The Washington Nationals were back home Monday after a 10-day, three-city road trip. Before their matchup with the Cincinnati Reds to start a three-game series, they got a moment to breathe and evaluate their injuries — most notably, Juan Soto’s.
Soto’s right ankle is “good,” Manager Dave Martinez said, and the left fielder might be ready to pinch-hit if the Nationals need him Monday night. Ace Max Scherzer also is “good” as he continues throwing while rehabbing a mild rhomboid muscle strain. Second baseman Brian Dozier has been ill with flulike symptoms since Sunday and met with a doctor again Monday. And left-handed reliever Roenis Elías, on the injured list with a hamstring injury, is progressing; the Nationals hope he gets on the mound by the end of the week.
The Nationals also made a roster move: They activated infielder Howie Kendrick from the IL and optioned outfielder Andrew Stevenson to Class AA Harrisburg.
“We have to be very careful how to push guys at this time of year,” Martinez said. “That’s why it’s important at 25 guys on your roster."
Soto is ‘a little bit sore'
The focus Monday was on Soto. On Sunday, during Asdrúbal Cabrera’s ultimately decisive two-run double, the 20-year-old rolled his ankle trying to stop when held by third base coach Bob Henley. When Martinez first saw the injury, he said he choked on the seeds he was chewing and feared Soto had hurt his Achilles’ tendon. The injury also concerned him because Soto broke the ankle in 2017. But X-rays came back negative, and the team considered Soto day-to-day.
Martinez said Soto woke up “a little bit sore" but was “adamant” about playing Monday. Martinez wanted the young star to be cautious.
“Let’s take our time and see if you’re available to pinch-hit,” Martinez said of how he explained the situation to Soto. “We’ll put you in a situation where we need you. I’m assuming that, by what the medical staff is saying, it won’t be very long.”
Simulated game next for Scherzer
Scherzer threw a bullpen session Saturday and from flat ground Sunday, and he felt good both days, Martinez said. He threw again Monday and is scheduled for a “little [simulated] game” Tuesday. The team wants to see progression; the ace right-hander has thrown just five innings in the past month.
“There’s no timetable for him,” Martinez said. “We just want to make sure that when he comes back he is 100 percent the same.”
The Nationals want to know how Scherzer responds to the simulated game because the strain doesn’t affect him while he’s pitching, but it seems to inhibit his ability to recover. So, depending on how the simulated game goes, the Nationals might want him to throw another one.
“This [type of injury] is a first for him. … There’s a lot of stuff that goes on in that brain,” Martinez said. “But we got to get him healthy, and I tell him this every day. I tell him, man: ‘One hundred percent, that’s our goal, get you healthy.’ ”
Kendrick returned from his stint on the injured list with a strained left hamstring on the first day he was eligible. The Nationals had said when he went on the IL that it was a precautionary measure.
Martinez said he did not expect Kendrick to need extra time to find his groove because he hit off the velocity machine while he was sidelined and continued “getting ready.”
“Having him off the bench, ready to pinch-hit today, is a great feeling," Martinez said.
Dozier slows down
Martinez was asked whether keeping Dozier on the roster despite his sickness meant he was effectively limited to 24 players. The manager pushed back by saying, despite the flulike symptoms Sunday, the second baseman told the Nationals he could pinch-hit if needed. Dozier flied out to right in the sixth inning.
Now, though, the Nationals would like him to change his approach.
“We’re just trying to keep him off his feet," Martinez said. "He hasn’t been able to eat in the last couple days.”
Cincinnati Reds (56-60)
Jesse Winker, LF
Joey Votto, 1B
Eugenio Suárez, 3B
Josh VanMeter, 2B
Aristides Aquino, RF
Nick Senzel, CF
Tucker Barnhart, C
José Iglesias, SS
Anthony DeSclafani, RHP
Trea Turner, SS
Adam Eaton, RF
Anthony Rendon, 3B
Matt Adams, 1B
Asdrúbal Cabrera, 2B
Gerardo Parra, LF
Kurt Suzuki, C
Victor Robles, CF
Erick Fedde, RHP