MIAMI — The best illustration of how the Washington Nationals manage injuries by balancing a long view with their short-term goals is their approach with veteran catcher Kurt Suzuki.

Suzuki has been out for nearly two weeks with inflammation in his throwing elbow. He is the team’s top catcher — and the regular partner of ace Max Scherzer and Aníbal Sánchez — and the club could really use his bat in the thick of this pennant race. But Suzuki, 35, doesn’t want to jeopardize his future by coming back too fast. He doesn’t expect to feel 100 percent; very few players do this late in the season. But there are several factors to consider regarding his next steps.

He tried throwing from 60 feet at Marlins Park on Friday, and his elbow felt fine in the morning. That was a good sign, and in turn, he was available to pinch-hit when the Nationals faced the Marlins on Saturday. It’s going to take more than that, though, for Suzuki to be convinced he’s ready for his usual role.

“Shoot, I’m 35 years old. I’m going to be 36. If I get hurt, knock on wood, it’s not going to be just a little rest thing,” Suzuki said. “When guys hurt their elbow and they have to get surgery, they’re out for a year or so. You don’t want to do that at this point of my career.

“At the same time, I don’t know how many times I’m going to have the opportunity to get to the playoffs. It is kind of that fine line where you’ve got to kind of balance it out.”

This is very similar to what the Nationals are weighing with their other injured players. Washington doesn’t want to further jeopardize their health by pushing them back onto the field prematurely. But the team also has nine games left in the regular season and could well be playing in the National League wild-card game Oct. 1.

Matt Adams is working back from a left shoulder strain and took on-field batting practice for the second consecutive day. Roenis Elías is recovering from his second right hamstring strain in as many months and is still regaining strength.

Without Suzuki, Yan Gomes has caught in all but one of the Nationals’ past 12 games. Without Suzuki and Adams, the Nationals’ bench is a lot thinner than it was in August. Without Elías, Sean Doolittle is the only left-handed reliever in Washington’s bullpen. Each of them knows the urgency required in September. And each of them is being closely monitored by the club’s training staff so no mistakes are made.

“That’s kind of the plan now,” Suzuki said of possibly returning before he is at full strength. “It’s just getting to a point where I can play. I don’t think anybody’s 100 percent now at this time of the year, no matter if they’re healthy or not. Right now it’s just a matter of getting healthy enough to be able to go out there and play.”


Nationals (84-68)

Trea Turner SS

Adam Eaton RF

Anthony Rendon 3B

Juan Soto LF

Asdrúbal Cabrera 2B

Ryan Zimmerman 1B

Victor Robles CF

Yan Gomes C

Stephen Strasburg P

Marlins (53-100)

Magneuris Sierra CF

Miguel Rojas SS

Neil Walker 1B

Starlin Castro 3B

Isan Diaz 2B

Harold Ramirez RF

Austin Dean LF

Bryan Holaday C

Jordan Yamamoto P

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