“This team is beat up more than any one I’ve ever had.”
Davey Johnson knows the walking wounding when he sees them.
And somehow, the Nats are still in first place. Granted, it’s just by a half game over the Braves, but don’t knock it. After having their best April ever (they ended the month with a 14-8 record), May is shaping up nicely as well. Oh, and all this is happening with some of their key players out with injuries.
Despite OintmentGate and the miscues in Strasburg’s start on Tuesday (somebody want to catch that pop up? Oh…no?), Gonzalez took control yesterday against the Pirates at home with 10 strikeouts.
He even got some offensive help from Adam LaRoche and his 1000th career hit (which included a home run and bases clearing double) and Xavier Nady(!) who hit his 100th career home run. Henry Rodriguez even decided to exercise his closer abilities and was able to keep the Pirates from causing too much damage.
The Nats went on to beat the Pirates 7-4. (Somewhere Jordan Zimmermann is asking them to save some runs for him.)
So what’s this saying? The Nats are winning. The team is coming together. And that’s with Drew Storen, Chien-Ming Wang, Brad Lidge, Michael Morse, Jayson Werth, Wilson Ramos, Mark DeRosa and Sandy Leon injured. (This isn’t including Ryan Zimmerman, who also made a DL stint earlier this season.) For the most part all the players on the DL were projected key players of the Opening Day roster. Also, the players on the DL aren’t just injured, they’re long term injuries. Expected return dates range from months to a year.
But for being so banged up, the Nationals are still playing hard baseball. And winning. Sometimes the runs haven’t been easy to come by (Espinosa and his slump) and the defense has been a bit shaky (Desmond and his errors), but that doesn’t seem to faze them much.
“Before the game, you might say, ‘Dang man, we’re banged up.’ But when the lights come on, you don’t have time to think about it. In some ways it helps the young guys. They know they’re going to play a lot. They think: ‘Nah, we’re going to win anyway. I’m going to step up,’” said Tyler Clippard.
It’s not all bad, after all. It was Ryan Zimmerman’s trip to the disabled list that allowed Bryce Harper to be called up and it was Mark DeRosa’s trip to the DL that allowed for Tyler Moore to be called up. It took for Wilson Ramos getting hurt for Sandy Leon to receive his call up. (Although that didn’t exactly have the anticipated effect.)
Since being called up, Bryce Harper has already hit two home runs. And caused a large gash above his eye, but perhaps that helped fueled the home runs? At least it didn’t require a trip to the DL.
To add to the silver lining, crucial pitching pieces have stayed healthy so far. (That would be Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann, Craig Stammen, Ross Detwiler, etc.)
As for the injured, here’s a quick run down on how some of them are doing:
Drew Storen played light catch yesterday. He hopes to return around the All-Star Break. Storen is working on getting use to throwing again after an extended time off. “It’s like driving a Ferrari 5 miles an hour, as brutal as that would be.”
Michael Morse has also been throwing and recently took dry swings in the batting cage. For Morse, it feels weird throwing again, just like Storen said. Although his analogy is a bit different: “I feel like a monkey riding a bike.”
Wilson Ramos is out for the rest of the season with his torn ACL. He’ll have surgery in the next two or three weeks. Luckily, there was no other damage than the torn ACL. Ramos hopes for the injury to be behind him by next spring training. For Ramos, after his harrowing off season, the ACL injury is another step in a long journey of recovery.
The best injury news may come from Chien-Ming Wang. The pitcher made an appearance at Nationals Park today, throwing for coaches. He’s still rehabbing his strained right hamstring. He’ll rejoin the team after one more rehab start in Triple-A Syracuse. Wang’s said he’s willing to pitch in relief if the team asked. “I need to follow the direction from the team.” It’s unlikely he will, though. Wang is still seen as one of the starting members of the rotation.
There’s still a lot of baseball to be played, and a lot could still happen, but for now, “just win, baby.”
And try not to get hurt. Please. (Especially you, Flores. The team is running out of catchers.)