The question coming out of spring training was whether Adam Eaton would have a prominent role in the Nationals' lineup.
The question now is how will the club replace him.
Eaton, who, along with most of the rest of the lineup, had gotten off to a terrific start to the season was lost for the year Friday when he suffered a torn left ACL. The diagnosis was revealed Saturday.
Even so, there was some question as to how big of an impact Eaton might have on the lineup after Nationals manager Dusty Baker expressed hesitation at batting Eaton second in the lineup ahead of Bryce Harper and Daniel Murphy, as all three bat left-handed. With Trea Turner entrenched at the leadoff spot, the thought was instead that Eaton might move down to the bottom third of the lineup, hence cutting into his fantasy value.
Instead, Eaton remained at or near the top of the lineup, batting first or second in 90 of his 91 at-bats through Friday. An injury to Turner played into that but Eaton also forced Baker's hand with a .297/.393/.462 line, with two homers and three steals in 23 games.
Now, the team will have to face life without the 28-year-old. The obvious candidate to replace Eaton is Michael Taylor, who can play Eaton's position and also possesses a tantalizing speed and power combo, although he rarely shows it.
Perhaps the biggest beneficiary, though, could be Anthony Rendon, who has a chance to slide into the No. 2 spot in the lineup with Eaton out. Rendon has struggled to gain any traction in the early going, but his track record suggests he's got more to offer and batting between Turner and Harper is a good way to get it going.
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Desmond Making Debut Sunday?
Ian Desmond has been working toward a return to the Rockies in recent days, and that return could happen sooner than expected.
Desmond "seems poised to make his Rockies debut in left field on Sunday against the D-backs," according to MLB.com's Thomas Harding. Harding says Desmond is "in line" to start the series finale with southpaw Patrick Corbin on the mound for the Diamondbacks.
It's not surprising that Desmond is close, as he'd been playing (and raking) in extended spring training games in recent days. But most reports had him returning sometime in early May, not late April, as a Sunday return would have.
The position upon return is also noteworthy. Although Desmond was signed by the Rockies as a first baseman, the team would use him in left field Sunday to keep Mark Reynolds' bat in the lineup. After a homer and two-RBI single Saturday, the veteran is hitting .311/.370/.633 with eight homers and 23 RBI on the year.
Desmond has experience in the outfield, having played it for the Rangers last season, and it seems as though he'll commute back and forth between left field, where David Dahl remains sidelined, and first base this year. The 31-year-old also has experience in center field.
Wherever he plays, there will be plenty of at-bats to go around for he and Reynolds and, eventually, Dahl. None of the three should be dropped or downgraded because of the others' presence -- in Coors Field, everyone's bat plays.
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Miller Opts For Surgery
The inevitable happened for Shelby Miller Saturday.
The right-hander, who was diagnosed with a strained flexor tendon and partial tear of his ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow after an abbreviated start last Sunday, chose to undergo Tommy John surgery, ending his 2017 season and almost certainly cutting into his 2018 season in the process.
For Miller, at least, the goal isn't to return in late 2018.
"After taking some time and sitting back for a couple of days and talking to everybody and getting all the information that I could, I'm just going to go ahead and get the surgery done," Miller said Saturday. "With where I am in my career and how many years I have ahead of me, I think it's the logical thing to do.
"If I took the conservative route, rehabbed and it didn't work out, I could possibly miss two years. If I do it right now with no questions asked, feeling pretty good, I'll be throwing bullpens again around Spring Training time and I'll be back with the team. That ultimately makes the most sense to me."
It's a disappointing outcome for Miller, who had been better in posting a 4.09 ERA through four starts this year after a terrible 2016 season.
With Miller out, the frontrunner for the spot in the Diamondbacks' rotation appears to be old friend Archie Bradley, who has had multiple shots to hold down a gig to no avail. To his credit, Bradley has been much improved in 2017, posting a 1.20 ERA, 0.80 WHIP and 18/3 K/BB ratio over 15 innings in relief.
