MINNEAPOLIS - Though Kurt Suzuki doesn’t appear to have suffered a serious elbow injury, the Nationals do appear to believe the veteran catcher is going to need some time to make it back into the lineup and have told Yan Gomes to be prepared to start the majority of games for the foreseeable future.
Suzuki, who had to depart Saturday night’s game with what he described as “some tinglings, zings” in his right elbow, had an MRI which showed no structural damage. He was given anti-inflammatory medication, though, and he’s being held out of games until that treatment takes full effect.
That could still be a few more days, though. And Suzuki likely will be restricted to pinch-hitting duties first before he’s cleared to resume throwing.
“Once (the medication) kicks in, hopefully the pain will reside a little bit, and we’ll go from there,” manager Davey Martinez said. “We want to get him back. But we want to make sure he’s back and close to 100 percent.”
Suzuki had been starting roughly three out of every five games all summer long, working with Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Aníbal Sánchez. But with the 35-year-old suddenly unavailable, Gomes was behind the plate Sunday to work with Scherzer for the first time since May 11. And tonight he’s catching Sánchez for the first time all season.
Gomes, who responded with two homers Sunday and is now 12 for his last 38 with four doubles and three homers, has been prepped for a heavier workload until Suzuki’s ready to return.
“He gets it,” Martinez said. “I talked to him the night Zuk got hurt. I told him: ‘You’re going to catch Scherzer tomorrow, and you might have to be in there for some time.’”
Gomes will need a break at some point, though, and so Martinez admitted he’s likely going to have to give either Raudy Read his second career start or Tres Barrera his first career start sooner or later.
“Eventually we have to get them in there,” the manager said. “We can’t just run Gomes out there every day. We’ll see. What’s nice about it is, we’re playing so many night games right now (four in a row), so Gomes can catch.”
In other injury news, Roenis Elías is back in Washington getting treatment on his injured right hamstring from team medical personnel. The left-hander, who already missed a month with a hamstring strain suffered in his Nationals debut, will be re-evaluated once the club returns home this weekend.
Meanwhile, Scherzer threw a bullpen session today and emerged feeling well. That means he’ll start Friday night against the Braves on normal rest, with Austin Voth pushed back to Saturday and Sanchez lined up to start Sunday’s finale at Nationals Park.
Scherzer, who was extremely encouraged about how he pitched and how he felt in Sunday’s win over Atlanta, is now lined up to make at least three more regular season starts: Friday against the Braves, Sept. 18 at the Cardinals, Sept. 24 against the Phillies. He’d then be available to start either Game 162 or 163 (if the Nats need to win to reach the postseason) or the Oct. 1 National League wild card game.
Update: We’ve got ourselves a humdinger of a pitchers’ duel here tonight, folks. Sánchez and José Berríos are matching each other, zero for zero, through five innings. Neither team recorded a hit until the fifth. And those singles didn’t amount to much. They’ve been efficient, as well, with Sánchez at 64 pitches and Berríos at 68 pitches. Somebody’s got to give eventually. It might not take much tonight.
Update II: Somebody finally gave. It was Sánchez, in the bottom of the seventh. Eddie Rosario led off with a double. Then Mitch Garver crushed a hanging slider to left for a two-run homer. You could start to see the Twins barrel up Sánchez’s pitches. Even though he survived the rest of the inning, he gave up a couple more hard-hit balls. So now the Nats must try to rally late against the Minnesota bullpen, which has taken over after seven scoreless innings from Berríos.