Jayson Werth still hasn’t been cleared to swing a bat yet 10 weeks after breaking his wrist on May 6, but Mark Zuckerman of CSNWashington.com reports that the wrist is healed and the Nationals continue to target August 1 for his return date.
According to Zuckerman “that may be a bit too optimistic, but the club fully expects to have its veteran right fielder back for the stretch run.”
Because primary fill-in Steve Lombardozzi has played so well and the Nationals are in first place with the NL’s best record there’s little need to rush Werth back, so expect a lengthy minor-league rehab assignment during which he can show that the wrist injury hasn’t sapped his power.
Once he does return Bryce Harper will likely be asked to play center field regularly, with Mike Morse and Werth flanking him in the outfield corners and Lombardozzi sliding into a super-utility man role. Werth was having a nice bounceback season before the injury, hitting .276 with an .810 OPS in 27 games.
Nationals GM Mike Rizzo said on Tuesday that starter Stephen Strasburg is unlikely to pitch in the NLDS against the Dodgers, Chase Hughes of CSN Mid-Atlantic reports. Strasburg hasn’t pitched since September 7 due to a strained flexor mass.
Strasburg was pitching well before a few poor starts prior to being shut down in August. He currently holds a 3.60 ERA with a 183/44 K/BB ratio in 147 2/3 innings.
The Nationals signed Strasburg to a seven-year, $175 million contract extension in May. This was obviously not how they invisioned his 2016 campaign going.
Nationals starter A.J. Cole has been fined an undisclosed amount and suspended five games by Major League Baseball for intentionally throwing at Pirates third baseman Jung Ho Kang on Sunday, Chelsea Janes of The Washington Post reports. Cole is appealing his suspension.
Kang faked a tag on Bryce Harper, who was coming into third base on a triple. The fake-out caused Harper to slide awkwardly, injuring his left thumb. The Nationals took exception to this and Cole threw a fastball that ended sailing behind Kang’s back during his next at-bat. Cole was ejected and both benches emptied. There was some yelling and some light pushing and shoving, but nothing beyond that.
Cole will remain active until his appeal is heard, which may allow him to make one more start before the end of the regular season. He’s carrying a 5.09 ERA with a 37/14 K/BB ratio in 35 1/3 innings over seven starts this season.