Howie Kendrick has been on the injured list since Sept. 9 with a left hamstring strain. In the last week, Nationals manager Davey Martinez said the first baseman/designated hitter was looking like he might be able to return before the season finished up this weekend.
But in a visit with Kendrick yesterday, Martinez got a new report.
"I talked to Howie yesterday and he ran again," Martinez said during today's pregame Zoom video session. "He's at basically a stalemate right now. He gets to a certain point and he can't really get to the next level. I told him we are just going to take it easy. He's trying to come back. He's trying to play. But I just don't want him to go home with this thing getting worse. I want him to feel good about himself so we will see where we are at."
Kendrick is now hoping he could make one last appearance before the end of the season. But Martinez is being cautious.
"He's definitely pushing to come back and DH one game or play or do something," Martinez said. "We will see how he feels in the next couple days. He just gets to a certain point and he can't get over that hump right now."
Earlier this season, Kendrick joked that his kids told him he couldn't retire because they wanted a chance to mess around and hang out in the Nats clubhouse before and after games. As a former player, Martinez understands how important listening to your body is and how listening to your family weighs on a player as he reaches the twilight of his career.
Kendrick is 37 and has played Major League Baseball for 15 seasons. Martinez retired after 16 seasons at 36.
"For me, I didn't want to stop," Martinez said. "I was hoping to push the envelope and play 'til I was 40. I fell a little bit short. My kids were the same way. They lived at the ballpark with me. But for Howie, I love his boys. His boys are always welcome here. They are fun to watch. They bring that little energy and they are little scrappy little boys, too. They fit right in here.
"Yeah, he's got big decisions to make, but I know with Howie, family is always first with him. That's one of the toughest things about this year guys like him, guys like Adam Eaton, Daniel Hudson, a lot of these guys, they didn't have their family here. They haven't seen their family in three or four months. I feel for them. I know what they are going through. I always tell Howie, 'I'd love to have you back. I'd love to have your kids back, so don't worry about that. They can always come. If you need a babysitter, I'm here for you. Bring them back.' "
With the season winding down, you get the sense that not only does Kendrick have a big decision coming up but Martinez and general manager Mike Rizzo also have a lot of big decisions to make on a roster filled with veterans whose contracts are set to expire.
The bottom line for the skipper as it relates to Kendrick is to get his veteran hitter healthy. Because Martinez knows a healthy Kendrick is of extreme value to his club, on offense and defense.
"We are worried about the hamstring issue," Martinez said. "I am going to talk to him and see what his thoughts are. I've talked to him once before and he wants to play again, but he wants to be healthy. Right now, I just want him to feel good about leaving here and knowing what he needs to do when he gets back home. That's my biggest concern.
"A healthy Howie, obviously you know what he can do. He can hit. He's actually done really well at first base for us. I don't know what is going to happen with the DH next year, so if we do have a DH, Howie would be quite interesting in that role."
* Martinez said third baseman Carter Kieboom is doing better today after getting hit on the left hand by a Zack Wheeler fastball last night and suffering a bone contusion.
"He's a little sore, but he's going to be fine," Martinez said. "He's got a contusion. He got hit pretty hard. The good news it kind hit him in the meaty part of his hand, so there was no break. Nothing. The X-rays were clean. He's going to try to swing later on. As soon as he is ready, he will be back in there."
Would it be better to shut him down and play it safe with just six games left on the schedule?
"We will take it day by day," Martinez said. "He definitely wants to be out there. He wants to play. So if we deem he can play, yeah, we will put him back out there and let him finish up and play."