Thomas continues rehab, Wood out with hamstring tightness

Members of the local media walked into the Nationals clubhouse this afternoon expecting to see a familiar face back at his locker. But lo and behold, it was the same 26-man group getting ready for tonight’s series opener against the Mariners.

Lane Thomas will continue his minor league rehab assignment over the next couple of days, manager Davey Martinez announced, ending speculation that the outfielder would rejoin the team for the holiday weekend.

Finally cleared to return to game action since landing on the 10-day injured list on April 24 with a left MCL sprain, Thomas has made three rehab appearances with Double-A Harrisburg this week, going 2-for-9 with a double, a walk, two strikeouts, a stolen base and an outfield assist. He played a full nine innings for the first time Thursday night. He's leading off and serving as the designated hitter tonight.

“He played nine innings yesterday. He's feeling better,” Martinez said during his pregame media session. “Just as I thought, playing nine innings, being on his feet, he's a little sore. But he's getting there. He wanted to play a couple more games and then we'll see how he comes out of it. I know they got a day off on Monday, so we'll re-evaluate him after this weekend. But he's doing good. He's getting some at-bats. He's gonna play nine innings again today. We'll go day-by-day with him.”

The Nationals offense could use Thomas right now. They have scored two or fewer runs in seven of their last 11 games, losing nine overall. And although the 29-year-old got off to a slow start this year (.184 average, .503 OPS, two home runs, 10 RBIs), he was their most productive hitter last year. At the very least, he could provide more protection in the lineup for the slumping CJ Abrams.

Thomas won’t return to Washington in time for his “Lane Train” bobblehead giveaway tomorrow, but if he feels up for it, he could move his rehab from Double-A to Triple-A Rochester, who are playing an hour and a half away in Lehigh Valley. And there is still a slight chance that – if he somehow feels a lot better physically and at the plate – he could make his way to D.C. before the team leaves for Atlanta on Sunday night.

“They're there right now. I'll talk to him after the game tonight and see if he wants to stay there or go to Rochester,” Martinez said. “We don't know. If he comes out and gets four at-bats today and wakes up tomorrow and says, 'Hey, you know what, I feel way better today than I did yesterday.' Then it could be a different conversation.

“But like I said, I want to make sure that one, he's completely healthy. Two, that he's checking all the boxes, which so far, so good. He hit a double yesterday. But that he has a minimal amount of soreness because he's gonna be sore. Even when he does come back, I probably have to give him a day here and there just to keep him going.”

Whenever Thomas is ready to be activated off the IL, the Nationals will have a roster decision to make. The leading candidates to be removed from the active roster are Victor Robles (.087 average, .354 OPS, can't be optioned and has to be exposed to waivers) and Joey Meneses (.234 average, .598 OPS, can be optioned to the minors). But for now, that decision can wait, at least for a couple of more days.

Speaking of Rochester, James Wood was removed from the Red Wings game last night in the fifth inning with right hamstring tightness.

Wood, the Nats’ top prospect, was 0-for-1 with a walk, extending his on-base streak to 29 games for the longest streak in the International League and second-longest in all of Minor League Baseball, before he was replaced in center field by Alex Call.

“Tight hamstring. They're gonna reevaluate him today,” Martinez said. “They took him out yesterday for precaution. But he had right hamstring tightness. I haven't heard anything today, so we'll see how he's doing.”

Wood is not in Rochester’s lineup tonight, the first time he’s missed a game this season. The big outfielder is slashing .355/.465/.596 with a 1.061 OPS, 13 doubles, nine home runs, 31 RBIs, 35 walks to 37 strikeouts and 10 stolen bases.

* Josiah Gray will throw a live bullpen session here at Nationals Park tomorrow. It’ll be the right-hander’s first time facing live hitters since he landed on the 15-day injured list on April 9 (retroactive to April 6) with right elbow/forearm flexor strain.

Gray will get two ups and throw about 30-35 pitches, while mixing in his off-speed stuff.

“He's doing it. It's fine,” Martinez said of the young hurler throwing more than just fastballs. “My talks with him are kind of like, let's just focus on maybe three pitches right now and hone in on those before we get into the full gamut. And the biggest thing is throwing strike one. I want him to throw strikes. He was really good the other day. I think out of 30 pitches, he threw like 24 strikes. So that's awesome.”

* Cade Cavalli will make his second rehab start in West Palm Beach tomorrow.

In his first game outing since last year’s Tommy John surgery, the right-hander tossed 2 2/3 innings of scoreless ball with the Florida Complex League Nationals, striking out five and allowing only two batters to reach base against him. He threw 44 pitches with his fastball registering at 97 mph.

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