With two shortstops down, Nats now turn to Difo and Green

Two days after placing their starting shortstop on the disabled list, the Nationals were forced to do the same with their backup shortstop, adding Stephen Drew to a rapidly growing infirmary.

Drew was placed on the 10-day DL with a right hamstring strain, an injury he sustained in the fifth inning Tuesday night running out of the batter’s box on a comebacker to the mound. The Nationals purchased the contract of Grant Green from Triple-A Syracuse to account for their sudden dearth of healthy infielders, using the one remaining 40-man roster spot that had been unfilled.

Manager Dusty Baker, perhaps a bit less concerned than he was Tuesday night when the injury occurred, described Drew’s strain as “similar” to the one that landed Trea Turner on the DL on Monday. Turner will be eligible to return April 19 in Atlanta; Drew will be eligible April 21 in New York.

“I don’t think I’ve ever lost two shortstops in a short period of time,” Baker said. “But I’m glad that we have the depth (even though we) didn’t think it would happen this often and this early. You’ve got to commend our minor league staff and (general manager Mike) Rizzo and (assistant GM) Bob Miller for getting us some backups. Even though they didn’t foresee this happening this early.”

difo-throw-spring-training-white-sidebar.jpgPressure now shifts to Wilmer Difo, who takes over as the everyday shortstop for at least a week. The 25-year-old has a .256 batting average and .333 on-base percentage in 50 major league games over parts of the last three seasons, but this will be his first opportunity to start on a regular basis at this level.

Difo will be backed up by Green who has 127 games of big league experience with the Athletics, Angels and Giants, the owner of a .251 batting average and .286 on-base percentage. The 29-year-old has played in the majors at all four infield positions, plus left field, but his ability to play shortstop was among the biggest reasons he got the call for this assignment over other potential candidates like utilityman Brandon Snyder.

“We were wrestling between him and a couple other guys,” Baker said. “Did we need more of a bat, an offensive player? Or did we need more of a defensive player? Or did we need just a straight shortstop? Or did we need a person that could play short and give (Daniel) Murphy a blow, especially in a blowout, or give Anthony (Rendon) a game? So we decided Grant, through the process of elimination. And he’s a guy that has big league time, is not going to be overwhelmed. It’s not like it’s his first time in the big leagues. So we came up with Grant.”

Green signed a minor league contract with the Nationals over the winter and wound up staying in big league camp until the final week of spring training. He reported to Syracuse to open the season and was 2-for-13 at the plate before his surprise promotion.

“It’s always nice to be called up,” he said. “It stinks, the reason why, with (Drew) getting hurt. But I’m just going to be here and try to do the best I can.”

The fact two of his key players succumbed to hamstring injuries in the first week-plus of the season is a bit concerning to Baker, though he’s not surprised by the timing, despite the constant warnings to be careful in late March and early April.

“I remind them every day,” Baker said. “Our trainers are doing their thing. You know, hamstrings usually happen in spring training or early in the season, when it’s cold. ... Or when you’re tired, when your muscles are tired. This is one thing that I’m very, very conscious and aware of.”

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