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Washington Nationals’ 2023 Roster: Yadiel Hernàndez in left field in ‘23?

Where does 35-year-old outfielder Yadiel Hernández fit in with the rebooting ballclub?

New York Mets v Washington Nationals Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images

In 94 games and 327 plate appearances before he suffered a season-ending calf injury, Yadiel Hernández went 82 for 305 at the plate, for a .269/.312/.410 line, with 16 doubles, nine home runs, 19 walks, and 74 strikeouts on the season, in his third run in the majors.

Hernàndez, 35, debuted in the big leagues as a 32-year-old in 2020, after signing with Washington at 28, following a long and successful career as a pro in Cuba.

When he landed on the IL in mid-August, the hope was he would return relatively quickly, but as manager Davey Martinez said at the time, calf injuries are tricky.

“You don’t really know when it comes to a calf,” Martinez explained. “It’s a strain, so he’s going to work really hard to get back as soon as possible. But there’s no say of how long it’s going to take. So he’s kind of frustrated, but I told him, I said, ‘You’ve just got to work hard to get back. There’s nothing you do. He’s been playing well, been hitting good, and is a guy that has helped us in the middle of the lineup. So hopefully we get him back soon.”

Chicago Cubs v Washington Nationals Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images

Hernàndez was 20 for 70 at the plate in the second half, (.286/.324/.429, with a double, three home runs, four walks, and 13 Ks in 22 games and 74 PAs), when he suffered the injury (after he’d put up a .264/.308/.404 line with 15 doubles, six home runs, 15 walks, and 61 Ks over 72 games and 253 PAs in the first half). His season ended a week or so later when his manager announced they’d moved him over to the 60-Day IL.

“As we’ve talked about, he’s had a calf [injury], and from past experience with these calves, it’s going to take a little bit longer than anticipated,” the Nats’ fifth-year skipper explained.

“But those calves, you got to be really careful. So we didn’t think that he was going to be ready in time ... so we decided to put Yadi on the 60[-Day IL].”

As the manager said, he just wanted to make sure Hernàndez was healthy going into the offseason so he could prepare for the 2023 campaign.

“What I’d like to see,” Martinez told reporters, “... is that when Yadi leaves here for this winter that he’s completely healthy. That he’s running without all the baseball [things], but that he’s running full tilt, can do some outfield stuff.

“And this way he doesn’t have to go home and worry about — he can just — could have a normal winter and get ready for Spring Training.”

Hernàndez, apparently, was not happy his season ended how it did.

“Yeah, he was frustrated,” Martinez acknowledged. “As anybody gets — everybody always feels good until they have to do something baseball activity-wise. So you know I think at this point with the medical staff and everybody just talking that we went through this last year with two players where we thought they were ready and it took them forever. Every time they tried to run, there was a setback. So for me and for everybody else, and for Yadi, we just want to make sure that this is not a lingering situation, that he’s completely healthy. And that’s how we explained it to him. And he was down because he loves playing. That’s what he does.

Chicago Cubs v Washington Nationals Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images

“But I think he understood that we’re trying to look out for him and his future. Like I said, you don’t want to do any more damage to your calf because it’s tough to come back from those.”

And how does the mid-30s outfielder fit in on the rebooting, young-ish ballclub going forward?

Martinez said over the final weekend of the regular season he could see the club going with Hernàndez as part of a left field platoon.

“Look, if we put our team together next year, I don’t know, we’ve got a lot of work to do over the winter, but if we had a platoon situation in the corners or wherever, I’d be okay with that,” he said. “Because you can get a lot. I once mentioned when Yadi was here, and he was playing left field, and Lane [Thomas] was playing left field, you put their two numbers together and they had a pretty good year out there. We can do many things, and like I said, we’ve just got to be agile, flexible, and put together a team that we feel can compete.”