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Michael A. Taylor injury forces Nationals to hunt for outfield depth solution

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Michael A. Taylor injury forces Nationals to hunt for outfield depth solution

The post-MRI news for Michael A. Taylor was not great. Manager Davey Martinez told reporters Taylor has a sprained left knee and hip. He’s expected to miss “significant” time. 

Nationals brass took any opportunity during the winter to talk up Taylor after a dismal 2018 season which ended with him not playing. Filled with multiple baseball tools, Taylor’s prime issue was the most basic of ideas: making contact. He cut down his swing, went to Winter Ball and generally took every possible step to right his leading ill.

That work produced solid spring results, for what those are worth. At a minimum, Taylor fit as a quality fourth outfielder who provided Gold Glove-level defense and positional versatility for a team desperate to improve in runs saved. Now they are without that element.

Which means two things. Victor Robles finds his path to starting in center field on Opening Day unimpeded and the Nationals probably need more outfield help. 

Spring Training began with center field as one of the team’s few position battles. Robles’ potential pitted against Taylor’s known abilities, both good and bad. As spring moved along, Robles excelled at the plate and appeared to inch more in front though his defense was sketchy at times. Now, the position is Robles’ to start the season. Another true center fielder is not on the roster. 

Andrew Stevenson is by far the best defensive option in the new hunt for a fourth outfielder. Since Washington has placed such an emphasis on better defense this season -- particularly up the middle -- Stevenson could temporarily be in that position.

Matt Adams and Howie Kendrick have played the outfield recently. Kendrick is working through a hamstring strain. Adams remains Adams. Neither should be in the outfield if at all possible.

One other wild card: Wilmer Difo. The Nationals planned to send Difo to the outfield anyway for test reps in the spring. Expect him out there on occasion in the final days of spring training.

Washington’s current issue also reminds of the flippant trade that sent Brian Goodwin to the Kansas City Royals for a Single-A reliever last July. This would be a spot for Goodwin otherwise.

The lack of internal options will force a look at the free agent market. Veteran Austin Jackson remains available. Carlos Gonzalez, a right fielder, is also unemployed. As is former Nationals player Denard Span. Each is limited in some way.

The good news is a potent starting trio remains. Juan Soto in left, Robles in center and Adam Eaton in right field. The bad news is the team’s best outfield defender is suddenly not available. 


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Nationals' pitching staff rocked in Colorado as Nats close out ugly road trip

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Nationals' pitching staff rocked in Colorado as Nats close out ugly road trip

The Washington Nationals lost to the Colorado Rockies, 9-5, Wednesday afternoon and fell to 11-12 on the season. Here are five observations from the game...

1. The Anibal Sanchez experiment is not going well so far.

The veteran right-hander came to Washington over the winter fresh off a fantastic season in Atlanta, one that was an aberration from previous years and may have extended his career. The Nationals hoped he would be much more like his 2018 version and not the guy he was from 2015 through 2017. 

But through five starts, the results have not been pretty, and Wednesday was his worst game yet. Sanchez got rocked for six earned runs on nine hits and five walks in five innings of work. His season ERA sits at 6.00 and he has 16 walks in 27 total innings.

The early returns on the Nats rotation have not been great. Patrick Corbin is their only starter with an ERA below 4.00. But Sanchez has been far and away the weakest link.

The Nats closed out their road trip with a 2-4 mark. Both series were against teams with losing records. They have lost three of their past four series overall.

2. Adam Eaton also had a rough day. His worst moment was in the bottom of the third, when Raimel Tapia knocked a bases-clearing double over his head in right field. 

Eaton appeared to misjudge the ball by stepping in too far. He jumped in an attempt to make up for it with a leaping grab, only to have the ball sail past him and to the wall. Though Victor Robles sprinted over to back him up, Eaton made the play look even worse by giving up on it and doubling over with his hands on his knees in frustration.

Just one frame later, Eaton struck out with the bases loaded to end the top of the fourth. He went 1-for-5 on the day with his lone hit a single in the top of the ninth.

Eaton also had a minor injury scare. While running out a grounder in the first, he slowed down and appeared to be limping. He was then shown on TV chatting with trainer Paul Lessard in the dugout. 

3. Because this is the 2019 Nationals, the bullpen of course played a factor and once again it was an adventure for Trevor Rosenthal.

Per usual, he was pumping heat but with zero control. He began the eighth inning by hitting Charlie Blackmon and finished the frame with three runs allowed on two hits and a walk. Of his 31 pitches, only 16 were strikes and three were wild. 

Those three runs were costly because the Nats scored two in the ninth and left runners on the corners. If Rosenthal had pitched a clean eighth, it would have been a one-run game.

Rosenthal has allowed runs in six of his seven appearances this season. He now leads the majors with five wild pitches.  

Rosenthal remains one of the Nats' highest upside relief options, so it may pay off down the road if they show patience in him. But it continues to be a disaster just about every time he takes the mound.

4. It wasn't all bad for the Nats. Juan Soto, who fouled a pitch off his right ankle in Tuesday's game, played in this one and launched his fourth homer of the season over the right field fence. He also drew a walk.

Jake Noll made the first start of his MLB career and landed his first hit. He rifled a double down the left field line in the second inning to score Matt Adams. 

Noll started at third base, which was a bit of a strange sight. By now everyone knows of him as the guy who looks like Ryan Zimmerman; now he's playing his old position?

5. The Rockies got a key piece back in their lineup, a guy who is a familiar face to Nats fans. Wednesday was Daniel Murphy's return from a fractured left finger. 

The injury gave him a four-to-six week recovery timeline, but he came back a few days early. Perhaps that can be taken as a sign of hope for Trea Turner, who remains out with a broken finger himself.

Murphy did some damage against his former team. He singled in his first at-bat off Sanchez, then walked and scored in the third inning. He also moved a runner over on a lineout in the fourth that contributed to a run.

Murphy's best highlight, though, came in between innings when he barely avoided disaster while running onto the field during the Rockies' equivalent of the Presidents Race.



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By the skin of his teeth, former Nat Daniel Murphy avoids getting run over by Rockies' giant tooth

By the skin of his teeth, former Nat Daniel Murphy avoids getting run over by Rockies' giant tooth

You thought your Racing Presidents days were over, Daniel Murphy? Think again. 

Murphy, the second baseman for the Colorado Rockies and former first baseman for the Washington Nationals, was almost knocked over by a racing… tooth? The Comfort Dental Tooth Trot is a stadium staple at Coors Field, and Murphy got stuck in the action. 

Distracted, Murphy walked out of the dugout and right in front of the racers. He jumped out of the way as fast as he could, but couldn’t avoid getting shaken up by, you know, the giant tooth running toward him

Murphy was reinstated from the 10-day injured list Wednesday after fracturing his left index finger during the second game of the season. He was planed on the list on April 1 and missed 20 games. He was reinstated for Wednesday’s game against the Nationals to play first base and bat third, according to the Associated Press.

In 2016, Murphy was traded to the Nationals from the New York Mets, where he played for seven seasons. He signed a three-year, $3.75 million contract with Washington. He was traded to the Cubs in 2018, two and a half years into his time with the Nats. 

In December, he was traded to the Rockies to earn $19 million in 2019, according to Ken Rosenthal.