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More roster decisions looming for Nats

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More roster decisions looming for Nats

Yesterday's Drew Storen-for-Rick Ankiel swap left the Nationals with an unconventional roster: an eight-man bullpen and a four-man bench. And Mike Rizzo made it clear that odd alignment was created to keep as many relievers as possible in the mix for this weekend's four-gamethree-day showdown with the Braves.

But Rizzo also made it clear this arrangement won't last long. The Nationals don't need eight relievers long-term, and they do need a fifth player off the bench. So we should be expecting more roster moves from Rizzo in the near future as the club tries to put together various pieces of a complicated, 25-man puzzle.

"We're going to go with it until we have to make another roster move that's dictated by the health of somebody coming back," the GM said yesterday.

In that regard, there are two names of rehabbing players to keep in mind: Jayson Werth and Chad Tracy. Each is close to coming off the disabled list and rejoining the Nationals' active roster.

Werth's return is still a couple of weeks away; he's due to begin a rehab assignment with Class A Potomac tonight, his first game action since he broke his left wrist trying to make a diving catch on May 6.

"We're going to be cautious with him, because we're going to need him in the stretch drive," Rizzo said. "We're going to make sure he's healthy. We're going to give him ample plate appearances so he can see ample pitches and when he comes up here he can hit the ground running."

Tracy, out since late May with a sports hernia that required surgery, is closer to rejoining the active roster. The veteran corner infielder and pinch-hitter extraordinaire had to abort his first rehab assignment with Class A Potomac earlier this month but has been taking batting and fielding practice at Nationals Park the last few days and appears just about ready to return to one of the organization's affiliates to see more game action.

"His injury is a little trickier," Rizzo said. "Those sports hernias are ... it's not so much about swinging the bat. It's about exploding out of the box after you hit the ball. It's lateral movement and that type of thing. He's a veteran player that's had that injury before. He'll dictate when he's ready to go out for rehab."

Whether it's a week, two weeks or three weeks before Tracy andor Werth return, the Nationals will at some point have to clear roster space for each veteran. One will take the spot currently held by the extra reliever. The other will bump someone else off the Nats' bench, leading to a dilemma.

Who draws the short straw from the current group of reserves? Backup catcher Sandy Leon is safe, at least until Jhonatan Solano recovers from an oblique strain. Utilityman Steve Lombardozzi will remain because of his production and versatility. That leaves outfielder Roger Bernadina, left fielderfirst baseman Tyler Moore and utilityman Mark DeRosa, with room on the roster for only two.

DeRosa has easily been the least productive of the group, though he's well-respected as a clubhouse leader, and manager Davey Johnson has touted him all along as a key to this team's success. Bernadina is out of minor-league options and has played well over the last two weeks. Moore has also hit well as a rookie, though he does have options.

The bench decision may pale in comparison to the decision Rizzo and Johnson are going to have to make with their bullpen in a few days. Quite simply, there's no obvious candidate to lose his job at the moment.

The least effective reliever on the roster is Henry Rodriguez, but he has no options and club officials remain committed to the erratic right-hander over the long haul. Michael Gonzalez is a relatively recent addition to the group, but the veteran lefty has pitched well and likewise is out of options.

That leaves one of two right-handers with impeccable stats so far this season: Ryan Mattheus and Craig Stammen. Each boasted sub-2.00 ERAs (until Stammen served up a three-run homer to David Wright yesterday) and each has filled an important need: Mattheus as a setup man, Stammen as a right-handed long reliever.

"You've got a bullpen which is performing extremely well," Rizzo said. "The bullpen guys with options are too valuable to send out, and anybody you designate and send out is going to be taken by somebody else. So guys like Mike Gonzalez and Henry Rodriguez, they're too valuable for us in 2012, and Henry beyond 2012. We couldnt take the chance of them getting claimed by another club."

Ultimately, Rizzo will have no choice but to part ways with two players from his current roster. That parting, though, doesn't have to be permanent. Should he choose to send down those players who still have minor-league options, Rizzo could ensure all remain in the organization. And all could be brought back on Sept. 1 once rosters expand to 40.

These won't be easy decisions. But Rizzo has to decide what makes the most sense for his club. Now, in September and beyond.

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Can slumping Nationals, Gio Gonzalez end losing streak Monday vs. Padres?

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Can slumping Nationals, Gio Gonzalez end losing streak Monday vs. Padres?

