Cruz scratched from lineup with illness, plus other notes

MIAMI – The Nationals will be without designated hitter Nelson Cruz for Monday’s series opener against the Marlins.

Originally slated to bat fourth in his usual DH role, Cruz was scratched just under two hours before the scheduled first pitch to start this three-game set in Miami. Yadiel Hernandez will now bat cleanup as the designated hitter, with Lane Thomas sliding into left field and batting seventh.

Cruz was seen earlier today in the Nationals clubhouse before the team took the field for pregame warmups. He was wearing a mask as he gathered his things and left the clubhouse shortly before the media spoke to manager Davey Martinez.

“Yeah, we might have a lineup change,” Martinez said when asked about Cruz’s sudden departure. “He didn't feel too good. I didn't want him around the other boys. So I'm going to talk to our trainers after this and we'll figure out what's going on.”

Whether Cruz was wearing a mask for precautionary reasons or it was deemed that he had to remains unclear. No other players, coaches or staff members were seen wearing masks.

The slugger is still trying to find his swing after a slow start to the season. He slashed .155/.253/.226 with a .479 OPS, two home runs and 11 RBIs over 22 games in April. But he was slashing .275/.333/.450 with a .783 OPS, two homers and nine RBIs over his first 11 games in May, and he could have taken advantage of the controlled elements inside the roofed loanDepot Park.

This is the second time Cruz has been scratched from a starting lineup this season. He was also removed from the lineup before a game against the Braves in Atlanta on April 12 with groin tightness. That only caused him to miss one game, however, as he was back in there the following day.

* Aaron Sanchez is set to take the mound tonight after one of his stronger performances as a National, when he held the Mets to three runs on six hits with no walks over 5 1/3 innings Wednesday.

But Sanchez was forced to leave that game earlier than he would have liked after he was hit by a comebacker from Pete Alonso near his left wrist. He’s been dealing with a slight bone bruise, but Martinez said his starter is good to go

“He's good. And I expect him to go out and compete like he has been,” said Martinez. “The key for him is throwing strikes, keeping the ball down. He's really good when he's down. Breaking ball's been really good as well. So he's good. We're gonna get some ground balls, got to play good defense behind him.”

* Gerardo Parra officially announced his retirement today on his Instagram page, while also confirming he will be taking on a new role within the Nationals organization. News of his move into the front office as a special assistant to general manager Mike Rizzo was reported last week.

Parra re-signed with the Nationals on a minor league contract with an invitation to major league spring training during the offseason. But when he didn't make the opening day roster, he was given the option to report to Triple-A Rochester, although he ultimately chose not to continue playing.

Martinez is happy to keep Parra within the organization and have his influence on some of the younger players in the minor league system.

“As you know, he works for our organization. So I'm hoping to see him today,” said Martinez. “I talked to him this morning, he said he might stop by today. I love the guy, there's no surprise about that. But I think he's going to help our young players right now in the minor leagues. He's gonna go around and talk to those guys and work with them. But he's a great addition to this organization.”

Of course, Parra was a beloved member of the 2019 World Series championship team, known for his antics in the dugout, dancing and singing in the clubhouse, and “Baby Shark” walkup song. It’s that enthusiasm the Nationals hope he passes along to some of their younger prospects, including the young Latin players.

“I think right now, whatever he's comfortable doing, we're gonna allow him to do,” Martinez said of Parra’s role. “But I want him to be visible for everyone. And I want to work with everyone. I mean, we got some pretty big young players down there, especially at the lower levels, that I want him to really work with and just give some knowledge about the game. And he's really good at that. So I'm excited that he's with us. And like I said, I hope that he said he's gonna show up today. We'll see. But I hope to see him.”

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