CINCINNATI - Second baseman Daniel Murphy’s absence from the Nationals lineup for tonight’s opener of a four-game series against the Reds is nothing more than a day off, manager Dusty Baker’s way of making sure a guy who was busy during the All-Star break gets some much-needed rest.
“I’ve just learned over the years that whoever goes to the All-Star Game - I’ve had Barry Bonds, Jeff Kent, I’ve had some of the best come back and start slow because they don’t’ get that mental and physical day off. “
Murphy was one of five Nationals who headed for Miami to participate in the hoopla surrounding the Midsummer Classic. He was joined in the starting lineup by first baseman Ryan Zimmerman, right fielder Bryce Harper and right-hander Max Scherzer. Right-hander Stephen Strasburg was chosen to the National League All-Star team, but did not pitch. But all five Nats representatives took part in a full slate of media availability and other activities.
Baker said he was planning to give Zimmerman off on Saturday and would rest Harper for a day soon, possibly Sunday or Monday, both of which are afternoon games.
“He’s the youngest, so he has to wait the longest,” Baker said of Harper.
Right-hander Koda Glover, on the 10-day disabled list since June 11 with lower back stiffness, continues to work out at the team’s spring training complex in West Palm Beach, Fla., and there is no timetable for his return.
Right-hander Shawn Kelley, who was placed on the DL on June 18 (retroactive to June 17) with a right trapezius strain, will throw in the bullpen in the next couple of days, Baker said.
“I think Kelley will throw one of the next couple days to try to see how things are,” Baker said. “So Kelley’s probably ahead of Koda right now. We’re doing all we can do. We’re the walking injured.”
With right-handers Trevor Gott and Austin Adams recalled this afternoon from Triple-A Syracuse, the Nationals bullpen is at eight relievers. That will likely be the configuration through the four-game series at Great American Ball Park.
“We probably won’t need a fifth starter for five days,” Baker said. “Especially in this offensive ballpark, you could always use arms. You don’t want to start the second half upside-down if something happens to your pitching. So we’ll make that determination, probably on Sunday who that is, and fly that person out to Anaheim.”
Adams, 26, said he had finished signing autographs after the Chiefs’ home game against Pawtucket on Thursday night when pitching coach Bob Milacki told him manager Billy Gardner Jr. wanted to see him. Adams, who came to the Nationals from the Angels in the December trade for infielder Danny Espinosa, then found out he was getting his first call-up to the majors.
“I had a feeling, but I didn’t want to get my hopes up,” said Adams. “It was really just kind of sit there and wait and (Gardner) said, ‘Hey, I’ve got really good news.’ He told me the great news that I was coming up here to Cincinnati. I’m just so blessed. I’ve been in the minor leagues for frickin’ six, seven years now. I’ve been up and down, inner struggles of, ‘Am I good enough to do this?’ and finally understanding ... I’m good enough to do this. It’s an awesome feeling.”
Adams has pitched scoreless relief in 27 of his 33 outings this season. He’s fanned 53 in 36 innings, and knows he’ll have to cut down on his 29 walks in Triple-A to be a viable weapon out of the bullpen.
Baker liked what he saw of Adams in spring training, but wants to ease him into the big leagues.
“He’s kind of a high-strung guy. We’d like to put him in a situation that’s a little less pressure in the beginning,” Baker said. “It’s his first big league experience. And he’s a guy, they told me, that’s extremely tough on right-handers. So we just hope he’s not overamped and able to find the strike zone.”
Update: The Nationals got two-out RBI singles to center by Stephen Drew and Anthony Rendon in the first for a 2-0 lead. Gio Gonzalez has worked around infield hits by Billy Hamilton in the first (by getting a 5-4-3 double play off the bat of Zack Cozart) and Scott Schebler in the second (by getting a pair of groundouts).
The Nats lead 2-0 heading to the third.
Update II: Harper’s 21st homer of the year, a no-doubter to right on a 2-1 Tim Adleman pitch, made it 4-0 in the third. Harper’s blast followed Wilmer Difo’s leadoff single and was only his second homer in 15 career games at Great American Ball Park, a notorious launching pad that should play well to his power. Harper entered the game hitting .200/.290/.255 with one homer in Cincinnati.
Update III: Harper struck again in the fifth, leading off the frame by crushing a 1-1 Adleman offering to center for a solo homer and a 5-0 lead. Center fielder Hamilton took two steps back, turned and watched the blast sail well over the wall into the sod farm. It’s Harper’s fourth multiple-homer game of the season and the 14th of his career.
With two on and one out, Zimmerman tried to score on Matt Wieters’ single to right, but Schebler gunned him out at the plate.
Update IV: Gonzalez is done after getting one out in the ninth, Joey Votto on a fly ball to left. The southpaw allowed four hits - three of the infield variety - and came within two outs of his first complete game since Sept. 9, 2009. He walked two, struck out six and threw 113 pitches, 74 for strikes.
Matt Albers relieved and surrendered a single to left to Duvall, a bloop hit to center by Eugenio Suárez and then struck out Schebler swinging. José Peraza beat out an infield single to third to load the bases and Matt Grace came on and needed one pitch to retire Tucker Barnhart on a grounder to second for the save.