NEW YORK - Matt Adams took batting practice at Citi Field on Tuesday, sending pitch after pitch into the bleachers. So when the Nationals had to decide today whether to send the big slugger (whose strained left shoulder has now healed) on a brief minor league rehab assignment or just activate him off the injured list now, they didn’t hesitate to activate him and put him right in the heart of tonight’s lineup against Mets ace Jacob deGrom.
“He’s ready,” manager Davey Martinez said. “He went through the full gamut yesterday during batting practice. I watched him take BP, and he was launching balls. So that was a good indication that the shoulder feels good, and he’s back in the lineup.”
Adams jammed his left shoulder diving into first base to make a play May 4 in Philadelphia. He returns 2 1/2 weeks later, hoping to inject some power into a Nationals lineup that finally looks whole again after a spate of early-season injuries.
Adams is batting fifth tonight, behind Trea Turner, Adam Eaton, Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto, ahead of Kurt Suzuki, Brian Dozier and Victor Robles. It’s the first time the Nationals have had all of those players available since the season’s fourth game.
And the impact isn’t restricted to the lineup itself. With Howie Kendrick and Gerardo Parra on the bench, the Nats have a well established lefty and righty available to pinch-hit late in tonight’s game.
“It stretches us out,” Martinez said of the deeper lineup. “It keeps innings going. And also it helps our bench a lot. ... Our bench is pretty strong right now, and I like that.”
Needing to clear a roster spot for Adams, the Nationals optioned infielder Adrián Sanchez to Double-A Harrisburg. Sanchez got very little playing time, but after Wilmer Difo was sent to Triple-A over the weekend he was the club’s only backup shortstop.
The Nats are gambling with this roster configuration, especially if anything happens to Turner. But if the worst happens, they have a temporary plan to get through the rest of a game before recalling Sanchez the next day.
“Probably Anthony Rendon in an emergency,” Martinez said. “I mean, he plays shortstop when we shift anyway. He can do it. Knock on wood, hopefully that doesn’t come up and he stays at third base.”
Meanwhile, Trevor Rosenthal’s adventurous season continued last night at Harrisburg, where the veteran reliever allowed four of the seven Double-A batters he faced to reach base. Two of those reached via walk, another via a hit-by-pitch. The right-hander threw only 10 of 24 pitches for strikes.
It was the most erratic of Rosenthal’s five rehab appearances over the last two weeks, and as a result he’ll remain in Harrisburg for now, potentially pitching again Thursday.
The Nationals believe Rosenthal’s problems can be fixed with better mechanics, eliminating the fastballs he’s “yanking” across his body and throwing well down and away from right-handed batters. He’s technically on the injured list with a viral infection, though the team is using his extended stint off the active roster to give him a chance to work out his issues in a low-pressure situation.
In other reliever news, lefty Dan Jennings cleared waivers and elected to become a free agent. Jennings, who had a 13.50 ERA while allowing 16 batters to reach base in only 4 2/3 innings, was designated for assignment Monday.
Update: In the latest showdown between the National League’s last three Cy Young Award winners, Max Scherzer has the early advantage on Jacob deGrom. That’s because Adam Eaton clubbed a first-inning homer off the 2018 NL Cy Young Award winner. That’s the only baserunner the Nats have through three innings, but it’s enough to give them a 1-0 lead. Because Scherzer, despite having to pitch with three runners in scoring position, has kept the Mets off the board. Matt Adams’ first-inning throwing error put Scherzer in a jam, but the 2016 and 2017 NL Cy Young Award winner got out of it by striking out Pete Alonso and getting Todd Frazier to ground out. His pitch count is a bit high (49 through three innings) but you can’t argue with the results so far.