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Michael Taylor playing his way into Nats’ outfield mix

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Michael Taylor seemed destined for a bench role once the Nationals acquired Ben Revere from the Blue Jays in January. Defending National League MVP Bryce Harper has claim to right field and $126 million man Jayson Werth, finally healthy, would handle left field.

But Taylor has had a very productive spring, batting .485 with three doubles, three home runs, and three stolen bases across 33 at-bats. He’s caught the eye of manager Dusty Baker, per Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, and he might force the Nationals to make room for him.

Werth, of course, is nearly untradeable as he turns 37 years old in May, played in only 88 games with yet more injuries last season, and is owed $42 million total through 2017. And Harper isn’t going anywhere, at least not until the 2018 season. The Nationals’ best option, if they intend to give Taylor a shot, seems to be platooning Werth and Revere in left field and putting Taylor in right.

Taylor, 25 on Saturday, posted a meager .640 OPS in 511 plate appearances last season, but he entered the year rated as baseball’s 32nd-best prospect according to Baseball America. He plays strong defense, runs the bases well, and can develop into a major league-capable hitter. The Nationals, however, may not want to afford Taylor more time for growing pains as they attempt to dethrone the Mets in the National League East.

It’s an interesting situation to watch, as spring training is suddenly close to finishing.

Nationals to reinstate Max Scherzer on Thursday

Max Scherzer
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Some good news for the Nationals today: All-Star hurler Max Scherzer is due back from the injured list this week, this time (hopefully) for good. He’s slated to start during Thursday’s series finale against the Pirates.

It’s been a long road back for the right-hander, who earned his seventh consecutive All-Star designation after heading into the break with a 2.30 ERA, 5.6 fWAR, and a league-leading 7.56 SO/BB rate. An untimely back injury forced him to the injured list in the days leading up to the All-Star Game, however, and he hasn’t returned in any kind of part-time or full-time capacity since.

While Scherzer was originally expected to pitch for the Nationals sometime during their weekend series versus the Brewers, manager Dave Martinez elected to push back his return date by a few days. It’s not clear whether he felt some lingering pain during his 64-pitch simulated start on Saturday or whether the Nationals simply want to play it safe with their ace, but either way, the club apparently feels like Scherzer will be back to full strength before the end of the week.

If so, his return would be a significant asset to the Nationals, who could use a sub-3.00 ERA, 5.0-fWAR starter to help bolster their standing in the NL East. Still, there’s no guarantee that the veteran righty is ready to shoulder a full-time role in Washington’s rotation, nor is it certain that he’ll be able to match his results from the first half of the season. In one start between IL stints last month, he dealt five innings of three-run, two-walk, eight-strikeout ball in an 8-7 loss to the Rockies.