MILWAUKEE — Suitcase in hand, Ryan Madson rolled into the visitors’ clubhouse at Miller Park just before 5 p.m. to a warm welcome from his Washington Nationals teammates. Matt Albers greeted him with an enthusiastic handshake and sarcastic introduction. Brandon Kintzler yelled excitedly in his direction.
“I’ve been worried sick,” Jayson Werth joked a few lockers away.
The Nationals were confident Madson would return from his mysterious right index finger injury this season. The question was when. The answer, to everyone’s glee, was Friday. With rosters expanding, the Nationals also activated Enny Romero from the disabled list and called up right-handers Erick Fedde and Austin Adams and catcher Raudy Read from the minors. Madson’s return, however, has the most impact on the club.
“We sure miss him,” Manager Dusty Baker said.
Baker spoke a few minutes after Madson checked in and wasn’t sure whether the right-hander would be available to pitch immediately. He speculated Madson might need to throw a bullpen before pitching in a game. But General Manager Mike Rizzo said Madson threw bullpens while he was in Arizona and is available to pitch.
The right-hander became a dominant force in the eighth inning between Kintzler and Sean Doolittle in the month after he was acquired from the Athletics. In nine appearances, Madson allowed five hits and walked one over nine scoreless innings before he was placed on the disabled list Aug. 17.
“We had a pretty good thing going seven, eight, nine,” Baker said. “And so just hope that he’s ready to come back soon.”
Romero missed 27 games after going on the disabled list Aug. 4 with a left forearm strain. Unlike Madson, Romero went on a rehab assignment, pitching to 4.26 ERA in 6 1/3 innings in seven appearances for Class AAA Syracuse. Beyond working back from the injury, Romero, a fastball-dependent pitcher who can dial it up to triple digits on the radar gun, said he used the opportunity in the minors to hone his off-speed stuff.
“In the last two outings, I felt much better,” said Romero, 26. “I’ve been working on my off-speed [pitches]. My change-up and my cutter I used more than my fastball. I threw the off-speed pitches more every time. Behind in the count, in 3-2 counts. I feel ready.”
Romero was one of the few reliable options in the Nationals’ bullpen before its July overhaul, posting a 2.67 ERA in 25 outings since May 24. He has a 3.99 ERA in 45 games overall this season while striking out 10.8 batters per nine innings.
Read, 23, joins the Nationals for his first major league stint, one that Baker admitted wouldn’t have happened if Matt Wieters hadn’t taken a foul ball off his knee behind the plate in Thursday’s loss. Baker said Washington wanted a third catcher for insurance, and Pedro Severino wasn’t available because he had been optioned to the minor leagues less than 10 days ago.
So Read, a native of the Dominican Republic, joined the team in Wisconsin on Friday for the first regular season major league baseball game of his life — as a player or fan — after batting .265 with a .767 on-base-plus-slugging percentage and 17 home runs in 108 games for Class AA Harrisburg. He skipped Class AAA altogether.
“I feel good because this is something you dream about as a kid, to get to the major leagues,” Read said. “When they gave me the call, I felt very happy and nervous. I just wanted to cry.”
Adams, 26, made his major league debut with the Nationals in July. He left it without getting a batter out and with an infinity ERA in one appearance. The 24-year-old Fedde, Washington’s top pitching prospect, has a 9.39 ERA in three starts with the Nationals.
Trea Turner SS
Wilmer Difo 3B
Daniel Murphy 2B
Ryan Zimmerman 1B
Howie Kendrick LF
Jayson Werth RF
Michael A. Taylor CF
Jose Lobaton C
Tanner Roark RHP
Eric Sogard 2B
Neil Walker 1B
Ryan Braun LF
Travis Shaw 3B
Domingo Santana RF
Stephen Vogt C
Jonathan Villar CF
Orlando Arcia SS
Jimmy Nelson RHP
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