LAKELAND, Fla. -- Another day, another pesky injury issue for the Washington Nationals.
Stephen Strasburg was supposed to start against the Detroit Tigers on Sunday, but he slightly sprained an ankle while working out and was scratched. So Strasburg joins left fielder Jayson Werth, center fielder Denard Span, third baseman Anthony Rendon, second baseman Yunel Escobar and closer Drew Storen on the Nationals' lengthening injury list. But manager Matt Williams said Sunday he doesn't think the Nationals need to make a deal to address their holes because almost all of them are short-term.
"With the exception of Denard, they're nagging stuff," Williams said. "I fully anticipate Anthony being back for Opening Day. Yunel is going to play tomorrow. Jayson is working his way back. And if it's not Opening Day with Jayson, it'll be just after. ... We've got a couple of weeks left. So I don't think we're in need of that. I think the guys will be ready to go. And if not ready to go on Opening Day, it will be shortly thereafter."
Nevertheless, once again Sunday, Williams found himself sitting in the dugout, giving his walking-wounded update. Here is the manager's rundown on the Nationals' long list of spring injuries:
Strasburg: Threw what Williams described as a "light bullpen" session Sunday morning and reported "no issues." So "from all indications," the manager said, "he's fine." If there are no setbacks, Strasburg will be able to make two more spring starts and build his pitch count up to 85-to-90, Williams said. So unless he were to miss another start, he'll be ready when the season starts.
Werth: Was scheduled to play five innings in a minor league game Sunday, his first game since offseason shoulder surgery, but won't swing a bat. Werth has reported discomfort hitting but not throwing. So he'll be eased back into action over the final two weeks of spring training. He could play in a major league game as soon as Wednesday "but not necessarily swing," Williams said. Werth rarely swings at a single pitch over his first few games of spring training anyway and feels as if his swing comes along quickly. But he also has yet to take "real" batting practice, Williams said. So Opening Day isn't his, or his team's, first priority. It's to "make sure he's good to go whenever he's good to go."
Escobar: Hasn't played a major league game all spring because of an early oblique strain, but played in a minor league game Saturday and is scheduled to start a major league game Monday. Because Escobar is making a transition from shortstop to second base, he needs reps and playing time, Williams said. But because he's already laid so much groundwork and done a lot of work in camp with shortstop Ian Desmond, "we think he'll be fine," the manager said, "because he's a good athlete."
Rendon: Has played in just three games all spring and has been out nearly two weeks with a sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee. Williams said Rendon is "better" and has been cleared to resume baseball activities, so "he'll start to throw. He'll start to run. He'll start to do the things he needs to do ... but with that type of nagging injury, it can stay around awhile. The good thing about it is that structurally, he's fine. Everything is OK. But we're being cautious with him because we don't want him to go into the season with it nagging." The hope is that Rendon still has time to get 20 spring at-bats, which would be enough to get him ready for Opening Day.
Storen: Had surgery to remove the hook of the hamate bone on his nonpitching hand. So he's been throwing normal bullpen sessions, but hasn't pitched in a game in more than two weeks. The closer will get stitches removed from the hand this week and should still have time to "get four or five [appearances] in and be ready to go," Williams said.
Span: Just had his second core muscle surgery in three months and won't be ready until at least a month into the season. This is the one injury on this list that the Nationals know will have long-term ramifications. Because backup outfielder Nate McLouth also may not be ready for Opening Day, the Nationals have quietly looked around for outfield depth. But for now, this job goes to impressive center-field prospect Michael Taylor, who was hitting .290 with a .771 OPS in 10 games this spring, going into Sunday.