Posted on July 7, 2017, by Bryan Zarpentine
Little by little, the injury bug continues to hit the Washington Nationals, particularly in the outfield. Michael Taylor, who’s in the midst of a breakout season, is the latest victim. The club announced early Friday morning that Taylor is heading to the DL with a strained right oblique. Washington will activate Chris Heisey from the 10-day DL to replace Taylor on the active roster.
Taylor left the 4th inning of Thursday’s loss to the Braves. However, he showed no obvious signs of an injury at the time. It turns out that Taylor has been dealing with the oblique strain for a few weeks. He aggravated the injury during his at-bat in the 3rd inning, prompting him to leave the game. Taylor does not think a more than three-hour rain delay before Thursday’s game was a factor.
“I’ve been dealing with it for a while. I had plenty of notice,” Taylor said after the game. “I did everything that I normally do to try to get it hot and get it ready for the game. I felt pretty good. Obviously not 100 percent, but starting the game I felt OK. But just that swing, it got worse.”
Taylor has missed a few games in recent weeks because of the oblique injury, but continued to play through it. After Thursday, he believes it’s time to sit out and allow the strain to heal completely for the stretch run. Going on the DL right before the all-star break will help to limit how much time he misses.
“Just the way I feel, it’s not getting any better,” explains Taylor. “It was actually getting worse. Instead of having it drag out longer, just take the time now to try to get back closer to 100 percent.”
Taylor took the reigns as Washington’s everyday center fielder after Adam Eaton suffered a season-ending knee injury at the end of April. After struggling to produce consistently over the past three seasons, the 26-year old Taylor is finally living up to his potential. On the season, Taylor is hitting .287 with an OPS of .831. He was also filling in for the injured Trea Turner in the leadoff spot. Eaton held the leadoff spot before his injury, so manager Dusty Baker now has to find his fourth-choice option for the top spot in the order.
With Taylor joining Eaton and Jayson Werth on the DL, Washington will have to reconfigure its outfield once again. Brian Goodwin is likely to shift from left field to center field to replace Taylor. Goodwin has proven to be a productive fill in for Werth, hitting .274 with an OPS of .875. However, until Taylor comes back, the Nationals have no other true center fielder on the roster aside from Goodwin.
In left field, Heisey, Ryan Raburn, and Adam Lind will likely share duties until Taylor or Werth can return. Raburn and Lind have both been productive in ancillary roles this season. Heisey, meanwhile, struggled early in the year and is coming back from an extended absence after suffering a ruptured bicep in May.
The Nationals believe that Taylor will be able to return soon after the all-star break. However, oblique injuries are notoriously tricky and prone to setbacks if the injury doesn’t fully heal. The good news for the Nationals is they continue to hold a substantial lead atop the NL East. But with injuries to Turner and multiple outfielders and well-documented struggles in the bullpen, the Nationals may still be vulnerable until they start to get some of their key players back from the DL.