Thompson shut down, Garrett is full-go, Williams will report late

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – Though a number of Nationals who ended the 2023 season injured reported for spring training on target to return as planned, a new ailment cropped up over the winter for one potential member of the bullpen.

Mason Thompson experienced elbow discomfort while throwing an offseason bullpen session and was told not to throw after arriving in West Palm Beach. The right-hander will be shut down for two weeks before he’s re-evaluated, according to manager Davey Martinez.

“Mason, right now, he’s got a little arm issue,” Martinez said this afternoon in his camp-opening session with reporters. “We’re going to see what’s going on with him. We’ll take it slow with him.”

Thompson, who turns 26 next week, has a history of arm injuries, most notably a biceps strain that forced him to miss nearly three months of the 2022 season. He hasn’t missed any time due to arm injuries since, but he spent 15 days on the injured list last summer with a bruised knee.

“We’re a little bit concerned,” Martinez said. “Like I said, we’ll take it slow with him. We’re still really early in spring training, so we’ll see. We’ll rehab him and see where we’re at in two weeks.”

Thompson endured through a wildly erratic 2023 season. He posted stellar ERAs in April (1.89) and June (0.82) but saw those numbers balloon in May (10.61), July (9.00), August (14.54) and September (7.71). He finished with a 5.50 ERA and 1.556 WHIP in 51 games.

Even if healthy, Thompson wasn’t a lock to make the Opening Day bullpen, but his ability to pitch multiple innings would make him a candidate for a needed long-relief role.

* Players who did report to camp healthy and ready to participate include Cade Cavalli, Stone Garrett, Victor Robles and Riley Adams.

Cavalli, who is 11 months removed from Tommy John surgery, threw his first bullpen session Monday and another today. The right-hander will continue to throw off a mound three times a week until he’s cleared to face live hitters. He continues to target a full return to the majors around June, which would be 14 months after the elbow surgery.

Garrett, who fractured his left fibula and injured his ankle in late August, is fully participating this spring and hopes to be ready for Opening Day. Club officials will monitor him closely, though, to see how he handles the day-to-day rigors of baseball activity, especially anything that involves running.

“It’s going to be a progression, but we’re going to push him,” Martinez said. “He wants to be pushed. He’s been hitting, and he looks really good hitting. We’re not going to hold him back. He’ll determine when he’s ready to go, and we’ll keep a close eye on him.”

Robles, who missed most of the 2023 season with a lower back injury, also is fully participating at the start of camp with no restrictions. The 26-year-old, who is making $2.65 million in his final season before becoming a free agent, should have the inside track on the starting center field job, though Martinez did mention Robles will be competing with rookie Jacob Young.

Adams, who broke the hamate bone in his left wrist in September, has fully healed and said he has no lingering issues entering spring training.

* The only healthy pitcher or catcher who hasn’t reported yet is Trevor Williams, who remains home in San Diego waiting for his wife to give birth to the couple’s fifth child. Williams, who barring another spring training addition is penciled in as the Nats’ No. 5 starter, is expected in camp within a few days and won’t be considered behind his teammates.

* Based on what Mike Rizzo said today, it doesn’t appear Williams will face any experienced competition for that rotation spot. Asked about the possibility of signing more free agents now that camp has begun, the longtime general manager said any moves at this point probably would be minor-league deals with invitations to camp, not guaranteed big-league contracts.

The Nationals entered the winter suggesting they wanted to add a veteran starting pitcher. It does not appear they will do that in the end.

“It’s never the plan going in. It’s just kind of how things filled out during the offseason,” Rizzo said. “I just couldn’t find that starting pitcher that was going to impact us at this time, for not only the right amount of years but the right salary at this time.”

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