Hassell has groin strain but not expected to miss much time

JUPITER, Fla. – Robert Hassell III is likely to open the season on the injured list after an MRI revealed a strain of his groin, but it doesn’t appear the Nationals outfield prospect will miss significant time.

Hassell injured himself March 8, able to play only one inning in the field, pulled before he could take an at-bat. He has been sidelined since, getting the MRI on Tuesday.

Manager Davey Martinez didn’t want to suggest a timetable for Hassell to return but acknowledged the 22-year-old will need to miss “a little time.”

“But he feels good,” Martinez added. “He’s going to just do some strengthening stuff, and hopefully we get him ready as soon as possible.”

The strain does not appear to be serious, because Hassell hasn’t been shut down altogether. He played catch Tuesday in West Palm Beach and was scheduled to hit off a tee today.

“We don’t want to put a timetable on it, because he is feeling good, and his strength is pretty good,” Martinez said. “They’re going to continue to push him and see where he’s at.”

Hassell wasn’t likely to make the Opening Day roster, but he made a strong impression on club officials this spring, perhaps regaining the status he held as one of the organization’s top prospects before a difficult 2023 season that saw him produce a disappointing .645 OPS at Single-A Fredericksburg and Double-A Harrisburg while still recovering from a wrist injury suffered the previous fall.

Healthy again this spring, Hassell hit .357 (5-for-14) with three extra-base hits, three RBIs, two walks and two stolen bases in Grapefruit League play.

“He swung the bat really well,” Martinez said. “I think he’s one of our better defenders out there at all three outfield positions. But he can put a jolt in the ball, especially to left field, left-center field. He’s worked on some things. We talked to him about being a little shorter (with his swing). He did that, and his swing looked really good. My plan is to talk to him, tell him don’t change anything, stay right there. And when you’re ready, get off to a good start.”

* While Jake Irvin starts this afternoon’s game against the Marlins, Josiah Gray will be back in West Palm Beach pitching in a minor league game that will include a number of major league players.

Gray has made three Grapefruit League starts this spring, impressing in his first two but struggling last week against the Cardinals. The Nationals decided to have him work some things out in a minor league game today, hoping to get him up to five innings and 75 pitches.

Though it’s officially a minor league game, Gray will be facing a lineup that includes several of his major league teammates. With most of those guys given the day off after playing Tuesday night, the position players who didn’t make the trip to Jupiter will instead take at-bats in the minor league game, facing a major league pitcher as it turns out.

“It gives them a little breather,” Martinez said. “They’re still competing, but we want them to just focus on what they’re working on without the stress of putting them in a game. We can stop them. We can pull them off if we need to. But they get their work in. It’s nice that we’re able to do that.”

* Daylen Lile has resumed some baseball activities a week and a half after injuring his lower back trying to make a leaping catch over the short fence at Red Sox camp in Fort Myers.

Lile, an outfield prospect in minor league camp who was called up for that one day to come off the bench in a Grapefruit League game, flipped over the wall on the first batter after he entered the game and landed hard on his back on an area of concrete that sits behind the wall in part of the Boston bullpen. After a delay of more than 10 minutes, he was removed from the field on a stretcher and taken to a local hospital.

CT scans came back clean, though, and the Nationals breathed a sigh of relief that Lile had not suffered a serious injury. He returned to West Palm Beach the following day and after resting for a while has been cleared to start working out again. Martinez said he has been running, working in the outfield and hitting in the cage, though he has not yet been cleared to play in games.

“I talked to him a few days ago, and he said he’s feeling a lot better,” Martinez said. “So that’s great.”

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