The start of a new series brings the latest injury updates from Nationals manager Davey Martinez.
It’s a new habit he’s starting this season. It’s helpful for him so he doesn’t get caught off-guard when we ask about a hurt player. It’s helpful for us so we don’t forget about a player to ask about.
Corey Dickerson, Sean Doolittle and Carter Kieboom are the headliners, with each making some steps forward in their respective rehabs.
Dickerson, now eligible to come off the 10-day injured list with a left calf strain, is able to do basic baseball activities including hitting and throwing. It’s just running that still is an issue.
“The soreness is diminishing. He's hitting, he's throwing,” Martinez said of Dickerson. “The next step is to get him on the field and start doing some agility stuff and then get him to run. Once he builds to that, the agility stuff is going to be the key. Once he can do that and do it well with no pain, he can start running. So hopefully we get him back.”
Once he metaphorically (or literally) jumps that hurdle, he’ll be able to go out on a minor league rehab assignment.
“I would definitely think we'd have to get him in one,” Martinez said. “He missed so much time already. Just kind of get him going again and get him some at-bats.”
Doolittle, still rehabbing from a procedure on his left elbow while on a minor league deal, is improving substantially. The last update about a week ago was that he was still not throwing off a mound. He has since been able to do that, with live batting practice sessions coming up soon at the Nationals’ complex in West Palm Beach.
“Sean Doolittle has done really well,” Martinez said. “He's throwing bullpens. By next week, he should be throwing a live BP, so that's encouraging.”
The Nationals currently have Anthony Banda as their only left-hander in the bullpen. He’s allowed four runs in 3 ⅔ innings, so the Nats might welcome another lefty option once Doolittle is ready after some rehab assignment outings. The 40-man roster is currently full, so the Nats will have to make some room for him as well.
Kieboom, also in West Palm, rehabbing from last year’s Tommy John surgery, is improving while making significant strides throwing the ball. He was barely throwing in spring training before a setback due a right shoulder impingement shut him down completely. Now he’s back on the field and participating in all aspects of the game.
“Carter Kieboom is still hitting in the cage. He's still doing his throwing program,” Martinez said. “He's actually thrown across the diamond from third to first. That's good. So, so far, so good. We can continue to build him up and, hopefully soon, we'll send him out on a rehab.”
He’s still a long way away while recovering from Tommy John, but the Nationals feel like he’s now past the point where he was in his rehab at the time of the setback.
“I think he's a little bit beyond that point,” Martinez said. “Because, like I said, he is throwing with no issues to first. I think he made, like, 25 throws, which is good. So now it's going to be coming in on ground balls, fielding backhand balls and throwing from deep behind third. Stuff of that nature where he can do it consistently.”
Just as important, the Nats are hoping he doesn’t suffer another setback. They want to see him participate consistently before ramping him up at some point this summer.
“For him, it's all about stability, really,” Martinez said. “About how much he can do it, how much he can handle. As we all know, it's a long season. So we want to make sure when he comes back, we build him up, that he's playing, that he doesn't regress because he's thrown a lot or hitting a lot. So now it's just continued progression. Like I said, get him to go over there and throw. Throwing from different angles is going to be the next step again for him. And once we get him to do that, then I think he goes out on a rehab assignment. But still, for me, there's really no timetable for him yet. But he is progressing well and he's swinging the bat. So we hope to get him back here soon.”
Ildemaro Vargas, on the 10-day IL with a right shoulder strain, is still experiencing soreness. As with Dickerson, the Nats will want to get him into some rehab-assignment games if it takes a while for him to get ready.
“Decreasing soreness,” Martinez said. “He's still in the early stages, light strengthening. So we'll get him back. As soon as he can build up strength and start throwing, he'll be back as well.
“We'll see where he's at. It's only been a few days now. He said he is feeling better. But we'll see how far we get with him. I mean, if it's gonna be a lot longer than we anticipate, he'd probably have to go out and play some games.”
As for other injured Nationals, Martinez said:
On Victor Arano (60-day IL with a right shoulder strain)
“Continuing to make progress on strengthening. Still no throwing for him. But he is getting better, so he'll get reassessed in another few days to see where he's at. He's getting better, he's building strength.”
On Cade Cavalli (60-day IL after Tommy John surgery)
“No change. As we know, it's gonna be a while for him.”
On Israel Pineda (10-day IL with a right finger fracture)
“No change. Still waiting on his finger to heal.”
On Tanner Rainey (60-day IL after Tommy John surgery)
“He's throwing up to 105 feet, 25 throws, so he continues to build.”
* The Nats have signed infielder Richie Martin and outfielder Nomar Mazara to minor league contracts and assigned them to Triple-A Rochester.
Infielders Lucius Fox and Chad Pinder (retro to 4/13) have been placed on the Red Wings injured list.
Martin and Mazara (and even, technically, Fox) are former Orioles. Martin elected free agency last October after slashing .212/.261/.311 with 10 doubles, five triples, seven home runs and 34 RBIs over three seasons in Baltimore. Mazara signed a minor league contract with the Orioles in December and was released before the start of the regular season. He has a .256/.315/.414 slash line with 85 homers and 360 RBIs over parts of seven seasons with the Rangers, White Sox, Tigers and Padres.