As the dust settles from the whirlwind of the trade deadline, contending teams are hopeful the new faces joining their clubhouses are going to help push them towards postseason success. While the Washington Nationals share those feelings as they welcome Brandon Kintzler, closer from the Minnesota Twins, who joins Howie Kendrick, Sean Doolittle, and Ryan Madson as the new guys acquired before the non-waiver deadline expired, they are also getting ready for a boost from some familiar names as well. Michael Taylor, Jayson Werth, and Trea Turner have all been on the disabled list for weeks, if not longer, and are approaching a time when they will hopefully be able to rejoin the team.
— David Mitolo (@dave_mitolo) July 31, 2017
Michael A. Taylor took a significant step towards returning, as he completed his first day of a rehab assignment Monday night with the Potomac Nationals. Placed on the DL on July 6 for a right strained oblique, Taylor said he originally got hurt while playing in Miami in the middle of June. In the lineup as the designated hitter, the Nats centerfielder went 0-2 with a strikeout from the lead-off spot as the DH where he saw just 5 pitches over his two plate appearances.
“It went by quick,” Michael Taylor said about his two at-bats last night. “I feel good — body feels good. It’s great to get back out on the field and get in the swing of things.”
Taylor is unsure when he will be rejoining the club. “That’s not up to me. I just come in and get my at bats and get back into playing shape,” saying that he hopes to back soon. He worked hard at keeping himself in shape while he’s been on the DL.
“I did a lot of baserunning towards the end,” Taylor said. “Before that, just biked, kind of lower impact things initially. Once we ramped things up, we increased sprints on the field and stuff like that.”
After a down year in 2016 where he saw some time back in Triple-A Syracuse, MAT has had a great 2017 as he’s filled in for an injured Adam Eaton, who the Nats acquired in the off-season and were hopeful would be their everyday centerfielder and a dynamic combination with Turner at the top of the lineup. Taylor has more than done his part in the outfield, showing off some impressive defense throughout the season, and he’s stepped up at the plate as well and has contributed to the offensive explosion the team has enjoyed. On his offensive success, Taylor said “I think it’s been a process. Settling into the approach that I’ve always had and just trying to be consistent. Not trying to do too much, not trying to force the result or anything like that. Just go out there and put myself in position to have success in the field.” His process is definitely working, as he was rocking a .278/.320/.510 slash line before he got hurt, which was up from .231/.278/.376 in 2016.
The Nats have seen a slew of young talent this season as they have weathered numerous injuries. The team and fans have gotten to see what Brian Goodwin, Wilmer Difo, Adrian Sanchez, and now Andrew Stevenson and Erick Fedde bring to the table as they have filled in for hurt veteran starters and bench players. While all the injuries aren’t ideal, there are some positive aspects to it, especially as GM Mike Rizzo and manager Dusty Baker hopefully have to put together a playoff roster in October.
On how the experience and success is impacting the young guys MAT had his thoughts on that:
“It definitely helps. Depth is very important. I’ve been through it. I’ve been that guy – I was that guy this year, where you come in and get at bats. It makes you feel that much better when you come off the bench, where you can get some rhythm in the game and see some live pitching consistently. So, I think it just makes us better that we have more than 25 guys that we can put out there. We’ve got a good team.”
I couldn’t agree more, MAT. The Nats definitely have quality players that extend beyond the 25-man roster. Hopefully the increased playing time they’ve seen in the first half of the season will stick with the guys through the rest of the year as we get MAT, Turner, and Jayson back from the DL. And, fingers crossed, it leads to postseason success down the road.