Nats will keep piecing together lineup while waiting for "cavalry"

As he tried to put Bryce Harper's knee injury into context with the rest of the ailments that have been suffered by the Nationals this summer, Mike Rizzo managed to crack a quick smile with one line.

"We've got some significant WAR on the disabled list right now," the general manager said. "And we're still playing extremely well."

Indeed, the Nationals already had Trea Turner, Adam Eaton, Jayson Werth, Michael A. Taylor, Stephen Strasburg, Joe Ross, Stephen Drew, Shawn Kelley and Koda Glover on the DL before Harper slipped on first base and tumbled to the ground in a heap Saturday night.

Harper, as we now know, did not suffer any ligament or tendon damage and hopes to return this season. And Taylor is now back on the active roster, taking Harper's spot. But the Nationals nonetheless head into the season's final seven weeks nowhere close to 100 percent healthy.

Rizzo-Points-Presser-Sidebar.jpgThey won't enter the postseason - let's go under the assumption they don't blow a 14-game lead in seven weeks - 100 percent healthy, either, but they do expect reinforcements to arrive in stages through the remainder of August and September.

Strasburg (nerve impingement in his elbow) makes a rehab start tonight for Single-A Potomac; if all goes well, he could come off the DL and start Saturday in San Diego.

Werth (bone bruise in left foot) and Turner (fractured right wrist) are nearly ready to begin rehab assignments that would have them back in the big leagues within the next two weeks.

The timetables for the others remain unclear, but there remains optimism that this roster will be healthier at the end than it has been in the middle.

"It could be like getting a whole new fresh team down the stretch if things go right," manager Dusty Baker said. "I just believe in the bottom of my heart that some of this is already written, that some of these guys are going to show up like the cavalry down the stretch."

There's a potential benefit to that beyond the obvious, Baker believes.

"Hopefully they'll be fresh playing once the postseason starts," the manager said. "That's big. Miles on your body, you don't get them back. At the end of the season, you're tired. Everybody's tired. I'm hoping we'll be fresher than most."

In the meantime, the Nationals do need to piece together their lineups on a nightly basis, particularly their outfield. Taylor's return to center field helps, allowing Baker to consider Brian Goodwin as Harper's replacement in right field (though Goodwin was dealing with groin tightness during Sunday's doubleheader and couldn't play in the nightcap).

The Nationals can continue to turn to a combination of Howie Kendrick and Adam Lind in left field until Werth returns. The decision Baker will have to make at some point in the near future: Should Werth go back to his old stomping grounds in right field to allow Kendrick and Lind's bats to stay in the lineup, or should he stay in left and make Goodwin the regular right fielder until Harper returns?

"We've got a good group of guys out there," said Rizzo, who has employed 12 different outfielders this season. "The outfield depth is our strength."

Tuesday morning Nats Q&A
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