Dickerson comes off IL, Alu optioned back to Rochester

The Nationals entered the season planning to utilize Corey Dickerson as their starting left fielder, certainly against opposing right-handers. More than six weeks later, they’ll finally be able to implement that plan.

Dickerson was activated off the 10-day injured list this afternoon, and though he’s not in the lineup for the team’s series finale against the Mets, he is eligible to play for the first time since straining his left calf on April 1. Utility man Jake Alu was optioned to Triple-A Rochester to clear a spot on the active roster.

Dickerson hurt himself in the season’s second game, his first start after signing a $2.25 million contract with the Nationals over the winter. The veteran outfielder, who turns 34 next week, spent more than a month rehabbing the injury, then departed Friday for a quick rehab assignment in Rochester, where he went 2-for-10 with a double, a walk and four strikeouts over three games.

Owner of a career .287/.331/.504 offensive slash line against right-handed pitching – those numbers have dropped a bit to .280/.326/.418 over the last three seasons – Dickerson will get a chance to be the player the Nats believed they were getting all along when they signed him.

“What I’ve known of him, he’s such a streaky hitter that he can go on a roll where he can hit in the middle of the lineup, or even the top of the lineup,” manager Davey Martinez said. “I’ve seen him work unbelievable at-bats, 10-, 12-pitch at-bats, and then rocket a ball to left field. He also has a little juice. Right now, having his bat against right-handed pitching is very nice.”

Opportunities won’t regularly come against left-handers for now, given Dickerson’s .259/.299/.394 career slash line (.192/.243/.320 over the last three seasons). Martinez said Stone Garrett will continue to start those games, including today’s against Mets lefty David Peterson. (Garrett has a 1.030 OPS in 25 plate appearances vs. lefties this season, .517 in 46 vs. righties.)

Garrett was originally the call-up for Dickerson when the latter went on the injured list early last month. Alu was the choice to be sent down today upon Dickerson’s return, a reflection of the lack of the playing opportunities the rookie would receive if he stayed, given the logjam in left field and in the infield.

Alu, who was called up last week when center fielder Victor Robles went on the IL with back spasms, went 1-for-9 with one walk and three strikeouts in the first three games of his big league career.

“Jake’s going to be fine,” Martinez said. “He plays with a lot of energy, a lot of heart. I told him: ‘You got your feet wet. Go down there and knock the door down. Be a professional, what we’re looking for. Take reps everywhere. … Get ready for your next stint up here.’”

* Chad Kuhl threw 65 pitches over four innings in a simulated game this afternoon, the right-hander’s latest step toward a return from a left foot injury.

“He threw the ball very well,” Martinez said. “Very sharp. Changeup, slider, really sharp. Located his fastball well.”

Kuhl struggled in five starts to begin the season before getting hurt, going 0-2 with a 9.41 ERA and 1.955 WHIP. It remains to be seen if the Nats will simply plug him back into the rotation for Jake Irvin when he’s healthy, or if they’ll find an alternate approach.

“We’ll see how he feels tomorrow,” Martinez said. “And then it’s going to be two or three days until I sit down and talk to (general manager Mike Rizzo) and see what we want to do next.”

* Carter Kieboom, only days after officially coming off the IL at Triple-A, has been shut down again with an injury. The 25-year-old third baseman, who just finally returned from the Tommy John surgery that knocked him out the entire 2022 season, is now dealing with a lat issue, according to Martinez.

Martinez added that Kieboom was due to undergo an MRI on the lat, but he wasn’t aware of any results of that test yet. Kieboom had gotten off to a good start in Rochester, going 4-for-9 with a double and a homer. He hasn’t played in five days, though.

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Dickerson activated, Alu optioned

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