Two injured players in the heart of the Nationals’ batting order, Ian Desmond and Michael Morse returned on Tuesday, restoring a lineup that only recently had returned to health this season following a string of injuries.
Desmond said the discomfort of his mild hamstring strain hadn’t completely disappeared but it feel good enough to return to play. Before Tuesday’s game, he tested the hamstring, took batting practice and took ground balls at shortstop.
“I’m ready to get back out there,” he said before warmups. “It sucks sitting on the bench.”
Manager Davey Johnson scratched Desmond before Friday night’s game against Philadelphia with a mild right hamstring strain, an injury that arose after he hyper-extended his knee running to first Wednesday. Desmond vowed not to push his hamstring unnecessarily on plays that didn’t warrant it.
“It’s just about trusting it, really,” he said. “Just going out and playing and realizing that I’ve got to be smart. An out’s an out. I’ve got to kind of back it down a little bit as far as the energy, maybe sprinting to first on a ground ball or whatever. Just understand that there’s a lot of baseball left to play and know that it’s not that important to try to put pressure on the defense on an infield hit.”
Johnson said the Nationals training staff cleared both players to play, despite neither going through full workouts in from of Johnson, as he normally prefers when a player returns from injury.
“I saw Mike Morse in the weight room working out so he’s feeling pretty good,” Johnson said. “I don’t think [Desmond is] going to be over that hamstring strain for probably another couple weeks but he feels like he certainly could swing the bat and can certainly field. He probably won’t be running rampant on the bases. I can live with that.”
Johnson said he Desmond has been getting significant treatment on the hamstring, an injury that always concerns him, but that he is glad the oblique injury from earlier this season is not a factor at all.
When Desmond returned from the disabled list on Aug. 17 following an oblique strain, the Nationals fielded a lineup with their regular everyday position players for the first time this season — except for Wilson Ramos, who is expected to return next spring training following knee surgeries.
In their absence, the Nationals offense mustered only five runs in three games against the Phillies. Desmond and Morse have combined to hit 31 home runs and 101 RBI.
Morse left Friday night’s game against Philadelphia in the first inning after a Kyle Kendrick change-up drilled him in his right hand. The bruised, swollen hand kept him out of the lineup both Saturday and Sunday. The Nationals were off on Monday.
Nearly two hours before game time, Morse said he had yet to test his hand but the swelling was down and felt like it was back to normal.
Asked if there’s a chance that he takes batting practice and the hand hurts again, Morse shot down the idea: “I’ll be fine.”
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