Winker hopes to return in few days after MRI comes back clear

The MRI on Jesse Winker’s right knee showed no structural damage, and the Nationals left fielder believes he can rejoin the lineup within a few days.

“It’s definitely nothing major, nothing that’s going to prevent me from playing,” he said. “I think I just need a couple days of rest.”

Winker hurt himself in the bottom of the first Saturday afternoon when he took a big turn around second base on Ildemaro Vargas’ single to left-center, then had to slam on the brakes and dive back into the bag, getting tagged out in the process. He remained in the game for two more innings but felt knee pain while in the field in the top of the third and decided to depart at the end of the inning.

“I slammed on the brakes and dove back, and I kind of lost my footing,” he said. “So it happened somewhere in there. But there was no pop, or anything I could point to. I just had some pain walking out to the outfield, but then I really felt it the first fly ball.”

The Nationals had Winker get an MRI on Saturday, so they’d have results in time to know if they needed to make a roster move in time for Sunday’s game. When that test came back clean, they felt comfortable proceeding with Winker remaining on the active roster, even if he can’t play for another few days. (The team has Monday off, then returns Tuesday to open a three-game series against the Diamondbacks.)

“That’s good news,” manager Davey Martinez said. “I thought, when he told me it was knee, it was going to be a bigger issue. So far, so good.”

Winker has turned into one of the most consistently productive members of a Nats lineup that has struggled to get consistent production this season. His .378 on-base percentage leads the club and ranks sixth in the National League. His .768 OPS ranks second on the team, trailing only CJ Abrams’ .786 mark.

The 30-year-old has dealt with his share of injuries in recent seasons with other clubs, including a meniscus tear in his knee in 2021-22. That history left him at least a little worried heading into his MRI on Saturday, even though he knew this injury didn’t feel like that injury.

“You never know how bad anything is,” he said. “Because as a competitor, you’re kind of like: ‘I can play. I’m fine.’ But whenever you go get a picture, you’re just always hopeful it isn’t that bad. And I’m glad we did it. It was definitely a relief and I can move forward.”

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