Multiple reports earlier today indicated catcher Jesus Flores will be recalled to take Ryan Zimmerman's place on the roster when the Washington Nationals move the third baseman to the disabled later today with an abdominal strain, originally sustained during spring training and re-aggravated in Saturday's 8-4 loss to the New York Mets, when he slid headfirst into second on a play that didn't even draw a throw.

It's great for Flores, finally making his way back onto the big league roster after missing much of the last two seasons dealing with two different shoulder injuries that eventually needed corrective surgery.  The Nats really needed a right-handed bat off the bench, and this move addresses that more than the need to carry a third catcher.

But it's telling that the Nats have to handcuff themselves defensively when their first move to recall a right-handed bat from the minors is to summon a third catcher.  Usually when a player gets hurt, the team will recall a player at that position to take his place. 

Currently at AAA-Syracuse, the only 3B listed on the roster is Alex Valdez.  I dare you to tell me who he is without clicking on the link.  Brian Bixler is capable of playing the position, but he's a middle infielder by nature and hits like one when he's in the big leagues.  So you can see where the Nats hands are tied on this thing.

The other complicating factor is Adam LaRoche's various injuries.  Already hampered by a partially torn rotator cuff in his throwing shoulder for which he missed Saturday's game, he sustained a leg injury in Sunday's game and was lifted for a pinch-runner, forcing Pudge Rodriguez to finish the game at first. 

Flores is insurance should that circumstance happen again, but LaRoche's injury situation is not going to go away.  Even slightly torn rotator cuffs don't just get better, especially while playing with it -- they need surgery.  Its just a question of whether he can get through the season playing with the discomfort.  LaRoche has maintained that it hurts when he throws but it's not affecting his swing.  But loss of joint stability is going to affect strength, whether it hurts him or not.  Pain is the symptom, not the injury.

If LaRoche needs to be disabled at some point, the Nats will have to go to a deeper option (hopefully) than making Pudge the full-time 1B, but again, the options aren't enticing.  The organization wants Chris Marrero to see a full season of AAA pitching, and the other option is journeyman Michael Aubrey.  Either one would be a serious drop-off from the league average production they expect to get out of LaRoche.

All this leaves the Nats in a very precarious position.  Jerry Hairston and Alex Cora, two players much more suited for backup roles at this point in their careers, become the starting third baseman for three-to-four weeks while Zimmerman convalesces.  Jayson Werth slides into the No. 3 slot.  Most likely, Jim Riggleman moves Rick Ankiel, of the .312 lifetime OBP, into the two-hole and rookie Wilson Ramos into the fifth or sixth spot, depending on the progression of Michael Morse.

And look out if Morse doesn't start hitting.  He doesn't have to hit like he did in spring training, but it would be nice if he could start hitting like he did last season.  But we've been through all that exhaustively.

Not ideal, with six games at home this week with playoff contending Philadelphia and Milwaukee.  Hold on to your hats and pray for good pitching, NatsTown.

5 comments

  1. Souldrummer // April 12, 2011 at 1:19 PM  

    Henry Rodriguez better be real strong. I can see cutting ties with Dunn, but jettisoning Willingham so early in the offseason when he may still have value later on may leave us vulnerable offensively.

    This team could start looking like Manny Acta's first team. I seem to remember they had a good bullpen but didn't have any offense to speak of. Wasn't the 2005 team like that as well. Great backend. Starters pitching over their heads to around league average and an offense so poor Preston Wilson was called upon to save it.

  2. Dave Nichols // April 12, 2011 at 1:26 PM  

    SD: things could get ugly quickly with two real quality teams coming in here this week, then back out on the road for six. you hope they weather the storm with Zim out, but if you at the numbers...

  3. bdrube // April 12, 2011 at 3:38 PM  

    This just shows how shallow the minor league system still is. It is now six years after Zim became the starting 3B, and we have not had one single other player you could even remotely call a prospect at the position since then.

  4. Dave Nichols // April 12, 2011 at 3:42 PM  

    bd: other than Espinosa, they haven't had a position player come up from the minors that was drafted here at any position. remember, Bernadina and Desmond drafted by Expos, Ramos by Twins and Flores by Mets.

  5. Anonymous // April 13, 2011 at 3:46 PM  

    "other than Espinosa, they haven't had a position player come up from the minors that was drafted here at any position. remember, Bernadina and Desmond drafted by Expos"

    Drafted by Expos is the same as drafted here, bozo. Unless you want to ding every other team for not having anyone they drafted pre-2005 too.