SAN FRANCISCO - The Nationals’ bench got a major boost today at the start of a long West Coast trip when Stephen Drew was activated off the disabled list, his right hamstring strain finally healed enough to allow him to play on the big league roster.
Drew had been out since April 12, suffering his hamstring injury only three days after teammate Trea Turner did the same. But while Turner was able to return only 12 days later, Drew needed nearly seven weeks to be cleared for game action.
“Missing that month, almost a month-and-a-half, it’s not something you want to do,” the veteran infielder said. “But at the same time, it’s part of the sport. I feel pretty good right now, ready to get back out there and see what happens.”
The Nationals took their time with Drew, not wanting to rush the 34-year-old back and risk further injury. He rehabbed for weeks with the club at home and on the road, then finally was ready to go on a rehab assignment late last week.
But bad weather prevented Drew from being able to play for any of the organization’s minor league affiliates. He flew to Charlotte, expecting to play in some road games with Triple-A Syracuse, but instead had to head to West Palm Beach, Fla., to instead complete his rehab at the franchise’s spring training complex, where he participated in drills and played in scrimmages.
“I’ve never really had hamstring problems,” he said. “I had the major ankle injury (in 2011 with the Diamondbacks). Lord willing, I don’t have this thing come back, because you see guys that have it and just sometimes they don’t want to heal up. You give it all you’ve got. I think we did a good job with the rehab process, and hopefully everything pans out well.”
Manager Dusty Baker said he’ll try to work Drew back throughout this road trip and wants to give him at least one start this week in place of either Turner, Anthony Rendon or Daniel Murphy. With temperatures in the 50s throughout this series against the Giants, there could be some hesitation to playing a veteran coming off a significant hamstring injury.
“Yeah, there’s always hesitation, but there’s nothing you can do about the weather,” Baker said. “They said he was ready, where he came from. You never really know until something else happens, which you hope it doesn’t. It’s been a long time. He says he still feels a little tightness, but he knows how to play. He knows himself better than anybody.”
The Nationals also got encouraging news on Chris Heisey today when the injured outfielder was sent to begin a rehab assignment with Double-A Harrisburg.
Heisey returns to game action only five days after he was diagnosed with a ruptured right biceps tendon, an injury that at first blush sounded ominously serious. Doctors, however, informed the veteran outfielder he could attempt to rehab without surgery and play through the injury, as other professional athletes have.
Heisey played five innings today for Harrisburg, going 0-for-2 with a strikeout. Results aside, the fact he played in a game was remarkable to many in the organization.
“Very surprised,” Baker said. “I got the call from (general manager Mike Rizzo), and I was like, man somebody gave him some miracle drugs. It’s good news. But I was told that various guys have had the same injury and still played. ... Boy, if you’re going to get hurt, I guess you gotta hurt something that you really don’t need. ... I think it’s a miracle that he’s able to play at this time.”