Assuming all goes well during a brief rehab assignment with Single-A Potomac, the Nationals expect to have Matt Wieters back on their active roster Thursday when he becomes eligible to return from the 10-day disabled list. At which point they are going to face a dilemma involving the emerging Pedro Severino.
Wieters, out since April 2 with a mild left oblique strain, worked out on the field at Nationals Park early this afternoon, taking batting practice from both sides of the plate and throwing to bases from his catching position.
There’s not much left for Wieters to do before he’s cleared to play in games.
“We crossed off most of the things we wanted to today getting on the field and throwing to bases,” he said. “I’ll catch a couple of bullpens tomorrow and squat, move around that way and kind of do the same thing we did today tomorrow and see how I feel. But after that, as long as we feel as good as we did today or better, we should be good to go.”
Wieters actually suggested he wouldn’t need to go on a rehab assignment, that his stint on the 10-day disabled list has been short enough that he hasn’t fallen behind everyone else.
“I don’t see the reason for having to go play five innings, six innings,” he said. “I feel like I’m actually - from the workouts we’ve been doing - in better shape than I was when I got hurt. So to get back catching, it should not be that bad.”
The Nationals, though, feel like a rehab assignment (even a brief one) is a worthwhile endeavor. So after meeting with him this afternoon, manager Davey Martinez revealed Wieters will play for Potomac on Tuesday.
“I know he told you guys differently, but we want him to go get some at-bats, and he’s good with it,” Martinez said. “We’re excited that he’s ready to play.”
Wieters likely would play two games at Potomac, catching one of them and serving as designated hitter for the other. Assuming that goes well, he would be activated off the DL on Thursday. And then the club will have to make a decision on Severino.
With both Wieters and veteran backup Miguel Montero off the roster right now - Montero is scheduled to return from the paternity list Tuesday - Severino has leapfrogged up the depth chart to the No. 1 catching position. Jhonatan Solano, who has yet to appear in a game, figures to be sent back to Triple-A Syracuse once Montero returns. The Nationals won’t be so eager to demote Severino once Wieters returns, though, not the way the 24-year-old has played so far.
In five games, Severino is batting .417 (5-for-12) with three RBIs and three walks. Though he is a career .244 hitter in the minors, he has shown an ability to hit major league pitching (.274 with an .808 OPS in 40 career games with the Nats).
Montero, meanwhile, is 0-for-11 at the plate and notably has a weak arm behind the plate, leaving many wondering if the Nationals are better served keeping Severino on the major league roster. That may end up happening, though Montero (who is making $1.3 million) most likely would remain, as well.
“We have some decisions to make when Miggy and Wieters both come back,” Martinez said. “We haven’t decided that yet. There’s a good possibility we keep three catchers. We don’t know that yet, but we’re going to talk about it.”