Washington Nationals: Injuries threaten season’s chances

rjuckett
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 05: Adam Eaton
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 05: Adam Eaton /
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As with last year, the Washington Nationals are suffering from injuries. However, this time, the hill left may be too steep to climb.

This is not the start the Washington Nationals hoped for.

After 23 games, Washington sits under .500 for the first time in three years. The bullpen is fried handling the sheer amount of work in high-leverage games. Starters cannot last deep enough to help. The offense is a mish-mash of Syracuse and speed.

Outside the loss of Max Scherzer or Bryce Harper, it is hard to imagine a worse start for rookie manager Dave Martinez. Although he has made mistakes in bullpen handling and pulling the levers on the bench, he is in an impossible place that has Washington on the brink of a lost season.

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Why? Injuries.

When Dusty Baker lost 12 off the 40-man roster late last summer, the Nats were in a position where they were impossible to catch. No other National League East team had the talent to make a race and the injuries never cascaded enough to shut down production completely.

Instead, they paid for it come October when Harper was still recovering and Adam Eaton gone for the year.

As we head toward May, Eaton is still out, a victim of an ankle injury re-aggravated from last year. Daniel Murphy is in Florida in extended spring training. He will need to play in minor-league games to finish his rehab before settling in DC.

Washington botched Anthony Rendon’s toe injury by not placing him on the disabled list until he missed a full week. Teams can only place players on the 10-day DL retroactively three days back. He cannot come off until Sunday at the earliest.

Now, the Nats face another bullpen challenge with Shawn Kelley’s arm troubles. Although you may not think that is bad, he has not been right since re-injuring his arm during Game 5 of the NL Divisional Series against Los Angeles.

When a team is down three potential All-Stars in the lineup, along with a ragged bullpen taking water, there is not much Martinez or general manager Mike Rizzo can do. The aggressive small ball works to a degree, but Washington is missing three of their four top run producers.

Throw in Brian Goodwin, a starter on most teams, unable to swing without pain and the Nats are in deep trouble.

Because they cannot blow teams out, the bullpen finds themselves in an endless parade of high-leverage games. The cycle repeats and Washington finds themselves in fourth-place looking up at the Atlanta Braves and Philadelphia Phillies.

Once the offense returns, the run-scoring potential is there. They will win and ease the pressure.

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But, they must tread water and hold ground until the lineup returns. A daunting task for any manager, let alone a rookie.

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