Suzuki starts hitting, but still not throwing (Nats up 3-1)

ST. LOUIS - Kurt Suzuki took a full round of batting practice early this afternoon at Busch Stadium and also caught Aníbal Sánchez’s bullpen session, but the Nationals catcher is still days away from being cleared to throw and test his injured right elbow.

Suzuki, who hasn’t played since feeling a tingling sensation in his elbow after trying to throw out a basestealer Sept. 7 in Atlanta, did take some important steps today in his recovery and was cautiously optimistic about his progress.

“First time I could really let go and hit on the field,” he said. “I’m feeling better every day. I’ve just got to keep it going.”

Suzuki-Tag-Out-at-Plate-White-Sidebar.jpgSuzuki said the injury - described by the club only as elbow inflammation - affects his hitting “a little bit,” but said today’s session had less discomfort than any previous one.

The bigger test will come when he attempts to throw, which he hopes will be in a few days. Suzuki did don his catcher’s gear and received Sánchez’s pitches during a bullpen session this afternoon, but he only flipped the ball a couple feet to bullpen catcher Nilson Robledo, when then threw the ball back to Sánchez.

“Once I start throwing, soon here, shortly, hopefully in a couple days I’ll be able to start throwing a little bit,” he said. “See how it feels and progress from there. It’s all about how I feel.”

Suzuki said he’s never dealt with any elbow issues before in his career. Tough as it is to have to watch from the dugout as his team goes through the final stages of a pennant race, the veteran catcher understands the need for patience right now.

“I definitely want to be out there,” he said. “But at the same time, take a couple weeks, not miss all of next year. You’ve got to be smart about it. At the same time, the trainers, everybody here knows, we need to be back on the field. But at the same time, you still need to exercise some sort of caution instead of just go.”

Update: The Nationals have taken an early lead tonight, and for that they can thank Howie Kendrick. The 36-year-old utilityman may not be able to play every day, but he’s sure making the most of the playing time he does get. He tripled off the center field wall in the top of the second, setting him up to score moments later on Asdrúbal Cabrera’s sacrifice fly. Then he drove the ball just a bit farther in the top of the fourth and cleared the fence altogether for his 16th homer and 61st RBI of the season, to go along with a .340 batting average. Patrick Corbin cruised through his first two innings but then got into a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the third. He nearly escaped, striking out Marcell Ozuna and then getting Paul DeJong to ground a 3-0 pitch to short. But Trea Turner booted the ball to let a run score. Corbin bounced back to strike out Yadier Molina, but his pitch count is already 65 after only three innings. Nats lead 2-1.

Update II: The Nationals have had a few chances to tack on tonight. They finally converted one in the top of the sixth. With Juan Soto on second and two out, Victor Robles lined an RBI single to center. That makes it 3-1, with Corbin at 91 pitches heading into the bottom of the sixth.

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