Nationals General Manager Mike Rizzo hadn’t discussed Anthony Rendon’s situation before Friday afternoon at Nationals Park, but it required explanation.
The Nationals could have put Rendon on the disabled list a week before they finally placed him there last weekend. If they had, they could have had an extra reliever during last week’s series in New York. Instead, they waited, with everyone involved reiterating that Rendon probably would be able to play before the 10 days he would have been required to sit out. He has now missed two weeks and counting.
“We just didn’t want to put him on the DL and lose him for 10 days if he was able to play in a day or two. He felt good for a day, then wouldn’t feel good,” Rizzo said. “Those are decisions I make. I felt that the benefit of not putting him on the 10-day DL, as opposed to playing short for two or three days, was beneficial to us.”
For years, the Nationals have carried a reputation for being less than forthcoming with injuries, but when their front office debates the way it handles disclosure on these things, they point to situations like this. When they disclose what they know — for example, that Rendon’s toe was likely only going to keep him out a few days after he fouled a pitch off it two weeks ago — they face suspicion when the diagnosis changes. What were they thinking? What did they know that they didn’t say? Was the diagnosis incorrect from the start?
In Rendon’s case, the bruise simply took longer to heal than expected. Sometimes, the answer is that simple. Rendon was supposed to participate in baseball activities Friday, and he played catch on the field. If he took groundballs or hit batting practice, he did so out of view from reporters. But he is eligible to return from the disabled list Sunday, and while he might not be able to return just then, he seems the closest of any of his injured colleagues to being able get back in the lineup.
Adam Eaton’s situation is growing more complicated. In the immediate aftermath of the strange slide that left him with a bone bruise in the same ankle he injured in last year’s catastrophic April spill, he thought he wouldn’t need the disabled list at all. Then he and his manager both said they thought he could return with the minimum of 10 days. He has been eligible to return for almost a week yet remains out.
He spent Friday being reevaluated by the first doctor he saw for his initial knee and ankle injury — a precaution, Rizzo and Manager Dave Martinez insist. He still has pain now and then, a “touch-and-go” situation, Martinez said. Eaton, who has established a reputation for making himself available to reporters for far lesser matters, has not appeared much in the clubhouse the past week, despite traveling with the team. He did not appear Friday, either.
“There hasn’t been a further injury,” Rizzo said. “We referred him back to the doctor that saw him originally to get an update on where he’s at so we can feel comfortable pushing him into baseball activities more.”
Daniel Murphy, meanwhile, continues to take at-bats, run bases, and do all his baseball activities in West Palm Beach. The veteran second baseman has been out all spring after undergoing debridement and microfracture surgery on his right knee in late October. Though he is progressing, Rizzo said the team is not near a point of deciding where to send Murphy to play a rehab assignment — in other words, whether he will stay in West Palm Beach until he is ready or join an affiliate.
“When we get to that point, it will be a happy conversation — when we get to the point where we decide whether he’ll go on a rehab assignment or keep him right there,” Rizzo said. “We’re not there yet.”
Veteran reliever Joaquin Benoit is also in West Palm Beach, and Rizzo said he started his throwing program after a forearm strain forced him to the disabled list before spring training ended. The Nationals remain hopeful Benoit will rejoin them at some point this season. Another veteran right-hander, Shawn Kelley, played catch Friday four days after leaving a game with right ulnar nerve irritation — the kind of trouble that becomes career-threatening for someone who has undergone two Tommy John surgeries. But neither he nor the Nationals seem to think any further structural trouble emerged, and that he was playing catch Friday suggests the injury is less severe than initially suggested. No one has said that, however, and given the fragility of his elbow, everything is subject to immediate change.
Michael A. Taylor was not in the lineup Friday night after experiencing a groin cramp in the Nationals’ win over the Giants on Wednesday. Martinez said he initially thought Taylor was injured, but was relieved to find the problem was just a cramp. He decided to give Taylor an extra day off anyway, but the center fielder is available off the bench.
WASHINGTON NATIONALS (11-14)
Trea Turner SS
Howie Kendrick 2B
Bryce Harper RF
Ryan Zimmerman 1B
Matt Adams LF
Matt Wieters C
Andrew Stevenson CF
Wilmer Difo 3B
Stephen Strasburg P
ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS (16-7)
David Peralta LF
Jarrod Dyson RF
Paul Goldschmidt 1B
Daniel Descalso 3B
Ketel Marte 2B
Nick Ahmed SS
Jeff Mathis C
Zack Godley P