ATLANTA — Of all the injuries the Washington Nationals have dealt with this season — and there have been plenty — their two veteran catchers had appeared in every inning until late Saturday night.
That’s when Kurt Suzuki began feeling right elbow pain and tingling in his fingers. He exited the game after the seventh inning of a 5-4 loss to the Atlanta Braves, and Raudy Read took his place behind the plate. Yan Gomes had started the game and been replaced by Suzuki. The Nationals were down to their third and final catcher in a critical game. With that in mind, they selected the contract of catcher Tres Barrera on Sunday morning, then added Barrera to the 40-man roster. To make room for him there, catcher Spencer Kieboom was placed on the 60-day injured list with right elbow inflammation.
Suzuki had an MRI exam Sunday morning, and it revealed nothing beyond inflammation. He is considered day-to-day.
“I just felt something in my elbow,” Suzuki said Sunday. “It happens, I guess; it’s baseball. It’s just some tingling, zings. I mean it’s a little sore today, but it should be good.”
Read has been up since Sept. 1 and will be the de facto backup behind Gomes. He has been taking defensive reps most days, and Manager Dave Martinez expects him to be in all pitcher-catcher meetings moving forward. Martinez also wants both Read and Barrera to cycle through the bullpen and begin working with different relievers before games.
It is unlikely that Barrera will be anything but emergency insurance until Suzuki is healthy. He caught 101 games for the Class AA Harrisburg Senators this season, working with Erick Fedde, Austin Voth and Aaron Barrett, who are all on the active roster. He finished the minor league season with a .249 batting average, .323 on-base percentage and .381 slugging percentage and has been complimented for how he handles pitchers. Barrera is also bilingual, having grown up in a Mexican American family, and that helps him better communicate with Latin American pitchers and teammates.
The 24-year-old was at his apartment in Harrisburg, Pa., when he received the call from Manager Matthew LeCroy. He was watching a college football game between Texas and LSU. He was angry that Texas, his alma mater, couldn’t keep up with the Tigers. His mood soon changed when LeCroy told him the news. He had an early morning flight to Atlanta to catch. It’s a turbulent time for the Nationals, who are navigating a few key injuries during a pennant race, but Barrera still took a second to cry and call his parents. He had realized a lifelong dream.
“I didn’t really know where I was going, so the security guard toured me around and let me in here,” Barrera said of the visitors’ clubhouse at SunTrust Park. “I was the first one in here so I was like, ‘What do I do?’ That’s how my morning has gone so far."
Trea Turner SS
Adam Eaton RF
Anthony Rendon 3B
Juan Soto LF
Asdrúbal Cabrera 2B
Matt Adams 1B
Victor Robles CF
Yan Gomes C
Max Scherzer P
Ronald Acuna Jr. CF
Ozzie Albies 2B
Freddie Freeman 1B
Josh Donaldson 3B
Matt Joyce RF
Dansby Swanson SS
Tyler Flowers C
Rafael Ortega LF
Mike Soroka P
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