García returns to Nats lineup, Thomas hopes to be back soon

PHILADELPHIA – A Nationals lineup struggling mightily to score runs right now will gladly take back any semi-productive hitter it can get. So the return of Luis García Jr. today after a two-day absence – even if only for DH duties – was welcome news for Davey Martinez.

“He’s going to DH; I’m trying to make it a little lighter,” the manager said. “But we need his bat in the lineup. So it’s nice that he feels better.”

García has been, statistically speaking, the Nationals’ second-most productive regular this season, his 125 OPS+ ranking behind only CJ Abrams’ 139 mark. (Ildemaro Vargas, who has been getting more playing time recently, outpaces them both at 152.)

The club’s regular second baseman, García hurt his right heel running out a ground ball Wednesday in Chicago, feeling the spike press up through the sole of his shoe. He was initially in Friday’s lineup but was scratched after trying to take swings. He was again out of the lineup Saturday, and wasn’t used off the bench late during the 10-inning loss to the Phillies.

“He wasn’t 100 percent,” Martinez said. “I saw him down there, and he had one spike on and one tennis shoe on. So that indicated he was still behind. He said he felt better this morning, was going to get treatment again, go hit and he said he should be OK.”

García is batting cleanup today, behind Abrams, Vargas and Eddie Rosario. The Nats have been using a different lineup nearly every day, a less-than-ideal scenario but one that has become necessary with so many players struggling, forcing Martinez to look for whatever he believes are the best matchups on a given day.

“It’s been a little tough, because you can’t run the same guys out there in the same spots,” he said. “I’m trying to make some things happen. I’m trying to put guys up there who are swinging the bat well. I’m trying to protect CJ a little bit up at the top. A lot goes on.

“We sit down after every game, me and (bench coach Miguel Cairo). We talk about some different things, what we want to do, and how he want to attack the starting pitcher. I always say the thing is to try to beat the starting pitcher, and then go from there. That’s our objective every day: To go out there and try to score some runs early, beat the starter, get him out of there and get to the bullpen.”

* The Nationals hope to have one of their best bats back in the lineup within the next week: Lane Thomas.

Thomas, out since April 23 with an MCL sprain in his left knee, completed what should be his final workout drill before he’s game-ready this morning, running from first to third and sliding into the bag with no apparent issues. He’s been taking batting practice and working in the outfield for more than a week.

The team will wait until Monday to make a formal announcement, but barring any setbacks, it appears Thomas will begin a rehab assignment Tuesday with one of the club’s minor league affiliates.

Then the question becomes how long the Nats decide to keep him on rehab, finding the right balance between getting him enough at-bats to feel ready and getting one of their best hitters back in the big league lineup.

“We’re hoping it doesn’t take him long,” Martinez said. “But every day, we’re going to keep an eye on him, watch his at-bats. … If he feels good and he’s ready to go, we’ll get him back as soon as possible. We need him right now. Our offense is struggling to score runs. He definitely can help.”

What did we learn about the Nationals during a 2-7...
Game 45 lineups: Nats at Phillies

By accepting you will be accessing a service provided by a third-party external to