Justin Miller
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Nationals place Justin Miller on 10-day injured list with lower back strain

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The Nationals have assigned right-handed reliever Justin Miller to the 10-day injured list, the team announced Saturday. Miller was diagnosed with a lower back strain after laboring through an unsuccessful outing on Friday night. He was replaced on the 25-man roster by rookie right-hander Austen Williams, who was brought in from Triple-A Fresno and figures to be available for the remainder of the weekend series.

Miller, 31, struggled during the Nationals’ 6-3 loss to the Pirates last night. He stepped in for Matt Grace in the top of the 10th inning and induced a groundout from Starling Marte, then gave up the game-winning three-run homer to Colin Moran in the next at-bat. While he didn’t appear to be in obvious pain during the game, team doctors later determined that he had aggravated the back issues he developed during last weekend’s series against the Mets. “It just feels like somebody’s punching me in the kidney every single time I try and throw a ball,” Miller told reporters.

Prior to the diagnosis, Miller had allowed four runs, two walks, and six strikeouts over his first 6 1/3 innings of the 2019 season. (That hasn’t done much to alleviate the issues facing the Nationals’ bullpen, which currently ranks eighth-worst in the NL with a cumulative 8.12 ERA and 0.0 fWAR, per FanGraphs.) It’s still unclear whether he’ll be able to make a full comeback within such a short window, however, or whether the club will start to look at external options if Williams needs more time to get the hang of things at the major-league level.

Brewers have 3 positive COVID tests at alternate site

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MILWAUKEE — The Brewers had two players and a staff member test positive for the coronavirus at their alternate training site in Appleton, Wisconsin.

Milwaukee president of baseball operations David Stearns confirmed the positive results Saturday and said they shouldn’t impact the major league team. Teams are using alternate training sites this season to keep reserve players sharp because the minor league season was canceled due to the pandemic.

Stearns said the positive tests came Monday and did not name the two players or the staff member. Players must give their permission for their names to be revealed after positive tests.

The entire camp was placed in quarantine.

“We have gone through contact tracing,” Stearns said. “We do not believe it will have any impact at all on our major league team. We’ve been fortunate to get through this season relatively unscathed in this area. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to get all the way there at our alternate site.”

Milwaukee entered Saturday one game behind the Reds and Cardinals for second place in the NL Central, with the top two teams qualifying for the postseason.

The Brewers still will be able to take taxi squad players with them on the team’s trip to Cincinnati and St. Louis in the final week of the season. He said those players have had repeated negative tests and the team is “confident” there would be no possible spread of the virus.

“Because of the nature of who these individuals were, it’s really not going to affect the quarantine group at all,” Stearns said. “We’re very fortunate that the group of players who could potentially be on a postseason roster for us aren’t interacting all that much with the individuals that tested positive.”