Nate McLouth’s availability for opening day “in jeopardy”

KISSSIMMEE, Fla. - Nate McLouth’s recovery from left shoulder surgery last August is taking a bit longer than expected. The outfielder has not fully participated because of limitations the procedure placed on his throwing shoulder. Nationals manager Matt Williams worked him into two games last week as a designated hitter. However, lingering shoulder soreness led to McLouth being scratched from last Saturday’s lineup and he hasn’t returned since leaving his availability for the start of the season doubtful.

mclouth-gray-sunglasses-helmet-sidebar.jpg“Right now, it’s probably in jeopardy because we haven’t been able to get him out there for a number of at-bats and get through a full spring, keeping in mind that he’s coming off of a pretty serious surgery,” said Williams. “So it’s a little in jeopardy right now, but we’ll continue to work him as if we were trying to get him ready depending on how he feels. We’re looking at 15 days from now and him just starting his spring training, you would say he may not be ready in time.”

McLouth was 2-for-5 with a strikeout in his two spring appearances. He’s still able to get at-bats on the minor league side of camp.

“He’s hitting every day, so that will help, but throwing is an issue,” said Williams. “The problem is he’s a really good outfielder and we want to use him in that regard.”

The news of McLouth’s slow recovery further complicates things for the Nats, who already are without starting left fielder Jayson Werth and center fielder Denard Span as they rehab from offseason surgeries. Williams says he could see the 33-year-old McLouth beginning the season on the disabled list.

“It’s one thing to come off the bench and hit, but if he runs the bases, he’s got to slide,” said Williams. “With the shoulder, he dives back into the bag, he dives for baseballs. He has to throw, of course. All of those things are involved. And he really hasn’t had a chance to go out and do it as of yet. He’s hit in games, but he hasn’t played defense. If we can’t get him to that point soon, then you look at it and say that it might be something that we’ll have to look at.”

McLouth’s unsure situation benefits the chances of Tony Gwynn Jr. making the opening day roster. The veteran outfielder, who also provides a left-handed bat, is hitting .407 this spring.

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