Nats call up another infielder, Schwarber wins Player of Month

With Trea Turner’s left middle finger getting better but not quickly enough to allow him to play tonight, and with an MRI of Jordy Mercer’s right quadriceps showing a muscle strain, the Nationals were again faced with the prospect of taking the field without enough true infielders on their roster. On Thursday, they had no choice but to start backup catcher Alex Avila at second base. Tonight, they’ll have a true infielder in the lineup, albeit one who wasn’t really on anyone’s radar.
Humberto Arteaga, a 27-year-old with a .227 batting average at Triple-A Rochester, had his contract purchased by the Nationals and will start at shortstop for them tonight against the Dodgers.

Martinez-at-Dugout-Rail-Blue-Sidebar.jpg“We needed someone right away, so he was the guy,” manager Davey Martinez said during his pregame Zoom session with reporters. “He can help us play multiple positions, but he’s played shortstop and he’s done well. We need him, and he was right here in Triple-A with us, so we brought him up.”

In running down their organizational infield depth chart, the Nationals finally landed on Arteaga after having to pass over Luis García, Carter Kieboom, Adrián Sanchez and Jackson Cluff, all of whom are injured.

Kieboom’s injury appears to have just occurred in recent days, and it appears to be serious. Martinez didn’t have details aside from revealing “it’s the back of his knee. He felt something pop. That’s really all I know.”

The club found itself in this precarious situation after both Turner and Mercer were injured during Wednesday’s 15-6 win over the Rays. Turner jammed his finger sliding into third base on the triple that secured the third cycle of his career, and though the team’s star shortstop doesn’t need to go on the injured list, he’s still at least a day or two away from playing again.

Turner did some light throwing in the outfield earlier this afternoon but wasn’t catching the return throws in an attempt to protect his glove hand.

“That’s the first thing he really did today,” Martinez said. “Now he’s going to go back and get a bunch of treatment on it. The biggest thing is the swelling. It’s still pretty swollen, so we’ve got to get that swelling down.”

Mercer needed an MRI on his quadriceps this morning, and though Martinez said he felt 75-to-80 percent healthy the results revealed a strain that landed him on the 10-day injured list, opening a spot on the active roster for Arteaga. In order to clear a spot on the 40-man roster for Arteaga, the Nationals placed minor league right-hander Steven Fuentes on the 60-day IL with a shoulder strain.

And so tonight the team will start at shortstop Arteaga, who has 41 games of major league experience, batting .197 with zero homers, four RBIs and a .487 OPS for the Royals in 2019. After playing in his native Venezuela over the winter, he signed a minor league contract with the Nationals and in 29 games between Rochester and Double-A Harrisburg hit .227 with two homers, 11 RBIs and a .576 OPS.

Arteaga will be in tonight’s lineup for the Nationals against the defending World Series champions. Who’s there Saturday night and beyond will be decided later.

“Right now you’ve got to weave and bob, and trust the rest of your players to go out there and do their job,” Martinez said. “That’s all we can do. We’ll put things together. We feel like we can compete today, and that’s basically the bottom line. Just go out there and compete.”

* Kyle Schwarber’s record-setting June earned him National League Player of the Month honors, it was announced today.

Schwarber set a club record for homers in one month with 16 home runs, seven of those leading off the first inning. He led the National League in homers, RBIs (30), slugging percentage (.760) and OPS (1.122). Remarkably, he didn’t hit his first home run of the month until June 12.

He’s the first National to win Player of the Month honors since Ryan Zimmerman in April 2017.

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