KANSAS CITY - The Nationals are getting their leadoff man back at last. Now they hope he helps complete a lineup that has sorely missed him for the last month.
Ben Revere has completed his rehab assignment with Triple-A Syracuse and will meet the Nationals in Chicago tonight, manager Dusty Baker said. The club won't decide for sure when to activate the center fielder off the disabled until he is checked out in person, but there's a good chance he'll be in the lineup for Thursday night's series opener against the Cubs at Wrigley Field.
"We'll lay eyes on him tomorrow, unless we see him at the hotel tonight, and we'll figure out when we're going to activate him," Baker said.
Revere, who strained his right oblique muscle on his first swing of the season on opening day in Atlanta, played five games with Syracuse over the last week, including all nine innings Tuesday night in center field. He went 3-for-16 with an RBI, a walk and a stolen base.
Now the Nationals will hope the 28-year-old can step right in and make a difference despite minimal game action.
"Not to put pressure on Ben, but we hope he's not spring training-type of ready," Baker said. "We need him to be able to come in and hopefully be ready to play like he can play. We think we gave him ample time to get some ABs down there, but you don't know. You never know. Hopefully we can come in and just do his thing."
Acquired over the winter from the Blue Jays for reliever Drew Storen, Revere was supposed to be a key cog atop the Nationals lineup. In his absence, Nats leadoff hitters have posted a combined .181 batting average and team-worst .220 on-base percentage.
"He's our igniter," Baker said of Revere. "That's why we brought him here. We brought him here as a leadoff man to start our engine. We've been mixing and matching at leadoff, but none of them have the experience and the knowledge and also the track record that Ben Revere has. He's going to add another dimension to our team and our offense along with what we've going on right now."
Whenever Revere does return, the Nationals must decide a corresponding roster move. Matt den Dekker was called up to replace him when he was injured and has gone 6-for-30 with a homer, four RBIs and a .606 OPS. Michael A. Taylor, initially projected to serve as the club's fourth outfielder but pressed into everyday duty for the last month, is hitting .185 with three homers, four RBIs, a team-high 30 strikeouts and a .528 OPS.
"We've got a tough decision," Baker said. "Somebody has to go out, and it's going to be a tough decision no matter who it is. It's not going to be a popular decision, probably, in the clubhouse. It's not going to be a popular decision with us. Or with me, cause I'm going to have to be the one to tell whoever that person is. That's the worst part of this job."