I’ll admit that said roster move caught me a little by surprise.
The Nats decided to option Tyler Moore to Triple-A Syracuse, leaving three catchers on the active roster for the time being but also leaving the team without a true backup first baseman.
The logic here has a lot to do with Wilson Ramos coming back off the disabled list just yesterday, and the Nats wanting to be cautious with how Ramos is used.
He can serve as the designated hitter during this three-game interleague series against Oakland, and with Jose Lobaton and Sandy Leon still on the roster, manager Matt Williams has plenty of flexibility when it comes to his catching options both in how he writes out his lineup and how he manages his bench in the late innings.
What makes sending Moore down a bit of a risky move, however, is that with Adam LaRoche battling a strained quad muscle lately, Moore has been used quite a bit late in games, providing protection for LaRoche.
Prior to yesterday’s game, Moore had replaced LaRoche at first base in the late innings in four of the Nats’ last five contests. LaRoche is very much still battling through his quad issue, and if you’ve seen him run the bases recently or even try and move around defensively, you can tell that he’s not his normal self.
He continues to produce at the plate, however, and with Ryan Zimmerman and Bryce Harper out, the Nats need LaRoche’s bat in the lineup. Williams says that giving LaRoche a day or two off won’t necessarily help the quad that much at this point, and so the first baseman will keep suiting up and gutting it out.
Now that Moore has been sent down and with Zimmerman on the DL, the Nats’ best option behind LaRoche at first base is Kevin Frandsen, who has only played 44 games at first in his eight-year big league career.
I’m not knocking Frandsen, who is a valuable utilityman capable of handling any job thrown at him. In addition to playing left field, third base and second base, the 31-year-old is the Nats’ emergency catcher, after all.
But Frandsen hasn’t been getting many reps on the infield lately, much less at first. The Nats have to hope that LaRoche can stay in the starting lineup, and not force Frandsen to utilize his first baseman’s mitt too frequently in this stretch coming up.
On another note, yesterday was just one game of 162 that the Nats will play during the regular season, but the 3-2 victory Wednesday evening led to a series win over a tough Dodgers team.
The Nats faced a really tough trio of starting pitchers in Zach Greinke, Clayton Kershaw and Dan Haren (who fell to 4-1 on the season with yesterday’s loss), and still managed to take the series. This is especially noteworthy given how much the Nats have had issues with beating the top National League teams dating back to last season.
Nationals starters combined to allow just two earned runs over 16 1/3 innings in the series. If you set aside Ross Detwiler’s rough eighth inning on Tuesday, Nats relievers threw 9 2/3 scoreless innings, with 13 strikeouts and no walks.
The pitching has been tremendous lately, and Jayson Werth, Anthony Rendon and LaRoche continue to rake. Ramos’ return should help beef up the lineup even more, and maybe the Nats will really start to hit their stride here soon.