Candelario hoping thumb heals in time to play tonight

ST. LOUIS – Jeimer Candelario can’t return to play in this afternoon’s resumption of Friday night’s suspended game. The Nationals can only hope their starting third baseman’s right thumb heals enough to allow him to play this evening’s nightcap.

Candelario, who had to depart Friday’s game after one at-bat in the top of the first, was still dealing with swelling in his thumb this morning. Manager Davey Martinez described the injury as a bone bruise.

“I just talked to him; he’s pretty sore still,” Martinez said this morning. “We’ll get him treatment today, see how he feels the rest of the day, see what happens the second game.”

Candelario hurt himself during a defensive drill Friday afternoon but felt like he could play the second-half opener. He wound up fouling off three straight pitches during his first-inning at-bat against Cardinals starter Miles Mikolas, shaking his right hand in discomfort each time. When he finally struck out with an awkward swing on the ninth pitch of the at-bat, he jogged back to the dugout and was replaced in the field by Ildemaro Vargas when the bottom of the first began.

Vargas will be at third base when the game resumes this afternoon and could start the nightcap if Candelario isn’t available. The Nationals also could use utilityman Michael Chavis if needed. They’re allowed to call up a 27th player for the game; that move won’t be announced until later this afternoon, but Triple-A infielder Jake Alu is a possibility.

Candelario was distressed about leaving Friday’s game, frustrated this would happen to him coming right out of the All-Star break. The 29-year-old has played in 85 of the team’s first 90 games and doesn’t like sitting, no matter the circumstances.

“He loves playing,” Martinez said. “He doesn’t even like, if I have to take him out because we’re winning by a lot or losing by a lot, he always tells me to leave him in the game. He doesn’t like coming out. But you love guys like that. Him coming out of the game yesterday, he was really frustrated. He came in today and goes: ‘Man, I don’t know what to tell you. I’m going to try to get ready to play the second game.’ I said: ‘Just do the best you can. Let me know later on.’ Hopefully it will feel a lot better.”

The matter, of course, is complicated by the looming presence of the trade deadline in 17 days. Candelario, who leads all National League third basemen in fWAR and is on a one-year, $5 million contract, is the Nationals’ best trade chip. If he ends up missing any length of time over the next two weeks, his value could drop in the eyes of potential suitors.

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