Michael A. Taylor didn’t expect it to take five weeks to return from a strained right oblique muscle. Then again, he also didn’t expect to be summoned back to Washington this morning to replace an injured Bryce Harper.
Nevertheless, Taylor found himself boarding a plane in Hartford early this morning bound for Washington, then hitching a quick ride to Nationals Park to be in the clubhouse in time for today’s doubleheader against the Giants.
Having already played both ends of Double-A Harrisburg’s doubleheader Saturday, Taylor wasn’t initially aware of Harper’s serious knee injury, which prompted his activation from the disabled list.
“I actually didn’t see it until this morning,” Taylor said. “I found out pretty late last night after I had already gone to bed. But I had a flight early in the morning.”
With Harper out for an indeterminate amount of time with a significant bone bruise inside his left knee after he slipped on first base in the first inning of Saturday night’s rain-delayed game, the Nationals suddenly found themselves in need of more outfield help.
Taylor, who had been sidelined since July 7, was close to returning on his own terms but probably would have remained on his rehab assignment for another couple of days to get more at-bats before he was activated.
As it was, the 26-year-old did play in 12 total minor league games over the last two weeks, six with Harrisburg following six with Single-A Potomac. He went 7-for-45 with two doubles, a homer, four walks, 15 strikeouts and four stolen bases, but he felt like he was making significant progress in recent days.
“Honestly, I felt pretty good,” he said. “I lined out quite a bit. I don’t if you saw the box scores, but the numbers don’t really show it. I played a doubleheader yesterday, got a lot of at-bats. I felt like the ball was really starting to slow down for me. I was taking pitches out of the zone. So I felt good.”
Taylor is not in the lineup for the opener of today’s doubleheader, but there’s a good chance he’ll be starting in center field tonight and moving forward.
It’s been a slow process since he initially hurt himself swinging, but he’s good to go now and is glad he’ll have ample opportunity to get himself back into regular-season mode before the postseason arrives.
“Honestly, it’s been a grind,” he said. “I was trying to just get to a point where I was swinging and not really thinking about it. It’s one of those things that it has to leave the back of your mind before you really trust that you can swing through pitches and it’s not going to go on me. I think I’ve gotten to that point, and I feel good now.”
Update: The first half of today’s doubleheader is off to a sluggish start for the Nationals, who trail 3-0 after four innings. The Giants scored all three runs in the top of the second, getting RBI hits from Gorkys Hernández and Joe Panik. A.J. Cole has otherwise been solid, putting up zeroes in the first, third and fourth innings and striking out five of the first 12 batters he faced.
The Nats lineup, however, has done next to nothing so far against rookie right-hander Chris Stratton. That group has produced three singles in four innings, with nobody advancing past first base.
Update II: Make it 4-0 Giants in the eighth. They tacked on an insurance run off Matt Grace. The Nats were not able to produce anything against Stratton, who tossed seven scoreless innings and struck out 10.
Update III: It’s over. Nats lose 4-2. They got a two-run homer from Anthony Rendon off Hunter Strickland in the eighth, and that was pleasing to the crowd that booed Strickland throughout the inning, not forgetting his intentional plunking of Harper on Memorial Day. But that’s all the lineup managed all afternoon. On to the nightcap, with Max Scherzer on the mound.