After all the Nationals’ offensive fireworks the past three days, it was easy to overlook any particular line in the box score, like this one from Wednesday night: Jhonatan Solano, the Nationals’ backup rookie catcher, went 2 for 4 with a walk, a double, a run and three RBIs.
Solano’s latest start added to his strong beginning in the majors. He has gone 8 for 20 with a home run and three doubles, striking out only once in 21 plate appearances. He has been a ball of energy everywhere and a reliable receiver behind the plate. “We were on the same page,” Jordan Zimmermann said after he allowed one run over seven innings throwing to Solano on Wednesday night.
Solano has not played much, only six starts since the Nationals promoted him May 29. But that is probably about to change.
“We all like Solano,” Manager Davey Johnson said. “He’s a good, young catcher. Yes, I will look for opportunities to play him more, especially in the hot summer. We’ve got two guys who can do the job.”
The decision to play Solano more would not be a reflection of Jesus Flores. He has hit .243/.282/.355, but his offense does not really cover his contribution. Starters consistently praise Flores’s ability to call a game. Gio Gonzalez is effusive after every start, and Johnson makes sure Flores catches Stephen Strasburg every time through the rotation. Flores’s catcher’s ERA was 2.80 before yesterday, which means the Nationals’ staff, one of the best in recent memory, has been at its best with Flores behind the plate.
Flores has also been durable. Despite sitting for three days at the very end of May with hamstring tightness, Flores has played in 32 of 42 games since the night Wilson Ramos tore his ACL. Take out those three games, and Flores has played in 32 of 39 games, or 82 percent of the games he’s been available. That’s a monster workload for a catcher, especially one playing every day for the first time since spring 2009.
Which, really, is another argument for playing Solano twice most weeks rather than once. With the depletion of the Nationals’ catching ranks, Flores is one of the players the Nationals can least afford to lose. The Nationals would obviously suffer if they lost others, but the versatility on their roster gives the Nationals palatable contingencies for every spot – except catcher. As well as Solano has played, would they feel comfortable in a pennant race with a rookie behind the plate every night?
Considering the way he has played in limited action, perhaps Solano could handle it. But by playing him a little more now, the Nationals would have a greater chance of not having to find out how he’d do if he played a lot more.
FROM THE POST
The Nationals wiped away a seven-run deficit before they lost, 11-10, in 11 innings despite a game-tying homer in the ninth from a frustrated Bryce Harper.
FROM YESTERDAY’S JOURNAL
NATS MINOR LEAGUES
Syracuse 14, Durham 3: Corey Brown went 3 for 6 with a home run (his 18th) and a triple. Xavier Paul went 2 for 3 with two doubles and a walk. Carlos Rivero went 3 for 5.
Altoona 4, Harrisburg 2: On rehab, Henry Rodriguez allowed no runs in one inning on no hits and no walks, striking out one. Ryan Perry allowed two runs in 3 2/3 innings on two hits and three walks, striking out five. Zack Walters went 1 for 4 with a triple.
Salem 16, Potomac 14: Rick Hague went 3 for 5 with two doubles and a walk. Jason Martinson went 3 for 5 with a triple and a home run. On rehab, Cole Kimball allowed four runs in 2/3 of an innings on four hits, three homers and no walks.
Hagerstown 5, Delmarva 4: Brian Goodwin went 1 for 3 with a walk. Caleb Ramsey went 3 for 4 with a double.
Auburn 4, Williamsport 3: Shawn Pleffner went 3 for 4 with two doubles. Taylor Jordan allowed no runs in three innings on one hit and no walks, striking out three.