WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - Michael A. Taylor is getting an MRI on both his left knee and left hip today, leaving the Nationals to potentially cope with a thin outfield following Thursday’s injury on a diving catch in Fort Myers.
Taylor hurt himself diving to snag a Byron Buxton drive to right-center during the Nationals’ 10-4 exhibition victory over the Twins, revealing today the turf was “a little soft and my knee stuck in the ground.”
Taylor was still limping in the clubhouse this morning as he headed to the training room for treatment and again as he departed the facility with his MRI order in hand.
The Nationals are trying to remain cautiously optimistic about the outfielder’s chances of making it back in time for opening day March 28, but after watching the play - Taylor’s knee took out a chunk of turf when it landed - there was admittedly concern. Manager Davey Martinez and director of athletic training Paul Lessard immediately jogged from the dugout to check on him after seeing him remain on the ground at the end of the play.
“Just because of what I saw and how he felt, I knew he was going to be sore,” Martinez said. “I can’t assume anything until we get the MRI back, but I hope it’s just a few days and he’s back playing again.”
Taylor did convince Martinez and Lessard to let him stay in the game at the time, but when the inning ended one batter later he was unable to jog to the dugout and had to walk all the way back. He didn’t return the following inning.
“I think in the moment, when your blood’s flowing, you don’t necessarily feel everything,” Taylor said. “After I stood around for a little while, it just started to stiffen up, my knee and hip. It didn’t seem like the time to push it right there.”
Though Taylor may not have been in the Nationals’ opening day lineup regardless - top prospect Victor Robles has turned plenty of heads this spring and has positioned himself to be the starting center fielder - club officials know they need Taylor in the short- and long-term. He is slated to get significant playing time as the fourth outfielder, and so any loss of time due to injury puts the team in a difficult spot.
Overflowing with organization outfield depth only one year ago, the Nationals are actually rather thin at the position now. It’s not just the departure of Bryce Harper, but also last summer’s trades of Brian Goodwin and prospect Rafael Bautista. Add Howie Kendrick’s hamstring strain, and the Nats are currently looking at Andrew Stevenson as their fourth outfielder, with only one other true outfielder even in big league camp: Hunter Jones.
With that in mind, Martinez is starting first baseman Matt Adams in left field for today’s game against the Mets in Port St. Lucie. He also plans to play infielder Wilmer Difo in left and center fields Saturday as the team explores some less-conventional options to fill the void.
“You’re correct: There’s no outfield depth,” Martinez said. “So I think Adams, as you know he can play left field. And Difo’s going to play center field (and) left field both here in the next couple days, and I think he can do it. He’s done it before, so he’s excited about it.”