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Kurt Suzuki takes another step towards returning to Washington Nationals’ lineup

Kurt Suzuki threw from 60 feet on Friday as the veteran catcher works his way back from an elbow injury...

Washington Nationals v Detroit Tigers Photo by Dave Reginek/Getty Images

“He was swinging the bat yesterday,” Washington Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies on Wednesday, when asked about Nats’ catcher Kurt Suzuki, and how the backstop was progressing as he waits for the inflammation in his right elbow, which he injured on a throw to second base last weekend in Atlanta, to go down so he can start throwing again and work to get back in the lineup.

“He took batting practice,” Rizzo explained. “So, I think he’s very close to being able to help us with his bat, off the bench, pinch hitting. He hasn’t been cleared by the doctors to throw yet, because he’s got the right elbow issue.

“When he does that I think that will be expedited pretty quick once he’s pain-free to throw.”

Suzuki, 35, put up a .260/.319/.473 line with 10 doubles and 16 home runs in 81 games and 301 plate appearances before the injury, over which he’s been worth 0.3 fWAR.

With Suzuki out, Yan Gomes has been behind the plate pretty much every night, with one exception, and the 32-year-old receiver, who started Friday’s game with a .225/.320/.375 line on the season, with 13 doubles and 10 home runs in 89 games and 325 PAs, was 10 for 32 (.313/.371/.656) with two doubles and three home runs in nine games and 35 PAs since Suzuki went down.

Yan Gomes has done a great job of playing every day,” Rizzo said. “I think he’s caught nine out of the last ten games, or something like that, his bat’s heating up a little bit, and this is a guy who played in the All-Star Game last year, so we’re confident and happy when he’s catching, but yeah, Suzuki’s presence in the lineup, in the dugout, and his enthusiasm and his quick-strike kind of offense has been missed and it will be nice to have another weapon to put in that lineup.”

Before the series opener in Miami’s Marlins Park last night, Suzuki threw on the field, from 60 feet, according to a report on Twitter by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman.

“Kurt’s good. He threw 60 feet today, which is encouraging,” Martinez told reporters before the series opener, as quoted by MASN’s Zuckerman.

“We’ll see how he feels tomorrow. But hopefully he can pinch-hit, which is kind of nice. He’ll be available to pinch-hit today, and then we’ll go from there.”

Will the time out of the lineup slow Suzuki down? Before the injury, he had hit safely in eight of his last 12 starts, with three doubles, four home runs, 15 RBIs, two walks, and 10 runs scored in that stretch, and this season he’s reached base in 55 of his 68 starts overall, while hitting safely in 45 of 68.