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Beat-up Nats go for sweep of Padres

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Beat-up Nats go for sweep of Padres

Davey Johnson has managed clubs that were forced to deal with injuries, but never quite like this. "This team has been beat up more than any other team I've had," the 69-year-old manager said this morning. And yet the Nationals enter today's series finale against the Padres again in first place in the NL East, convinced they can continue to contend despite the growing disabled list.

The latest player added to the DL, of course, is Sandy Leon, the rookie catcher who suffered a serious ankle sprain last night in the fourth inning of his big-league debut. Leon was officially placed on the 15-day DL today, with 33-year-old veteran Carlos Maldonado promoted from Class AAA Syracuse to become the Nats' new backup catcher. (Starter Wilson Ramos, meanwhile, was transferred to the 60-day DL to clear a spot on the 40-man roster for Maldonado.)

The best way to overcome injuries is through pitching, and the Nationals have plenty of that. Today, ace Stephen Strasburg takes the mound to face his hometown team for the first time. Coming off a 13-strikeout performance against the Pirates, Strasburg will look to improve to 4-0 on the season.

There's still some rain in the forecast, but the sun is shining at the moment. Check the Nats Insider game thread for live updates and analysis...

SAN DIEGO PADRES at WASHINGTON NATIONALS
Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 1:05 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN, MLB.tv
Radio: WJFK (106.7 FM), WFED (1500 AM), XM 183
Weather: Scattered storms, 74 degrees, Wind 6 mph out to CF
NATIONALS (22-13)
SS Ian Desmond
LF Roger Bernadina
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam LaRoche
RF Bryce Harper
2B Danny Espinosa
CF Rick Ankiel
C Jesus Flores
RHP Stephen Strasburg

PADRES (12-24)
RF Will Venable
CF Cameron Maybin
3B Chase Headley
1B Yonder Alonso
2B Orlando Hudson
LF James Darnell
C John Baker
SS Andy Parrino
RHP Anthony Bass

UMPIRES
HP Brian Gorman (cc), 1B Tony Randazzo, 2B Alan Porter, 3B Larry Vanover

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Ryan Zimmerman is ready to rejoin Nationals, but in what capacity?

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USA Today Sports Images

Ryan Zimmerman is ready to rejoin Nationals, but in what capacity?

Key for Ryan Zimmerman was the simplistic act of staying on his grumpy feet for nine innings. The idea had been elusive for weeks. Zimmerman last played a full baseball game on April 27. Plantar fasciitis sent him to this fate, and each time he progressed, an ache pulled him back.

Monday, Zimmerman played nine innings for Double-A Harrisburg. He picked up two hits, but more vital was the ability to play a full game his third time on the field in four days. Zimmerman played Friday and Saturday before taking Sunday off. Tuesday becomes decision day: is Zimmerman ready to join the team Wednesday or does he have to wait? He'll wait at least another day since he is in the Senators' lineup as the designated hitter Tuesday.

There's a benefit to waiting. Washington goes to Detroit for interleague play this weekend. That affords them a chance to use the designated hitter and a window to play both Howie Kendrick and Zimmerman throughout the series without greatly taxing either.

Bringing Zimmerman back sooner also has the benefit of putting his glove on the field and expanding bench options for manager Davey Martinez. The veteran can be protected in a rotation at first base. The Nationals have Brian Dozier hitting and fielding well. Kendrick hits line drives whenever he is in the lineup. Matt Adams provides a powerful matchup option. This is how things were supposed to work from the start of the season. But, they did not come to order until late June.

Zimmerman's injury has also decided the fate of his $18 million club option for next season. It has graduated from unlikely to no chance. Though, he appears open to coming back at a much lower price. Zimmerman's body has forced him into a position of being a part-time player only, at this stage. He said last week his body "felt great" outside of the plantar fasciitis issue in his foot. Don't be surprised if he and the Nationals work something out for one more season.

For now, the club has to decide when Zimmerman will be back on the field. If he felt good Tuesday following another rehabilitation game, he could be ready as soon as Wednesday. Which prompts another decision: Do they release spirit animal Gerardo Parra to make space? Would they entertain a change for Michael A. Taylor? Something has to give if Zimmerman is finally ready.

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Nationals calling up reliever Jonny Venters

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Harrisburg Senators/Sam Getty

Nationals calling up reliever Jonny Venters

The Nationals are calling up veteran left-handed reliever Jonny Venters to join the team Tuesday, according to a source.

Venters, 34, has undergone three Tommy John surgeries in between his five seasons in the major leagues. Venters entered the league in 2010 and was dominant before his first ulnar collateral ligament tear. Washington signed him May 29, then sent him to Double-A Harrisburg. Venters put together a 1.29 ERA in seven innings with the Senators.

Also joining the bullpen Tuesday is veteran Fernando Rodney. Calling up both will force the Nationals to make a 25-man roster move. Washington is likely to send down Kyle McGowin. It also needs to open a 40-man roster spot. Transferring reliever Austen Williams to the 60-day disabled list would accomplish that.

Washington's maligned bullpen comes into play Tuesday with the major league's second-worst ERA after spending the majority of the season as the league's worst  bullpen.

Venters' promotion was first reported by 106.7 The Fan.

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