As Taylor heads for MRI, Martinez knows Nats lack OF depth
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Washington Nationals outfielder Michael A. Taylor will be sidelined with a sprained left knee and sprained left hip, leaving the club thin at that position with opening day less than two weeks away.
“I think he’s going to miss a significant amount of time,” manager Dave Martinez said Friday.
Taylor favored his left leg as he limped through the clubhouse earlier in the day before heading to have an MRI.
“He’s a big part of our ballclub,” Martinez said after getting test results. “So I just hope that he recovers quickly and we can get him back out there as soon as possible.”
Taylor had been set to enter the season as one of Washington’s top four outfielders; it appeared he was going to be the first one off the bench, behind starters Adam Eaton in right, Juan Soto in left and rookie Victor Robles in center.
Robles and Taylor are the only true center fielders available to Martinez, who acknowledged Friday, “You’re correct: There’s no outfield depth,” after a reporter brought up the issue.
Bryce Harper, of course, has departed for the Philadelphia Phillies, a year after another starter, Jayson Werth, left the Nationals. The club traded two backups last season, and while Eaton is a veteran starter, Soto was an unexpected revelation at 19 last year, and Robles appears ready to make an impact at 21, Taylor was the only other sure thing in the outfield.
Taylor said his knee and hip stiffened shortly after he made a diving catch in center during the second inning of Washington’s 10-4 victory over Minnesota on Thursday.
“I went to slide, and the outfield was a little soft, and my knee stuck in the ground,” Taylor said.
In the moment, Martinez said, “It was kind of scary. I ran out of the dugout right away, because it didn’t look too good.”
Now Andrew Stevenson will see time in center field and the team could look for other options.
“When you start a season with just four outfielders, you want a guy who can play center field,” Martinez said. “So we’re going to have to really look for that guy.”
Matt Adams, a backup first baseman, started Washington’s 11-3 win against the New York Mets on Friday. Of the more than 470 starts Adams has made in his major league career, only 30 came in left.
Martinez said that Wilmer Difo, a backup infielder, also will see time in the outfield in the coming days.
Another utility player who can play in the outfield, Howie Kendrick, is working his way back after straining his left hamstring in a game on March 5. Martinez said Kendrick is not yet running at full speed.
Notes: Newly signed LHP Tony Sipp said he’s been throwing two bullpen sessions a week since January. “But,” the reliever added, “still always different when you get a batter in the box. I haven’t thrown to live batters. The arm is ready. Just kicking it into the next gear is going to be a challenge here in the next two weeks.” Washington opens the regular season on March 28. Sipp threw a side session of 35 pitches Thursday, and Martinez said: “My biggest thing with him — and I talked to him yesterday — is: ‘As much as we want you for opening day, you missed significant time in spring training, so hopefully you’re ready. But if you’re not, you’re not. But we want you to be fully ready, so if it takes you an extra three or four appearances down here, so be it.'”