When the Washington Nationals visited San Diego on May 7-9, they won the first two games of a three-game series to move within 1 1/2 games of the National League West lead.

At the time, the Nationals were on a bit of a run and the Padres were reeling with a 13-24 record.

Two weeks after that series, the Padres and Nationals meet again in Washington, D.C (7:05 p.m. ET, Monday). And the fortunes of the two teams have changed a bit.

Since winning that series finale at Petco Park to avoid being swept by the Nationals, the Padres have gone 7-4 and are riding a three-game winning streak.

The Nationals have gone 4-4 and just lost a third straight game to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Sunday in Washington to slip four games off the lead in their division.

The Nationals are the home team this time for a three-game series that opens Monday night with a matchup of left-handers -- Gio Gonzalez (4-2, 2.36 ERA) going for Washington with Robbie Erlin (1-2, 3.46) making a spot start for San Diego.

On paper, the pairing clearly favors the hosts.

Erlin, 27, has met the Nationals twice in his career. Both games were at Nationals Park. Erlin is 0-2 in the matchups with a 16.39 ERA.

In Erlin's two previous outings in the nation's capital, Erlin has given up 17 runs, 19 hits and six walks with six strikeouts in 9 1/3 innings. The Nationals have hit .413 against Erlin, who has a 2.68 WHIP against Washington.

This will be only the second start of the season for Erlin, who returned this year after having Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery midway through 2016.

Thirteen of Erlin's 14 appearances this season have been out of the bullpen. His one previous start was April 16 against the Dodgers. He gave up six runs (five earned), seven hits and two walks with four strikeouts in three innings.

Erlin is filling the vacancy created when rookie left-hander Joey Lucchesi went on the disabled list with a slightly strained glute. The Padres are hoping Lucchesi will miss only one start, although it looks like it could now be two or three.

Gonzalez is no stranger to the Padres. He started the May 9 game that the Nationals lost 2-1. Gonzalez allowed one run, five hits and three walks in six innings. Afterward, he said he struggled with his command.

Gonzalez was not involved in that decision. During his career, he has made seven starts against the Padres and has a 3-2 record with a 3.21 ERA, a 1.357 WHIP and a .253 opponents' batting average. Against the Padres, Gonzalez has given up 19 runs (15 earned), 41 hits and 16 walks with 41 strikeouts in 42 innings.

When the Nationals were in San Diego, first baseman-left fielder Matt Adams went 3-for-8 with a double, two homers, six RBIs and three runs scored -- although he got the third game off.

Since leaving San Diego, Adams has hit only .143. Washington's Bryce Harper is hitting .125 in the last eight games with a homer and three RBIs.

Another key player in the first Padres-Nationals series was Howie Kendrick, who was 5-for-12 with a double and two runs scored. But Kendrick has been lost with a ruptured Achilles tendon and on Saturday the Nationals promoted a 19-year-old prospect from Double-A.

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Soto makes debut in Nationals loss to Dodgers

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Soto makes debut in Nationals loss to Dodgers

WASHINGTON  -- Kike Hernandez and Yasiel Puig each hit two-run homers, and the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Washington Nationals 7-2 on Sunday to complete a three-game sweep.

Hernandez's blast off Stephen Strasburg in the fifth inning put the Dodgers up 3-2. Yasmani Grandal also homered off Strasburg (5-4), who allowed three runs and five hits over 6 2/3 innings with seven strikeouts.

Alex Wood (1-4) pitched six innings, allowing just three hits and two earned runs. Wood came out to start the seventh, but returned to the clubhouse after showing some discomfort during his warm-up tosses.

Trea Turner homered for Washington, which swept Arizona last weekend and then went five days without playing a full game because of rain before getting swept by the Dodgers.

Los Angeles, after losing six consecutive games, has now won four straight overall and five of six over Washington this season.

Washington's Juan Soto, at 19 the youngest active player in the majors, made his debut in the eighth as a pinch-hitter and struck out against Erik Goeddel.

The Dodgers added two runs in the ninth. Josh Fields recorded the final four outs for his second save of the season.

2018 MLB POWER RANKINGS AND OTHER NATS NEWS:

- Rankings Update: Where does your team fall?
- Cause For Concern?: How worried should Nats fans be?
- Very Persuasive: How Rizzo convinced Reynolds to come to D.C.