Strange-Gordon gets first start at shortstop for Nats

ANAHEIM, Calif. – Dee Strange-Gordon made the Nationals’ opening day roster because of his ability to get on base, his ability to wreak havoc once he’s on base and his ability to play a multitude of positions.

Tonight, Strange-Gordon is needed most at a new position. With struggling starter Alcides Escobar sitting on the bench, he finds himself in the lineup and at shortstop for the first time this season.

“I wanted to get him in there,” manager Davey Martinez said. “It’s been a good matchup for him. He’s been taking a lot of ground balls. On his rehab assignment, we had him play shortstop and he looked good. So I wanted to get him out there today.”

Strange-Gordon hasn’t played shortstop yet for the Nationals, but as Martinez noted, he did make several appearances there during his rehab stint with Triple-A Rochester while recovering from the undisclosed illness that left him on the injury list for 2 1/2 weeks.

The 34-year-old does have considerable experience at shortstop during his career, having first come up with the Dodgers at that position before shifting to second base and more recently learning his trade in the outfield.

Strange-Gordon also is one of the only current Nationals with more than token prior experience facing Angels starter Michael Lorenzen, having gone 5-for-10 against the right-hander while he was a reliever with the Reds.

“We look at everything,” Martinez said. “What he’s done matchup-wise, but also his swing path, the way Lorenzen throws the ball. Today, I wanted to get him out there and keep him involved. He gets a chance to play shortstop for us today.”

Martinez also revealed another position he believes Strange-Gordon could play, though he hopes never to have to resort to it. The Pirates today were forced to use infielder Josh VanMeter behind the plate in their loss to the Reds after one of their regular catchers was ejected and the other was injured.

That prompted the question to be posed to Martinez: Who’s his emergency catcher? The manager didn’t hesitate to say Strange-Gordon, adding he would also check if outfielder Yadiel Hernandez could handle it.

The 166-pound Strange-Gordon, of course, has never actually caught in his life. And when informed today by reporters what Martinez said about him, he lowered his sunglasses and stared silently back for several seconds before breaking out in laughter.

Anthony Rendon isn’t the only member of the 2019 Nationals facing his old team this weekend for the Angels. Kurt Suzuki caught Friday night’s series opener, helping guide five pitchers to a four-hit shutout.

Suzuki, though, won’t be appearing anymore in this series. The Angels placed him on the IL today with an undisclosed illness.

One of the players the Angels added to their roster, though, has D.C. connections: Kyle Barraclough. The veteran reliever had his contract purchased from Triple-A Salt Lake City and will be available to pitch tonight.

Barraclough was supposed to be one of the Nats’ primary setup men (with Trevor Rosenthal) in 2019 but was released after posting a 6.66 ERA in 33 games. He wound up appearing in 10 games for the Giants later that season, then 10 games for the Twins last year before signing a minor league deal with the Angels.

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