Madson returns to roster, Goodwin appears to be next up

ATLANTA - The Nationals are getting the first of their key injured players back tonight, with Ryan Madson activated off the disabled list. And more appear to be coming, with Brian Goodwin likely joining the club this weekend and Daniel Murphy and Matt Grace not too far behind.

Madson was added back to the active roster in time for tonight's opener against the Braves, the strained right pectoral muscle that sidelined him for two weeks having healed.

Madson-Throws-Red-Sidebar.jpgThe veteran setup man was able to make it back without going on a rehab assignment, instead convincing team officials he was good to go after two bullpen sessions during which his fastball reached 97-99 mph.

"I told them I was ready after the first one," he said. "But they're smarter. So the second one was just, I guess, for show more than myself."

Manager Davey Martinez plans to throw Madson right into the fire, probably at some point tonight, as Sean Doolittle figures to get the game off after recording saves the previous two nights in Baltimore. Martinez admitted, though, that he'll be a bit more cautious about his usage of Madson, who pitched in 21 of the Nationals' first 42 games before landing on the disabled list.

"We have to be real careful," Martinez said. "Here's a guy that wants to pitch. Every time that he's available, he wants to go out there. But I've got to be a little bit smarter with him and tell him: 'Hey, I know you feel like you're available, but let's give you that extra day and then really be good to go the next day.'"

Madson will do what Martinez and pitching coach Derek Lilliquist ask of him, but the 37-year-old reliever insists he's fine after that brief hiccup and doesn't intend to take it any easier than he would have before he got hurt.

"I don't know how they're going to approach it as far as usage, back-to-back, three in a row, what's off limits, but I can't tune it down at all," Madson said. "I can't trust not throwing close to 100 percent. Under control, but it's going to be max effort."

To make room for Madson on the active roster, the Nationals optioned fellow reliever Trevor Gott to Triple-A Syracuse. Though the right-hander had been getting more opportunities to pitch in high-leverage spots in recent weeks, his 5.28 ERA in 17 appearances - and especially the fact that he still has minor league options - made him the choice for a demotion right now.

The club will face more decisions in the coming days as the other injured players come back. First on that list appears to be Goodwin, who was off today after playing in four rehab games for Double-A Harrisburg, during which time he has gone 3-for-15 with a homer, three walks and a stolen base.

Martinez, who described Goodwin (out since April 11 with a bruised left wrist) as being "really, really close," suggested the Nationals could activate him before the end of this weekend's series.

"Yeah, we just want to make sure that he doesn't have any setbacks," the manager said.

Goodwin has been joined in Harrisburg by Murphy, who likewise was off today after playing in four games for the Senators. The veteran second baseman, still waiting to make his 2018 debut following microfracture surgery on his right knee in October, is 4-for-17 with a homer and six RBIs. For now, he'll remain on the rehab assignment.

"Murphy's going to continue to play," Martinez said.

Grace, meanwhile, pitched a scoreless inning of relief Wednesday night for Harrisburg, his second such appearance on his current rehab stint for a groin strain. Martinez said the left-hander will have two days off and then the club will make a decision about the next step.

"We just want to make sure he's good to go," the manager said of Grace, who is out of options.

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