players who’ve gotten the Nats to this point with everyone injured will be better options?