They don’t have any of their three key injured regulars back in the lineup tonight, but the Nationals did have a welcome visitor to their clubhouse this afternoon: Daniel Murphy.
The veteran second baseman, who has yet to make his season debut following October knee surgery, made the trip up from West Palm Beach after two weeks spent at extended spring training. Murphy, who was briefly seen in the clubhouse before the Nationals took batting practice but did not speak to reporters, was scheduled to be examined by a team doctor.
Does that mean he’s nearly ready to go on a minor league rehab assignment?
“I don’t know that answer yet,” manager Davey Martinez said. “We’ll wait to see what the doctor says today. But he feels pretty good. Good to see him back.”
Murphy has been playing in extended spring training games, getting at-bats and taking grounders at second base. The question all along has been whether that would be enough preparation to bring him straight to the big leagues (just like a healthy player would at the end of spring training) or whether he still needs to play for a minor league affiliate first.
“When we get to that point, it’ll be the happiest conversation, when we get to the point where we are going to go on a rehab assignment or we are going to keep him right there,” general manager Mike Rizzo said Friday. “We are not there yet.”
Murphy had microfracture surgery on his right knee on October 20, and he wasn’t ready to participate fully in spring training with the rest of the Nationals roster. He still came north with the club and was around for the season’s first two weeks before heading back to Florida.
Why did it make sense to bring him back to Washington now?
“We always want him around the team and with the boys,” Martinez said. “Like I’ve said before, opening day we wanted him here as well. The weather’s starting to get a little better, so we kind of wanted to see him and his activities.”
Anthony Rendon, meanwhile, appears on the verge of a rehab assignment after going through a full workout this afternoon. Rendon, who fouled a ball off his left foot 17 days ago and bruised his big toe, simulated baserunning today, as though he was leading off from first base and then sprinting around to third base.
“I watched him out on the field today,” Martinez said. “He hit, took groundballs, felt a lot better, ran. We’ll see when he comes back in where he’s at. And we’ll determine whether he needs to go play, or he’s ready to play.”
Rendon, who was eligible to come off the 10-day disabled list Sunday, could potentially choose to return straight to big league action. Martinez, though, espoused the benefits of going on at least a brief rehab assignment.
“It’s totally up to the players and the trainers,” the manager said. “For me personally, I like to make sure he’s completely ready and to go down there and there’s no setbacks. Even if it’s for a day or two. Just go play, run through the gamut in a game and then see how he feels.”