As the official second half of the season starts tonight for 28 teams, the Nationals have a golden opportunity to make up ground in the NL East as they will face the rival Atlanta Braves for a 3-game weekend if the weather allows. The Nationals get back two pitchers today off of the disabled list. Stephen Strasburg returns to the mound tonight after clearing out shoulder inflammation, and Sean Doolittle will remain on the DL with a toe injury. As expected, Ryan Zimmerman returns from the 60-day DL. The corresponding moves for them are fairly straightforward as Trevor Gott was returned already to Triple-A Syracuse and Wander Suero will head back so Zimmerman can return.
In the more curious case, Ryan Zimmerman has been eligible to return from the 60-day DL, and the speculation was that Zim would be back today with the Nationals and that is now fact. Zimmerman has had all of 9 at-bats during his Minor League rehab games, and Zim did not play last night. With so little rehab time, it begs the question — is that wise? What is the rush? While Zimmerman has said in prior years on rehab assignments that he only needs a couple games of rehab to get his timing back, the fact is he has shown rust when he has returned from his numerous DL stints in the past. Both Matt Adams and Mark Reynolds are knocking the cover off the ball and have formed perhaps the second best platoon at 1st base in baseball with a .930 OPS. Only the Brewers are higher at a .948 1st base platoon. Unfortunately with Ryan Zimmerman’s slow start to the season, his .689 OPS drags the Nationals 1st base stats down dramatically. What we don’t know is which Ryan Zimmerman we get back.
With Zimmerman’s official return, he can take Suero’s roster spot and the 40-man spot vacated by Tim Collins, however, who leaves the active roster when Sean Doolittle returns? Most fingers point at Brian Goodwin and he is out of options which adds to the complication. But maybe there is a trade in the works as tis be the season. The former 1st-round draft pick was a top prospect for several seasons until he fell out of favor in 2015. Last year, Goodwin had a breakout month of June but then injured his groin in August and never made it back. This season, Goodwin started off strong but got injured again at the end of April and has struggled since coming back. Goodwin’s batting average dropped like a lead weight and he just got things going again after watching his batting average sink below the Mendoza line.
With these moves, the Nationals will be playing with a 6-man bullpen and 6-man bench. We will have to hope that the bullpen is rested and ready if needed.
Tonight the Nationals face the Braves right-hander Anibal Sanchez. The Braves and Nationals are separated by 5½ games in the NL East with the Phillies a half game ahead of the Braves.
The Nationals need to take advantage of this match-up to make a move in the NL East pennant race.
Atlanta Braves vs. Washington Nationals
Stadium: Nationals Park, Washington, D.C.
1st Pitch: 7:05 pm EDT
TV: MASN2; MLB.TV app out-of-network
Nats Radio: 106.7 The Fan and via the MLB app
Line-ups subject to change without notice