Michael A. Taylor, who started Thursday’s late-night affair in center field, did not come out to play there in the fourth inning. Though he showed no glaring trouble as he ran out a ground ball to first base in the bottom of the third, injury seemed the only likely explanation for his departure. As it turned out, it was.
In his postgame press conference, held to a spare crowd a 1:30 a.m., Dusty Baker announced that Taylor had suffered a mild right oblique strain, and would be placed on the disabled list. Chris Heisey, who has been rehabbing in Class AAA Syracuse, will take his place on the active roster.
Taylor said he had been dealing with oblique pain for some time, dating back to the two games he sat out with no explanation in late June. Then, Taylor said he was just “banged up.” But after feeling sharp pain on a third-inning swing Thursday, he admitted he has been battling oblique trouble since that time, and it hasn’t improved.
“I’ve been trying to manage it,” Taylor said. “Then on that swing, it got significantly worse.”
The 26-year-old said he didn’t think Thursday night’s three-hour rain delay had anything to do with the injury. He used his usual pregame treatment to “get hot,” and felt as good as he has recently when the game began. But he left the night on the disabled list, and left the Nationals without their starting center fielder for the second time this season.
“It’s not getting any better. It was actually getting worse,” Taylor said. “Instead of having it drag out longer, just take the time now to try to get back closer to 100 percent.”
Heisey played five rehab games with Syracuse, his first action since rupturing his biceps tendon in late May. Even as of earlier Thursday, Baker suggested Heisey might have to wait out a return because of the crowded Nationals outfield. Now, that outfield is far sparser, with Brian Goodwin lingering as the only true center fielder until Taylor’s return.
The Nationals’ bench grows shallower without Taylor, too. Heisey and Ryan Raburn are right-handed hitting outfielders, while Adam Lind and Stephen Drew can provide left-handed power — so long as Drew is not playing shortstop in Trea Turner’s place.
Taylor had also settled in as a top-of-the-order fill-in for Trea Turner and Jayson Werth, providing a pleasantly productive combination with Goodwin at the top over the last week. Now, Baker will have to rethink his batting order, which will probably look far different soon after the all-star break than it will in the final three days leading up to it.
Baker said he hopes Taylor will return shortly after the break. Werth is targeting a similar schedule. Soon, the Nationals could restore something close to their desired top of the order. But until the all-star break, and perhaps for a week afterward, they will be piecing things together, caught by the injury bug they had swatted away until recently.