Abrams sitting again but hopes to return Tuesday

SAN FRANCISCO – CJ Abrams is out of the lineup for the third straight day, but the Nationals shortstop appears to be progressing from an injured finger well enough to think he will be ready to return Tuesday night.

Abrams, who suffered a bone bruise in his left pinky sliding into second base Friday night, was due to take a full round of batting practice and fielding drills prior to tonight’s series opener against the Giants. Barring any setbacks, he could be available to come off the bench tonight and then return to the lineup Tuesday.

“He felt better today,” manager Davey Martinez said. “He’s going to go out and do all baseball activities. Hopefully he’ll be available to pinch-run, pinch-hit, whatever we need him for. But if he goes through everything well, he’ll probably be back in the lineup tomorrow.”

The bone bruise is on Abrams’ glove hand, so it doesn’t really impact him in the field. The larger issue is at the plate, but he’s made progress the last few days and should be able to play through it soon.

“Right now, it’s his swinging,” Martinez said. “He said he swung the bat better today in the cage. But it is his top hand. Every time he goes to turn like that, it kind of catches him. But they taped him up; he said the tape helped. Hopefully he’ll go out there today, take batting practice and get out in the field.”

After giving rookie Nasim Nuñez his first career start Saturday in Abrams’ place, Martinez has gone with veteran Ildemaro Vargas the last two days at shortstop. Vargas has responded with three hits, one of them a double, in eight at-bats.

Abrams got hurt trying to stretch a single into a double, so there isn’t much he could’ve done to prevent the injury. He may start wearing a oven mitt once on the bases, though, to protect him from further injury.

“It’s funny, because he uses it on his other hand,” Martinez said. “They usually put it on their throwing hand. So we’re going to have to see what he wants to do. Unfortunately on this one, he hit the ball and he was running around the bases, so you don’t get to put them on.

“He’s got to be careful. I told him: ‘If you can slide feet-first, just try to slide feet-first for the time being, until you feel 100 percent.”

* Nick Senzel is set to begin a rehab assignment with Double-A Harrisburg on Tuesday, bringing the third baseman a step closer to making his Nats debut after his freak Opening Day pregame injury.

Senzel, who fractured his right thumb on a bad-hop grounder during pregame drills March 28 in Cincinnati, has been cleared to begin playing in games, provided he can deal with any lingering pain in his thumb.

He’ll join Harrisburg for the start of a road series in Altoona, with an eye on coming off the 10-day injured list as soon as he’s ready.

“We’ll see how many days he needs to be there,” Martinez said. “But he said he feels great. I saw him hitting the other day, and he’s swinging the bat really well.”

Senzel’s pending return will leave the Nationals to decide whether rookie Trey Lipscomb will remain on the big league roster – either at third base or second base or some combination of the two – or if he’ll be sent back to Triple-A Rochester, where he was supposed to begin the season. After beginning his career 5-for-11 with a homer and a walk, Lipscomb has gone 1-for-18 with five strikeouts.

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