A Nationals club desperate for more healthy bodies is getting two of them back for tonight’s series opener in San Diego, with more potentially coming in the next few days.
Trea Turner and Yan Gomes are both in tonight’s lineup, Turner returning after missing four games with a jammed left middle finger, Gomes back after taking a pitch off his right arm Saturday night. The impact on Davey Martinez’s batting order is significant, with Turner able to bat second in front of Juan Soto and Gomes batting sixth behind Starlin Castro.
“It’s good,” the manager said from San Diego during his pregame Zoom session with reporters. “The big thing is, these guys were hurt. They were day-to-day. But the fact they come back and are in our lineup is awesome. Two guys that are two big pieces in our lineup.”
Turner hasn’t played since hurting himself sliding into third base Wednesday afternoon while completing the third cycle of his career. He still has a “teeny bit of swelling” in his finger, according to Martinez, but he was able to take swings this afternoon and reported himself healthy enough to play.
Gomes might not have started Sunday morning after catching Saturday night regardless, but his right arm was bruised after getting hit by a pitch, and that left him unavailable except for an emergency for the Nationals’ series finale against the Dodgers. He was able to throw pregame today without significant issues, so he’s back in the lineup and back behind the plate.
With Turner back at his familiar shortstop position, Martinez made the decision to move the recently acquired Alcides Escobar to second base, in turn allowing Josh Harrison to move to left field for tonight’s game. He liked that combination in particular against Padres starter Joe Musgrove but also hinted we may see more of it moving forward, especially when he’d like to have a right-handed bat in left field, something that hasn’t been possible most of this season.
“It’s great,” Martinez said. “And I’ve always said this about Josh: He can play multiple positions, and play them really well. Having Escobar allows us to do that. Because he can play three positions in the infield, and we even talked to him about possibly playing some first base in a pinch if we needed him. It’s nice to have him. It’s nice to be able to do some different things, move some guys around. They can help us in big ways.”
The return of Turner and Gomes gives Martinez a fully healthy four-man bench again. (Tonight, it’s comprised of Ryan Zimmerman, Gerardo Parra, Yadiel Hernandez and Tres Barrera.) And he may get closer to having a healthy bullpen soon, as well.
Kyle Finnegan, out since June 21 with a left hamstring strain, is with the club in San Diego. The right-hander threw off the bullpen mound Sunday and was scheduled to play catch today. If all goes well, it appears there’s a chance he could be activated Tuesday, providing a boost to an injury-plagued bullpen.
Daniel Hudson, meanwhile, threw a 21-pitch bullpen session today, inching closer toward his return from right elbow inflammation. The veteran setup man is a bit behind Finnegan in his rehab, but he appears on track to rejoin the active roster relatively soon.
In other rehab news, Stephen Strasburg threw a 60-pitch bullpen session today in his hometown, having made the trip with the club. The veteran starter, out since June 2 with nerve irritation in his neck, will need to face live hitters at some point, whether in a simulated game or minor league rehab assignment, but he is progressing in the build-up of his arm.
Erick Fedde (strained oblique) recently threw off the mound and played catch today.
As the rest of the rotation has tried to pick up the slack in Strasburg and Fedde’s absence, they’ve reached a point in the season where they could use some extra rest. So Martinez and pitching coach Jim Hickey decided to give Patrick Corbin and Max Scherzer each an extra day before making their next starts.
Corbin will now pitch Wednesday night against the Padres, with Scherzer in Thursday’s series finale.
That means the Nats need a fill-in start Tuesday night. Martinez said he should be able to name his starter after tonight’s game, and he mentioned Jefry Rodriguez as one possible candidate if he’s not needed tonight in relief of Jon Lester.