DENVER - Though they don’t believe Anthony Rendon will need to miss much time with a bruised left elbow, the Nationals decided they couldn’t proceed any longer without any backup infielders, so they recalled Jake Noll from Triple-A today and sent reliever Austin Adams to Fresno to clear a roster spot.
Rendon, who was struck in the elbow by a pitch Saturday night in Miami, has been out of the lineup since. But there were signs of improvement today: He’s able to bend his arm, according to manager Davey Martinez, who is hoping there’s a chance the star third baseman is available off the bench for tonight’s series opener against the Rockies.
Given the cold weather at Coors Field - temperature at first pitch is expected to be 49 degrees - that may be wishful thinking. But the Nationals don’t appear to be considering the injured list for Rendon yet.
“He got hit in a bad spot, but it’s a contusion,” Martinez said. “The swelling’s got to go down. And he’s got to get full flexibility and mobility before he can swing.”
Rendon, true to his media-averse personality, had little to say to reporters when he briefly walked through the clubhouse this afternoon. His full quote: “I’m not in the lineup.”
With Rendon sidelined, the Nationals again are starting Howie Kendrick at third base, with Wilmer Difo at shortstop and Brian Dozier at second base. On Sunday, that left outfielder Michael A. Taylor, who was originally drafted as a shortstop, as the only emergency infielder on a three-man bench.
That won’t be the case any longer with Noll’s promotion. The Nationals decided to call the 25-year-old infielder up from Fresno - because the big league club is playing out west for the first time in 2019, he was even able to take a nonstop flight to Denver - and give themselves a better option should anything else happen.
Noll, a surprise member of the opening day roster who was optioned to Triple-A after notching his first career RBI via a walk-off walk April 3 against the Phillies, played in only 14 games for the Grizzlies (he hit .189 with one homer) and had only just moved into his Fresno apartment Sunday when he got word he was being recalled.
The fact he’s already been here, albeit for only a week, helps make this stint with the Nationals a bit less daunting.
“Just seeing how everybody goes about their business every day, it was nice already being able to see it firsthand,” Noll said. “It’s not my first time up here. That’s definitely a plus, knowing what I need to do to prepare myself to play.”
Noll’s promotion gives the Nationals four healthy bench players (plus Rendon) but it also reduces their bullpen to seven arms instead of the eight they had been carrying for a while. That’s not necessarily a typical course of action heading into a series at Coors Field, but Stephen Strasburg’s eight-inning start Sunday made it less of a concern.
“Stras, the way he pitched yesterday and gave us eight innings, allowed us to bring up (another bench player),” Martinez said. “It’s tough to only have three bench players, one being a catcher. So it enabled us to be able to bring in another guy off the bench. And our bullpen’s ready to go today. They all pretty much had the day off.”
Other injury updates:
* Trea Turner continues to travel with the club and was on the field participating in some pregame drills today. Turner, who fractured his right index finger three weeks ago, has not yet been cleared to hit or throw.
* Max Scherzer, who tweaked his left ribcage muscle dodging a foul ball into the dugout Sunday, is preparing to make his next start Friday as planned, according to Martinez.
Update: There’s already been a healthy amount of offense early on tonight, as you would expect at Coors Field. Each team scored a pair of runs in the first inning and had a man in scoring position in the second inning but couldn’t get him home. The Nats jumped out on lefty Tyler Anderson, thanks to a nifty double-steal by Adam Eaton and Juan Soto, putting both in position to score on Kendrick’s latest big hit (a two-run single to center). But Jeremy Hellickson, making his first career start here, labored in his first inning, allowing three hits, including Nolan Arenado’s RBI double and Ryan McMahon’s RBI single. Both pitchers escaped jams in the second, but it looks like it’s going to be one of those nights here. It’s 2-2 after two, with plenty more offense likely to come.
Update II: It’s definitely one of those nights. The Nats took a 5-2 lead in the fourth when Brian Dozier absolutely crushed a pitch way back into the left field bleachers for a three-run homer, his second blast in as many days. But Hellickson gave the three runs back in the fifth via several hits, capped by Mark Reynolds’ two-run homer to center. So it’s 5-5 after five, with a lot more baseball still to be played tonight.