Trea Turner is taking the field tonight in Woodbridge, Va., for his first game action in six weeks. Ryan Zimmerman was on the field this afternoon at Nationals Park for his first baseball activities in 2 1/2 weeks.
Slowly but surely, the Nationals are getting healthier, and the next player on track to return from the injured list appears to be Turner, who tonight is beginning a rehab assignment with Single-A Potomac.
Turner is scheduled to play shortstop and bat second tonight at Pfitzner Stadium in his first game action since breaking his right index finger April 2. The Nationals aren’t saying how many games he’ll need before he’s activated off the IL, but this weekend’s series against the Cubs provides a reasonable target.
“Just let him go out there and get the feel of the game again,” manager Davey Martinez said. “See balls off the bat defensively. Get at-bats. Just get back in the swing of playing nine innings.”
Turner was off to a red-hot start at the plate to begin the season, going 5-for-14 with a double, two homers, four RBIs and four stolen bases before suffering his injury trying to bunt against Phillies right-hander Zach Eflin.
To say the Nationals have suffered in Turner’s absence is an understatement. Fill-ins Wilmer Difo and Carter Kieboom have combined to bat .203 with two doubles, four homers, nine RBIs, 41 strikeouts and a .584 OPS in 46 games while committing five errors.
“He’s one of those premier players, and one that makes our lineup go,” Martinez said of Turner. “Unfortunately, he got hurt early in the season, and our lineup misses him. His defense. Everything. Baserunning. He’s electric. Hopefully, we get him back here fairly soon, we plop him right back in the lineup and gets us going.”
Turner’s return would come a week after both Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto came off the IL, giving the Nationals their Nos. 2, 3 and 4 hitters back after an extended stretch without them. Zimmerman’s eventual return would give them their No. 5 hitter as well, and there were signs of progress today on that front.
Zimmerman, who hasn’t played since April 26 due to plantar fasciitis in his right foot, was on the field taking grounders today for the first time since landing on the IL. He also planned to take swings.
“The foot’s starting to feel a little better,” he said. “I think the plan this week is to ease into baseball activities and see how it reacts to that. If it reacts well to that, the next step is to ramp it up a little more.”
Zimmerman missed seven weeks with plantar fasciitis in his left foot in 2015, though he reiterated today that injury was more severe than this one. Even so, he understands the need to monitor this particular ailment, which can have long-lasting negative impacts if mismanaged.
“The one thing you don’t want to do is ramp it up too fast, and then you’re right back to where you started,” he said. “We’ll see how it goes these next couple days.”
Zimmerman’s absence has been compounded by the presence of fellow first baseman Matt Adams on the IL with a strained left shoulder. Adams, who hasn’t played since he jammed his shoulder diving into first base May 4 in Philadelphia, is “still a little sore,” according to Martinez, and has not been cleared for baseball activities yet.
Those injuries leave the Nationals with the unconventional duo of Howie Kendrick and Gerardo Parra at first base. Kendrick missed two games over the weekend with a stiff neck, and he’s out of the lineup again tonight. Martinez, though, said Kendrick is fine and available off the bench, and he simply preferred Parra at first base for tonight’s game.
For what it’s worth, Parra is 2-for-5 with a double in his career against Mets starter Noah Syndergaard, while Kendrick is 1-for-12.