Candelario returns to lineup, Dickerson on rehab assignment

The Nationals have returned home from a six-game West Coast road trip and received good news on the injury front after yesterday’s off-day.

Jeimer Candelario, dealing with a right ankle issue, is back in the starting lineup for tonight’s series opener against the Mets, batting sixth and playing third base. He had left Wednesday’s win against the Giants after sliding awkwardly into second base and having his right foot get caught in the dirt, twisting his ankle. After the game, he was seen with the ankle wrapped up, and manager Davey Martinez said the Nats would have to wait until today to see how he felt.

Today’s report, obviously, came back positive.

“He just slid and fell funny on it,” Martinez said during his pregame media session at Nationals Park. “It was kind of sore, but he said he feels good today. ... Everything's good.”

The Nats do have plenty of backup options just in case Candelario needed an extra day of rest. Ildemaro Vargas, Michael Chavis and Jake Alu all have experience playing third base.

But fortunately, the ankle injury wasn’t too serious and the switch-hitter can return to the lineup. Candelario is tied for the team lead with four home runs and leads the Nats with eight doubles and 12 extra-base hits while playing a smooth hot corner.

The Nationals also got some good news on another banged-up position player they signed over the offseason. Triple-A Rochester announced earlier today that Corey Dickerson has officially joined the team for a rehab assignment while he continues to rebound from a left calf strain.

“Corey Dickerson is out (on a rehab assignment),” Martinez said. “He's going to play tonight at Rochester. Hopefully, he'll play six or seven innings. If that goes well, he'll DH tomorrow. If that goes well, he'll play the field again on Sunday. And then we'll re-evaluate where he's at.”

Dickerson has been out since April 1 with his calf strain, appearing in just the first two games of the season. He made a pinch-hit appearance in the eighth inning on Opening Day and finished the game in left field, then started the second game in left but departed in the eighth with the injury.

The Nats have been working on running and agility work with him. Even though he has now been cleared to play in games, they are still going to ease the 33-year-old into his rehab assignment.

During Dickerson’s absence, the Nationals have had plenty of outfield depth to cover all three spots. Alex Call and Lane Thomas have been regular starters, along with Victor Robles, who landed on the 10-day injured list on Monday with back spasms. Stone Garrett and even Vargas and Alu (who is starting in left tonight) have brought added depth to the outfield.

Other injury updates from Martinez include:

* Sean Doolittle (recovery from elbow procedure) is throwing one inning today, and if everything goes well, he’ll throw again on Monday and Wednesday.

* Chad Kuhl (right foot metatarsalgia) will throw another sim game in the coming days and will try to get five ups.

* Robles (back spasms) is still getting treatment, doing a lot of core stability work to try to get the pain to subside a little bit.

* Victor Arano (right shoulder strain) threw 20 fastballs in a bullpen session on Wednesday and will throw another one on Saturday.

* Israel Pineda (right finger fracture) is still catching games and has started hitting live batting practice.

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Game 38 lineups: Nats vs. Mets

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