PHILADELPHIA - The Nationals made another set of transactions today in addition to the ones that allowed Jeremy Hellickson to come off the disabled list at the expense of Sammy Solís. They also moved Ryan Zimmerman to the 60-day DL so they could reinstate minor league catcher Raudy Read after he completed his 80-game suspension for a positive drug test.
Read, whose suspension was handed down in early February after he tested positive for the performance enhancing drug Boldenone, saw his term expire today as the Nationals prepared to play their 81st game of the season.
That meant the 24-year-old had to return to the organization’s 40-man roster. The Nats immediately optioned him to Triple-A Syracuse, but in order to clear a spot on the 40-man for him they transferred Zimmerman off the 15-day DL and onto the 60-day DL.
That doesn’t, however, significantly delay Zimmerman’s return from his strained right oblique. The move is retroactive to the day Zimmerman officially went on the DL in the first place (May 10), so his 60 days will be up July 9.
Zimmerman has been ramping up baseball activities in recent days and this afternoon took early batting practice on the field with Daniel Murphy, Matt Adams and Matt Wieters, looking perfectly comfortable as he launched three consecutive pitches over the fence (one onto the concourse beyond the left-center field bleachers at Citizens Bank Park).
Zimmerman suggested Friday he might want to try to return to the active roster without going on a minor league rehab assignment first. But with his return now prohibited for another nine days, there seems to be an appropriate window for him to get at-bats before he is activated.
“We’re hoping that he’ll want to go play some games,” manager Davey Martinez said. “We’ll have to talk to him. But I watched him take BP today, and he was smoking balls. It was good to see him out there hitting balls like that, and hopefully we can send him out sometime next week. Whether it’s somewhere close, or somewhere, let him get some at-bats.”
Adams’ participation in BP today alongside Zimmerman was another encouraging sign for the Nationals, who have been without their left-handed slugger for two weeks since he fractured his left index finger trying to bunt in Toronto. Given how little time Adams has missed, he could more reasonably return within the next week without going on a rehab assignment.
“He’s pretty close,” Martinez said. “He took some swings on the field yesterday and said he felt really good. He hit one ball off the end of the bat, and he said it really stung him, but it went away. So that’s a good sign.”
Other injury updates ...
* Stephen Strasburg threw about 35 pitches in a bullpen session today, his first full-fledged throwing session off a mound since he went on the DL three weeks ago with right shoulder inflammation. Martinez said he expects Strasburg to need one more bullpen session before the club decides what’s next for the right-hander, who seems to be on a track that would allow him to return coming out of the All-Star break.
* Victor Robles, out since early April with a hyperextended left elbow, has begun taking light swings in West Palm Beach but has not yet resumed full baseball activities.
* Joe Ross, now 11 months removed from Tommy John surgery, has been throwing for some time in West Palm Beach and could begin throwing off a mound in the next week.
Update: Hellickson’s first start in four weeks is off to a ragged start. The right-hander made it through his first two innings unscored upon but with a high pitch count. And then the Phillies cashed in with one run in the third and two in the fourth. Odúbel Herrera got it started with a solo homer to right. Then three consecutive doubles from the 7-8-9 hitters brought home two more runs. The Nats have plated one off three Philly pitchers after starter Vince Velasquez departed when he was struck in the right forearm by an Adam Eaton line drive. The club says he suffered a contusion, so that’s better news than it could have been. The Nationals trail 3-1 after four.
Update II: Anthony Rendon came to play tonight. The third baseman is 2-for-3 and launched a 471-foot homer into the second deck in the top of the sixth. That trimmed the Phillies’ lead to 3-2, but that’s where it remains as the Nats start running out of innings to go tonight.
Update III: That’s it. The Nats had some chances late to tie the game, but they couldn’t push the run across. They lost 3-2, and with the Braves cruising in St. Louis they’re in danger of falling a season-worst five games back in the NL East.