With four days off for the All-Star break and a large group of notable players on the disabled list, Friday afforded Nationals manager Matt Williams an opportunity to run down a long list of injury updates.
Denard Span, Anthony Rendon, Ryan Zimmerman, Jayson Werth and Stephen Strasburg remain sidelined as the team begins the second half of the season. Here is the latest on each of them...
Anthony Rendon and Ryan Zimmerman
Both Rendon and Zimmerman are close to beginning minor league rehab assignments, but they have several tests they have yet to pass. Williams pointed to baserunning as the final determinant as they continue working out with the team and going through baseball activities. Rendon is nursing a strained left quadriceps muscle, while Zimmerman is out with plantar fasciitis in his left foot.
"They've done everything except get on the basepaths and go full on the basepaths. Yesterday they did it first to third, second to home, doubles, turns and stop and come back. Albeit controlled, it was a good step," Williams explained.
"Full workouts today, they had that as well yesterday. They ran the bases yesterday in a controlled environment, but nonetheless they were both on the bases. That's a good sign. We'll just keep progressing them. They're both taking batting practice, they're both taking groundballs."
Rendon's disabled list stint dates back to June 25. Zimmerman's began on June 10. Williams stopped short of putting a timetable on either player's rehab, but insists they are close.
Span is still resting with back tightness after seeing a specialist in Dallas on July 9. Williams said he is "very close" to beginning baseball activities.
"He's strengthening. They put him on a serious program after he saw a specialist and he's doing that," Williams said. "He's really close to getting back out and hitting again, but what we don't want to do is to have a repeat. All the tests were good and he's okay. He's just continuing to strengthen his core and working on his flexibility. He'll be ready to go soon."
Span's DL stint dates back to July 7.
Strasburg threw off flat ground in right field at Nationals Park on Friday with head trainer Lee Kunzt looking on. Williams said the right-hander - who is out with a strained left oblique - is close to throwing a bullpen session.
"He threw yesterday, he threw today. It’s a normal throwing program. He’s not a mound yet but a good sign that he’s back out there doing it and that he’s having no issue with it. So we’ll look to a bullpen in the next four to five days probably and see where he’s at. But a good sign for him."
Williams said it's likely the Nationals will need more than one spot start before he returns, but it depends on how quickly Strasburg can rebuild his arm strength.
"The longer he’s off, the more it takes. Granted he’s been to 100 pitches this year and we know he can do that but the more time he takes off, we gotta build that back up. Is it one? Probably not. Could it be two? Maybe. So we’ll see where’s at. We know that in one of those rehab starts, we gotta get him to five innings at least and with the ability to go out for six on a regular pitch count. Once we can do that then he’ll be ready to go."
Werth played his first minor league rehab game with the Single-A Potomac Nationals on Thursday night and notched a single in his first at-bat. He is scheduled to play again on Friday as the designated hitter. Werth is out with a broken left wrist and has been on the disabled list since May 16.
Williams broke down the report he received on Thursday's game:
"He’s three innings last night. Two at-bats and played the field. Tonight he’s scheduled to DH and get three at-bats at least and then we’ll see where he is tomorrow. But he reported today prior to going to Potomac. His legs feel good. He’s been doing a lot of running so that’s not an issue. He felt good in his at-bats last night physically. The timing is off, of course, which is normal. But didn’t have any issues coming out of it so that’s a good sign. The deal with broken bones are when they’re healed, they’re healed. Right now it’s about strengthening the area, because he was in a splint for a while, and getting at-bats. So all things considered, he came out of it really well."