Before this season, Kevin Frandsen started only five games in the outfield in eight seasons in the majors. Injuries to Denard Span (concussion), Scott Hairston (oblique) and Nate McLouth (knee) have left the Nationals with few other option than to play Frandsen, primarily an infielder, in the outfield more regularly. On Monday, he made his fourth start of the season in left field, nearly matching his career totals.
While it may not be ideal to play Frandsen in left field, Frandsen is swinging the bat well. In addition, the Marlins are starting a left-handed pitcher, Brad Hand. Frandsen is 7 for 15 to start his Nationals career, including reaching base three out of six plate appearances as a pinch hitter.
“It’s nice to be actually in a routine,” he said. “It was tough for the first couple weeks. My mind was going for so long. I’m obviously excited for my opportunity. Coming in, I knew exactly what my role was. When you get some unfortunate breaks in here with the injuries, it’s gotta be the next man up.”
Frandsen prepares each day as if he is going to play. That approach helped him Sunday when McLouth was scratched from the starting lineup and Frandsen was given a heads-up that he would start just about an hour before first pitch. As a utility man, Frandsen always takes grounders at first, second and third base, and then shags flyballs in the outfield. Now, Frandsen said he is spending more time in the outfield pregame.
“Or going straight to the outfield if I’m playing that day,” he said. “That’s fine with me.”
Frandsen will get a test at Marlins Park this series. The outfield in Miami is large and Bryce Harper, who is starting in center, will have a lot of ground to cover in left-center. “You just have to be an athlete when you go out there and hopefully that works out,” Frandsen said. “Doing your homework before and using it as preparation during the game.”
“He’s been good,” Manager Matt Williams added. “He’s made all the plays out there. He’s a utility guy who is itching to play anywhere we could possibly get him in there. He’s excited about it. He’s been fantastic at the plate. His energy is fantastic. Any time we have a chance to get him in there, we’ll get him in there. Left is not ideal spot but he has played very well out there and handled everything.”
McLouth, who is dealing with patellar tendinitis, is still available as a pinch hitter or late game substitute, Williams said before the game. McLouth’s knee is “still really sore.” The outfielder has not received an MRI yet, Williams said, but McLouth said on Sunday that he long dealt and managed the injury.
“It’s getting better but it’s still sore,” Williams said. “Could be play if this was the last game and he absolutely had to play? Yes. But right now, it’s probably not prudent to make it any sorer because given Denard being out a few days and the state of our team, we’re going to need him and need him a lot.”
Span took batting practice in the indoor cages before the game, rested, took batting practice on the field and ran, and then rested again. He was then expected to be evaluated by a doctor about his progress after suffering a concussion in a collision in Friday’s game in Atlanta. Span said before Monday’s game that he felt as good as he did the day before, which was improved but still not back to normal.