Though relentless rain left the Washington Nationals idle for most of the week, they still took another blow a few hundred miles away Thursday when outfielder Rafael Bautista tore the anterior cruciate and lateral collateral ligaments and meniscus in his left knee while playing for Class AAA Syracuse. Bautista suffered the injury in a collision. He’ll have surgery Wednesday and miss the rest of the season.
It’s just the latest setback for the Nationals’ outfield depth, a strength that has quickly thinned. At the major league level, Adam Eaton (ankle) and Brian Goodwin (wrist) have missed the past 34 and 27 games, respectively. In the minors, Victor Robles, the organization’s top prospect, suffered a serious injury to his left elbow last month — on the same field Bautista hurt his knee in Rochester — and will miss significant time. The sudden shortage has forced Washington to rely on Matt Adams, Moises Sierra, and Andrew Stevenson in left field in recent weeks.
“It’s getting to the point now where enough’s enough,” Nationals Manager Dave Martinez said.
Bautista made his major league debut last season and spent two weeks with the Nationals this season. In 2018, he appeared in nine games, made one start and went 0 for 6 in the limited action. But the 25-year-old speedster was thriving in the minors before being called up. After beginning the season with Class AA Harrisburg, he was promoted to Syracuse, where he was batting .429 with a .966 OPS in 45 plate appearances. He returned to bat .300 with a .749 OPS in 46 plate appearances before suffering his injury.
The Nationals’ outfield cupboard isn’t completely bare, though. Juan Soto, their No. 2 prospect, has already earned two promotions with his video-game production this season, rising to Harrisburg at 19 years old. He’s batting .296 with two home runs and a .943 OPS in seven games as one of the youngest players at the level. Perhaps the production combined with injuries to players above him in the depth chart will lead to a sooner-than-expected call-up to the big leagues.
Eaton is also optimistic he’ll return by the end of June after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his bothersome left ankle. The procedure finally eliminated what has been causing pain in the ankle — a chondral flap — and he has been encouraged. On Saturday, he was walking around the Nationals clubhouse barefoot without his ankle in a cast and without a limp. In more important news, his wife gave birth to their second child Wednesday night. Eaton was in high spirits.
As for Goodwin, Martinez said he recently started swinging a bat and is “getting better.”
“Hopefully now he turns that corner and we can get moving,” Martinez said.
Meanwhile, the Nationals didn’t have an update on catcher Matt Wieters, who underwent surgery on his left hamstring this week. Martinez said Wieters will be evaluated by the team’s medical staff when he arrives at Nationals Park on Saturday. He had the surgery done in Fort Worth, on Thursday.
Wieters is expected to miss significant time, though, and the Nationals are currently rolling with Pedro Severino and Spencer Kieboom at catcher. Kieboom will make his first career start in the first game of Saturday’s scheduled doubleheader against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Rain is once again threatening Saturday’s plans, both sides and Major League Baseball are intent on at least getting on at least one game in.
The opener is slated for 2:05 p.m. and the nightcap for 8:05 p.m. It’ll be Tanner Roark opposite Ross Stripling in the first game. Roark hasn’t pitched since May 10, a layoff that required throwing an extra side session.
“I kind of like the fact that he was able to get a little break,” Martinez said. “If you look back, he’s had some significant pitch count numbers the first few games. So to give him a couple extra days is good.”
Max Scherzer, who hasn’t pitched since May 11, will start against Rich Hill in the second game. The Nationals will activate infielder Adrian Sanchez as their 26th man for the nightcap.
Joc Pederson LF
Cody Bellinger CF
Justin Turner 3B
Yasmani Grandal C
Matt Kemp RF
Max Muncy 1B
Chris Taylor SS
Logan Forsythe 2B
Ross Stripling P
Trea Turner SS
Bryce Harper RF
Anthony Rendon 3B
Matt Adams 1B
Howie Kendrick LF
Michael A. Taylor CF
Wilmer Difo 2B
Spencer Kieboom C
Tanner Roark P
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