Game 95 lineups: Nats at Cubs

smith ruiz candleario and finnegan

CHICAGO – The Nationals threw the kitchen sink at the Cubs in order to win Monday night’s series opener, with MacKenzie Gore reaching the seventh inning and Mason Thompson and Kyle Finnegan each recording four outs to lock up a 7-5 victory. It’s safe to say they won’t be able to do the same tonight, assuming both Thompson and Finnegan are unavailable.

So if the Nats are in a position to win late, it’ll be fascinating to see who Davey Martinez puts on the mound. He mentioned Jordan Weems, Amos Willingham and lefties Jose A. Ferrer and Joe La Sorsa following Monday’s game. That would be quite a collection of inexperienced late-inning options.

First things first. Patrick Corbin needs to give them a chance to win. The left-hander was great in two of his last four starts (against the Mariners and Rangers) but was hit around in the other two (against the Padres and Reds). Which version of Corbin, who was activated off paternity leave Monday, will show up tonight at Wrigley Field?

With right-hander Jameson Taillon on the mound for the Cubs, it’s the lefty-heavy version of the Nationals lineup taking the field. That means Corey Dickerson starts in left field over Stone Garrett, even though Garrett (.650) at this point actually owns a higher OPS against right-handed pitchers than Dickerson (.619).

Where: Wrigley Field
Gametime: 8:05 p.m. EDT
Radio: 106.7 FM,
Weather: Clear, 72 degrees, wind 8 mph in from right field

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Vargas swinging, Dickerson not running yet, Hernandez released

Ildemaro Vargas throwing gray

One week after landing on the injured list with a left shoulder strain, Ildemaro Vargas was able to begin taking swings, and the Nationals utilityman is aiming for a return next week when the team is in New York.

Vargas jammed his left shoulder April 9 making a diving catch of a sharp grounder in Colorado. He finished out the game but hasn’t played since and was placed on the 10-day IL on April 11.

The 31-year-old was able to begin taking swings in the cage today, though, and he will likely attempt to take a full round of batting practice on the field Wednesday afternoon.

“He actually said he felt really good,” manager Davey Martinez said. “So that’s encouraging. The next step will be to get him on the field.”

Swinging appears to be less of a concern for Vargas than fielding will be. After getting hurt, he mentioned the trouble he had reaching to catch throws and struggling to raise his left arm above his head.

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Dickerson rehabbing with Nats, Doolittle returns to Florida

Corey Dickerson swing cherry blossom

DENVER – Though he made it only two days into the season before landing on the injured list, Corey Dickerson is traveling with the Nationals and hoping his stint off the active roster is a short one.

Dickerson, who suffered a left calf strain Saturday against the Braves and was placed on the 10-day IL the following morning, flew with the Nats to Colorado and will spend this road trip rehabbing. The veteran left fielder is already taking light swings in the cage.

“I wanted him here,” manager Davey Martinez said. “He’s feeling better each and every day, which is a good sign.”

Though he’s able to swing a bat, Dickerson has not tested his leg yet. Martinez said that will probably happen first on an AlterG treadmill, after which a decision will be made if he can progress to the field.

Dickerson technically is eligible to return one week from today. Given how few at-bats he was able to take before suffering the injury, he may need to go on a minor league rehab assignment before coming off the IL.

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Vargas gets nod in left field tonight with Dickerson on IL

vargas swing @ STL gray

The MRI of Corey Dickerson’s left calf showed only a “mild strain,” according to Davey Martinez, and the Nationals manager is hopeful his veteran left fielder’s stint on the 10-day injured list won’t be a long one. History, though, suggests it may be as quick a stint as the club hopes.

Dickerson missed a full month with a calf strain last summer while playing for the Cardinals. That doesn’t necessarily mean this one will take the same amount of time to heal, but the Nats do have a potential road map for his rehab based on what happened last year.

“When I talked to him yesterday, he said he was pretty sore,” Martinez said. “We’ll take it day to day. He’s already started the rehab process, so we’ll see how it goes.”

Signed to a $2.25 million contract over the winter, Dickerson was supposed to be the Nationals’ primary left fielder entering the season. But when Alex Call started Opening Day against Braves ace Max Fried, Martinez revealed he planned to platoon the duo, with Dickerson only playing against right-handers.

The 33-year-old wound up starting only one game before his calf tightened up on him in the seventh inning Saturday afternoon.

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Dickerson goes on IL with calf strain, Garrett recalled

dickerson gray

Though he won’t undergo an MRI until later today, Corey Dickerson was already placed on the 10-day injured list this morning by the Nationals, who couldn’t afford to wait for test results on their veteran left fielder’s left calf.

Needing another healthy outfielder on the active roster for today’s series finale against the Braves, the Nats called up Stone Garrett, who arrived from Triple-A Rochester this morning and reported straight to Nationals Park.

The team is calling Dickerson’s injury a left calf strain for now, pending results of his MRI. The 33-year-old told manager Davey Martinez he first felt tightness as he jogged off the field following the top of the seventh inning of Saturday’s 7-1 loss. Not wanting to take any chances, Martinez had utility man Ildemaro Vargas take over in left field for the final two innings of the game.

