ATLANTA - The Nationals managed to stay remarkably healthy all spring, offering a glimmer of hope they would enjoy some better fortune this season than the last two. But that good luck didn't even last one batter into the 2016 campaign.
The club was forced to place Ben Revere on the 15-day disabled list this afternoon with a right oblique strain, an injury the new leadoff man and center fielder suffered on his very first swing in the top of the first inning during Monday's opener at Turner Field.
Outfielder Matt den Dekker, who was among the final players demoted before opening day, has been recalled from Triple-A Syracuse before ever playing a game there and should be available off the bench at some point during tonight's game against the Braves.
Revere was hopeful after Monday's game he wouldn't need to sit out more than a couple of games, but his right side felt worse even after treatment he received during Tuesday's off-day for the club. The Nationals didn't think they could take the chance of waiting for him to heal within days, so they made the move to place him on the DL, retroactive to Monday.
"We just didn't think we could go short (handed) for a long period of time," manager Dusty Baker said. "And it didn't appear he was going to be able to play within a week. He was having trouble sneezing, rolling over, just regular stuff that's in your core. You don't realize how important and how involved your core is until you hurt it."
Though Revere hurt himself on his first swing in the top of the first, he remained in the game and took one more at-bat, grounding out in the top of the third. He notified Nationals trainers of the ailment the following inning and was replaced in center field by Michael A. Taylor in the bottom of the fourth.
"We've been pretty fortunate," Baker said. "This is our first injury of the spring, or whatever. It's unfortunate this happened. But I would rather have it happen now than in the middle of the season or toward the end of the season."
Baker also feels fortunate to have Taylor ready to step in to replace Revere as his center fielder and leadoff man. The 24-year-old turned heads all spring, carrying a .500 batting average into the final week of Grapefruit League play. Initially, the Nationals were going to be facing a challenge trying to find at-bats for Taylor as their fourth outfielder. Now he'll find himself in the daily lineup for at least the next two weeks.
"You guys were wondering when Michael's going to play, or how much he's going to play," Baker said with a smile. "I'm just glad we have Michael."
Baker admitted he doesn't view Taylor as an ideal leadoff man, but that's where the free-swinger will hit for now so as not to disrupt the rest of the Nationals lineup.
"I actually see Michael as a sixth- or seventh-place hitter," Baker said. "But I called Michael in today and I said: 'Hey, man, see how many times you can get on base and start off the game. Your job now is to get on base, whether you bunt, whether you hit.' And Michael has the ability to lead us off 1-0, too."
den Dekker was en route to Atlanta late this afternoon. Baker jokingly said he hopes the outfielder "might be here in the eighth or ninth to win it."
"He probably didn't anticipate the call," the manager said. "But I said it was going to take the whole organization to win this thing, and I'm glad we have the depth that we have. We've got to keep on stepping, even though we're going to miss Ben big time. We're just going to have to mix and match as we see fit until Ben gets back."