Always long on talent, Bradley could be worth a waiver wire flier to see if his relief renaissance is for real.
National League Quick Hits: Rich Hill (blister) will throw 60 pitches in a rehab start for Class-A Rancho Cucamonga Thursday, according to Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times. Hill threw a 48-pitch simulated game Saturday and came out of it unscathed, paving the way for Thursday's rehab start. If that goes well, the southpaw will return to the Dodgers in the second week of May ... Pirates placed 3B David Freese on the 10-day disabled list, retroactive to April 25, with a strained right hamstring. Freese hasn't played since straining his hamstring in Monday's game against the Cubs. The Pirates finally realized his leg wasn't healing fast enough to avoid placing him on the DL. Freese has been one of the club's best hitters in the early going, batting .321/.418/.536 with three home runs and 10 RBI ... Giants transferred SS Brandon Crawford from the three-day bereavement list to the 10-day disabled list. He was on the bereavement list due to a death in the family but was also suffering from a strained groin that will keep him sidelined for at least another week. His DL stint was backdated to April 26th ... Matt Kemp went 3-for-5 with three home runs and five RBI to lead the Braves past the Brewers 11-3 on Saturday. Kemp was an equal opportunity masher, hitting his three homers off three different pitchers from the fifth to the eighth inning. Remarkably, it was the first time in his career that the 32-year-old had a three-homer game ... Ivan Nova limited the Marlins to three hits in a complete-game, 4-0 shutout on Saturday. Nova was brilliant, keeping the Marlins to a pair of singles and a double while needing just 95 pitches to complete the task. A 7/0 K/BB ratio helped, and Nova now has 22 strikeouts to one walk over 36 innings this year ... Michael Conforto blasted a pair of home runs on Saturday, powering the Mets to a 5-3 victory over the Nationals in Washington. Conforto tagged Nats' starter Stephen Strasburg for a two-run homer in the fifth inning that increased their lead to 3-1. He wasn't finished though, clubbing a solo shot off of Enny Romero in the eighth to add insurance. Conforto also singled and stole a base in the game, finishing the afternoon 3-for-4 with a pair of runs scored and three RBI.
American League Quick Hits: Angels placed LHP Tyler Skaggs on the 10-day disabled list with a right oblique injury. He suffered the injury in the fifth inning of Friday's game against the Rangers. No word yet from the team regarding the severity of the injury or how long Skaggs will be out, although oblique injuries often lead to extended absences ... Carlos Gomez hit a two-run home run in the seventh inning Saturday against the Angels to complete the cycle. It was Gomez's first time hitting for the cycle since May 7, 2008 when he was a member of the Minnesota Twins ... Andrew Triggs set a personal best with nine strikeouts over seven shutout innings in the Athletics' 2-1 win over the Astros on Saturday. One start after getting beatdown by the Mariners, Triggs rebounded with his best start of his abbreviated major league career. The nine strikeouts bested the eight he recorded in a start last year, and it was actually the first time he'd gotten through seven innings as a member of the A's. The 28-year-old has now held the opposition without an earned run in four of his five starts, good for a 1.84 ERA and 0.92 WHIP in 29 1/3 innings ... Jose Abreu crushed his first two homers of the 2017 season on Saturday, leading the White Sox to a 6-4 victory over the Tigers. Abreu, who missed Friday's game with a right hip flexor/groin issue, tagged Tigers' starter Michael Fulmer for a solo shot in the third inning. He added a second solo homer off of Blaine Hardy in the eighth ... Brett Gardner hit two home runs and plated four RBI as the Yankees thrashed the Orioles 12-4 on Saturday. He got things started in a hurry, leading off the Yankees' half of the first inning with a solo blast off Ubaldo Jimenez. He got another chance in the second inning and took Jimenez deep again, this time with two runners aboard. Prior to Saturday, Gardner had not homered nor driven in a run this season.