“I’d rather it be a shorter stint than try to push it and it becomes a bigger issue,” the manager said.

Dickerson, who signed a one-year, $2.25 million contract with the Nationals this winter, missed one month with a left calf strain last season while playing for the Cardinals.

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With one week to go, Nats still figuring out lineup

Luis Garcia gray with Robles

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – Opening Day is one week away. At this point, we should have a pretty clear idea who’s making the roster, who’s filling what slot in the starting rotation and how the back end of the bullpen is set up.

We should also have a pretty clear idea what the Opening Day lineup is going to look like. Except, when it comes to the Nationals, we don’t.

Davey Martinez hasn’t even offered up that many clues so far this spring. That’s mostly because he had been without a couple of lineup lynchpins in Joey Meneses and Jemier Candelario, who both spent considerable time away from the team while competing in the World Baseball Classic. But it’s also because the Nats manager doesn’t appear to have entirely decided how he wants to arrange his hitters one through nine yet.

“We have so many different options,” Martinez said Wednesday.

There are perhaps two ways to interpret that. The cynic would suggest the manager wouldn’t have so many different options if he merely had a better lineup filled with established major league hitters. The optimist would offer that the Nationals’ plethora of interchangeable parts is a good sign of versatility and a way to show opposing clubs different looks on a daily basis.

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What the Nats' Opening Day lineup might look like

meneses swing white

Though there’s still time for more additions before pitchers and catchers report to West Palm Beach – in a mere five weeks, by the way – the Nationals have now assembled what could be their Opening Day 2023 lineup.

They entered the offseason with three holes to fill: Third base, left field and either first base or designated hitter. In Jeimer Candelario, Corey Dickerson and Dominic Smith, they’re hoping they have adequately addressed those needs while constrained to a very tight budget. Those three free agents have a combined $9.25 million salary for the upcoming season, less than Josh Bell alone made last year.

Will that be enough? We’ll see. The success of the Nationals lineup may have less to do with those players’ performances than the performances of returning regulars Joey Meneses, Keibert Ruiz, CJ Abrams and Luis García.

But this is what Davey Martinez has to work with now. The question is how best to arrange this lineup.

Based on what Martinez did late last season, what he’s said this offseason and what’s now available to him, here’s one possible (probable?) batting order for Opening Day …

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More thoughts on Tuesday's transactions


Corey Dickerson’s major league debut came June 22, 2013, when the then-24-year-old started in right field and batted sixth for the Rockies on a Saturday afternoon in Washington. He doubled twice, helped his team to a 7-1 victory and thought to himself: “This is a nice ballpark.”

“I remember like it was yesterday,” Dickerson said Tuesday, nearly a decade later. “It was amazing. I still remember that first at-bat and just walking out on the field for the first time. I felt like this is what the big leagues is all about. I always remember the Nats’ stadium because of that.”

Dickerson will get a chance to make some new memories at Nationals Park this season, his winding career having now brought him to D.C. as a member of the home team after stops in Colorado, Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Miami, Toronto and St. Louis. Now 33, he signed a one-year, $2.25 million deal with the Nats on Tuesday and figures to open the season as their starting left fielder, playing mostly against right-handed pitching.

It’s been a winding path for Dickerson, not only in the stops he’s made but in the different types of player he’s been along the way. He mashed 24-plus homers in three different seasons early in his career. He won a Gold Glove Award in 2018. He hit .304 with a .906 OPS in 2019. Then while battling injuries and reduced playing time, he focused more on being a good contact hitter in recent years.

Some might look down upon a guy who has worn seven different uniforms the last seven seasons. Dickerson, though, doesn’t view it as a negative.

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Nats announce 1-year deal with Dickerson, DFA Machado (updated)


The Nationals are finalizing a one-year deal with veteran Corey Dickerson, a source familiar with the negotiations confirmed, addressing another pressing need in left field.

The deal with Dickerson, which includes a $2.25 million salary plus incentives, is contingent upon the 33-year-old passing a physical, the source said.

Once it’s finalized, the Nationals will have some more clarity about the makeup of a 2023 lineup that will look quite different from the one they fielded last season. If Dickerson is the primary left fielder, Joey Meneses would likely serve as the primary designated hitter, with the newly signed Dominic Smith at first base. Jeimer Candelario, another new addition this winter, is expected to start at third base.

Even if Dickerson is the Nats’ primary left fielder, he probably won’t play every day, given his longstanding struggles against left-handed pitching. Over his career, the lefty-hitting outfielder owns a .287/.331/.505 offensive slash line against right-handers, compared to .259/.299/.394 against left-handers. The disparity was even greater last season in St. Louis, where Dickerson took only 28 plate appearances vs. lefties and went 2-for-26.

An All-Star with the Rays in 2017 and a Gold Glove Award winner with the Pirates in 2018, Dickerson averaged 30 doubles and 18 homers during his first six full years in the majors. He’s been less productive the last three years, though he still maintained a league-average 100 OPS-plus in 2022 with the Cardinals, batting .267/.300/.399 with 17 doubles and six homers in 297 plate appearances.

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