Cruz sitting, Fedde progressing, Clippard close to returning

CHICAGO – Nelson Cruz is out of the Nationals lineup for today’s series finale against the Cubs, less than 24 hours after the veteran designated hitter had to come out of a game with a sore right shoulder.

Cruz took only two at-bats during Tuesday night’s 6-5 win over the Cubs, flying out to left in the top of the first and then striking out in the top of the fourth. As he watched those at-bats, manager Davey Martinez noticed the 42-year-old didn’t look comfortable swinging, so when his turn to bat came up again in the fifth, Maikel Franco pinch-hit for him.

Martinez described the soreness as emanating from the back of Cruz’s shoulder. He figured all along he’d sit Cruz for this afternoon’s series finale, though he got encouraging news this morning to suggest he could be able to pinch-hit at some point during the game.

“Especially with the quick turnaround,” Martinez said of the decision not to start Cruz today. “We played last night, and he had to come out of the game. I thought regardless of how he felt, maybe to give him a day (off) today would be good. I talked to him this morning and he said: ‘Let me get loose, let me get ready and I’ll be available to pinch-hit later.’ ”

Cruz had been hitting the ball a bit better of late, going 8-for-29 with two RBIs and three walks during an eight-game stretch prior to Tuesday. He continues not to hit for power, though, having produced a scant .225 slugging percentage over his last 31 games, with three doubles and zero homers since June 25.

Widely expected to be dealt before last week’s trade deadline, Cruz remains with the Nationals, who did not receive nearly as much interest in the veteran as they hoped they would when they initially signed him this spring for a guaranteed $15 million.

* Erick Fedde could be back in the Nationals rotation late next week if things continue to progress with his rehab from shoulder inflammation.

The right-hander, who went on the 15-day injured list July 30 (retroactive to July 27) with shoulder inflammation, threw an extended bullpen session Tuesday. He’s now scheduled to pitch at least three innings in a simulated game Friday at Nationals Park.

It’s possible that could be deemed enough prep for Fedde to come off the IL and start for the Nats five days later.

“Maybe we could pop him right back into the rotation,” Martinez said. “But it all depends on how he feels.”

* The Nationals will have at least one new face in their bullpen Friday, possibly more than one.

Jake McGee, who was claimed off waivers from the Brewers on Tuesday, is scheduled to meet the team in D.C. and be added to the active roster for the series opener against the Padres. The 36-year-old would become the team’s lone left-handed reliever.

The Nats also should be close to getting Tyler Clippard back from the 15-day IL with a groin strain. The veteran right-hander has made three rehab appearances for Triple-A Rochester, including two scoreless innings Tuesday night.

The club will use Thursday’s off-day to make decisions on what changes they want to make for the weekend series.

“I know we’ve got a day, it’ll give us time to reset our bullpen a little bit,” Martinez said. “We’ll have to make some moves. We’re undecided what we want to do yet. We’ll see how today goes.”

The Nationals don’t expect to have Will Harris back from the IL in the immediate future, though. The veteran right-hander, who has yet to make his 2022 debut following last summer’s thoracic outlet surgery and a follow-up procedure this spring, had been on a rehab assignment at Rochester but has been slowed down in recent days by a groin issue.

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