Updated at 6:39 p.m.
ATLANTA — The Nationals made another flurry of roster moves Wednesday afternoon, promoting outfielder Michael Taylor and left-hander Sammy Solis to the majors, placing outfielder Reed Johnson on the 15-day disabled list and optioning right-hander A.J. Cole back to the minors after his difficult debut the previous night.
The moves were necessary for two reasons: 1) The Nationals planned to send Cole down all along following his spot start in place of injured ace Max Scherzer and needed to add a reliever to bring their bullpen back up to full capacity, and 2) Johnson’s calf strain, suffered during the seventh inning Tuesday night, opened a vacancy for another backup outfielder.
Johnson is expected to miss significant time with what the team officially called a left calf strain. (Manager Matt Williams initially said Tuesday night that Johnson “tore” a muscle in his foot that extended up the back of his lower leg.) The 38-year-old outfielder, who had doubled in a key run during the Nationals’ record-setting rally, was 4-for-18 on the season.
“The severity is that it’s a pulled muscle there, a pulled muscle on the outside that kind of runs underneath your foot,” Williams said Wednesday. “Now that he’s on the DL, we’ll get him the opportunity to go see [a doctor] and get [an MRI] of it and see what it is exactly.”
The choice of Taylor to replace Johnson was a bit of a surprise, given the Nationals’ decision to option the promising young outfielder back to Class AAA Syracuse only nine days ago when Denard Span came off the DL. The thinking was that Taylor needed to play every day and wouldn’t get enough at-bats at the big-league level.
The Nationals, though, feel they can give Taylor at least a couple starts a week, trying to give Span and Jayson Werth (who also missed all of spring training) more regular days off.
“We might have an opportunity to get him more at-bats than before,” general manager Mike Rizzo said, “with Werth and Span kind of rounding out of spring training shape.”
Solis, meanwhile, will become the fifth different pitcher to make his MLB debut for the Nationals in the last two weeks after his promotion from Class AA Harrisburg. The 26-year-old lefty, the organization’s second-round pick in the 2010 draft, originally was touted as back-of-the-rotation candidate but after dealing with injuries in the minors (including Tommy John surgery in 2012) he now gets his chance to make it as a reliever.
“I wouldn’t say I ever doubted myself as a ballplayer,” said Solis, who had an army of family members and friends fly in from Phoenix to see him potentially debut in Atlanta. “But I doubted whether my body could handle it. Last year, I felt fantastic, and then I get up to Harrisburg and my elbow starts barking again. That was the toughest thing for me, because I had already gone through Tommy John, had come back and then to fall backward again was hard. But I’ve just been working as hard as I can, and holding up now, which is nice.”
Rated the Nationals’ 15th-best prospect by Baseball America this winter, Solis posted a 2.25 ERA in three games at Harrisburg after opening the season at extended spring training. He owns a 3.30 ERA in parts of five minor-league seasons.
“He’s a guy with really good stuff,” Rizzo said. “And every time I’ve seen him pitch, be it in the minor leagues or as an amateur or big-league camp, he’s thrown extremely well for us. He just keeps getting sidetracked by these injuries. We thought maybe a bullpen role will keep him able to pitch more.”
Wednesday’s moves leave the Nationals with three left-handers in their bullpen for the time being, with Solis joining veteran Matt Thornton and fellow rookie Matt Grace.